News | 16 February 2016

Calls being heard for the re-introduction of a Disability Commissioner

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2014 Australia’s Disability Commissioner - Graeme Innes

The resignation of Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson this week has reignited the call for a full-time disability commissioner with lived experience of disability.

In July 2014 when the term of Australia’s Disability Commissioner Graeme Innes expired our government took the decision not to replace the role. Instead they added the disability portfolio to age commissioner Susan Ryan, a move that was widely criticised at the time.

Disappointed disability advocates saw the removal of the full-time disability commissioner role as a backward step for the rights of people with disability in Australia. 2016 will see the NDIS ramp up in a big way with the full roll out starting in July, the timing begs the question, should the government reintroduce a standalone disability commissioner?

In an opinion piece on ABC’s The Drum yesterday Graeme Innes makes the case for a full time disability commissioner. He lists the experience of Australians with disability living in or near poverty and their propensity to be without work or suitable accommodation as some of the reasons for it.

Mr Innes said: “The National Disability Insurance Scheme will address many of these issues, but it requires a powerful independent voice to help guide it through to completion. There has never been a greater need for this role.”

In the Conversation, Adam Fletcher, Research Fellow & Lecturer at Monash University argues that both the roles of Disability Commissioner and Human Rights Commissioner should be replaced on a full-time basis, with appropriate funding, and safeguards so they can express their views.

“Overall funding for the commission should be increased to enable it to champion a wide range of human rights and freedoms adequately.”

Chief Executive of National Disability Services, Ken Baker added his thoughts to the conversation saying: “The Commission must have adequate representation of disability and focus on the rights of people with disability and on practical support allowing increased inclusion right around Australia.”

Stay tuned for action on this issue!

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