NDIS still a mystery to many migrant communities

Serving up at the Monte Lupo cafe in Brisbane Source: SBS

A radical $22 billion reform of disability services across Australia has largely failed to engage people from non-English speaking backgrounds. The roll-out for the full National Disability Insurance Scheme begins on Friday and promises "equal access for all." But Australia's largest multicultural body says it is disappointed with preparations so far. Strefan Armbruster has the story.

Saki Yamaok is running the busy Monte Lupo art cafe with skills she learned at the disability service provider Multicap in Brisbane.


The Japanese native suffered a stroke as a child and is looking forward to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, or N-D-I-S, but it confuses her.


"Um, I don't really know much about the National Disability Scheme, but I've heard quite a few things about it."


The N-D-I-S is a radical federal reform giving about half-a-million disabled people the right to choose services that suit them.


But the chairman of the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia, Joe Caputo, says it is not reaching everyone.


"We find still that there are lots and lots of disabled people from non-English speaking backgrounds that don't even know about the NDIS."


In three years of trials, only about one in five eligible people from non-English speaking backgrounds have accessed N-D-I-S, and he says that is not satisfactory.


"Look, it's very disappointing, the fact that they have not delivered as much as they should have delivered."


When the N-D-I-S was launched more than three years ago, it was with a commitment of equal access for all and not to repeat the mistakes of the past.


Specifically, that meant in culturally and linguistically diverse communities.


But advocates for disabled non-English speakers, like AMPARO Advocacy's Maureen Fordyce, are worried.


She says even getting basic information from the N-D-I-S website is a problem.


"I think, if English is not your first language, you would actually find it extremely difficult to get information from this website."


Advising the N-D-I-S board on culturally and linguistically diverse, or CALD, matters, she says AMPARO is still awaiting a CALD strategy.


"My understanding is that the CALD strategy that the National Disability Insurance Agency has developed is still really in draft form."


Disability service providers like Multicap chief executive Joanne Jessop say they are frustrated with the N-D-I-S.


"They need to get their CALD engagement plan sorted really quickly, and they need to communicate that across the country so that we're all working under the same framework."


The N-D-I-S agency declined to be interviewed due to the election caretaker period but said in a statement:


"‪The agency is working closely with CALD peak bodies to develop a CALD strategy, which will be released later this year.‬"


‪It is expected the CALD population will represent about 20 per cent of participants nationally at full scheme -- by mid-2020.‬


The national rollout begins on Friday.

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