Disability advocacy services get $5.3m investment but uncertainty still looms

Posted 6 years ago by Andrew Lodiong

The Australian Government will invest about $5.3 million for disability representative organisations to continue their important advocacy work on behalf of people living with a disability.

A host of organisations will claim a share in the funding that will see their services resourced until 2020.

Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services Jane Prentice says the funds would help ensure a broader reach and greater range of voices from the sector are heard.

“This funding will help ensure the best interests of people with a disability remain at the forefront of Government policy formulation,” Minister Prentice says.

There was an increase of $875,000 in the funding offers with over seven peak bodies nationwide set to benefit.

Minister for Social Services Christian Porter made clear that these organisations were selected on a fair criteria.

“These organisations were chosen through an open, merit-based selection process which also considered service provider diversity, to ensure Australians with a disability will have their views represented,” he says.

The recent announcement still leaves doubts over other disability advocacy services that could still be at threat due to funding cuts.

The NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance, comprising various organisations, is spearheading a movement to help rescue vital resources.

Using the hashtag ‘StandByMe’ on social media, the alliance is rallying against plans to remove the funding by the NSW Government as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is introduced.

Physical Disability Council of New South Wales (PDCN) is one of the groups  putting their efforts towards the cause.

Executive Officer Serena Ovens says crucial services will be in danger if funding cuts go ahead.

“It’s not about our organisations, it’s about the work we do for people with a disability,” she says. “That’s all going to be gone.”

PDCN is a not-for-profit organisation assisting people with a physical disability gain the information, knowledge and skills to live ordinary lives.

The organisation will have up to $300,000 in funding withdrawn which will limit its ability to provide services.

Ms Ovens says continued backing for advocacy groups could avoid any added pressure on local governments.

“Local councils know what we do and they don’t have the capacity to carry out work so it would be a lot of strain on them if people came knocking on their door,” she says.

The StandByMe petition has gained momentum and has already received almost 15,000 signatures and counting since going online in the past two months.

Despite the increased support from the social media campaign, Ms Ovens believes the NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance still “has a lot of work to do” in achieving their goal.

“Each organisation is doing what they can to make sure we are all still around,” she says.

“We work in an area where some people don’t have social media so we need to be around to make sure they have the same accessibility like everyone else has.”

The successful organisations to be offered a share of the $5.3 million funding are:

  • Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) – representing children and young people (0-25 yrs) with a disability.

  • First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN) – representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability.

  • National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) – representing people with disability from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD), as well as non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB).

  • People with Disability Australia (PWDA) – a national organisation focused on disability rights and advocacy.

  • Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA) – representing women and girls with disability.

  • A consortium led by the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO).

  • National Disability Services (NDS) – representing more than 1,100 non-government service providers which provide support to people with a disability.

  • Mental Health Australia (MHA) – representing the Australian mental health sector.