Australians with disability are calling on the Federal government to immediately implement a number of changes to make their lives safer, fairer and more equitable. Those changes are detailed in the Priorities Project report, released by Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA).

The Priorities Project, which was facilitated by DANA, consolidates some of the key issues from the NDIS Review and the Disability Royal Commission reports, laying out a roadmap of how the government can immediately make positive changes to benefit Australia’s disability community.

According to the report, the sector identified six priorities for reform:

1. Access and eligibility for disability support

2. Housing

3. Safeguarding of people with disability

4. Establishing foundational supports

5. Representation and inclusion

6. Advocacy

Each priority has a blueprint attached which sets out specific actions to be taken to address the issue, as well as which stakeholders should be involved and how it could be funded.

The priorities are the result of consultations with 130 people, including disability peaks, DANA members, independent disability advocates and other people with disability, as well as individual experts. The resulting report includes insights from people from every state and territory, including rural and remote areas, as well as those with experience of intersectional vulnerabilities.

Alana Starr, Policy Officer at DANA and Priorities Project Lead, told Link Magazine that bringing the sector together on the project was “critical” to its scale and highlighted the expertise of the one in five Australians with disability.

“It is rare to bring together advocates and people with lived experience – who are so often left out of the conversation – so it was critical that we made space for their concerns to be heard in this work,” she explained.

Adequate funding for advocacy desperately needed

Appropriate funding is critical to the success of the priorities identified in the report – and those identified by the Disability Royal Commission and the NDIS Review.

The release of the Priorities Project report came just days before the Federal Budget was handed down, and Starr noted the Budget’s lack of additional funding for independent disability advocacy or for responding to the Disability Royal Commission’s recommendations.

“There is so much expertise and passion within our sector, but the sector is deeply overwhelmed with the amount of change occurring and needing to respond to reforms without dedicated funding to do so,” she explained.

“Our Priorities Project recommendations include a strong reiteration of the need for increased advocacy funding, and the rest of our recommendations assume an appropriately funded sector to manage change, support transitions, and identify key service and support gaps. We’ll be continuing to advocate for increased funding to ensure people with disability are supported throughout reform.” Advocacy reform is top of the agenda, and Starr urged readers of the report to join the campaign for funding for disability advocacy saying one in two people with disability is turned away from advocacy services.

“While 130 contributors is a fantastic turnout for our project, we also know that sector pressures prevented many from engaging with this work. Imagine what our sector could do together with enough funding to ensure all currently unmet demand was met!” she said.

How to help

Starr urged people to read the report and share its findings with decision makers and those with the power to enact the changes set out within it.

In the spirit of advocacy, she also encouraged those who are comfortable to share what the changes would mean to them.

“This work was conceived and completed by people with disability, and it reflects our lived experience and our expertise in problem solving. Sharing this work is an endorsement of solutions led by people with disability, and by sharing, you can encourage decision makers to adopt this approach for reform,” she said.

Starr added that DANA would like to do similar cross-sectoral “priority-setting and changemaking” work in future, but would require further funding to do so.

“This project succeeded because of our community, their knowledge and their commitment to change, and we’ll definitely be looking for more opportunities to continue the work and centre people with disability as the experts in reform,” she said.

Read the full Priorities Project report on the DANA website.

Anyone interested in funding disability-led changemaking work, or anyone with ideas on specific actions, events or resources that would continue the work started in the Priorities Project, is urged to get in touch with DANA.

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