Your Story Disability Legal Support update—Issue 22, March 2023
Issue 22 – March 2023
In this issue ...
Your Story Disability Legal Support update
A message from our National Coordinator, Lauren
I would like to introduce myself as the National Coordinator for the Your Story National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) team. I’m originally from Victoria but am lucky to have spent the last 10 years living on Arrernte Country in beautiful Mparntwe/Alice Springs.
Since 2019, Your Story has been working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia to ensure First Nations voices are heard in the Disability Royal Commission. I recently reflected on the role the Royal Commission can play in achieving better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this article for Close the Gap Day.
Held on the third Thursday of March each year, Close the Gap Day is an annual event that is part of a people’s movement calling for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality. In the 2023 Closing the Gap Implementation Plan released by the Commonwealth Government, disability is recognised as a ‘cross-cutting area’ that is relevant across numerous priority reform areas.
The plan includes targets for addressing the overrepresentation of First Nations people in the criminal justice system: By 2031, the number of First Nations adults in prison will be reduced by at least 15 percent; and the number of First Nations young people will be reduced by at least 30 percent.
When progress against these targets was last assessed, the target for adults in prison was ‘not on track’ to be met. Crucial to achieving these justice targets is the provision of accessible and culturally appropriate diagnostic, assessment and disability support services.
Through our work with communities and the Disability Royal Commission, we’ve heard how too often First Nations people end up in the criminal justice system due to a lack of disability supports. Entrenched ableism in the legal system often leads to unjust outcomes for these individuals. This amounts to the criminalisation of disability.
Adding to the problem are huge knowledge gaps. The prevalence of disability amongst people in prison is not clearly understood due to a lack of data in this area. The same can be said about the prevalence of disability amongst First Nations communities generally, where disability is believed to be significantly undiagnosed and underreported.
First Nations people with disability often experience racism as a result of their cultural background, and discrimination as a result of their disability. Through having Your Story lawyers based at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, we are seeking to alleviate the double discrimination and compounded disadvantage faced by these clients.
The Disability Royal Commission is an important opportunity to provide a roadmap for addressing inequality and reimagining the system to be humane and fair. Read more about how First Nations stories can help to Close the Gap and create a more inclusive, just society for all.
Lauren Macaulay, Your Story National Coordinator, NATSILS
Do you have a disability or care for someone who does?
Do you have a legal problem? Check out our new service brochure!
It explains what Your Story and the Disability Royal Commission are about and how we can support you, or a loved one, with legal and non-legal problems.
Visit our website to view and download the brochure.
Your Story delivers over 13,000 accessible legal services
Thousands of people across Australia sought legal support from Your Story ahead of the Disability Royal Commission closing submissions on 31 December 2022.
From July to December, the Your Story Infoline received 2145 phone, webchat, email and online enquiries, which accounted for over 21 percent of all enquiries received since the service started in September 2019.
In that time, our lawyers provided over 3000 legal services, with many working over the festive period to give legal advice and support people to make submissions – including by phone, in writing and Auslan, and through art, music and video – right up to the closing date.
In total, Your Story has received over 10,000 enquiries and delivered more than 13,000 accessible legal services to people with disability, families, carers, advocates and supporters. This wouldn’t have been possible without your support.
Read more about our work on the website and help us spread the word on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Your Story in the community
There was a good turnout to the Closing the Gap Expo in Adelaide on 16 March, where South Australia lawyer Hiran Lecamwasam spoke to community members about Your Story’s free legal support.
An artwork submission by Laura Lewis titled ‘The weight we bare’ on display at the launch of the Disability Royal Commission’s national series of information sessions, ‘What Australia told us’, in Brisbane on 16 March.
Your Story’s Tasmania lawyer Jane Green raises awareness about the free support available to Tasmanians at the Healthy Lifestyles Expo in Hobart on 4 March.
23 March – Webinar: What is the NDIS Independent Expert Review?
The National Disability Insurance Agency has introduced the Independent Expert Review (IER) program to provide better and earlier outcomes for NDIS participants who have lodged an application with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Join this free online event to find out how you can access free advocacy and legal support if you are invited to take part in the IER program.
28 March – Disability Royal Commission visits Perth on ‘What Australia told us’ tour
The Disability Royal Commission will host a free information session in Perth as part of its ‘What Australia told us’ national tour. With morning and afternoon sessions, the face-to-face event is a chance for people to learn about the Royal Commission and what it has been hearing from the Disability community. It’s free to attend, visit the Perth event page for more details and to register.
28 March – Tasmanians to learn about Royal Commission’s work at information session
People with disability and supporters in Tasmania can learn about the Disability Royal Commission’s work at an information session happening in Hobart. Your Story Disability Legal Support will be there to let community members know about the free legal support available. The event is free to attend and open to everyone. Visit the Hobart event page for more details and to register.
18 April – Disability Royal Commission’s ‘What Australia told us’ tour stops in Sydney
The Disability Royal Commission will host a free information session in Sydney as part of its ‘What Australia told us’ national tour. With morning and afternoon sessions, the face-to-face event is a chance for people to learn about the Royal Commission and what it has been hearing from the Disability community. It’s free to attend, visit the Sydney event page for more details and to register.
20 April – Canberrans to hear from Disability Royal Commission at free information session
People with disability and supporters in the ACT can learn about the Disability Royal Commission’s work at an information session happening in Canberra. The session is free to attend and open to everyone. Visit the Canberra event page for more details and to register.
‘What Australia told us’: Royal Commission reveals top themes at Brisbane information session
The treatment and overrepresentation of people with disability in prison is a key concern for many people who have shared their stories with the Disability Royal Commission.
Royal Commission staff (pictured right) talked about what they had learned from submissions at the first in a series of information sessions titled ‘What Australia told us’ held in Brisbane, Queensland, on 16 March.
Director of Community Engagement Tamara Weaver said justice was mentioned in 27 percent of all submissions, with concerns raised about people with disability in prisons having disability aids removed and being subjected to higher levels of violence, disproportionately harsh punishment, and increased periods of solitary confinement.
A lack of understanding among police and limited supports for people to navigate justice systems were also flagged as issues.
Ms Weaver said the Royal Commission received 7944 submissions and the most mentioned themes were community attitudes and participation (44 percent), health (40 percent), homes and living (36 percent), autonomy (32 percent) and justice.
She also shared insights from the over 1600 private sessions held so far. Health was the most mentioned theme (50 percent of all private sessions), with issues such as lack of access to appropriate interpreters in remote and rural areas, poor understanding of complex syndromes, and diagnostic overshadowing among the issues raised with Commissioners.
Other prominent private session themes were homes and living (46 percent), community attitudes and participation (45 percent), justice (32 percent), relationships (32 percent), education and learning (29 percent), and economic participation (29 percent). Where this information was provided, 66 percent of people who registered for a private session identified as having a disability.
Staff from Your Story Disability Legal Support (pictured above) were at the Brisbane launch event to let community members know about the free supports available to people with disability, families and carers in 2023. The next sessions will be held in Perth, WA, and Hobart, Tasmania, on 28 March. Visit the Royal Commission’s website for more information about the ‘What Australia told us’ tour or to register for an event near you.
Royal Commission publishes final progress report
The Disability Royal Commission received nearly 8000 submissions, with 1700 arriving in the final month, according to its seventh progress report.
Chair of the Royal Commission, the Honourable Ronald Sackville AO KC, said more than 9500 people and organisations had shared their experiences and made significant suggestions for change. “We are most grateful to all those who have made submissions or participated in private sessions,” he said.
The Seventh Progress Report summarises the work of the Royal Commission from 1 July to 31 December 2022, and is available in a variety of formats, including Auslan and Easy Read. For more news from the Royal Commission, visit the website.
New public hearing announced
The Disability Royal Commission has scheduled a new public hearing for May.
Titled ‘A case study’, public hearing 33 will be held in Brisbane, Queensland, from 9 to 11 May. Visit the Royal Commission’s website for updates.
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