South Australian Council on Intellectual Disability (SACID) Leading through Inclusion Conference

Thank you very much for that introduction. It's really wonderful to be here with you today and I would like to start by acknowledging that we do meet on the lands of the Kaurna people and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.

I’d also like to acknowledge my wonderful colleague the South Australian Minister for Human Services, Nat Cook. We live in the same part of South Australia so we see each other all the time in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, but it’s been really wonderful, in the last year particularly, for us to be able to work together.

And of course, I’d like to acknowledge Miriam High – parent and disability advocate – who's speaking with you today.

I did want to do a bit of a shout out to Ruby who greeted us today. Ruby and I first met about ten-years ago when I was Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities.

We met at the very, very beginning of the NDIS, so to have her welcome us today ten-years later – she was an advocate then and she still remains a fierce advocate now – it's really wonderful.

I’d particularly like to thank the South Australian Council on Intellectual Disability for putting together this conference and I’m really pleased to talk about some of the things that we're starting to look at and do to make sure that people with an intellectual disability get to be have the rights that all other citizens do in this country.

One in six people in Australia are living with disability in Australia and all deserve to live life on their own terms.

But we need to recognise that people with intellectual disability face extra barriers which sometimes can prevent them getting a job, accessing the healthcare they need and participating in education.

Exclusion – whether that is overt, systemic or unintentional should not be acceptable.

I know that all of you here – and also myself and Minister Cook – are very committed to how we can do better to make sure that we overcome this.

Governments around Australia need to work with broader society to make Australia more a more inclusive place, which recognises and values all members of our community.

Now the key way that we do that on the national level is through Australia's Disability Strategy and that's something as Minister for Social Services I have responsibility for.

Because we know that the NDIS plays a very important role in so many people's lives. But it is not the beginning and the end of disability inclusion in Australia.

It’s why what Australia’s Disability Strategy does is very important.

The tagline for this conference Be Seen. Be Heard. Be Understood. really highlights the need to better include and involve people with intellectual disability and the families, carers and organisations that work with them in decisions.

Because their voices not only deserve to be heard, but also mean that we get our policy right.

If we're not including people with lived experiences out there we will not understand how we change things. So it is an important reminder, and it's always a reminder to me as Minister, that disability policy is better when it is guided by the voices and experiences of people with disability.

Under the Albanese Labor Government we have started the work of building a more inclusive Australia.

Of course, as I mentioned, there's Australia's Disability Strategy and we've been working very hard with all the states and territories about how we progress that strategy.

I would like to acknowledge Nat Cook who's going to speak with you shortly for her commitment around advancing that strategy.

Australia’s Disability Strategy is a ten-year plan to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Australia. It's really important not just in the services it looks at but also protecting, promoting and realising the human rights of people with disability.

The strategy is at all levels of government, a collaboration. All governments have signed up to this and the strategy was co-designed with people with disability, their families, and carers and representatives.

It took over two-years of consultation and it does recognise that all levels of government have a responsibility and vision for a more inclusive society. But it also says that it's the whole of society that needs to change and become more inclusive as well.

The strategy highlights that we do need more inclusive education, we do need to work to improve community attitudes out there in the public, we do need to improve employment opportunities and career opportunities and making homes and communities safe, inclusive and accessible.

But we also recognise that we can't do it on our own. In addition to working with people with lived experience, there's also responsibility for businesses, for communities and non-government organisations to also be part of the journey for a more inclusive society.

Now, advocacy is very, very important. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank the South Australian Council for Intellectual Disability for their strong track record of advocacy and thank you for your work in bringing up issues that particularly affect people with intellectual disability.

The Australian Government funds disability advocacy organisations through the Disability Representative Organisation program and their job is to highlight an understanding of the lives of people with disability to promote and protect the rights and dignity of people with disability, support service providers to deliver services to people with disability and foster support for the participation of people with disability in all aspects of community life.

We think that they do a very good job and in this most recent Budget, we've increased the money available for those organisations – we've actually doubled it.

Now of course, some of the work that SACID has been working with me on, along with many organisations, is how we actually provide more opportunity for people with a disability including intellectual disability, to get a job, but also have a meaningful career.

And I did want to thank Gavin, who's in the front here, who came along and participated in an employment roundtable in Canberra to talk about what is the future of supported employment? How do we change the attitudes of employers to hire more people with disability? Because of course, the unemployment rate for people with disability has stayed stubbornly high for too long.

Some of the work that we've been focusing on is how we try and look at more opportunities but importantly – as Gavin was very clear about – how we not just provide a job, but a career path that is fulfilling and satisfying.

So from the supported employment roundtable, we've been able to develop some guiding principles about what the future of supported employment should look like.

At the heart of it is, genuine choice and control over employment which meets individuals’ needs. I've been working with state and territory ministers to agree on these guiding principles and to bring it to life there has been over $50 million put in the budget to further develop the support employment sector.

What that money will go to will create ongoing employment opportunities for people with disability with high-support needs. But importantly, it will support the supported employment sector to evolve to better meet community's expectations and people living with the disabilities’ expectations.

It is really important that this money will provide people with disability with high-support needs, advocacy, support and information to help build their confidence and understanding about their rights. But particularly it's also about supporting places to create career pathways for people and ultimately options into open employment.

We'll also be funding supported employment services and social enterprises to evolve their business models, piloting job expos which will allow people with disabilities and their families to explore new employment opportunities.

These initiatives are very important in how we evolve and ensure that there's real choice for people living with disability and they are not limited by other people's expectations.

We are also very committed to addressing some of the serious health inequities experienced by people living with intellectual disability.

There is a national roadmap for improving the health of people with intellectual disability, which will help us get there.

This roadmap is a series of actions to improve the health of people with intellectual disability and their experience in the health system and it's a document that will evolve and importantly be guided by people with disability, their families and carers.

We do know, however, there's much more work to be done.

Finally, I know that Minister Nat Cook is going to speak about the South Australian autism strategy - they've been real leaders in this strategy - but we've also embarked on a National Autism Strategy consultation.

This is not designed to duplicate the work that the states and territories have done, but really to try and find an overarching whole-of-life plan for Australians living with autism and importantly, recognise that this will sit alongside Australia's Disability Strategy.

The development of the Autism Strategy will also take into account recommendations made by the Disability Royal Commission, the NDIS review and the experiences of states and territories that have developed and are developing autism strategies like I mentioned in South Australia.

We do have guiding group for this strategy that includes professionals, researchers, but importantly includes autistic people.

In closing, I'd like to thank all of you for being here today and for your advocacy.

Shifting the dial and making sure that those with disability do get the same opportunities as those not living with disability is critically important.

But including the voices of those with lived experience is central to the work we do.

So it's kind of saying “you're going to have to keep working for us” because we are keen to hear what you have to say.

On that note, it's my absolute pleasure to now introduce my good friend and minister Nat Cook.

Thank you.