Your Story Disability Legal Support update—Issue 15, July 2022

In this issue ...

A message from our National Coordinator

Welcome to another edition of the Your Story newsletter.

July is an important month for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is a time when the whole of Australia celebrates and gains a greater understanding of these cultures throughout a week of NAIDOC activities across the country.

The theme for this year is 'Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!'. Under the Disability Royal Commission's work towards preventing the mistreatment of people with disability, this can also apply to all Australians. Through the "tell your story" message, we all need to speak up for what is right for all Australians.

People across the country are participating in activities, as they have for years, to make the changes required to achieve equality, justice and recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Through this Royal Commission, with the continuing commitment of our staff and your support, potentially there will be systemic changes achieving best practice in reporting, investigating and responding to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability. The improvement of people's lives is important, particularly, those with disability.

As the theme for NAIDOC says "we all must continue to Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!" for systemic changes and keep uniting across communities, families and individuals.

Ruth Miller, National Coordinator, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services

Celebrating NAIDOC Week

"Often our stories don't get heard": Giving a voice to First Nations people with disability

Your Story Advisory Group member Selena Jade Brown shares with us what NAIDOC means to her…

"NAIDOC is a celebration held each year to celebrate, remember and reflect on the First Nations people of Australia. As an Indigenous woman from both Darriebullum Bunda (Bundaberg region) and the Kuku-Yalanji region (Far North Queensland), it is a time to reflect with my family and my fellow Indigenous people, and to pay respects to my elders past and present, which includes my grandparents, who are elders for Darriebullum Bunda.

This year's theme 'Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!' is just as equally as important as past themes. Given recent events, with the 'Black Lives Matter' march and other similar life events, this year's theme is to encourage and advise us and others to stand up and show up to support those in need.

This year's theme also resonates with the work that Your Story and the Disability Royal Commission are doing - collecting stories to help those in need, among other things. Like with any group of ethnic people, we also have our fair share of Indigenous peoples with a disability, and like many others, often our stories don't get heard.

The work that Your Story and the Royal Commission are doing is helping Indigenous people across Australia and it gives us the voice that we need in order to stand up. As an Indigenous hearing-impaired woman who has had the opportunity to share her story and give her voice to those in need, it is a somewhat liberating experience to be able to share a story to show people that they're not alone after not being heard and living in silence for so long.

Often, not just with my own personal experiences but through my work as a Registered Aboriginal Health Practitioner (RAHP) in remote Northern Territory, I see patients from communities whose stories often go unheard. So, the work I do, along with many others working within Aboriginal corporations and Aboriginal medical services, along with my role as an RAHP and as an advocate, is important as it gives a voice to those in need.

For this year's NAIDOC, I will be celebrating with my family and my fellow health workers - nurses, Aboriginal health workers and doctors alike - marching on NAIDOC day alongside my fellow Indigenous people and continuing to work with Your Story to give First Nations people a voice as a representative on the Your Story Advisory Group.

I invite everyone to celebrate NAIDOC this year and encourage them to attend the NAIDOC march and events in their towns and to also encourage others to Get Up, Stand Up and Show Up."

Your Story's South Australia lawyer Hiran Lecamwasam
(pictured left) with his colleagues from the Legal Services Commission of South Australia and Attorney-General of South Australia Kyam Maher at the NAIDOC March and Family Fun Day in Adelaide.

Your Story's mobile Aboriginal Legal Service lawyer Eleanor Holden takes part in the smoking ceremony at a NAIDOC Week celebration hosted by Relationships Australia Canberra and Region.

Your Story lawyers Georgina Davey, Oliver Moore and Jack Anderson raise awareness about our free legal support at Burramatta NAIDOC, a family-friendly event in Sydney featuring live music, market stalls and children's workshops.

New video resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Eleanor Holden is part of the Your Story team supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to take part in the Disability Royal Commission.

In this video, she explains what the Royal Commission is all about and the free supports available to community members living with disability, as well as their family members, friends, carers and advocates.

Help us spread the word by sharing the video on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Commission hears of NDIS challenges for First Nations people with disability in remote areas

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with disability in remote areas have shared their experiences of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) with the Disability Royal Commission.

Held in Alice Springs, NT, last week, public hearing 25 explored key barriers to accessing the NDIS and disability services in these communities, and whether it caused or contributed to the mistreatment of First Nations people with disability.

During the week-long hearing, Commissioners heard from 13 lived experience witnesses living in or from west Arnhem Land, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, Fitzroy Crossing and Thursday Island. You can catch up on the hearing via the livestream recordings on the Royal Commission's website. Transcripts from each day will also soon be available.

The next public hearing will be held in Parramatta, NSW, from 29 August to 2 September and look at homelessness, including experiences in boarding houses, hostels and other arrangements.

First Nations engagement team visits Victoria

By Anna Potter, Victoria Aboriginal Legal Service lawyer

After an incredibly slow start to face-to-face community engagement in Victoria due to two years of COVID-19 lockdowns, we have finally hit the ground running. In June, Your Story travelled around regional Victoria with the Disability Royal Commission's First Nations engagement team (pictured above with staff from Your Story and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service).

The regional tour included community events in Melbourne, Morwell, Bairnsdale, Shepparton, Bendigo and Ballarat. Bairnsdale was a highlight as we visited the Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Cooperative on their community day 'It's a mob thing', which featured a smoking ceremony, traditional dancing, local musicians performing, food and stalls.

We have also been heading out to prisons across Victoria to get the word out about the Disability Royal Commission. These have included the Hopkins, Loddon, Middleton and Port Phillip correctional centres, and Malmsbury and Parkville youth detention centres, with more to come. Many brave people with disability in Victorian prisons are coming forward to share stories about themselves or their families.

Webinar recap: Navigating the NDIS

In May, we hosted a webinar with Legal Aid NSW about navigating the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Dominique Brown from Legal Aid NSW's NDIS team provided a comprehensive overview of the NDIS, covering access criteria and what the NDIS will and won't fund, and offering tips on preparing for plan reviews and appeals.

The webinar was hugely popular with over 100 people tuning into Zoom and the Facebook livestream. Navigating the NDIS is now available to watch on our YouTube channel.

If you would like to share your NDIS story and ideas for change, we can support you. We can also connect you with other free supports, including legal help with NDIS matters.

Private session support

Private session registration closed on 30 June, but it's not too late to share your story with the Disability Royal Commission. 

If you have requested a private session, we can support you to prepare for and attend it. You might also be interested in our recent webinar, Private sessions 101.

We partnered with People with Disability Australia and Blue Knot Foundation to deliver the webinar, which answered frequently asked questions about private sessions and talked about the free supports available to people with disability, as well as their family members, friends, carers, advocates and supporters.

If you missed out on registering for a private session - don't worry! There's still time and other ways to share your story and ideas for change with the Disability Royal Commission.

We can discuss your options with you and support you to make a submission before the end of the year. Call us on 1800 77 1800 or visit the website for other ways to get in touch.

Your Story in the community

Your Story's ACT lawyers, Georgina Davey and Audria Hu, braved chilly temperatures in Canberra to raise awareness about our free legal support at public hearing 24, which ran from 6-10 June and examined the experiences of children and young people with disability in different education settings.

Infoline Assistant Director Bradley Heilbronn at Streetlinks, a one-day event in Ipswich, Queensland, that aims to connect people at risk of or experiencing homelessness with service providers and support organisations.

Your Story lawyers Michelle Bowler and Oliver Moore celebrated young carers at the Victoria Young Carers Festival, which was held at Melbourne's MCG on 3 June. They enjoyed connecting with young carers and their families, and said it was a fun event to be a part of.

FECCA 2022: Advancing Multicultural Australia

By Michelle Bowler, Victoria lawyer

Last month, I attended the first day of the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia's national conference in Melbourne. The theme of this year's conference was 'Advancing Multicultural Australia'.

Your Story Disability Legal Support is keen to reach and support more people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to share stories with the Disability Royal Commission, and I attended the conference with this aspiration in mind.

I was able to attend sessions looking at abuse, family violence, creating an equitable disability system and digital inclusion. It was inspiring to hear about projects and innovative work from across Australia.

South Australia team travels to the Limestone Coast

Your Story's South Australia team (pictured right with the advocacy and counselling services) recently travelled to the Limestone Coast region to raise awareness about the Disability Royal Commission and the free supports available.

Over several days, they met with local service providers and community members, with about 10 people turning out to an information session at the Mount Gambier Library. The group also visited Mount Gambier Prison and were interviewed by local media.

Lawyer Hiran Lecamwasam told The Border Watch newspaper: "...the terms of reference are incredibly broad so it can cover any type of mistreatment or discrimination that someone with a disability might have experienced. I think ultimately what it comes down to is trying to create a more equitable and inclusive society where people are treated with respect."

Upcoming events

1-3 August - Disability Royal Commission information teas for Armidale's Ezidi community

Ezidi community members, service providers and supporters in Armidale will have a chance to find out about the Disability Royal Commission at a series of morning and afternoon teas happening in August. Your Story Disability Legal Support has partnered with Disability Advocacy NSW and TAFE NSW Armidale to host the events at the TAFE NSW Armidale campus.

3 August - Your Story to offer support to people experiencing homelessness on the Gold Coast

Homeless Connect is a one-day event that brings together people experiencing or at risk of homelessness with local community groups, businesses and government organisations available to provide free services.

8 August - Port Macquarie day on the green to feature live music, a barbecue and disability information

Are you a person with disability or a supporter living in Port Macquarie? Come along to the Town Green on 8 August to enjoy live music and a barbecue and find out how you can get free support to share your stories and ideas for change with the Disability Royal Commission.

9 August - Meet the Disability Royal Commission support services at Taree drop in day

Are you a person with disability or a supporter living in Taree? Come along to the Manning Uniting Church community hall on 9 August to have a cuppa and a yarn about the Disability Royal Commission and the free services available to support you, or the person you care about, to safely share your story and ideas for change.

11 August - Disability Royal Commission information afternoon tea in Newcastle, NSW

Are you a person with disability or a supporter living in Newcastle? You're invited to an afternoon tea to celebrate the disability community. There will be a live performance by Songbird's Drums Alive, free refreshments and information about the Disability Royal Commission and the supports available to you.

Various dates - Meet Disability Royal Commission support services in Queensland at the Regional Disability Expos

Your Story Disability Legal Support and Lotus Support Services will be at the Regional Disability Expo on the Fraser Coast (12 August), Sunshine Coast (8 September) and in Toowoomba (7 October) to raise awareness about the Disability Royal Commission and the free supports available to Queenslanders. Visit our website to find out more about the expos.

Royal Commission publishes update on South Australian cases

The Royal Commission has found a disability service provider failed to properly investigate traumatic incidents involving two men with disability living in supported accommodation in South Australia.

In a report published last month, the Royal Commission made nine findings in relation to the Department of Human Services' (DHS) handling of the incidents.

The report considered the evidence given by witnesses during public hearing 14 in June, which looked at the cases of 'Mitchell', whose guardians received a threatening anonymous letter, and Daniel Rogers, who had unexplained bruising on a number of occasions while in DHS' care.

It also examined the South Australian and Australian governments' responses to two inquiries into the death of a South Australian woman with disability, Ann-Marie Smith, on 6 April 2020.

The report is available to view in a variety of formats, including Auslan and easy read, on the Royal Commission's website.

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