What is the Disability Inclusion Bill 2024, and what does it do?
The Disability Inclusion Bill 2024 is an Act to promote inclusion of people with disability in the ACT community. The Bill recognises and applies the principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to the ACT and establishes principles to protect and promote the rights of people with disability to realise their inclusion in the ACT community in full.
The Bill establishes a framework for creating disability inclusion strategies across government in priority areas of participation, such as health, education, employment, justice, and social inclusion, to be developed in consultation with people with disability and key stakeholders. It also requires ACT Government agencies to develop disability inclusion plans which are specific to their organisation and detail how they are going to adapt their work processes and programs to be more inclusive of people with disability.
The Bill puts the onus on those priority areas of participation to proactively remove existing barriers to full participation, equity, and inclusion, rather than have people with disability consistently seek accommodations at an individual level. This legislation moves the ACT towards a social model of understanding and addressing disability, a profound and important shift in the way we address inequity in our ACT community.
What is the ‘social model of disability?’
A social model of disability seeks to change society to enable people living with impairment. It understands disability as a social construct and the result of the interaction between people living with impairments and an environment filled with physical, attitudinal, communication and social barriers. Society and its environment must adapt to enable people living with impairments to participate in society on an equal basis with others. This contrasts with the medical model, which sees ‘disability’ as a health condition to be individually addressed. Presently, the medical model singularly informs any legislative approach to disability in the Territory.
The social model of disability is now the internationally recognised way to view and address disability, consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Is this a bill for people with disability, or the whole community?
Both – this is a bill to improve disability inclusion, so of course the outcomes will directly benefit people with disability. To do this, it requires the whole community to drive change and accept responsibility for making our community places and spaces more inclusive to all.
What discrimination are people with disability facing?
Despite improvements in disability rights, people with disability continue to face discrimination in many facets of their lives.
Disability discrimination occurs when a person with disability is treated unequally, less favourably, or not given the same opportunities as others because of their disability. It could be experienced directly by an individual, or indirectly because a practice, rule or policy that applies to all causes unreasonable disadvantage to a person with a disability.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics Disability, Aging and Carers Survey 2018 found among people with disability aged 15 years and over:
- 1 in 10 had experienced discrimination, up from 8.6% in 2015;
- 1 in 10 women had experienced discrimination, up from 8.9% in 2015;
- 1 in 7 men had experienced discrimination, similar to 2015 (8.3%);
- almost 1 in 5 young people aged 15-24 years and 25-34 years had experienced discrimination: and
there has been a statistically significant increase in discrimination of people aged of 55 years and over.
In addition, the same survey found that of the 3.3 million people with disability aged 15 years and over, one in three avoided situations because of their disability in the previous 12 months. The Disability Inclusion Bill 2023 seeks to drive change in key priority areas that addresses ongoing discrimination still experienced by people with disability, creating a more equal and inclusive Canberra.
Do other States and Territories have similar Acts?
Yes - New South Wales and South Australia have Disability Inclusion Acts. Understandably, their Acts differ slightly to this Bill, which has been developed to complement existing policy and legislative framework. For instance – the ACT currently writes and implements disability inclusion strategies, and so our Bill expands upon this work whereas other states do not. Additionally, South Australia’s legislation includes screening for workers participating in the NDIS, whereas we have dealt with this through other legislation in the ACT.
How will the Disability Inclusion Bill interact with the Australia’s Disability Strategy?
Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-2031 is Australia’s national disability framework and is intended to drive action at all levels of government to improve the lives of people with disability. It supports Australia’s commitments under the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The ACT has signed up to Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-2031 as is committed to realising the change that it seeks to achieve.
The Disability Inclusion Bill is intended to support the initiatives of Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-2031 by applying the principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in ACT Law, to create a framework which drives the change that states and territories seek to achieve of the national strategy.
How will the Disability Inclusion Bill interact with the ACT Disability Strategy?
The ACT Disability Strategy is a ten-year plan which aims to create a more welcoming and accessible community and improve the lives of the more than 80,000 Canberrans who identify as people with disability. It seeks to be inclusive of all people with disability in the ACT - people with disability of all ages (including those over the age of 65), people with disability regardless of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) status, and people with disability in the full array of life and life circumstances.
The ACT Disability Strategy is being created in response to our obligations under Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-2031, and the Disability Inclusion Bill neatly supports this work.
How does the ACT Disability Justice Strategy interact with the Disability Inclusion Bill?
The ACT Government Disability Justice Strategy was launch in September 2019. The Disability Justice Strategy aims to achieve equity and inclusion for people with a disability in the ACT justice system. The Disability Justice Strategy recognises that equality before the law is not the current reality for too many people with disability. The Disability Justice Strategy focused on the safety and rights of people with disability, the responsiveness of the justice system to people with disability and their needs and how change is measured and achieved. The Disability Justice Strategy is supported by a five-year action plan.
The Disability Justice Strategy would continue to be implemented as key priority area under the Bill.
Don’t we already have a commitment for a Disability Health Strategy?
ACT Labor committed at the 2020 ACT Election to developing a Disability Health Strategy based on the Disability Justice Strategy model and delivered during the 2020-2024 parliamentary term. ACT Health has begun initial work on the Disability Health Strategy and once finalised would be implemented as a key priority area under the Bill.
Why create this legislation if those two strategies are happening already?
This Bill codifies an existing framework for these two strategies, plus future ones across other key priority areas, to exist in an ongoing capacity. Disability inclusion strategies are also only one component of the legislation – which prescribes the social model of disability, strengthens the requirements of the strategies, requires disability inclusion plans, and establishes the Disability Inclusion Council. It’s a strong, holistic response to disability inclusion.
Will people with disability be involved in developing disability inclusion strategies and disability inclusion plans under the Bill?
Of course! The Act expressly states that in preparing a disability inclusion strategy or disability inclusion plan, the responsible Minister or person responsible must consult people with disability. One of the ways this Bill specifically provides for this is by establishing the ACT Disability Inclusion Council, which effectively elevates the ACT Disability Reference Group to Ministerial council status. In addition, the consultation may also take into consideration the views of carers, advocacy groups, people with human rights experience and other people with expertise relevant to the disability inclusion principles.
How will the implementation of disability inclusion strategies and disability inclusion plans be monitored?
Under the Disability Inclusion Bill 2024, disability inclusion strategies will be a publicly notified instrument, available to all on the legislation register. Disability inclusion plans will need to be made publicly available as well, for example published on the website of a public service directorate.
Government agencies must also provide in their annual report details on how they have supported the development and implementation of disability inclusion strategies and disability action and inclusions plans.
Won’t this create an administrative burden on government agencies?
Inclusion is not an administrative burden. A lot of this work is already occurring, and this Bill gives it a framework to exist. The Bill is also clear in its ask for government agencies to avoid duplicating its reporting work on disability inclusion matters if they are already obliged to under another territory law.
What tangible outcomes/changes can come from this Bill?
The disability inclusion strategies and plans will drive tangible outcomes and changes that will make a material difference to the lives of people with disability across Canberra.
The ACT Disability Justice Strategy, currently in force, demonstrates some of these possible changes, including:
- Development and dissemination of ‘social scripts’ - person centred narratives used to introduce new events, interactions and what to expect – which aim to assist autistic people, people with lived experience of mental ill health and low levels of English literacy to access legal services and legal processes. They use a combination of simple text and images to explain concepts and foreshadow emotions and what to expect.
- Disability Liaison Officers are embedded in and across government institutions, such as Legal Aid ACT, ACT Courts and Tribunal, and the Alexander Maconochie Centre. Their job is to support individuals to navigate the justice system and to identify and work on systemic issues to improve access to justice for people with disability.
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