• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda; Gayle Rankine, Chairperson of First Peoples Disability Network Australia(FPDN); Damian Griffis, CEO of FPDN; Eight-year-old Phoenix Briscoe; and Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Mick Gooda has used the Social Justice and Native Title Report 2015 to shine a spotlight on inadequate policies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities.
By
NITV Staff Writer

4 Dec 2015 - 4:46 PM  UPDATED 4 Dec 2015 - 4:53 PM

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, has called on the Australian government to turn its attention to better supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with a disability, who have been mostly overlooked in policies to date he says.

Commissioner Gooda, who delivered the 2015 Social Justice and Native Title Report in Sydney on Friday, called for nationwide action to measure the full impact of disabilities within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

He said that programs and policies needed to be proactively rolled out in order to address these identified needs, and political moves monitored through a robust evaluation framework.

“For too long, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability have been overlooked, despite the fact that our mob experience disability at nearly twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians” 

“For too long, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability have been overlooked, despite the fact that our mob experience disability at nearly twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians,” Commissioner Gooda said.

The report states that disability, along with ageing issues, particularly dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, have “fallen through the cracks of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander landscape”.

The social justice document also looked at the new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and questioned whether it would work ‘for our mob’.

The social justice document also looked at the new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and questioned whether it would work ‘for our mob’.

“Its implementation provides an opportunity to start a conversation about how to best address disability in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” the report reads.

“Building meaningful and respectful relationships will facilitate the participation and involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the decisions that will affect us, and which will lead, I am sure, to the equity of access to services to which we are entitled.

“As choice and control are at the core of the NDIS model it can, if done well, empower some of our most vulnerable people and assist them to realise their aspirations.”

The report acknowledged that “every community is different and will want and need different things” and stressed that the NDIS success therefore relies on the ability of local people to make their own local decisions.

“Local community members should be in decision-making roles and part of community service delivery,” the report reads.

“…Proactive and sensitive engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability needs to be a nationwide priority to ensure the NDIS realises its potential for our communities.”

“…Proactive and sensitive engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability needs to be a nationwide priority to ensure the NDIS realises its potential for our communities.”

Commissioner Gooda also used the document to demand action on the over-representation of Indigenous children and young people in the child protection system, urging state and territory governments to establish Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioners in their jurisdictions to oversee child protection reforms. 

He said that federal, state and territory governments should establish a National Institute of Indigenous Excellence in Child Wellbeing to coordinate research into Indigenous child protection.

“Whilst the overall interaction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with the child protection system is pretty bleak, there is some cause for cautious optimism,” said Mr Gooda.  

“…Greater investment is urgently needed in systems of accountability, research, long-term funding and the expertise of our agencies in order to address the overrepresentation of our children in out-of-home care.

"We cannot afford to lose another generation of our children to the child protection system.”

“I am confident that these changes will go some way to improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. We cannot afford to lose another generation of our children to the child protection system.”

The report examines Indigenous social justice and Native Title issues, including the impact of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, constitutional recognition, welfare and remote communities.

It also reflects on progress in land and native title, and provides a voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who want a new process of engagement for native title and land ownership.