Speech by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Nican National Dialogue on Tourism

Location: Parliament House, Canberra

I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Land on which we are meeting, and pay respect to their Elders past and present.

Thank you for inviting me here this morning to open the National Dialogue on Tourism for People with a Disability.

I would like to thank to Annette Ellis for chairing the Dialogue today.

I want to start by saying that I stand… and our Government stands… for full participation in the community.

That is the starting point for everything we do.

To achieve this we need to systematically break down the barriers faced by people with a disability.

Sometimes these barriers are as simple as a wonky footpath.

Sometimes it’s about inaccessible information.

And sometimes it is an airline that simply doesn’t understand the challenges of people with a disability.

This is absolutely a focus of the Government and that’s why we spent the last few years developing the National Disability Strategy.

The Strategy was officially launched in March this year and put disability policy fairly and squarely on the national agenda.

It’s a 10-year national plan to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation, and create a more inclusive society.

This is the first time that Commonwealth, State, Territory and local governments have agreed to a unified national approach to improve the lives of people with disability.

To be clear, all States and Territories have signed up to it. And this gives us a real focus in terms of addressing issues that affect people with a disability in all areas of society.

Too often disability has been something that’s ignored by the mainstream service system and by the mainstream community.

The Strategy gives us a weapon… with which to change this attitude… to ensure that people with disability have the same opportunities as other Australians in every sphere – a quality education, health care, a job where possible and access to buildings, transport and social activities.

…As well as enjoying the same holiday experience as other Australians.

Under the Strategy, we recently funded organisations all over Australia to improve accessibility across a range of areas.

To improve the physical accessibility of our communities we funded 67 councils across Australia to make the landscape more accessible.

Small things can make a big difference and this initiative will provide new access ramps, doors and paths to community facilities, better access and specialised mobility equipment at facilities such as public swimming pools and fully accessible public toilets across the country.

We’ve also created new building standards, the Disability (Access to Buildings – Premises) Standards, that require buildings and public spaces to be more accessible by incorporating universal design principles into the design and build of community resources, from parks, to shopping centres and sporting arenas.

Through the National Dialogue on Universal Design, we have agreement to establish Livable Housing Australia. It will assess buildings and rate them for their accessibility.

These practical improvements to buildings and facilities will not only enhance life for local community members but will also enhance the holiday experience of travelers with disability.

We are likewise determined to promote the development of Disability Access Facilitation Plans by airlines and airport operators to improve communication between operators and passengers with disability.

The Government’s White Paper on National Aviation contained this new Government initiative to encourage the aviation industry to improve access to air services for people with a disability.

And we are continuing to progress aviation access issues.

We’re also improving cinema access by supporting the roll out of accessible cinema screens all across the country.

Let me share Michael Lockrey’s views after going to the movies. He said “Prior to CaptiView, I had only ever seen one movie in 41 years with open captions – and probably gone to 20 movies with my three young children where I have just twiddled my thumbs and played with my iPhone, instead of being able to enjoy the movie experience fully with them.”

So, these are a few examples of practical initiatives the have been funded under the National Disability Strategy which will make a really big difference to the experience – including the travelling experience of people with disability.

But clearly there is a long, long way to go.

Almost 90 per cent of people with disability take a holiday each year, and the value of day trips and overnight tourism by people with disability adds several billion dollars to our tourism income.

People with disability contributed between 11 and 16 per cent of tourism’s Gross Domestic Product.

And sustained some 50,000 to 70,000 direct jobs in the tourism industry.

So whilst inclusive tourism is a matter of basic rights, the hard cold truth is that it also makes good economic sense as well.

Inclusive tourism is a big opportunity for airlines, hotels, package holiday providers, restaurants and hoteliers and those communities in Australia that draw a large part of their income from tourism.

That is the message we need to get through to industry.

So, I would like to congratulate Nican on the outstanding work you do for people with disability and I agree that establishing an ‘Inclusive and Accessible’ award at the National Tourism Awards would be a great way to promote excellence in accessibility.

I am very pleased to announce this month Nican has received additional funding to manage and coordinate International Day of People with Disability this year.

Again I would like to thank Annette and Nican for convening this Dialogue, which has been undertaken in your own time without additional funding.

The aim of getting stakeholders together to develop a sector view before approaching industry is a strategic and sound way of approaching inclusive tourism.

Having a sound evidence base is a very important component of what we need to do and how we need to go about it.

It is my great pleasure to open this Dialogue. I look forward to hearing about the outcomes.

People with disability want to go different places, experience new environments and spend more on their travels.

They want celebrate life.

On that note, I would like to leave you with the words of someone with a disability.

Deborah Davis says on the Travability website:

We are here and we want to share the world with you….it is up to me to show you I will come–it is up to you to show me I am welcome.

Thank you Deborah. That’s our challenge.