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First Nations people with disability outline key challenges to Royal Commission

The Disability Royal Commission has prepared a summary of responses from First Nations people with disability and their representative organisations in its “Overview of responses to the Experience of First Nations People with Disability in Australia issues paper”, which is published today.

Respondents told the Royal Commission about the increased prevalence of disability among First Nations people compared to non-First Nations people. In particular, we were told about higher rates of blindness and vision loss, head and brain injury among First Nations people and that First Nations children are twice as likely to experience disability compared to non-First Nations children.

Attention was also drawn to the unique understanding of disability among First Nations communities. While we were told that many First Nations communities take a ‘strengths-based’ approach to disability, responses also stressed the barriers that can arise for First Nations people with disability accessing supports because there is generally no word for disability in their languages.

A number of organisations discussed their concerns about the continued overrepresentation of First Nations people with disability in criminal justice and out-of-home care settings. In the case of out-of-home care, we were told there is a lack of adequate data to help better understand, address and support the needs of children in these circumstances.

Prisons were raised as a particular setting where First Nations people with disability are subject to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. This includes First Nations children with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities. It was within these contexts that we were told a lack of proper diagnosis and institutional racism can increase harm and vulnerability.

More than half of the respondents referred to ongoing challenges in relation to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). These included a lack of culturally appropriate services, complex application processes, inadequate funding for remote service delivery and an overall lack of cultural capability.

Closely related to this, we heard about the significant barriers to First Nations people accessing disability services which included issues such as poor workforce capacity, accessibility of information and service coverage in rural and remote areas.

First Nations people with disability also raised concerns about their experiences of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation in health settings. Responses highlighted substandard care; restrictive practices; longer hospital admissions; and access and support issues, as key challenges.

Despite the difficulties, many responses shared with the Royal Commission gave examples of good practice and what is needed to ensure that First Nations people with disability live free of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. We heard repeatedly that self-determination must be the first principle for engagement, design and delivery of disability services and supports for First Nations people with disability. Early intervention, improved funding and data collection, awareness raising and information sharing and culturally safe service delivery were also identified as significant areas for change.

For more information contact the Disability Royal Commission media team on 0436 841 166.