Parliament: Questions Kelly's Asked

Disability services for people living on Aboriginal lands – Response

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Disability questions regarding disability services for people living on Aboriginal lands.

Leave granted.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Last Friday in Sydney, I had the honour of attending the official launch of the First Peoples Disability Network, a national advisory body on issues of concern to Aboriginal Australians living with disability. Mr Damian Griffis, Executive Officer of the network, told the audience in his keynote speech that 37 per cent of Aboriginal Australians have a disability of some kind, although this is considered to be a conservative figure due to the fact that it reportedly does not include mental illness, particularly mental illness to do with the effect of colonisation and dispossession of traditional lands.

Even if this is a conservative figure, however, it is still almost double that of the non-Aboriginal population, which stands at 20 per cent. It is particularly shocking given that Indigenous Australians are less likely to be affected by age-acquired disability since, tragically, their average age of death is 16 to 17 years earlier than that of other Australians.

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Indeed, shame. Mr Griffis also gave some very heart-wrenching real-life examples of the effect of not having access to appropriate disability services is having on the lives of these people. These included the story of the young man who ‘lives off the floor’ of his family home simply because his family was not aware that they are entitled to request a wheelchair for him, and now they are unsure how to access one.

Indeed, the sentiment of many people who spoke at the launch was that Indigenous Australians living with disability ‘suffer twice’: one kind of discrimination due to their Aboriginality and another due to their disability. My questions to the minister are:

1.Is the minister aware of the extraordinarily high prevalence of disability in Aboriginal communities?

2.Does the minister know what the prevalence of disability is in the APY lands?

3.In his answer last week to my question nine months ago, the minister said that clinicians visit the lands regularly. What are the job titles and qualifications of these clinicians and exactly how often do they visit the APY lands?

4.What is the government doing to ensure that people living on Aboriginal lands are not only aware of their right to access the service but also actually able to access them?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion, Minister for Social Housing, Minister for Disabilities, Minister for Youth, Minister for Volunteers): I thank the honourable member for her very important question. There are approximately 3,000 people who live on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands. There are seven main communities and a number of homelands on the 103,000 square kilometres that make up the APY lands.

My agency delivers services to people with disability living in these communities, including assistance ranging from intensive care for high needs clients to more general social support for other clients, such as support with shopping, washing clothes and providing recreational activities. Forty people with disability living on the lands received this service in 2010-11. This service is provided by the department’s APY Lands Community Programs team, which includes community support officers based in each of the major communities and four dedicated disability support workers who work across communities.

My department’s Disability Services has a visiting service that works closely with the APY Lands Community Programs team to provide disability equipment and minor home modifications to Anangu clients. In 2010-11, 102 items of equipment were provided to people on the APY lands, compared to 77 items in 2009-10. As at 31 December 2011, 47 items of equipment have been provided in 2011-12.

The Disability Services team works closely with clinicians at the Alice Springs Hospital and the Alice Springs Wheelchair and Seating Clinic to share information about equipment that is suited to people living in remote areas of central Australia. A satellite store at Marla improves efficiency in supplying basic equipment, and items to enable minor home modifications to be undertaken locally have been added to the store. Equipment is well maintained by linking in with suppliers and repairers in Alice Springs and local workers on the lands.

The department’s APY Lands Allied Health Service, staffed by physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists, visits communities six times a year. The service aims to address individual needs to maintain an independent lifestyle and maintain functional independence in the person’s own environment. Advice and support are also provided to aged care, disability and health workers in the communities. If there was an urgent need for an allied health worker that could not wait for a visit to be made, the allied health colleagues in the Alice Springs Health Service can often help.

I am advised that my department also funds the NPY Women’s Council to provide case management to clients on the APY lands. The Disability Services (including the Allied Health team), NPY Women’s Council and APY Lands Community Programs staff work closely together to ensure that the best outcomes are achieved for Anangu who have a disability.

Regarding the specific question about job titles and qualifications, I will have to take that part of the question on notice and bring back a response for the honourable member.

Response on 4 September 2012

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion, Minister for Social Housing, Minister for Disabilities, Minister for Youth, Minister for Volunteers): I am advised:

The job titles of the clinicians who visit the Lands are:
– Senior Occupational Therapist
– Occupational Therapist
– Senior Physiotherapist
– Physiotherapist
– Senior Speech Pathologist.

All the clinicians have qualifications in the relevant areas of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech pathology.

The clinician team visits the Lands at least six times each year and it has been usual for an additional trip to occur as well. In addition, a Senior Occupational Therapist provides phone support to clients, carers, medical staff and others throughout the year between the scheduled visits.