Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

NDIS, NAIDOC week, Constitutional recognition of Indigenous people

Program: ABC Hobart Drive

Subject: NDIS, NAIDOC week, Constitutional recognition of Indigenous people

JOEL RHEINBERGER: Jenny Macklin is the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, also the Minister for Disability Reform. And I think on both of those counts is visiting Tasmania at the moment, has just, barely just landed. She joins us now, Jenny Macklin good afternoon.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good afternoon to you Joel.

JOEL RHEINBERGER: Now we’re going to start rolling out the trial of the National Disability Insurance Scheme sometime soon in Australia. Have you selected the places that it’s going to be in yet?

JENNY MACKLIN: No not yet. We’re still talking with the states and territories including Tasmania, and I’ll certainly be talking with people here in Hobart tomorrow. We are looking forward to meeting with some of the providers of disability care and support here in Hobart. One of the things that you do well here in Tasmania is the way in which you have a process of getting people into the disability care and support system, so I’m looking forward to talking with people about that. We will be hopefully making a decision pretty soon. The idea is to start the new National Disability Care and Support Scheme from July next year.

JOEL RHEINBERGER: Now you’re looking for groups of 10,000 people that you can start this on. So you have a trial and you can make it work and you can make it safer. What are you looking for, surrounding that group of people?

JENNY MACKLIN: And we don’t necessarily want 10,000 people with disabilities in one place, so we’re certainly talking to the states and serritories about how that might be broken down. Some states are interested in a trial of maybe 5,000 people with a disability, others talking about smaller trials. We’d like to get as much variation as possible, so different types of regional centres just to give you one example.

JOEL RHEINBERGER: So how does Tasmania rate in terms of the need down here for these sorts of services?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well Tasmania’s pretty good actually compared to some other states and we certainly are talking to the Tasmanian Government. They’ve certainly indicated that they are keen to be part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme but of course we’ve got to have a few more detailed discussions before that’s final.

JOEL RHEINBERGER: I imagine you’ve been lobbied by all of the local politicians. I’m wondering who’s been in your office in the last little while?

JENNY MACKLIN: I probably shouldn’t go through all that Joel but…


JENNY MACKLIN: It’s not only local MPs it’s also of course carer groups, people with disability themselves down in Tassie really indicating they want to be part of the scheme. I think that’s one of the wonderful things about the National Disability Insurance Scheme we do have people right across Australia really saying we’ve waited long enough, we really want to get into this and so that’s been a really positive response.

JOEL RHEINBERGER: This is a huge project. I mean it’s a total overhaul really of the way the Government handles the needs of people with disabilities.

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s true and….

JOEL RHEINBERGER: So what’s the plan, what do you do first?

JENNY MACKLIN: That is a very good point and maybe if I could just really quickly summarise why that is. We really do know that the current scheme is broken. Yes it’s underfunded there’s no question about that and that’s true right across the country, and people with disability and their carers are having to wait too long to get a wheelchair or get respite care to get the sort of help they need to be independent. But it’s not only that, it’s also that we want to make sure that in the future we take what we call an insurance approach. And that means we really look at a person’s needs across their lifetime. So if a child is born with a serious disability we make an assessment or the independent agency makes an assessment of what that child’s needs are going to be, what early intervention would help that child be as independent as possible so that they’ll grow up and really be able to take their place in society to the extent they can. So really it’s a very different approach from the funding limited approach that we’ve had in the past.

JOEL RHEINBERGER: Who’s actually going to administer the Insurance Scheme once it’s up and running?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re still finalising those issues. There is going to be an interim Agency and we’ll be announcing the head of that Agency very shortly. In choosing the head of the Agency what we’ve been very concerned to do is get someone who is looking at this from the perspective of insurance rather than just continuing the system as we’ve known it for the last hundred years. So we really do want to make sure that we build a new National Disability Agency that is going to make sure that it meets the dreams and aspirations that people with disability have.

JOEL RHEINBERGER: So it sounds like this is going to take some of the massive drain off Centrelink staff who we’ve heard only in the last couple of days of terrific strain on Centrelink staff at the moment. So this’ll take hopefully because I know that’s part of what they have to deal with day to day.

JENNY MACKLIN: To a degree but still Centrelink will need to look after people’s income support needs that really will continue to be separate. What we’re talking about with the National Disability Insurance Scheme is care and support, making sure people get the early intervention services. So it might be physio, or speech therapy. It might be making sure people get the right equipment. Most of those services at the moment are delivered by State Governments or the non-Government sector.

JOEL RHEINBERGER: You’re listening to 936 ABC Hobart and my name is Joel Rheinberger. With me is Jenny Macklin and we’ve been talking about the Disability Insurance Scheme which is being put together at the moment. Jenny Macklin is also the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and that’s what brings you here at the moment, the NAIDOC Ball and Awards that are happening here tomorrow?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, it’s always a wonderful week right around Australia and the Ball is always the point at which everybody comes together and celebrates the very, very significant achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Every Ball I’ve been to is just a wonderful recognition of everything that people are contributing and I’m sure the Ball here in Hobart tomorrow night will be no different.

JOEL RHEINBERGER: The theme of this year’s NAIDOC is the spirit of the Tent Embassy. What can we learn from the Tent Embassy and the fact that it has been where it has been for forty years?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think from the point of view of Aboriginal people it’s recognising the importance of the leadership that was shown forty years ago by people who established the Tent Embassy. Really celebrating the way in which so many people have achieved so much over the last forty years, whether it’s in the land rights movement, whether it’s in individual achievements in people seeing their educational aspirations really met. It’s really trying to recognise that right across the board Aboriginal people have really taken their rightful place in so many parts of our society.

JOEL RHEINBERGER: That’s a very positive message, but the very fact that Aboriginal people still feel the need to have that Tent Embassy there, that’s not quite as positive a message is it?

JENNY MACKLIN: And I think we do have to recognise that and as you’d know from the Government’s point of view our whole objective is to Close the Gap as we call it. To close the life expectancy gap which is still far too great. To make sure that we close the literacy and numeracy gap, the employment gap, all of these things are real. But one of the great things about NAIDOC week is that it’s a time when people can look at the good things that are happening and the positive achievements. People right around the country in lots of little places, country towns and in the cities, really come together and I think are able to celebrate who they are and also celebrate their achievements.

JOEL RHEINBERGER: What are you doing that’s different from the last Government in order to achieve some of those things? Have you got some particular projects that you think are actually moving us in that direction?

JENNY MACKLIN: In the broadest sense yes, and then I’ll come to a couple of specifics. I think having very clear Closing the Gap targets and then measuring ourselves against those targets has been really important because it keeps you on the ball, and each year in every Budget I make sure that we’re measuring what we’re doing, making sure we’re continuing to invest in the health services that people need. Improved education, making sure people are getting jobs. One of the biggest areas we’re investing in is housing because of course we know that children need to get a good night’s sleep in a house that’s not overcrowded. Parents need to be able to cook a decent meal and bathe their children in a decent house. So we’re building around 4,000 extra houses and that’s going very well particularly in remote parts of the country. So that’s been a big achievement so far. On the other side of the coin one of the things we’re really working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on is recognition of Australia’s First Peoples in the Constitution. And that has become a real theme I think of Aboriginal people calling for that recognition and we’re working with Reconciliation Australia to build awareness of the need for Constitutional change. Of course it’s never easy in Australia but in this NAIDOC week if we can keep that debate and discussion going that’ll be a good thing.

JOEL RHEINBERGER: Jenny Macklin, welcome to Hobart, thank you for being on our program.