Speech by The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Speech at the National Disability Awards 2015

Location: Parliament House Canberra

Thank you Kieran, and thank you Auntie Jannette for your welcome to country.

Thank you Tim for your beautiful rendition of You Raise Me Up.

I would firstly like to note apologies from Christian Porter, The Minister for Social Services, who cannot be with us tonight. But there are many of my parliamentary colleagues who are here from all parties, and I particularly acknowledge Mitch Fifield, Kevin Andrews and Jenny Macklin, who in the past several years have overseen much of the disability reform in their roles in the Social Services portfolio.

The level of bipartisan support for celebrating the contribution that people with disability make to all walks of Australian life is highlighted here tonight with the presence of so many members of parliament.

I am also pleased to welcome the 2015 International Day of People with Disability patron, Mr John Walsh AM, here tonight.

John is one of the extraordinary Australians who had the idea for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and advocated energetically for its adoption.

For those who I haven’t met yet, my name is Alan Tudge and I am the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and I will be working with Minister Porter to progress important disability issues in the months and hopefully years ahead.

I also have the honour of being the federal member for the seat of Aston in Melbourne. Some of you will know that this seat is named after one of the most extraordinary women in our history – Tilly Aston – who did so much for the rights and welfare of blind and vision impaired people.

She was a woman who was blind by the age of seven at a time in the late 1800s when blind people were isolated from society and kept, as she put it, like “birds in a cage”.

But she was a fighter, and her courage and tenacity brought great advancement for blind and vision impaired people: voting rights, better access to public transport, the first braille library and the establishment of what is now known as Vision Australia.

Tilly never gave up and her legacy lives on today.

Tonight we celebrate the outstanding efforts of individuals and organisations that, much like Tilly Aston did over a century ago, have worked hard to improve the lives of people with disability.

This evening’s function also heralds in International Day of People with Disability which we celebrate next week, on 3rd December.

Hundreds of events across the country will highlight the significant achievements of people with disability and promote this year’s United Nations theme: inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities.

Following on with this theme, I am glad to report that the latest analysis of the NDIS shows that it is travelling well.

The NDIS is one of the largest social policy reforms in Australia’s history. Working together, governments are building a sustainable scheme that will stand the test of time.

Nearly 23,000 people have been found eligible to take part in the Scheme so far, with 20,000 of those already with approved plans and, importantly, participation satisfaction levels are high.

Over the next twelve months, we will see the NDIS roll out across regional and rural NSW and Victoria, and we are on track to achieve roll out nationally by 2019-20.

When fully implemented, the NDIS will provide aids, equipment, personal attendant care and early intervention to around 460,000 Australians – with the individual at the centre. Already we are hearing stories of the remarkable difference the NDIS is making to people’s lives.

But tonight we honour you and your service. We do so knowing that it is people like you who are the glue to our community, who build the social fabric and make our society a better place.

The achievements of the individuals and organisations in this room is remarkable. We have people who have invented a device that allows people with quadriplegia and loss of speech to communicate.

We have a remarkable young Australian who successfully campaigned to introduce tactile banknotes so people who are blind or vision impaired can tell which note is which.

And we have the organisation which, channelling Tilly Aston herself, developed a world-first e-learning braille course designed to allow sighted people to learn braille so they can teach people who do not have full sight.

Through these National Disability Awards held in this Great Hall, we recognise you and thank you in this public way; not because you seek thanks, but because you deserve it.

Thank you all.