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Inquiry into Disability Services in Tasmania

Tuesday 27 September 2022, Consideration & noting

Consideration and noting - Report of the Legislative Council Government Administration Committee B - Inquiry into Disability Services in Tasmania

[4.02 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - I will make a few brief remarks, as it has been very well covered by the members for McIntyre and Elwick. Being on Committee B and participating in this inquiry, I certainly came to have a better understanding of how we manage resourcing and funding for people and organisations not eligible for NDIS funding.

For a state of our size, realising there are 140 100 people living with a disability for a state with a population of over 540 000, this represents over a quarter of our population. It follows, therefore, that this is a topic worthy of serious thought, discussion and planning, which is what we endeavoured to do with this inquiry.

Tasmania, being a geographically regional and reasonably isolated place by nature, has a greater number of people with a disability living in rural or remote areas. In fact, one of the findings of the report was that only 1.3 per cent of people who are living with a disability in rural and remote areas of Tasmania participate in the NDIS. A number of barriers preclude these people from accessing NDIS services, including challenges navigating the system, difficulty meeting the necessary criteria, including the ability to obtain a diagnosis and access allied health services and professionals to meet the needs of the participants, amongst a number of other barriers.

It should not be this difficult for people to access support and assistance with disability‑related issues as it is for many Tasmanians. As a result of these barriers, many people fall through the gaps and are required to rely on other services, such as those provided by the state rather than federal government services.

Considering the extremely broad range of types of disability and the needs that form a part of living with them, it is not surprising to note that providing assistance is very difficult. Understanding the nature of the needs of the community, however, will help us as lawmakers and the Government to adequately prioritise resourcing, from housing to education and meeting psychosocial needs, prosthetics, mobility aids and access to medical and allied health services. The provision of goods and services to people with disabilities in Tasmania will ultimately have strong positive outcomes for everyone.

In reflecting on the report, the issues raised and the ultimate findings of the recommendations, I note many of the issues that have been brought to me by constituents and which form part of my own understanding of the issue of disability services in Tasmania. Recommendation 17 is one of these.

This recommendation is:

That the Tasmanian Government consult with the transport industry to address the lack of accessibility and availability of transport options throughout Tasmania.

Through this inquiry, I became more aware and conscious of how accessible our town, cities and buildings are to people in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues. Transport, footpaths, elevators, building entrances and exits are all fine for people who are mobile and able to walk around with ease but this is perhaps not always the case for people in scooters or wheelchairs.

A constituent of mine who has a mobility impairment, has told me the difficulty they have in obtaining disability taxis, particularly after hours. The member for McIntyre also mentioned it. This is no slight on the taxi industry either, because they have told me the difficulties they have with managing adequate subsidies or implementing appropriate training and safety measures when dealing with disability equipment.

In a civilised community such as ours and in this day and age, no person in a wheelchair should be excluded from participating in watching the football, attending social functions, school or work because they cannot obtain proper transport. Neither should they have no option but to take themselves around in all sorts of weather because they become stranded somewhere.

This report comprehensively covers many of the issues that are faced by people living with a disability in Tasmania and the barriers they face in accessing adequate support. Programs like the NDIS hold huge benefit to our society as we make it more accommodating of people who just need a helping hand to live their best possible lives. It is up to all of us, but particularly lawmakers, to make sure that we have in place everything that is needed to give people access to as many opportunities for work, education, sport and community as possible.

We are not a society that should ever exclude people because they have different abilities or needs to others. We must properly plan and resource here in Tasmania to provide this type of access to the people who rely on it to live their best possible lives.

This report is an important step in that process and I am pleased that Committee B took this topic as seriously as we did and produced a report that will help guide future decisions we make on these types of issues.

I thank our committee secretariat, Toby, Julie and Allie and our committee chair Jo Siejka, for the outstanding work on this issue. Jo Siejka, in particular, took this issue with deep interest in the matter and a strong desire, as we all do, to help people with a disability to live their best, fullest and most meaningful lives.

It was a real privilege to serve on the committee and I note the report.


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