Your Story Disability Legal Support update—Issue 11, February 2022

In this edition, we cover the closing dates for the Disability Royal Commission; a client's call for people to share their stories; our upcoming webinar about COVID-19's impact on people with disability; and much more.

A message from our Director

I hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well.

We know from speaking with our clients, colleagues and partners in the disability sector that this has been a difficult start to the year for many, with COVID-19 continuing to impact people with disability and their families, friends and carers.

We have introduced measures to keep our clients and staff safe as we continue to provide legal advice and support to people considering sharing their stories with the Disability Royal Commission.

Webinar: COVID-19, disability and me

On Wednesday 2 March, we invite you to join us for a conversation about COVID-19's impact on people with disability and their supporters.

The 30-minute lunchtime webinar will feature our newest Advisory Group member Dr Kirsten Harley. Kirsten lives with motor neurone disease (MND) and relies on technology to speak and breathe, with a team of trained carers providing round-the-clock care.

Kirsten has shared why she joined the Your Story Advisory Group, and reflected on her experience telling her story to the Royal Commission at a public hearing about COVID-19.

She will be joined by Ruth Pilkinton, a senior lawyer who balances leading Legal Aid NSW's Family Law Early Intervention Unit with caring for two family members with disability - her adult son Daniel, who lives with autism and intellectual disability and is non-verbal, and her husband Paul, who has a rare form of MND called Primary Lateral Sclerosis and uses a powered wheelchair and an iPad to communicate.

The webinar will be facilitated by Your Story lawyer and Chair of the Legal Aid NSW Disability Network, Rania Saab, who also has lived experience, with hearing loss and three young children, two of whom have a disability.

We hope you can join us on 2 March to hear Ruth, Rania and Kirsten's unique insights and strategies for resilience during the pandemic. Register now for the webinar "COVID-19, disability and me".

Royal Commission announces closing dates

Last month, the Royal Commission announced deadlines for submissions and private sessions. You now have until 30 June to register for a private session and until 31 December to make a submission.

As well as providing free legal advice, we can support you or your client to make a submission or to register for and attend a private session.

We can also assist people with other legal problems they might be dealing with, such as NDIS or discrimination, and connect them with free counselling and advocacy support.

You can refer clients to Your Story Disability Legal Support using our referral form, or contact us directly at 1800 77 1800.

Domestic violence and disability in the spotlight

As the countdown to the end of the Royal Commission begins, Your Story client and domestic violence advocate for change, Deborah Thomson, is helping to raise awareness about the free supports available.

Deb recently spoke to the ABC about why she shared her story and is encouraging others to do the same: "We have 70 percent of women with disability who have experienced sexual assault and I thought that's deplorable, and someone needs to speak up about it."

Watch the ABC's interview with Deb and Your Story Senior Solicitor Sifa Mtango.

Through the important work of clients such as Deb and our webinar guest speakers, and with Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott bringing a greater focus to disability issues, we hope more people will access our free legal support to share their stories with the Disability Royal Commission.

In solidarity,
Susannah O'Reilly, Director

New resources for people with disability and supporters

Factsheet: What do the Disability Royal Commission confidentiality amendments mean for me?

We're excited to launch a new factsheet about the confidentiality amendments, which make it safer to share your story with the Disability Royal Commission.

What do the Disability Royal Commission confidentiality amendments mean for me? explains what the changes are, how you can benefit from them and where to get free legal support.

It's free to download and share the factsheet, which you can find on our website.

Catch up on recent Your Story webinars

In December, we hosted an Auslan-interpreted webinar for LGBTIQA+ communities featuring Luna (they/she), a young queer, non-binary trans woman with disability, and Oliver (he/him), a lawyer from Your Story.

Luna shared how they came to hear about the Disability Royal Commission and the process of sharing their story to create positive change, not just for themself, but for others in their community. Catch up on the webinar "Hearing queer voices at the Disability Royal Commission".

We also marked International Day of People with Disability with a lively panel discussion featuring comedian Imaan Frank Hadchiti, carer and lawyer, Dr Bridget Cullen, and disability advocate Michael Baker.

They shared their unique perspectives on the disability community, inclusion and the Disability Royal Commission. You can watch "Fearless and fabulous: Celebrating the disability community" on our YouTube channel.

Upcoming events

2 March - Webinar: COVID-19, disability and me

On Wednesday 2 March, join us for a conversation about COVID-19's impact on people with disability and their supporters. During this Auslan-interpreted webinar, person with disability and Your Story Advisory Group member, Dr Kirsten Harley, carer and lawyer, Ruth Pilkinton, and person with disability and Your Story lawyer, Rania Saab, will share their unique perspectives and their strategies for resilience during the pandemic.

26-27 March - Meet Disability Royal Commission support services at the Source Kids Disability Expo in Sydney

People with disability and their supporters living in Sydney can meet their local Your Story team at the Source Kids Disability Expo from 26-27 March. Your Story Disability Legal Support and partner Family Advocacy will join over 150 disability service and product providers at the two-day event, which is being held at the International Convention Centre. For more information and to register, visit our website.

Looking back on 2021

Despite the many challenges created by COVID-19, there were many reasons to celebrate in 2021. From the Disability Royal Commission confidentiality amendments passing to our second birthday, we looked back on five moments that mattered in 2021.

Our staff share some reflections on other events and activities across the country below.

Reaching people with disability in Greater Sydney

By NSW Stakeholder Engagement Manager Silva Osaki

Your Story collaborated with Relationships Australia NSW to co-host a stall at the Sydney and Nepean disability expos in December.

The atmosphere was incredibly positive and provided both services with an important chance to meet people from all walks of life and to network with other service providers.

Both expos were well attended with more than 3000 people turning out to the Sydney Disability Expo over the two days, and more than 1500 people attending the Nepean Disability Expo.

Many people we spoke to were still learning about the existence of the Disability Royal Commission and were very interested in hearing more about sharing their story.

Spreading the word in the Sunshine State

By Queensland lawyer Steve Wettenhall

The Your Story team in Queensland wound up a busy year of stakeholder engagement and community legal education with a webinar hosted by Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) and delivered to over 30 community workers in December. You can watch a recording of the webinar on LAQ's YouTube channel.

I also wrote an article for the Queensland Law Society to encourage legal practitioners in the Sunshine State to refer their clients to Your Story and to consider sharing their own stories with the Disability Royal Commission.

In total, over 50 stakeholder engagement and community legal events were delivered throughout Queensland during 2021, including disability expos in Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Hervey Bay, Toowoomba, Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.

Many of these events were delivered in partnership with our colleagues in the funded advocacy and counselling network and we look forward to working with you all again in 2022.

COVID-19 permitting, we are planning a range of activities for 2022 to continue raising awareness about the Disability Royal Commission and our free legal support. This will be especially important now that the Royal Commission has announced closing dates for submissions and private session registration.

Celebrating International Day of People with Disability in Sydney

On 17 December, Your Story team members Rania and Fiona (pictured above with Jamal Abdul, a Sydney-based legally blind stand up comedian) joined about 45 people at the Inner West Inclusive Film Festival in Sydney. Hosted by Inner West Council, the festival supports and elevates the voices of people with disability and is the signature annual event for the Inner West celebrating International Day of People with Disability. Your Story sponsored the event, which featured live performances and a panel discussion.

Disability Royal Commission news

Next public hearing to focus on Disability Employment Services program

The Royal Commission's next public hearing will examine the experiences of people with disability engaging with the Disability Employment Services (DES) program, with a specific focus on DES provider Aimbig Employment. It will be held online from 23-25 February. Visit the Royal Commission's website to find out more about public hearing 21.

Royal Commission publishes fifth progress report

The newly released fifth progress report shows submissions to the Royal Commission increased in the second half of 2021. It covers the period from 1 July to 31 December 2021, when on average 38 submissions a week were received, up from 29 a week the previous year. You can read the fifth progress report on the Royal Commission's website.

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