FAQs for individuals – COSP opportunity 2014

Grants are now open for emerging young leaders in the disability sector to attend the 7th session of the Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in New York from 10 – 12 June 2014.  This is a unique professional opportunity and young delegates will be provided with training and mentoring to build their capacity to participate at the UN. These grants will provide an important opportunity for the next generation of young disability rights advocates to represent the Australian disability sector at the UN.

What is the Conference of States Parties?

The COSP is an annual event held at the United Nations in New York. It brings together states that have ratified the CRPD. The purpose of the COSP is for states parties to discuss the implementation of the CRPD with respect to a particular theme. The theme of the COSP differs from year to year.

Watch this space for more information: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?navid=15&pid=1615

What are the themes of the COSP for this year?

There are 3 themes for this year’s COSP:

  1. Youth with disabilities
  2. National implementation and monitoring
  3. Incorporating the CRPD provisions into the post 2015 development agenda

How do I apply?

Applications can only come from disability peak organisations/disability advocacy organisation. If you are interested in applying for a grant you must consult with your disability peak organisation/disability advocacy organisation and they must supply the following information in their application:

Information about the disability peak organisation/advocacy organisation

  • Name of organization
  • How the delegate’s participation will positively impact on the work of the disability peak organisation/disability advocacy organisation

Information about the young applicant

  • Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Does the applicant have a disability?
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Qualifications (if any)
  • Relevant achievements or academic awards
  • Relevant experience in the disability sector
  • What the applicant thinks they can contribute to the event
  • The applicant’s knowledge of the UN process, the COSP and the 2 themes of the COSP: youth with disabilities and national implementation and monitoring of the CRPD.
  • Preparation and post event reporting plans

Budget

  • Proposed funding sought
  • Other sources of funding available

What are the roles and responsibilities of the delegate?

The delegation will travel as a group to the following events:

Date Event
22 May 2014 Training workshop in Sydney on 22 May 2014. Delegates will receive specific information about your role as a delegate at this workshop. The workshop topics include:

  • What is the COSP? What is the role of civil society at the COSP?
  • What will the delegates do at the COSP?
  • What will the delegates need to prepare for the COSP?

Pre-readings will be progressively uploaded here:http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?navid=15&pid=1615

9 June 2014 Civil society forum in New York
10 – 12 June 2014 COSP and various side events in New York
8 – 13 June 2014 The delegates will have an opportunity to network with some of the key players in the international disability movement, learn about strategic advocacy and its application to domestic advocacy and visit important UN organisations.

Please note that we have not yet determined the exact dates for when the delegation will be New York. However, the delegates are likely to be in New York for approximately 6 days.

Late June Attend a post-event debrief to help incorporate learnings into disability advocacy at the national level.

It is likely that we will be holding this debrief via teleconference.

How many delegates will be selected?

We have not yet decided how many applicants will be selected for this program. Numbers will depend upon the strength of the applications and the budget proposals submitted by the applicants. Co-contributions will be seen favourably by the Selection Committee.

I am interested in applying for these grants, can I put in an individual application?

No, individual applications will not be accepted. All applications must come from a disability peak organisation or disability advocacy organisation. If an individual is interested in applying for this program, please get in touch with a disability peak organisation or disability advocacy organisation to start the application process.

What is a disability peak organisation or a disability advocacy organisation?

Here is a list of disability peak organisations: http://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/disability-and-carers/program-services/consultation-and-advocacy/national-disability-peak-bodies

Here is a list of some advocacy organisations: http://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/disability-and-carers/program-services/for-people-with-disability/national-disability-advocacy-program/models-of-disability-advocacy/national-disability-advocacy-agencies-funded-by-the-australian-government-by-state-or-territory

There are many disability advocacy bodies which are not listed above. If you are unsure as to whether an organization has a disability peak organisation/disability advocacy organisation status, please contact the organization.

What information do I need to put in my budget?

You will need to draw up a budget for the itinerary along the lines of the sample given here. If you have any disability support requirements, please include this in your budget.

Item Cost
Return flights to Sydney to attend workshop May 22nd
Cabcharges to attend Sydney workshop at 175 Pitt St, Sydney
Return flights to Sydney to join delegation en route to New York (if required)
Return economy flights to New York
Accommodation in New York (approximately 6 days)
Food allowance (approximately 6 days)
Local travel allowance (approximately 6 days)
Insurance
Disability support (if required)
Misc

The delegation will be travelling as a group. Applicants from states other than NSW should include in their budget the cost of flying to Sydney so that all delegates can fly together to New York. We have not made a final call yet as to whether we will require interstate delegates to do this, but please factor it into your budget.
We are in the process of setting up meetings in New York for the delegation, so the full itinerary is not yet available. For the purposes of calculating your budget, please assume that the delegation will be in New York for 6 days. The precise number of days will be confirmed soon.

Delegates are encouraged to raise some funds from sponsorship to cover cost of their travel. Co-contributions of this kind will be viewed favourably by the Selection Committee.

The precise amount of funding allocated will be determined by the Commission.

Please note that the Commission will not be funding delegates to participate in the discussions surrounding the post-2015 development agenda..

Will I be required to book my own travel?

Delegates will be required to book your own travel to Sydney to attend the workshop on 22 May.

Delegates will not be required to book their own travel to New York. The delegation will be travelling as a group and therefore the delegation’s travel will be booked as a group. All delegates will be required to stay at the same hotel. We have not selected the hotel yet. For the purposes of submitting a budget, please estimate the cost of accommodation for New York.

How many applicants can a disability peak organisation/disability advocacy nominate?

You can nominate as many applicants as you like. Disability peak bodies/disability advocacy bodies are permitted to put in group applications.
However, please note that as these grants are highly competitive and individuals rather than groups will be selected. Disability peak bodies/disability advocacy bodies are encouraged to put in as much information about each individual as possible.

I will turn 31 this year. Am I still eligible to apply for this program?

Yes, you can still apply for this program. These grants target young disability rights advocates between 18 – 30 years of age. If your age falls slightly outside of this age range, you are still eligible to apply. However, please note that these grants are aimed at building the capacity of young disability rights advocates to participate at the UN.

Are there any pre-readings that I need to do?

All applicants who have been selected to participate in this program must read the information which will be uploaded here: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?navid=15&pid=1615

When are applications due?

Applications are due COB 30 April 2014. No extensions will be given.

I am interested in receiving more information about this program. Where can I find more information?

General information about grants for organizations: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/disability-international-participation-funding-program-faq

Information about the call out: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/calendar-international-events-disability-rights

Information about the COSP: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?navid=15&pid=1615

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New funding opportunity for emerging young leaders in the disability sector – International participation project

Grants are now open for emerging young leaders in the disability sector to attend the 7th session of the Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in New York from 10 – 12 June 2014.  This is a unique professional opportunity and young delegates will be provided with training and mentoring to build their capacity to participate at the UN. These grants will provide an important opportunity for the next generation of young disability rights advocates to represent the Australian disability sector at the UN.

This program:

1. Begins with a training workshop in Sydney on 22 May 2014. The workshop topics include:

  • What is the COSP? What is the role of civil society at the COSP?
  • What will I do at the COSP?
  • What will I need to prepare for the COSP?

2. The delegates will fly to New York where they will network with some of the key players in the international disability movement, learn about strategic advocacy and its application to domestic advocacy and visit important UN organisations.

3. Go on to attend the civil society forum (date TBC) and the Conference of States Parties from 10 – 12 June 2014 at the UN.

4. When the delegates come back there will be a post-event debrief in late June to help incorporate learnings into disability advocacy at the national level.

The theme of the COSP will be advised as soon as it becomes available.

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for young emerging leaders in the disability sector. Preferably, the young applicant will be between 18 – 30 years of age. DPOs and DAOs are strongly encouraged to nominate young persons with a disability.

How much funding is provided?

The Commission will provide grants for the young delegates to attend the training workshop, the COSP and the post-event debrief. Applicants are required to submit a budget including a breakdown of costs such as food, accommodation and flights.

Successful delegates are encouraged to raise some funds from sponsorship.

More information about grants can be found here: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/disability-international-participation-funding-program-faq.

Application process

DPOs/DAOs must supply the following information in the application:

Information about the organization

  • Name of organization
  • How the delegate’s participation will positively impact on the work of the DPO/DAO

Information about the young applicant

  • Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Does the applicant have a disability?
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Qualifications (if any)
  • Relevant achievements or academic awards
  • Relevant experience in the disability sector
  • What the applicant thinks they can contribute to the event
  • The applicant’s knowledge of the UN process, the COSP and theme of the COSP (if available)
  • Preparation and post event reporting plans

Budget

  • Proposed funding sought
  • Other sources of funding available

Please submit the application to disability@humanrights.gov.au.

Selection process

The delegates will be selected by a Selection Committee on the basis of the written application. Successful applicants will be notified in early May.

Criteria for selection

  1. Applicants must be nominated by a DPO/DAO.
  2. Applicants should preferably be between 18 to 30 years of age.
  3. Preference will be given to applicants with a disability.
  4. The Selection Committee will seek to ensure a gender balance in the delegation
  5. Applicants must be able to attend the pre-training workshop in May, the COSP in June and the post-event debrief in late June. Applicants must also be willing to undertake relevant post-event activities.
  6. Applicant’s knowledge of the COSP, the theme of the COSP (if available) and the work of the UN CRPD treaty body
  7. Applicant’s knowledge of the Australian disability sector
  8. Budget proposal. Co-contribution to costs will be viewed favourably

Any questions?

If you have further questions about this program, please send an email to: disability@humanrights.gov.au

Applications close COB Wednesday April 30, 2014.

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Launch of Equal before the law: Towards disability justice strategies

Today, Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes AM will be launching the Australian Human Rights Commission report Equal before the law: Towards disability justice strategies.

The Report focuses on people with disabilities who need communication supports or who have complex and multiple support needs and who have come in contact with the criminal justice system.  Negative assumptions and attitudes, coupled with  a lack of support services and minimal provision of adjustments, often means that people with disabilities are viewed as not credible, not capable of giving evidence or unable to participate in legal proceedings.  As a result many are left without effective access to justice. The Report proposes that in light of the substantial challenges that exist, each jurisdiction in Australia should develop an holistic, over-arching response to these issues through a Disability Justice Strategy. The Disability Justice Strategy should address a core set of principles and include fundamental actions that are concerned with appropriate communications, early intervention and diversion, increased service capacity, effective training, enhanced accountability and monitoring, and better policies and frameworks.

The Report is the culmination of Australia-wide consultations, which included public meetings held in every state and territory and over 100 individual meetings with members of the police, state and territory Attorneys-General, corrective services, the judiciary, people with disability, community groups and academics. In addition the Australian Human Rights Commission received approximately 90 submissions from interested parties noting the barriers and gaps in access to justice in the criminal justice system.

Link to the report: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/equal-law

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Launch of report into access to justice for people with disability in the criminal justice system

The report into access to justice for people with disability in the criminal justice system will be launched on Wednesday 5 February in Sydney.

The report will be available on this website on that day: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/access-justice-criminal-justice-system-people-disability

If you would like to receive an electronic copy of the report via email when it is launched, please send an email to siqi.wen@humanrights.gov.au

If you would like more information on this project, the Issues Paper can be found here: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/access-justice-criminal-justice-system-people-disability-issues-paper-april-2013

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Human Rights Commission partners with global law firm DLA Piper to advance human rights

Global business law firm DLA Piper has worked in partnership with the Australian Human Rights Commission to address issues facing people with disabilities wanting better access to Australia’s criminal justice system.

The Commission led an investigation into the barriers people who need communications support, or have multiple or complex support needs, face in the criminal justice system. The investigation included individuals who are encountering the law as victims of crime, witnesses or offenders.

DLA Piper, who accompanied the Commission during their consultations, have compiled a report on the information gathered during the consultations, in combination with relevant legal research on the issue.

The report includes:

  • An analysis of evidence laws, policies and guidelines;
  • Information on diversion programs;
  • An assessment of capacity in the criminal justice system; and
  • An analysis of violence against people with disability in residential care settings.

This report will be an important companion piece to the Commission’s Access to Justice project” said Commissioner Innes. “It is a practical demonstration of how a commercial organisation such as DLA Piper can provide pro bono support to advance the human rights and freedoms of a group of disadvantaged Australians.”

The Commission will release its own report on this project early next year, including a set of best practice principles to guide those wishing to implement change.

Daniel Creasey, Asia Pacific Pro Bono Counsel for DLA Piper, said “Working with the Commission has been a very positive experience for our lawyers that have been involved. It has given us the chance to use our expertise in criminal law to assist with the removal of barriers that are preventing people with disabilities from receiving fair treatment in our justice system. I am very proud that we could be involved.”

The DLA Piper report is available at

http://www.dlapiper.uk.com/download/Background_Paper_on_Access_to_Justice_for_People_with_Disability_in_the_Criminal_Justice_System_word version.doc

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Graeme’s speech at the launch of Love and Kisses- taking action on the reproductive and sexual health and rights of people with disability

On 9 December Commissioner Graeme Innes launched NSW Family Planning’s new document “Love and Kisses- taking action on the reproductive and sexual health and rights of people with disability”. Here is the speech he gave at the launch:

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet.

Stella Young is a vivacious journalist, with a love of dinosaurs and Melbourne night life.  She edits the ABC’s Disability Portal Ramp Up. She uses a wheelchair. Her disability means that she often breaks bones, and her parents took her to hospital when she broke her leg whilst on a family holiday. Stella was about four years old. The doctor – whilst repairing the break – said to her parents “well, while she’s under anaesthetic we may as well perform the hysterectomy.” Luckily for Stella, her parents refused.

Two colleagues of mine have intellectual disability. I met with their adult daughter recently. She talked of their love and support as her parents, and how important it had been in her development. She also talked, with much sadness, of the story of one of her child-hood friends, who also had intellectual disability, and whose child had been removed from her at birth because it was judged that this woman could not “safely parent”.

And finally my own story. I was waiting for a train at Central station about fifteen years ago. My wife and I both worked, and after the birth of our daughter had complicated child-care arrangements which meant that we both took her to work with us several days a week. On this day she was sitting on my back in the backpack I used to carry her in. A woman approached me and asked my name. When I queried why she wanted to know she said – “I want to report you to the authorities. People like you should not have the custody of a little child like that.”

All of these stories illustrate the importance of the document being launched here today.  I don’t suggest that they all reflect general community attitudes. But they indicate a need for the rights of people with disabilities relating to marriage, family, parenthood and relationships to be reinforced and advanced. Family Planning NSW plays a key role in this area in our community, and is the obvious organisation to initiate such a document.

I have been honoured in the last decade to be one of the Australians involved in the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, the Disability Convention, or DisCo as I like to refer to it. Not only is it an easily remembered acronym, but it conjures images for me of people with disabilities moving into all parts of our community- even DisCo’s. Although the colour of my hair suggests that Discos are not places which I have frequented for some time. But I mention the DisCo because of the important under-pinning it provides for the lives of people with disability in Australia.  Australia has ratified the DisCo, and all of our Commonwealth and State governments have committed, through the National Disability Strategy, to implement the DisCo. In the case of NSW, the government has also implemented its own plan in this regard.

The document being launched today makes references to numerous parts of the DisCo.  I won’t take you to all of them- there are only so many human rights moves I can bust in any one speech. But let me dance you through Article 23 – Respect For Home And The Family.

It has five paragraphs. Paragraph 1 provides that governments shall take effective and appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities in the areas with which we are dealing. The following things must be ensured -

  • The right of people with disabilities to marry and found a family, on the basis that there is free and full consent;
  • The right of people with disabilities to decide on the number and spacing of their children, and receive age-appropriate information on reproductive education;
  • The right of people with disabilities to retain their fertility.

Paragraph 2 provides that governments shall ensure the rights and responsibilities of people with disabilities regarding guardianship, wardship, trusteeship, adoption. The best interests of the child must be paramount, and appropriate assistance must be provided in the performance of child-rearing responsibilities.

Paragraph 3 provides that children with disabilities must have equal rights to family life.  Early and comprehensive information and support must be provided to children with disabilities.

Paragraph 4 provides that a child shall not be separated from their parents against their will, except where determined by competent authorities, legally reviewable, in the best interests of the child. In no case shall a child be separated from their parents on the basis of disability of the child or one or more of the parents.

Paragraph 5 provides that where the immediate family is unable to care for a child with disabilities, care should be provided in the wider family, or in the community in a family setting.

All of these paragraphs outline critically important rights which Australia must progressively realise. They – and the strategies, plans and laws flowing from them – provide the foundation for change on which this document builds. All of them move us – people with disabilities – further towards choice and control.

The document which we are here to launch today sets down the pathway which we should take towards that goal. To quote from the document “The subject of sexuality is generally a silent, ignored and invisible aspect of the lives of people with disability. It’s a subject that Governments have largely failed to acknowledge, and in doing so make the necessary changes that ensure people with disability have the opportunity to participate in loving, safe and fulfilling sexual relationships.”

I congratulate Family Planning NSW for laying out this pathway. You have made specific commitments about what you will do in this area, and laid out areas for action for Commonwealth and State Governments to follow. The pathway is a clear one, and people with disabilities are at the centre of that journey, as the DisCo also requires.

But the stories I told you at the beginning of my remarks stand in stark contrast to the words written in this document, and the plans, strategies, laws and conventions under-pinning it. As do the stories we heard when the Commission hosted the recent symposium conducted by the Stop The Violence Project, examining the issue of violence against women with disabilities. Some of you may have read the media coverage which that Symposium received. But for those who did not, can I draw just one more story from the opinion piece I wrote published in the Sydney Morning Herald-

Women with disability who live in institutions, boarding houses or group homes, are often victims of violence and sexual abuse. This is particularly true of women with psycho-social disability or mental illness. Often cigarettes are used as currency, and “a smoke for a poke” is reported as a regular occurrence. But the comment which revolted and saddened me most was that of a woman who responded to the researcher “Are you talking about rape. I’ve been raped heaps of times. You just have to get used to it.”

So whilst I congratulate Family Planning NSW for developing this document, I have to say that the challenge is still before you. As it is still before Governments and organisations of and providing services to people with disabilities. That challenge is to make the strong words in the documents strong realities for people with disabilities, our families, and those – particularly in the medical and related professions – providing services to us.

Martin Luther King said “I have a dream that my children will grow up in a nation where they are not judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”. If I can adapt that quote, I have a dream that my children will grow up in a nation where they are not judged by their disability, but by the content of their character. Sadly, it is a dream, because we don’t yet live in that nation.

I congratulate Family Planning NSW for the preparation of this document, and encourage you to work with me, and others in the disability field, to make that dream a reality.

Thanks for the chance to speak with you today.

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Graeme’s speech to the Australian Network on Disability International Day Function

Graeme delivered this speech to the Australian Network on Disability IDPWD event on 4 December. Here is what he said:

I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land.

*Slide with contact details*

I’ve pondered for a while how to theme this speech. After all, it’s my last international day as Commissioner, as my term concludes in July next year. And 2013 – a huge year of change and increased media exposure – has been a galactic year for the disability sector. So I’ve settled on The Doctor.

*Slide David Tennant as the Doctor*

After all, it’s the fiftieth anniversary this year, and at next years AND function you may have another Time Lord to take you through the year’s events.

It’s been a huge year for disability. For the first time in my memory- and that’s a long time- disability has moved far more to the centre of mainstream conversation. It’s as though we’ve cleaned one small spot on a dirty wall, and the difference is stark. As usual I’ve crowd-sourced this speech, so thanks for that analogy, and the many other suggestions.

*Slide The Tardis*

Let’s jump in the Tardis, and go back to January.

*Slide picture of Thomas the Tank Engine*

The highlight for January was the decision in Innes v Railcorp. I won that case, and Railcorp finally accepted their responsibility to tell us where we are on trains. Have you noticed the improvement? I certainly have, and I’m working with them to keep it going.  That precedent is now set across the country, so DDA complaints will be easier if announcements are not made on other public transport.

*Slide of Governor General and link*

In March the Governor-General launched the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Twenty Years: Twenty Stories series. These five-minute films, which show how people with disabilities have used the DDA to change our lives, and the lives of many others, have been screened around the country. I have bookmarks showing this link, and if you give me a business card tonight I’ll mail you the DVD for Christmas.

One of those stories is of a WA Aboriginal man with cognitive disability, who spent a decade in prison without being convicted of a crime. This prompted the Commission’s work on access to justice for people with disability- our report will come out early next year.

*Cartoon re NDIS*

April saw Australia- through our Parliament – decide to pay more tax- a half a percent increase in the Medicare levy to help fund the NDIS. 73 % of Australians supported this change- the highest vote we’ll get in favour of a tax for some time I’m thinking.  Bernie Brookes of Myer complained that the levy increase was “something they would have spent with us.” 2.1 million tweets, and more on Facebook, expressed their outrage.  And when Myer made a Claytons apology, 37’000 of you supported my challenge to Myer to be part of the solution by committing to employ people with disability as 10 % of their workforce by the end of 2015.

*Slide photo of Julia Gillard taken by Sophie Dean*

On 1 July, the National Disability Insurance Scheme commenced. Described as the biggest change in the Australian disability sector ever, it will start to move us up the ladder of correlation between disability and poverty. At present we come last amongst OECD countries. Hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities, and our families, will be appropriately supported, and enabled to take our rightful place in mainstream society in jobs, culture, and other community activities. We will gain choice and control. And the picture which Sophie Dean took of the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and Julia Gillard’s tears in Parliament, remain etched in our memories. Pleasingly, that photo won the Yooralla Media Award just a couple of weeks ago.

But it wasn’t all positive. Inappropriate use of negative disability language during election campaigns, and the famous Kevin Rudd pat on the head for a woman who used a wheelchair, showed that patronisation is still alive and well. As did the AFL football players who thought it was appropriate to set fire to the clothing of a short stature man who was providing entertainment during post-finals activities.

In June, the government announced a Law Reform Commission inquiry into the way capacity of people with disability is assessed, which will hopefully lead to far more decisions being made by us than about us.

*Slide of Braille book*

The world passed a treaty in Marrakesh making an exception to Copyright Law, so that books in braille, audio or electronic formats could be shared across borders. Once countries sign, the book famine will end for people with print disability.

*Slide of UN Disco*

Australia appeared before the UN Expert Committee for the Disability Convention or DisCo as I call it. We were congratulated for some of the moves we busted, but we certainly didn’t win Dancing with the Stars.

*Slide employment cartoon*

Recent ABS data showed that employment of people with disabilities decreased between 2009 and 2011, as did Australian Public Service employment. In fact, there are less people with disability in the workforce now than there were twenty years ago. This is a tragic and shameful situation, both for people with disabilities, and the Australian economy as a whole. Organisations such as ANZ and Westpac stood out, and many others in this room did very well. But we still have a long way to go.

*Slide showing a CAPTCHA*

Yesterday Telstra announced that it was joining the Kill CAPTCHA’s campaign, with a programme to remove all CAPTCHA’s from its websites. For those non-techies amongst us, CAPTCHA’s are those fuzzy letters on your computer screen that block bots from accessing websites. Sadly, though, they also block me and other people who use screen readers. So join Telstra in this campaign.

And just a couple of weeks ago, fashion chain Globalize thought it was ok to sell a t-shirt with R E T A R D E printed across the front. A word with which kids with disabilities are bullied in playgrounds throughout Australia. Protests against this disability hate speech occurred outside the store, and hit national media. The T-shirt has been withdrawn from sale.

*Slide of RESPECTE t-shirt*

But look what has taken its place!

This year’s ride in the Tardis has been big- a roller coaster. I’ve been there. So have you. In fact, we’ve been there, done that, and bought the hate speech t-shirt. At least I have, and you can as well.

Thanks for being with me on the ride. Have a great International Day.

To download the slide show go to: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/speeches/speech-australias-network-disability-international-day-function

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Launch of Telstra’s 6th Disability Action Plan Speech

At the launch of Telstra’s 6th Disability Action Plan on 3 December 2013, Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes gave this speech:

Geoff Scott is your average Aussie bloke- an artist, a big supporter of the West Coast Eagles, a man looking after his ageing dad, and someone who wanted to use his phone. So, like most Australians, he’s a prospective Telstra customer. Only difference is that Geoff is deaf. So instead of Geoff wanting a Telecom phone- which you used to give out as part of the rental in those days – he wanted a TTY.

Sadly his needs were not able to be accommodated, so he lodged a discrimination complaint. Telecom did not want to provide people who are deaf with TTY’s at the time, but that is a long time ago. Before they were viewed, just like other Australians, as potential customers. His complaint was successful, and Telecom embraced the decision, participating in the scheme to provide TTY’s to people who are deaf throughout Australia.

I remember the days when Telstra, or Telecom, or I can go back as far as the PMG, used to run our phone system. In fact, as a university student, as well as being a regular phone user, I remember some encounters with Telstra employees that were closer than I preferred.

I was walking down the street in Burwood Sydney one day, using my white cane. A Telecom technician was working in a Telecom pit, with his little tent up above the pit to indicate that the cover was off. Sadly, he had only placed his tent half way over the pit.  This meant that my cane didn’t contact the tent. Instead, I contacted the Telecom technician by landing on top of him – a landing which neither of us enjoyed.

He was pretty unflustered. His first words, after the expletive, were “Are you going somewhere?” “Yes, but not down here” I replied. About two weeks later, in Ashfield, my cane hit another of those little telecom tents. The technician inmate pushed it aside, looked at me, and said “Bloody hell, not you again.” It was the same technician.

Unlike the technician, Telstra’s DDA Action Plans have not been the same. I browsed through the earlier ones during this last weekend. Yes, I’m a DDA nerd I need to get a life. And I saw the path of an organisation striving to address the challenge it had set itself- making employment and service provision available to everyone in the community, not just people without disabilities.

For some people, the development of Action Plans has not been as positive as at Telstra. At the Commission we have acronyms for some that don’t work so well.

Firstly, there is The NAP or Nobodies Action Plan. It tends to take a nap at the back of a filing cabinet.

There is the STRAP or Someone’s Taken the Resources Action Plan. It is the sort that is high on rhetoric, but low on outcomes, often because it is strapped for cash.

There is the FLAP or Floundering and Lost Action Plan. It is the sort that struggles to integrate itself into the organisations general business activities. It tends to flap around like a fish out of water.

I also note the Created Reluctantly Action Plan – think about the acronym – which fails to get organisational leadership endorsement.

Joking aside, these acronyms do point to a very real set of difficulties which have an effect on the development and implementation of action plans.

However, in Telstra’s case, these problems have not been too much in evidence. To go back to Geoff Scott’s story, following the conclusion of that case, Telstra became involved in the roll-out of TTY’s, and you have continued ever since.

Telstra has regularly consulted with people with disabilities both through established committee processes, and through broader networking of staff- fulfilling one of the key philosophies of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disability – nothing about us without us.

Telstra have continued to make specific products relevant to people with various disabilities available through its Telstra outlets.

And of course, Telstra was a sponsor of the Twenty Years: Twenty Stories project.  You made a significant financial contribution to the films, and agreed to have Geoff Scott’s story of change made into one of the films. This reinforced a theme of a number of these films, not only showing the success of the person with the disability who lodged the complaint, but showing how the organisation complained about had adopted the change, and thus changed the lives of many other people with disability.

Things have changed a lot in the telecommunications world since I stopped falling down Telecom pits, and Geoff Scott started using his TTY. Our phones now sit in our pockets rather than on the hall table at home, and data flows into our phones probably much more than voice. And Telstra has changed as well, recognising people with disabilities as part of its broader customer base. That’s why this sixth Disability Action Plan is a cause for celebration.

The Plan commits Telstra to an organised process for removing CAPTCHA’s from its web sites. These are devices, often fuzzy or moving letters that were developed to sort humans from bots trolling on the internet. But as well as blocking the bots from web sites they block people – such as myself – who use voice output to tell me what is on the screen rather than looking at the screen. So, if a CAPTCHA needs to be completed to sign on to a web site then I am effectively blocked from that site. Not a good way to maintain and increase the Telstra customer base.

It also includes embedding diversity into the Telstra brand by including people with visible disability in Telstra brand advertising. This makes Telstra’s advertising more real, more representative of the whole community. And it makes disability what it really is – just a normal part of everyday life. That’s a very effective way to change limiting and negative attitudes about people with disability in the community.

There are also actions in the plan which will improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Unemployment of people with disabilities has increased according to the latest ABS survey, so this too is a very important initiative.

An organisation such as Telstra, with networks and millions of customers around Australia, is never going to get it all right. But the successes of previous Disability Action Plans demonstrate a real commitment to change, and this plan continues to propose progress in the future.

I’m pleased to launch this Disability Action Plan on the international day of people with disabilities.

Thanks for the chance to speak with you today, and have a great international day.

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International Day of People with Disability Event, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 2 December 2013

To celebrate the International Day of People with Disability, Commissioner Graeme Innes gave this speech at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra on 2 December 2013:

*Show film Dee’s Place*

I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land.

Thanks for the chance to have this discussion this afternoon. It’s a relatively small group so I hope it can be quite informal.

We’ve just seen one of the films from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Twenty Years: Twenty Stories project. I wanted to show you this story because it typifies where we can be on issues around accommodation and disability, and where the work that you do in disability and development can have an impact.

I also wanted to show you the story because it is an example of what can be a great resource to you- the Twenty Years: Twenty Stories films.  They are all five minute films, similar to the one we have seen. All of them deal with disability, and most of them show how – through use of the Disability Discrimination Act – people with disability have changed their own lives, and lives of many other people. The bookmarks being handed around show you the address on the internet where they can be found.

I spoke to the Pacific Disability Ministers forum in the Cook Islands in 2009. This is how I began that speech.

Imagine a visit to your local market? The noise of trading, the wonderful smells of fresh food, the multitude and variety of colours. It’s at ground level, with wide corridors, and John moves around easily, managing his stall. Rick throws a heavy box of fruit onto his shoulder and, after reading the stall number printed on the box, carries it to that stall.  And Elizabeth enters stallholder permit details on her laptop, with an ear-piece in her ear. A society where people with disability are welcomed, and fully included. Where John is recognised as the friendly fruit stall owner, rather than the guy in the wheelchair.  Rick is the helpful labourer, rather than the man who is deaf. And Elizabeth is the market clerk rather than a woman who is blind. None of our countries have achieved this market yet, but we will achieve that dream by working together, as we are doing at this meeting.

I could talk to you today about the tools required for disability and development-

The Convention on the Rights of People with Disability, or the DisCo as I like to refer to it, Australia’s disability and development strategy, our Disability Discrimination legislation, and its possible replication in overseas countries; and the tools which we used to report on Australia’s progress in implementing the DisCo to the UN DisCo Expert Committee in Geneva earlier this year.

I could talk to you about those, and I am sure we’ll refer to them in the discussion part of this session.

But I’d rather focus on that market place, or on the positive and welcoming environment at Dee’s Place. I’d rather frame my comments in a mind-set which is inclusive of everyone, and which includes all people, including people with disabilities.

I do that because if we – as a rich nation – resource countries to establish conversations in which people with disability are the main players, and in which people with disabilities are empowered to play that included role in society, then we will have truly sustainable and positive disability and development.

Australia has provided services to people with disabilities for a long time. Until very recently, those services were charity or welfare based. And they were for people with disabilities, not with people with disabilities.

In many of the countries where Australia provides support, there are few services for people with disabilities. Many people both here and in those countries bemoan that fact. I regard it as a great opportunity to work in a green field site, and to avoid the mistakes that we have made in Australia. So what might we want to avoid-

  • Any development which does not have, at its centre, people with disability in the conversation.
  • “Special schools” which lock kids with disability away from other kids, or from their families.
  • Accommodation which is separate and excludes people with disabilities from the general community- like separate institutions, or separate housing.
  • Decisions in the development of infrastructure which exclude people with disabilities because of lack of access, lack of information, or lack of involvement.

And we want disability and development to be a key part of all development policies-

  • If we’re supporting a more democratic process in a country, then ensure that the voting process is accessible to everyone.
  • If we’re supporting the building of offices for administration and government purposes then ensure that those offices are accessible.
  • If we’re helping to develop communications infrastructure, then ensure that websites are able to be visited by people who use a voice-output screen-reader rather than just for people who can see a screen.
  • If we’re supporting education, then make sure it is for all children.
  • And if we’re supporting improvements in health services then making sure that the facilities serve everyone- that they are physically accessible, that the information about them is available in alternative formats, and that special efforts are made to target people with disability.

We know that people with disability are the poorest of the poor. So if we make them our particular targets, then we know we will benefit everyone in society.

I hope that these introductory comments provide a useful basis for our discussions.

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Submissions re BSWAT temporary exempt application are now publicly available on the website

Submissions in relation to the temporary exemption application by the Department of Social Services (DSS) (formerly the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) are now available for viewing here: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/department-families-housing-communities-and-indigenous-affairs-fahcsia. Submissions in relation to this temporary exemption application closed on 30 October 2013.

This application is made pursuant to section 44 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA). The applicant seeks to temporarily exempt all existing Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) from sections 15 and 24 of the DDA and the Commonwealth from section 29 of the DDA. The applicant seeks the temporary exemption to address the implications of the Federal Court Judgment: Nojin & Prior v Commonwealth [2012] FCAFC 192. The application for the temporary exemption can be viewed here:https://www.humanrights.gov.au/department-families-housing-communities-and-indigenous-affairs-fahcsia

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