DSC Annual NDIS Conference


Good morning everyone.

I’m sorry I can’t be there in person but Parliament is sitting, so I have to be in Canberra.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land from which I’m recording this – the Ngunnawal people.

I pay my respects to elders past and present.

I’d also like to acknowledge the speakers and people with disability joining this conference.

We are all here for a simple reason – because we believe in a fair, just and inclusive Australia for all.

We recognise that barriers to social, economic and cultural participation for people with disability must be removed.

And we understand that this is only possible when we work together.

Guided by the principle that is so important to all people with disability: ‘nothing about us, without us’.

The Government takes the rights of people with disability very seriously.

There has been a lot of activity in the disability sector over the last 12 months.

We are redesigning the Disability Employment Services program and we have seen the release of two landmark reports into disability.

In September last year, the Final Report of the Disability Royal Commission was released to the public.

This was followed by the release of findings from the Independent Review of the NDIS in December.

I know that many of you have played a role in the Royal Commission and the NDIS Review and I thank you for your efforts, and for your important contributions.

Both of these reports make it very clear that we need to do better.

I think we would all agree that we can’t just focus on improving the NDIS – we also need to work to create a more inclusive society.

One where people with disability are safe and can achieve their full potential.

And where they have access to quality supports, services and safeguards – both inside and outside of the NDIS.

Of course, Minister Shorten is responsible for the NDIS so I will leave him to talk about that.

My responsibility is broader and includes a lead role responding to the Disability Royal Commission.

Now I know many of you are awaiting the Government’s response to the Disability Royal Commission’s recommendations with great anticipation.

After four and a half years, 32 public hearings and almost 8000 submissions, the Final Report sets out 222 recommendations.

The findings highlight that all governments must do more to create a safer Australia for people with disability.

But we must do justice to the significant issues raised in the Royal Commission.

And we’ll do that by carefully considering the recommendations of both the Disability Royal Commission and the Independent Review of the NDIS.

And how they intersect together.

By taking the time to carefully consider all 13 volumes of the Final Report we can develop a response that will support lasting change.

That is the top priority for Disability Ministers in 2024.

This work is being led by the Commonwealth Disability Royal Commission Taskforce. The Taskforce will support and guide governments in our response to the Final Report.

We’re determined our response is informed by the voices of people with disability, families, carers, the sector and other stakeholders.

Hundreds of people with disability, representative and advocacy organisations, families and providers took part in our recent public consultation that ran from November to January this year, providing their feedback on the recommendations made by the Disability Royal Commission.

We’ve also been holding other disability and stakeholder forums.

These forums explored potential responses to particular recommendations so we can unpack the nuances on the way forward.

The next few months are going to be critical as we work to finalise our response, and you can be assured that we will continue to engage with you as we move forward.

85 of the recommendations relate to areas of joint responsibility between Federal and state and territory governments.

So we will be working closely with states on the pathway forward on reform.

We will respond to all recommendations by the middle of the year.

Building more services and supports outside the NDIS was a key recommendation of the NDIS Review and one of our key projects going forward is to work with our state and territory colleagues to jointly design, commission and fund additional foundational supports.

As identified by the Independent Review of the NDIS, more needs to be done to create a stronger disability ecosystem, with a range of supports available for people with disability, not just those with individual NDIS packages.

Foundational supports will enable people with disability to access the right supports, earlier and in the right place, to support them have the best outcomes.

My department has already started work on an important Foundational Supports Strategy that will be critical to restoring the NDIS to its original vision of supporting those with significant and permanent disability, within a unified system of support.

We have invested $11.6 million over two years to support work to develop and implement the Foundational Supports Strategy.

While we know that significant consultation was undertaken with the community through the Independent Review into the NDIS, governments understand that further consultation with people with disability and their families, representative organisations and the broader disability sector is critical to the success of Foundational Supports.

We will continue to engage with you, and to drive change to support disability reform, because we all benefit when people with disability can fully and safely participate in society.

Since coming to Government, we haven’t waited to address the issues being raised during the Royal Commission.

And we have made a lot of progress.

Earlier this month, we released a progress update that highlights the strides the Australian Government has already taken to improve outcomes for people with disability.

Work that has been guided by Australia’s 10-year Disability Strategy.

The Strategy shapes our vision for building a more inclusive Australia to ensure people with disability can fulfil their potential as equal citizens.

Our work to implement the reforms and actions under the strategy is one of the key drivers that will achieve positive and systemic change.

It was developed with, and for, people with disability.

And we have the ADS Advisory Council, whose members have lived experience of disability, providing direct advice to all disability ministers on the implementation and progress of the Strategy.

And since becoming Minister for Social Services I have been determined to bring this Strategy from a paper document into life.

The Strategy will also guide our decision-making as we look at recommendations from the Disability Royal Commission and NDIS Review.

We have strengthened these safeguarding provisions by repealing the old Disability Services Act (1986) and replacing it with the new Disability Services and Inclusion Act (2023).

This new act came into effect on 1 January 2024 and brought the legislation into the 21st century.

It provides a more agile way to fund services and supports.

And introduced a new mandatory code of conduct for all Commonwealth disability services and supports.

And that is so that people with disability and their carers know what to expect from providers.

And it supports people with disability to participate in the development and review of supports and services.

Again, nothing about you, without you.

Another key area which has seen a lot of attention is employment.

When I started in this role, I was concerned to learn that quality wasn’t measured or prioritised in the Disability Employment Services program. I was determined to change this and made lifting the quality of the service an immediate priority.

To ensure the quality of Disability Employment Services is measured I introduced the Disability Employment Services Quality Framework.

People with disability and their families and carers have told me about their experiences with Disability Employment Services. Some are great, but others are not so good experiences.

We don’t want it to be a lottery, and with our Quality Framework, providers across the country are embedding the views of people with disability into how they deliver and importantly how we measure quality.

I have been very clear – I don’t expect Disability Employment Service providers to only do the bare minimum for the people using their services.

I want all providers to strive for excellence and provide quality services.

And for those people with higher support needs, we have invested $52.7 million to assist the supported employment sector to evolve.

To make sure supported employees have genuine options, choice and control in their employment.

We have also been working with employers.

We know the value that people with disability can bring to the workplace – and we want to help employers realise this too.

One way we are doing this is through our work with the Business Council of Australia. This pilot is working with four large employers - Woolworths, Compass Group, Coles, Target and KMART.

The pilot has been co-designed with people with disability and is focussed on building employer confidence around disability. But it is more than that – it is also working to challenge any pre-existing biases that exist within management that people with disability are only suited to entry level jobs.

From my conversations with people with disability, I know there is a strong desire for opportunities for career pathways, not just entry level jobs.  And this pilot recognises that.

We are also working in partnership with Austrade to deliver a Visitor Economy Disability Employment Pilot – which is working with employers in the tourism sector. We know that by working with employers, we can go a long way towards creating a more inclusive society where everyone can thrive.

As I said earlier, we will continue to engage with you on this important work.

I hope you will all be challenged and inspired today and I look forward to hearing the outcomes of the conference.

Thank you.