Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Address to the National Disability Services Conference

Location: The Hilton Hotel, Adelaide


Thank you, Tim [Walton, National President, NDS].

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we are meeting on, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge with us today:

  • Ian Hunter MLC, South Australian Minister for Communities and Disabilities; and
  • Dr Ken Baker, NDS Chief Executive.

It’s a pleasure to be with you this morning at what is a very exciting time for the disability and carer community.


In just a few days, the federal budget will be revealed.

Though as Australians we have navigated our way through the global financial crisis better than most, challenges persist as we work to build a strong foundation for a fairer Australia.

Even as we return to surplus on time, and as promised, in next week’s Budget, you will see this Labor Government fund our share of the first stage of a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

We are making an NDIS real.

We will work with the states and territories who are willing to do their part to launch a scheme from the middle of next year – a year ahead of the timetable set out by the Productivity Commission.

We’ll make an NDIS real for around 20,000 people with significant and permanent disability.

This is a big ask – I know each of you are aware of the scale of change.

But I also know how long people with disability, their families and carers have been waiting for change.

Too often, the story of disability is a story of waiting.

For a new wheelchair, at the end of the phone for a place in respite.

I know this audience understands the frustrations of waiting.

Too often it is you – disability service providers and care workers – at the end of that phone, doing all you can with resources that can’t possibly respond to the level of need that’s out there in the community.

You are witness to the frustrations of families on a daily basis.

You feel their frustration – and you feel your own, the frustration of doing all you can with what is simply not enough.

It’s this frustration that has led the disability and carer community to come together around a single call for change.

To call for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Rolling up our sleeves

It’s the unity – and through it the strength – of this movement that has brought us this far.

In four years, the NDIS has gone from a kernel of an idea to a plan of action.

  • From the Shut Out report by the National People with Disability & Carer Council, which shed a light on the fractured system,
  • To this Government’s request to the Productivity Commission to inquire into the long term care and support of people with disability,
  • Through the comprehensive inquiry by the Productivity Commission and the Independent Panel, including more than 1,000 submissions made over the eighteen months of the inquiry, and
  • To the Government’s release of the report – less than a fortnight after it was received – and the Prime Minister’s announcement that we would take the report to the Council of Australian Governments.

Each a step on the path to reform. These are our shared achievements.

And while we are making progress – we are not there yet.

I want to acknowledge today that it has taken courage for service providers and disability care workers to be a part of this call for change.

Because this change is taking the practices of 40 years and turning them on their head.

It’s putting the power in the hands of people with disability, their families and their carers.

And that – while desirable – is also confronting.

Disability service providers – through the leadership of NDS – have been prepared to face the challenges in mounting the argument for change.

And the challenges are significant.

I want to say this to you today – we are very clear about the scale of change involved in moving to an NDIS.

And it is true to say that this scheme can’t be built without the advice of experts.

Experts in commercial insurance and in implementation.

But experts also in the lived experience of people with disability, their families and carers.

Experts in the delivery of care and support services to people with disability, service providers and disability care workers.

We know that the knowledge to create this change does not lie within government alone.

We have already announced an Advisory Group to help the Select Council of Ministers on our path to reform.

And this week I’ve announced three Expert Working Groups to consider the critical questions of design of choice and control, eligibility and assessment and quality standards and safeguards.

Each of these groups includes a representative of the disability sector.

Each includes people with disability and carers.

Today, I am pleased to announce that we are establishing an Expert Working Group to consider, in detail, the particular challenges of change for the disability sector and the disability workforce.

This group of experts will support the Advisory Group in developing their advice to the Select Council of Ministers and Treasurers about how we can best support service providers and disability care workers to make the change.

The group will be chaired by your own Chief Executive, Dr Ken Baker.

Its membership includes David Barbagallo from the Queensland service provider the Endeavour Foundation, and Gordon Duff from National Disability Services.

It includes representatives from unions and people with disability. It includes carers. And it includes people with particular knowledge of the challenges of supporting people with significant impairments arising from mental illness.

We are serious when we say we need the expert advice of the disability community – and the reverse is also true – we can’t do it without you.

We need the advice of experts within the disability and carer community.

We need the advice of the whole disability community – people who are experts in the lived experience of disability.

So I urge you to work with the Advisory Group, with the Expert Working groups, as they engage across the disability community.

I urge you to work through National Disability Services as we progress to make sure your voice – the voice of experts – is heard.

Ideas into action

Because we must now turn ideas into action.

A National Disability Insurance Scheme will be a radical departure from the system you all know today.

It will take an incredible amount of work and of commitment to make it a reality.

We need to build the system.

We need to support people with disability to transition, to exercise choice and control over the care and support they receive.

But we also need service providers and their staff to get NDIS-ready – because a strong and robust disability sector – a sector ready and raring to go in the new world – is critical to our success.

It’s critical to the change we all want to see.

Many of you will be aware that a scoping study is already in train looking at the current status of the sector and what needs to be done to prepare for an NDIS.

This study will be informed by work already undertaken by National Disability Services in its publication Preparing the Disability Sector for the New World.

This new world is one characterised by a person-centred approach, one that gives people with disability and their carers choice and control over the care and support they receive.

One that responds to the individual needs of a person with disability and their carer.

And of course, one that is appropriately funded to deliver to people with disability and their carers the supports they need – and to guarantee those supports will be there for a life-time.

But these characteristics raise questions as well as raising hopes.

How, do we ensure a smooth move from the present block funding and service centred model to one in which people with disabilities and their carers have choice and control?

How can we support service providers to focus on delivering great care and support, and not having to worry about delivering great marketing campaigns?

How do we ensure disability care jobs are good jobs, secure jobs, that build a career for our staff? How do we become an employer of choice?

And how do we approach new players from health and aged care moving into the sphere of disability care and support?

Because our preparations for the new world mean preparing for a substantial increase in the number of people with disability, families and carers who will receive support.

The current system supports around 295,000 people. We’re looking to increase that by nearly 50 per cent.

We need to develop service and quality standards that will apply to all support providers, so people with disability can expect high quality support wherever they live, whatever their disability or however they acquired it.

We need to upgrade information technology systems to support new practices and be able to work with the NDIS.

We need to build leadership, managerial and staff capabilities within organisations.

And we need to build an NDIS-ready workforce to ensure adequately trained staff who also have the right values, attitudes and skills to work positively with people with disability in way that focuses on those people as individuals.

We need to make sure an NDIS doesn’t see the evacuation of informal care, and a replacement with formal care.

We need to make sure we don’t see the decline of philanthropic donations.

The disability sector has built up strong and vibrant bonds across the community, which make it a cornerstone of our community sector.

And as you know well, we also need to get the sector ready to meet the challenges set out in the National Disability Strategy – a ten year roadmap to improving access and support to people with disability right across our network of social supports.

A National Disability Insurance Scheme at its strongest is one that works hand in glove with systems of social support – both formal and informal – right across our communities.

It’s one that weaves formal and informal care and support, threads relationships through communities.

And the disability sector – with the experience of decades of relationships and effort across the community sector – is critical to realising this aim, to realising the rights of people with disability and carers.


I know that the disability community has now passed the baton to government – but we can’t do this without you.

We need you to keep running alongside us as we head toward the finish line in designing this scheme.

I know you’ve run a long race already – and that you have invested deeply and personally in your achievements to date.

But we all need to keep going.

A National Disability Insurance Scheme is about putting people with disability, their families and carers at the centre of what we do, to give them all of the opportunities and all of the support they need to live strong, fulfilling and independent lives.

To create a world which puts choice in the hands of people with disability.

One which provides certainty of individualised care and support over a lifetime.

Which gives people genuine control over the supports they receive.

And allows them to plan for the future knowing that as their support needs change, the support they get from the system will change as well.

Above all a world which will be a far cry from the crisis driven approach of the past.

To build this scheme, we need to make sure that people with disability, their families and carers, that service providers and disability care workers, are at the centre of our work.

You are the experts in disability – and we need you to work with us as we work to build an NDIS.

Thank you.