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Public hearing 26 - Homelessness, including experience in boarding houses, hostels and other arrangements, Parramatta - Day 3

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CHAIR:  Good morning, everybody, and thank you to those who've managed to come to the hearing room today in the face of the rail strike which is affecting movements in Sydney. We start with an Acknowledgement of Country. On behalf of the Commission, I wish to acknowledge the Dharug people, who are the traditional custodians of the land upon which this hearing is taking place. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We also pay our respects to all First Nations people who may be attending the hearing in person today, as well as those who will be following the hearing on the live stream. 

Yes, Ms Eastman? 

MS EASTMAN:  Good morning, Commissioners, and good morning everybody following the Royal Commission proceeding online and in the room. You'll see we've got two witnesses ready to go, but before I introduce them, Commissioners, can I just outline what will happen today.  So, our first witnesses today will be from the Commonwealth Department of Social Services, and after their evidence, you will have the pre-record that we did with William. I deferred that before yesterday's hearing and we will play that just before morning tea. 

Then after morning tea we will move to Ms Dendle who is the Acting Executive Director of the New South Wales Department of Community and Justice and you will hear her evidence until lunchtime. Then after lunch, you will hear from Ms Short from the NDIA, and then there will be a further pre-record from 'Dave' and I understand, subject just to the train issues today, 'Dave' might also join us in the hearing room. And Commissioners, we plan to adjourn at around 3.30, and the Commissioners may be aware, and for those in the hearing room, that the Royal Commission will hold an afternoon tea this afternoon, and we have invited service providers in the area of western Sydney who are engaged with working with people who are homeless and housing services to meet the Royal Commission in person. I think everybody is welcome to the afternoon tea. Thank you.  Alright.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much. Ms Mitchell, welcome back to the Royal Commission. 


CHAIR:  Mr Flavel, welcome to you. Thank you for coming to the Royal Commission to give evidence and thank you for the joint statement which you have provided which we have read. Just to explain where everybody is, Commissioner Galbally, whom you can see on screen, is joining the hearing from Melbourne. Commissioner Ryan is on my left. If you would be good enough to follow the instructions of my associate, who is located over there, he will administer the affirmation or the oath as the case may be. 




CHAIR:  Thank you very much. I'll now ask Ms Eastman to ask you some questions. 

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you. Can I first deal with some introductions. Ms Mitchell welcome back to the Royal Commission. You've previously given evidence at the Royal Commission at Public hearing 21 and Public hearing 22. I might need you to say yes rather than nod. 


MS EASTMAN:  And you've provided us statements in relation to both those Public hearings. 


MS EASTMAN:  Just for the benefit of people who might be seeing you or hearing you for the first time you hold the role of Deputy Secretary, Disability and Carers in the Department of Social Services. 


MS EASTMAN:  And that's a role that you've held since November 2021. 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Your area means you are responsible for policies and programs providing targeted supports and services for people with disability and their carers. 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And that includes the DSS policy responsibilities in relation to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Mr Flavel, welcome to the Royal Commission. 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Thank you. 

MS EASTMAN:  People are worried when I say that, but a warm welcome. You hold the position of Deputy Secretary, Social Security also at the Department. 


MS EASTMAN:  And what are your particular areas of responsibility in that capacity?

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  So, it's best thought of as two main responsibilities, one in relation to social security policy generally   so, advice about the facet of payments the Commonwealth makes to individuals   and then the other is broadly in relation to the Commonwealth's responsibilities for housing and homelessness. Noting that that's a shared responsibility with the Department of Treasury who also have key responsibilities in relation to housing policy. 

MS EASTMAN:  And that includes the administration of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement?


MS EASTMAN:  Together you've prepared a joint statement and you say that that has been prepared with the assistance of lawyers and officers in the Department; is that right? 



MS EASTMAN:  You've both had a chance to read the statement this morning? 



MS EASTMAN:  Are there any changes that either of you wish to make to any parts of the statement?

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I   there was one. Not a change. Well, sorry, I'll just   on page   sorry   I thought we might get to it in discussion. On   at paragraph 54 of the Statement there has been an update.  So, where it says:

"These changes are scheduled to come into effect in September 2022."

That's now October 2022 and that's to be rolled out over 12 months, not 18 months. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. So, the change to that would be to paragraph 54 and this is the fourth sentence. 


MS EASTMAN:  So, it should read this:

"These changes are scheduled to come into effect in October 2022 and to be rolled out over the next 12 months."


MS EASTMAN:  And with those changes, do you both say that the contents of the statement are true and correct? 



MS EASTMAN:  So, in the time that we've got, we may not be able to cover absolutely every topic that you've covered in the statement, and as the Chair said, the Commissioners have read the statement and the statement will be tendered in due course, but I want to start with the relevance of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to the work and the policy development concerning homelessness and housing for the Commonwealth. 

This is a matter that you've dealt with in the Statement, and if you want to refer to these parts, you're very welcome to, at paragraph 112 and 113. Are we right to understand that, for DSS, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability is an important instrument to take into account in the development of policy? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  It guides the development of our policies. 

MS EASTMAN:  When you talk about guiding the development of the policy, what do you actually mean by "guide"?

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  So, when we   in any development of any policy or any framework, the CRDP is a   well, it's a guiding factor in that we consider all aspects of the CRDP and make sure that we're adhering to the obligations for Australia. 

MS EASTMAN:  Well, some might say that, as a matter of law, that the CRPD has to do more than guide; it creates binding international legal obligations on the department, does it not? 


MS EASTMAN:  And so if the CRDP is guiding policy, is the approach that you're looking to ensure that any policies comply with the CRDP  

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:    and meets those objectives? And to the extent that we just look at the articles in the CRDP, you've referred to Article 19 and you've referred to Article 28. 


MS EASTMAN:  And Article 28 is a right of persons with disability to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their family, and that includes adequate housing and adequate living conditions. When you look at the content of that right, how does that right inform the development of policy? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  So, if I can refer to the development of the Australian Disability Strategy, every aspect of the rights of people with disabilities to live and   a fulfilling life and adhere to all of those rights is embedded in every aspect of the Strategy and starting with how we actually consulted on the Strategy. It was a significant consultation over a two year period with   with people with disabilities, with their disability representative organisations. It's actually a co design process that the Department and my team are incredibly proud of because it was so comprehensive and understanding   

MS EASTMAN:  Sorry to jump in.


MS EASTMAN:  I do want to ask you some questions about the development of the particular Strategy, but just generally, looking at this   these concepts of adequate housing and continuous improvement in living conditions   and I'm sorry if my question wasn't clear but just how do you actually engage with that right in the development of policy? Do you look, for example, at international examples as to how this works in practice? Do you look at this from a purely legal perspective? Do you think about whether or not policy has to meet certain indicators to achieve what the Right's directing the Commonwealth to do? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I wouldn't like   I don't know the complete answer to that question, I have to say, but, of course, we look at our obligations under the rights, and that drives every policy we have. And why I went to talk about the Australian Disability Strategy is if you look at our statement on paragraph 114, we talk about governments in Australia, so it is about when we work with governments in Australia, about those rights, and at the Strategy, at page 55 of the Strategy, we talk about the roles and responsibilities of the different governments in Australia.  So, that's why I was going down that path. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay.  So, in terms of from a Commonwealth thinking, if Australia was to meet its obligations in relation to adequate housing and continuous improvement of living conditions, one aspect of it is not only to focus on the Commonwealth but also to look to the extent to which the states and territories design their policy to meet those obligations? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  Well, under 114B we talk about actions under the Strategy which all states and territories and local government have signed for actions under the Strategy.

MS EASTMAN:  When you're referring to paragraph 114, you say this:

"Governments in Australia, including the Australian Government, intend to fulfil their progressively realisable obligations under the CRPD in relation to housing through four areas:  provision of social and affordable housing; action under the Strategy; the implementation of the National Construction Code 2022; and the NDIS."


MS EASTMAN:  So, those would be the sort of four pillars, from the Commonwealth's perspective, to meet those obligations under Article 28, and also, I take it, Article 29. And to do that that's not just solely the responsibility of the Commonwealth; is that right? It has to involve the states and territories. 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  That's correct. All governments have responsibility. 

MS EASTMAN:  If we took the first element, the provision of social and affordable housing, do I take it that includes the actual housing dwellings, so building? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  Well, yes, it does mean the provision of social and affordable housing and under the Strategy, whilst all governments work together under the Strategy, the primary responsibility for delivery of public and social and community housing lies with the states and territory. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, this isn't an indication that the Commonwealth's about to say, "right, we're in the business of building affordable and social housing." That's something that is delivered on the ground by states and territories; is that right? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  That's correct and that's what they agreed was their responsibility under the Australian Disability Strategy. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. I might come to the Strategy and also another document. I want to start, though, to ask whether   and, Mr Flavel, feel free to jump in to answer any of these questions. Can I start with an earlier Strategy, the National Disability Strategy that covered the period 2010 to 2020. Are you both familiar with that? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I haven't read it but I am reasonably familiar with it. 

MS EASTMAN:  Well, accept this proposition:  that the National Disability Strategy covering 2010 to 2020 said this, that:

"The Commonwealth, states and territories are working to the to develop a national quality framework to achieve better outcomes for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, including people with disabilities, by improving the quality and integration of the services they receive."

So, that's the commitment from the previous Strategy. 


MS EASTMAN:  And so there was an express reference to people who were homeless but also those at risk of homelessness. Now, in your work within the Department, are either of you aware of whether a national quality framework was developed? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I am advised by my team that it was developed, but I haven't read it. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of a national quality framework, the idea of national quality frameworks is not unique to housing, is it? 


MS EASTMAN:  It's a tool that's used in policy generally? 


MS EASTMAN:  Do you know if there was any evaluation of the national quality framework in relation to addressing homelessness or people at risk of homelessness? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  No, I don't know if there was an evaluation, but I know that at   you'll see in my statement at paragraph 14 we talk about UNSSW, New South Wales conducted a review of the implementation of the previous Strategy. And if there was an evaluation, it would have been part of that, but I don't   I don't know. 

MS EASTMAN:  You're not across it then? 


MS EASTMAN:  So, during the life of the previous Strategy, the 2010 to 2020, there was also the development of a National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.  So, Mr Flavel, this is in your dealt, is it not? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  That's in my area of responsibility, that's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  In terms of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, this is an Agreement between the Commonwealth and all states and territories in Australia? 


MS EASTMAN:  And the purpose of this National Agreement is that the Commonwealth and the states recognise they have a mutual interest in improving housing outcomes across the housing spectrum, including outcomes for Australians that are homeless or at risk of homelessness and need to work together to achieve that outcome.  So, that's the purpose of the Agreement? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Correct, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  To the extent this Agreement exists, were you involved in any drafting of this Agreement?

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  No. As per my statement, I commenced this role in November 2020, and the current National Housing and Homelessness Agreement was signed and took effect from 1 July 2018. 

MS EASTMAN:  Right. And neither of you may be able to answer this, but do either of you know whether or not the previous National Disability Strategy had any role to play in the development of this Agreement? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I don't have that knowledge. 


MS EASTMAN:  So, in terms of the way the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement operates, it's currently said to be on foot until 30 June 2023, but are we right in understanding from your statement that the intention is to extend it for a further year; is that right? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  That's correct. So, the Commonwealth Minister for Housing and Homeless has written to her state colleagues and proposed a one year extension of the Agreement. Obviously, that's subject to the agreement of all parties before taking effect. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you've set out in your statement how the Agreement operates, but can I just ask you a couple of sort of features about it.  So, at an overall level, the way in which this Agreement operates is that the Commonwealth provides funding, the funding is then delivered to states and territories, according to the formula set out in the Agreement. 


MS EASTMAN:  There's an expectation that the states and territories will match that funding in particular areas? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Only in respect to homelessness, so they're required to at least spend or match the Commonwealth's stated target, if you want to call it that, for homelessness services. 

MS EASTMAN:  And one of the requirements in terms of this Agreement is to meet particular performance monitoring and reporting obligations? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  So, under the Agreement, there's certain obligations placed on the states and territories.  So, for instance, the requirement for them to publish   to have and publish housing and homelessness strategies, and some other requirements in terms of performance reporting. They do that in a variety of ways, but generally speaking, the main mechanism is by providing an annual statement of assurance that's provided to the Commonwealth as part of the conditionality of the Agreement. 

MS EASTMAN:  And what does the Commonwealth do when it receives those statements of assurance? Is there any evaluative process that applies at the Commonwealth level?

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  There's an assessment of that, but obviously, in some cases, it's binary.  So, for instance, the requirement to have a homelessness and housing strategy it's about the existence of one. It's not a commentary about the quality or other aspects of the strategies, the individual strategies themselves. 

MS EASTMAN:  When you talk about the existence of having a policy, the states and territories are each required to have a particular policy. 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Yes, a strategy, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And that policy has got to be public. 


MS EASTMAN:  In terms of in the reporting against those policies and complying with the requirements of the Agreement, does the Commonwealth publish any reports or any data on an annual basis?

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  We   I'm just trying to think about whether we publish in a consolidated form. Certainly things like our Department of Social Services annual report and the associated documents for the Budget, we do do some reporting in relation to the Agreement. 

MS EASTMAN:  And as part of the reporting from the states and territories is there a requirement to report particular data? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  There is.  So, for instance, financial data, so they're required to tell the   to report to the Commonwealth how much or in what way the contribution has been spent.  So, while   to give you an example, while there's a requirement to spend at least $135 million on homelessness services, we know that the states use about collectively around $600 million of the Commonwealth contribution for that. And in addition put in about 600 million of their own resources to bring the total to about 1.2 billion. 

MS EASTMAN:  There's data in terms of how the money's spent but what about data in terms of getting a sense of the prevalence of homelessness or insecure housing? Is that data that has to be collected? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  So, there is some data that's collected, some directly, some indirectly.  So, it's a requirement under the Agreement for the states to provide de identified data about people accessing Specialist Homelessness Services. That data is provided to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare publishes regular, but also an annual report about the use of Specialist Homelessness Services that provides a picture. There's a range of other data that the states and territories provide and the Agreement itself has a schedule in relation to data improvement. And there's been a separate strand of work conducted by the Commonwealth and states to actually develop some further indicators. 

MS EASTMAN:  Is that the Data Improvement Plan for 2019 to 2023. 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  That's correct. Yes. That resulted in I think a new schedule being added to the Agreement that outlined some additional housing related indicators or information that's being collected. I'd refer to that in a work in progress because some of it, for instance, will rely on the most recent National Census in 2021 for instance.  So, it's seen as an ongoing process of improving the availability of data in relation to housing and homelessness. 

MS EASTMAN:  Just in terms of the reference that you've made to the AIHW and also to the ABS   sorry to use those shorthands   in terms of census data, you're aware, aren't you, that they use different definitions of homelessness? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  I'm aware that there can be different definitions used. 

MS EASTMAN:  What's the definition that applies in relation to this Agreement?

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  I don't think the definition is outlined anywhere in the Agreement. 

MS EASTMAN:  I couldn't see a definition in the Agreement. Is that a weakness of the Agreement if it doesn't have a definition of "homelessness"?

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Weakness maybe, but I think it does reflect the fact by being too precise with the definition there is a risk, I guess, of missing out on the boundaries, depending on what definition one uses. 

MS EASTMAN:  While there's no definition, the Agreement does set out what are described as national priority homelessness cohorts and homelessness priority reform areas, and can I ask you, are you familiar with the national priority homelessness cohorts? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  I am, under the Agreement, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And so can I briefly, just for the benefit of people following the hearing, the national priority homelessness cohorts are, first, women and children affected by family and domestic violence; secondly, children and young people; thirdly, Indigenous Australians. It's page one4 of the Agreement, if that assists, Mr Flavel, behind tab seven. People experiencing repeat homelessness; people exiting institutions and caring to homelessness; and older people. They're the priority areas. 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Yes, that's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  There is no priority cohort area that specifically identifies people with disability. You agree with that?

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  No, that's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And to the extent, of course, there may be people with disability who would come within the existing cohorts, there's nothing that puts a flag that people with disability might be a priority homelessness cohort. You agree with that? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  I'm not sure what you mean by "flag", sorry, Counsel. 

MS EASTMAN:  Well, an express reference for something to identify a connection between homelessness and people living with disability. 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Sorry, are you talking about the priority, the priority groups? 


MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Yes, there is no separate flag. 

MS EASTMAN:  Do you accept that's a deficiency in the Agreement, not to have specific reference to people with disability in the priority homelessness cohorts? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  It's hard for me to say deficiency. It obviously reflected the view of the then Prime Minister and Premiers and State and Chief Ministers who signed it. As I say, I wasn't around at the time, so I'm not actually privy to the discussions that happened at that most senior political level about why there was a determination made of particular groups being put in this priority cohort. 

MS EASTMAN:  There was the National Strategy on foot at the time that specifically identified the risk of homelessness for people with disability and people with disability are homeless, but they haven't made their way into this Agreement, have they? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  No, that's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Now, in terms of the states and territories, am I right in understanding that, under the Agreement, the states and territories can also identify additional priority homelessness cohorts? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Yes, so under the Agreement the states also signed bilateral agreements with the Commonwealth and that outlines the specific funding that they get. The states are able to nominate or determine other priority cohorts, that's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Can I ask you now about the homelessness priority policy reform areas. Are you familiar with them? 


MS EASTMAN:  So there's three. One is to achieve better outcomes for people, and that is setting out how the desired outcomes for individuals will be measured, and it may include a focus on priority groups, economic and social participation. So, that's one, achieving better outcomes. Secondly, early intervention and prevention, including through mainstream services, setting out actions to be taken through homelessness services and mainstream services. And that may include focus on particular client groups or services. And then, thirdly, a commitment to service program and design, and that's said to be evidenced and research based that shows what evidence and research was being used to design responses to homelessness and how responses and strategies will be evaluated.  So, you're familiar with those three areas? 


MS EASTMAN:  And is there any reporting done by the states and territories against those three priority reform areas? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Not   they may choose to do it specifically but, again, under the Agreement, they're required to be addressed in the Homelessness Strategy.  So, I keep going back to the point that under the Agreement itself, it's the requirement for that to be addressed. It's not the Commonwealth's role under the Agreement to determine the effectiveness or to make any other commentary about the appropriateness of those particular   the way that those priority areas have been determined and laid out in the Strategies. 

MS EASTMAN:  Notwithstanding the absence of any reference to people with disability in the Agreement, is it the Commonwealth's understanding that this Agreement should address the rights of people who are homeless who live with disability, and/or the rights of people who are at risk of homelessness who live with disability? 


MS EASTMAN:  And has there been any consideration in the decision to extend this Agreement for a further year to ensure that people with disability will be identified as a priority area for reform, and/or a priority cohort? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Counsel, I think it's probably better for me to refer to the fact that one of the elements of the Agreement is the Productivity Commission is conducting a review into the, broadly speaking, the sort of effectiveness and operation of the current National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. That's been a public process with submissions sought.  The report to the Treasurer from the Productivity Commission coincidentally is to be delivered today. 

MS EASTMAN:  So we understand. 


MS EASTMAN:  Unless you can give us any sneak peeks. 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  I have not seen the report and it goes directly to the Treasurer today so I won't see it, although my understanding is that that will be publicly released in around two weeks' time. And that Productivity Commission process explicitly, in terms of the Terms of Reference, was asked to look at the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement and its compatibility with Australia's Disability Strategy and other obligations. And the reason I'm making that point is because I think, rather than sort of talking about the extra year which is really a rollover of an existing Agreement, the work of the Productivity Commission, including with that explicit focus on people with disability, in my view, would be a material factor to be taken into account for a future National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, should, of course, all governments decide to have a successor agreement. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, you've set out that Productivity Commission review in the statement at   Commissioners, at paragraph 106 to 111, and the Productivity Commission, though, is reviewing the Agreement that's silent on disability, against a strategy that's no longer in force; is that right? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Sorry, could you repeat that? 

MS EASTMAN:  So, the Productivity Commission is reviewing the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement that is silent on disability, but it's required to review it against the Strategy that is no longer in force? 


MS EASTMAN:  Is that right? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  My recollection is that it's actually explicit in the Terms of Reference, the reference to the current Australia's Disability Strategy. 

MS EASTMAN:  I'm going to ask you to take that on notice because I think in terms of the sequence of events, it appears that the Productivity Commission was examining the earlier Strategy, or you think it's the current Strategy? Because they've   I'll ask you this:  because the former Strategy does refer to homelessness and people at risk of homelessness.  The current Strategy, which I'm about to ask you about, is absolutely silent on homelessness? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  So,Counsel, I'm referring to the Commonwealth's submission to the Productivity Commission review.  So, that's a publicly available document. 

MS EASTMAN:  Yes, and is that speaking to the current Strategy? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  It doesn't. It says:

"The Terms of Reference for the PC review of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement includes considering the extent to which the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement is meeting the obligations of governments under Australia's Disability Strategy 2021 to 2031."

MS EASTMAN:  So, it's picking up the current one. Alright. Can I ask you about the current Strategy. And you've dealt with this   and I think, Ms Mitchell, this is your area. 


MS EASTMAN:  You've included a copy of the current Strategy. That was launched in December last year.


MS EASTMAN:  And the Strategy also sets out priority areas, and there is a priority area concerning housing, but there is no priority area concerning homelessness, is there? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  No. The   this   the new Strategy really   as I mentioned before, New South Wales Uni have a look at the previous Strategy. They then determined and worked with all the disability sector to determine what would go into this Strategy.  So, this Strategy was   the new Strategy very much around implementation compared to the previous Strategy.  So, they really focused on what we can achieve, and rather than having homelessness as a   a particular individual strategy   I mean, there are many we could have had. They looked at focussing on the protective factors for homelessness.  So, they really focused on education, justice system, employment. 

MS EASTMAN:  But there is no priority area around homelessness or risk of homelessness in the new Strategy, is there? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  Not specifically. 

MS EASTMAN:  And to the extent that the Productivity Commission is reviewing the Agreement with respect to the current Strategy, they're not speaking to each other, are they? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  Well, under the Strategy, as I mentioned before, all governments, state and territory and local governments, have signed up the Strategy, and part of the Strategy the provision of social and community housing which is directly related to homelessness and availability of housing. So, to that extent, it is absolutely part of the Australia's Disability Strategy with all the states and territories. 

MS EASTMAN:  But it's hard, isn't it, that if there's no express reference as a priority area to homelessness or people at risk of homelessness, then it's possible that that area can be overlooked. And the focus can shift to the accessibility of housing or people in existing housing arrangements? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  That is possible. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you would accept, wouldn't you, that for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, those circumstances put them among the most vulnerable members of our community who live with disability. Would you accept that? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  Absolutely. 

MS EASTMAN:  And do you think that that really is a deficiency in the 2021/2031 Strategy with respect to addressing the most vulnerable members of our community with disability, being homeless people or people at risk of homelessness, that they have become invisible, haven't they? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I   I go back to what I said just a moment ago and I   I think that whilst the term "homelessness" is not specifically written into the Strategy, it was absolutely a consideration in the consultation process. And, in fact, during the consultation process, there were at least five organisations who represent people who are homeless as part of the consultation process. 

MS EASTMAN:  Was there any discussion with people who were actually living with disability and who were homeless at the time? Were they part of the consultation? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I don't know the answer to that question. We certainly consulted over 3,000 people. 

MS EASTMAN:  But   and you've set that out in some detail in your statement in terms of the consultation process, and take it that we accept that the development of the Strategy was informed by that consultation. But do you accept there might have been a risk that the consultation did not get to the least visible people with disability in our community? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  There's a risk in any consultation process that you   that you may miss a cohort. But as I   in my opening to your original first question, this is   this was a significant process over two years, and we did consult over 3,000 people. We had two and a half thousand survey responses. We had 35 focus groups. We had academic workshops, and as part of the Strategy now, we have an advisory committee that is chaired by Ben Gauntlett, who is the   Dr Ben Gauntlett, who is also the Human Rights Commissioner. The Disability Reform Ministers meet monthly to discuss all the issues as part of the Strategy, and as I just mentioned before, there were five organisations that I'm aware of that were part of the consultation process who   who specifically represent people who are homeless. 

MS EASTMAN:  There was also a Parliamentary Committee looking at   doing an Inquiry into Homelessness around the same time as the Disability Strategy was being finalised, and the   we've seen the outcome of that Inquiry was to identify real risks for people with disability in terms of the homelessness system.


MS EASTMAN:  So, you can't say that this question of homeless people with disability or people at risk of becoming homeless with disability were not   it could not have been on the Commonwealth's radar in the development of the Strategy?

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I wasn't there as part of the development of the Strategy.

CHAIR:  Ms Mitchell, I think you said that one reason why homelessness was not specifically mentioned in the Strategy was because the focus was on protective strategies. Why would that not be a reason for specifically referring to homelessness? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I think, Commissioner, there would have been a few areas that we wouldn't have referred to in the Strategy. I wasn't there as part of the development of the Strategy, but I'm advised  

CHAIR:  I understood that. 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I'm advised that the protective factors towards homelessness was the focus, because they   I mean, all indicators are if you are able to be employed, then, you know, your chances of homelessness are lessened. 

CHAIR:  If you're developing protective strategies to improve the outcome in a particular area, you might expect the particular area for which improvements were expected to be expressly identified and the relationship between the strategies and the outcome to be explained, wouldn't you?

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  So, we weren't looking at protective strategies, per se. We were looking at the protective factors required to support people from entering into homelessness.

CHAIR:  Ms Eastman has asked you about the consultative process, which you've explained and seems to have involved very large number of people and organisations. Why do you think it didn't manage to produce suggestions that homelessness should have been specifically included and include expressly made a priority area? Why do you think that happened? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  As I understand it, Commissioner  

CHAIR:  I know you weren't there. 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  No. No. I promise not to say it again. As I understand it, the focus for those who were consulted across the two year period was around affordable and accessible housing.  So, that is where the discussions went. I don't know what the discussions focused on for homelessness.

CHAIR:  Do you think it may suggest that the people with disability are actually quite a diverse group? They're not a uniform group. And if you're going to consult with people with disability, you need   I'm not talking about you personally   but the process needs to ensure that all relevant sections of the disability community are actually contacted and able to make a contribution to the process? In other words, there does seem to be an assumption quite often that if you consult with disability groups, then everybody's covered, but that may not, in fact, tell you very much about the needs of particular groups within the disability community? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  That's correct, Commissioner, and I would   I would add to that and say that it's such a diverse group across the disability sector that many of the different areas of the sector don't agree with each other. So,  

CHAIR:  Which is an even bigger reason for ensuring that you contact all of them? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  So, in the development of the Strategy, you know, we looked at people with intellectual disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, women with disability, and as I say, there were several organisations who had specific focus on homelessness.

CHAIR:  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, one final thing just on the Strategy. There's also the outcomes approach, and the outcome areas for inclusive homes and communities address the two priority areas, being housing affordability stress and housing accessibility. And in terms of those outcomes, are these going to be the sort of measures that the Commonwealth will take in relation to examining how the Strategy will work? A copy of this, Commissioners   bit tricky, but it's behind tab six and it's page two, and it's a fold out sheet. 

CHAIR:  Thank you. 

MS EASTMAN:  I don't want to spend a lot of time on this, but just to get a sense of where the outcome framework sits into the way in which the Strategy over the 10 year period is going to be measured. 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  So, your question was are these the key indicators that we will be measuring? Yes, that's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  But you will notice that some of them are baseline measures.  So, if you have a look in the uncoloured section, that is about measuring the number of people with disability who have reported unmet need. And then if we go to   sorry, I might be on the wrong page. Did you say page six? 

MS EASTMAN:  Page two. It's got the heading Outcome Areas, Inclusive Homes and Communities.

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  So same.  So, if you look at housing accessibility:

"The number of social housing dwellings that meet Livable Housing Design silver accessibility standards."

So, that will be a baseline measurement across all the States and Territories. And then:

"For future measurement will be the number of homes that are built to standards according to the National Construction Code and the Livable Housing Design."

So, that is a future measurement. 

MS EASTMAN:  I'm conscious of the time and I might just ask you now   and this might be, Mr Flavel, a question for you. In terms of the National Construction Code, that   could probably spend hours on this   but that's really a code designed to get a national approach to the way in which dwellings are constructed, and it's looking at achieving accessibility and meeting, as you've just said, Ms Mitchell, things such as the Livable Housing Design. Livable Housing Design has got three levels to it:  Silver, I think, gold and platinum. 


MS EASTMAN:  So, silver's the lowest level, like that's the basic level. 


MS EASTMAN:  Platinum is the   

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  So, in the silver level, the minimum requirement is one accessible shower, accessible entry, strengthening of walls, that sort of thing. 

MS EASTMAN:  These are all measures where there is an existing dwelling and how somebody might have access within the dwelling, but when you look at these inclusive homes and community measures, none of these measures pick up getting people into housing and the situation of people's pathways into homelessness and the pathways out of homelessness. Do you agree with that? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I do agree. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. Thank you. Now, you've said in the Statement, I think at paragraph 63, that coming out of the recent election, there's a proposed National Housing and Homelessness Plan that will be developed? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  I'm not sure whether, other than referring to the fact of it being an election commitment and an intention to do so, what can you tell us about when a National Housing and Homelessness Plan might be developed? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Probably not much because, as an election   like a lot of election commitments, we ratify it in the upcoming October Budget, regardless of whether they involve dollars or not, so I think after October, later in the year, there will be more substantive statements about the process, but I think there's enough in the election commitment for people to get a sense it will be a quite   I don't want to say lengthy, but an ongoing process of collaboration with state governments and a range of other stakeholders with interests in developing that plan. 

MS EASTMAN:  Is there any guarantee that people with disability and in particular people with disability who are homeless or at risk of homelessness will be included in that plan? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  I would be staggered if they were not included. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. The other proposal is the establishment of a National Housing Supply and Affordability Council. Is that something in your remit? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  The same, yes, so there's effectively a range of commitments the incoming Government has made in relation to housing agenda. 

MS EASTMAN:  And to the extent that the Council does not presently exist, are we to understand that the purpose of the Council will be comprised of experts from the diverse range of fields that could include finance, economics, urban development, residential construction, urban planning and social housing sectors? 


MS EASTMAN:  No express reference to disability in the list of experts? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  No, but I'd observe that in past incarnations of these sorts of things, you can have an expert panel that has a whole lot of advisory groups that might have input into it and, again, I think it highly plausible that people with disability would be represented as part of such an advisory group. 

MS EASTMAN:  Would you accept that it is important for people with disability to be represented in something as significant as a Housing Supply and Affordability Council?

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Certainly their views and issues should absolutely be front of mind for the work of a Council such as that. 

MS EASTMAN:  And the Royal Commission's recently held a hearing in Alice Springs where issues of housing and overcrowding in housing and unsuitability of dwellings in remote and very remote communities, certainly an issue for First Nations people with disability. Would it be expected that there would be representation from First Nations communities on a Council of this kind? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Again, I refer to what I've said earlier which is you can think of this as the Council which might have a broad remit in thinking about issues like overarching government policies to increase supply of housing generally. They may well then have a series of advisory groups and I would certainly think that as part of that broader 
Government structure, the particular issues around First Nations people with disability would feature in that. 

MS EASTMAN:  And coming back to some of the earlier questions I can asked you about the CRPD and paragraph 114 where you outlined the progressively realising obligations of the CRPD, would you agree with me that a National Housing Supply and Affordability Council would be an appropriate forum to take a rights based approach to housing and homelessness, and that would be a place where the Commonwealth commitments to the CRPD could also factor in? 


MS EASTMAN:  Right. 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Noting, of course, the Council does not yet exist and more detail about its specific functions and other associated matters are still matters that the government   the Commonwealth Government would need to consider. 

MS EASTMAN:  Would the Commonwealth be prepared to provide information to the Royal Commission as both the National Housing and Homelessness Plan develops and also any development of the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council is developed, subject, obviously, to restrictions on Cabinet in Confidence, but is that something that the Royal Commission could receive updates from the Commonwealth on? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Yes. We'd be happy to provide updates. And the other element which is referred to in our statement is, of course, the establishment of the $10 billion National Housing and Homelessness Fund which, as per the election commitment, also has commitments around the liveability standards that you referred to earlier. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. One   coming back to the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, so, Mr Flavel, in the statement, it's right, isn't it, that the Commonwealth Government provides $1.6 billion each year to the states and territories? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And this is to deal with the access to secure and affordable housing across the housing spectrum? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  It's to   yes, to make a contribution towards that outcome. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in that   the funding, there's also specific funding earmarked for the provision of homelessness services? 


MS EASTMAN:  And I think previous Budget, $129 million but your statement indicates that for the 2022/2023 period it's $135 million. 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  That's correct. Generally these amounts are indexed year to year. 

MS EASTMAN:  Is that looking at homelessness generally?  Does it attach to the particular priority cohorts in any way? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Not specifically, no. 

MS EASTMAN:  And to the extent we look at the information you provided in the statement, are we right to understand that, from the Commonwealth, there is no specific funding earmarked for people who are homeless or at risk of homeless who live with disability? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Not   not that cohort, no. 

MS EASTMAN:  In terms   

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Sorry, nor are any other priority cohorts, so of that $135 million you referred to, there's no specific allocation for any of the priority cohorts identified in the Agreement. 


COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Excuse me, you said "other priority cohorts". Isn't it a fact that people with disability are not a priority cohort in the Commonwealth State Funding Agreement? It doesn't mention them at all? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Yes, sorry, I misspoke, I should have other priority cohorts in the Agreement. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, there's no additional funding either through the Agreement or elsewhere, is there, for earmarked homelessness funding for people with disability who are homeless or at risk of homelessness? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Not through the Agreement. 

MS EASTMAN:  And are we to understand, reading the statement, that to the extent that we are to see where the Commonwealth commits any funding and assistance for people with disability experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, we pick up some of the other measures set out in the statement; is that right? 


MS EASTMAN:  So, they would be things like the Commonwealth Rent Assistance Scheme, and I think you say in the statement that costs the Government 15   sorry, $5 billion annually? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  That's correct, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And that's the largest Budget expenditure in the Commonwealth Budget; is that right? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  It's the largest Commonwealth   

MS EASTMAN:  From housing or   

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Commonwealth owned program, if you want to call it that, on housing generally. 

MS EASTMAN:  On housing. 


MS EASTMAN:  In terms of Commonwealth Rent Assistance, would you agree with me that if you are homeless, it's probably not going to give you much assistance, is it? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  No, it's   I mean, by definition, it is for people in rental accommodation, so people who are homeless are not being directly assisted through that mechanism. 

MS EASTMAN:  And it's not a mechanism to assist to get into private rental accommodation, is it?

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  No, it's more about the affordability of that accommodation, so by making it more affordability, improving the pathways for a range of people to be in secure and affordable housing outcomes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And, Ms Mitchell, one of the other programs or policies identified in the Statement is Specialist Disability Accommodation? That's your area, isn't it? 


MS EASTMAN:  And so you've said that:

"Australian Government is committed to working collaboratively with the state and territory governments to improve the provision of accessible and well designed housing for people with disability."


MS EASTMAN:  Is that right? We're right to understand this isn't the Commonwealth saying "we're about to get in the business of building social or accessible housing." Is it back to what I asked you earlier?


MS EASTMAN:  The Commonwealth has a commitment but the delivery rests with the states and territories; is that right? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  Except for Specialist Disability Housing, which falls under the NDIS. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, even under the NDIS, the Commonwealth is not in the business of building NDIS housing per se, is it? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  They work with   they   it would be best question asked to the NDIS later on this afternoon. But certainly they do develop dwellings for people with significant disabilities. And so to be eligible for an SDA accommodation place, you have to have extreme functional impairment or high functional support needs.  So, they   as I understand it, there is a mechanism for houses to be built by investors, and they're built specifically for those clients. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright.  So, just looking at your paragraph 45, so you say in relation to Specialist Disability Accommodation:

"There's currently 17,693 active NDIS participants receiving around $248 million in SDA funding."

And then you've got some other numbers in relation to participants who have funding in their plans for home modifications. Can I ask you this:  on   for NDIS participants who require modifications to their homes, is it the Commonwealth's understanding that it is the Commonwealth's responsibility to pay for   or meet the costs, I should say, meet the costs of modifications to a person's home? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  If they are eligible under the NDIS. 

MS EASTMAN:  Is there any role for the states and territories in relation to meeting the costs of home modification for people with disability who receive Specialist Disability Accommodation? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I don't know the clear answer to that. 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Counsel, if I could be helpful, it's worth remembering, of course, that the NDIS is a collective scheme involving the Commonwealth and the States, so to the extent that the States are providing funding to the NDIS, which they do, one can think of it as a joint contribution with the Commonwealth towards the costs of those modifications. 

MS EASTMAN:  Paragraph 48, refer again to election platform and commitments, and there are two specific commitments. One is to investigate solutions to excessive red tape and the mounting queues stopping people with disability accessing appropriate housing. And, secondly, the investigation of a $500 million Specialist Disability Accommodation under spend to ensure that people with disability can access appropriate housing. What can you tell us about the steps taken so far in relation to addressing both those issues? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  So the   so, these were election commitments.  So, in so much as where we're working with our states and territories colleagues around the reduction of excessive red tape, we do that across the board. In relation to investigating the 500 million SDA under spend that   it was an election commitment, not an actual statement and the $500 million is actually the shortfall gap between what the Productivity Commission forecast for demand at full scheme versus current payments. 

MS EASTMAN:  Right. And what would be the nature of that investigation? Is it going to be something done internally or is that an area likely to be undertaken by an independent review? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  That will be done internally to the Commonwealth Government. 

MS EASTMAN:  Right. Next question I want to ask you, and then I might hand over to the Commissioners. There is a reference to Housing Australia Future Fund. This is paragraph 65 to 66:

"This is a commitment of establishing a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund."

And you will see in paragraph 66 that you refer to:

"All new housing will be constructed in accordance with the principles of universal design to enable access to people with disability."

So, is this still in the phase of an election commitment.


MS EASTMAN:  Or has there been concrete progress on this? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  No. No. I think that was one of the things I referred to earlier. I'm not sure I got the name right. It is the Housing Australia Future Fund. So it, like those other election commitments you mentioned in relation to the Council and Plan, is still in the early stages of development. But the reference there at 66 is taken straight out of the election commitment made by the now Government. 

MS EASTMAN:  What do the principles of universal design mean against the context of the National Construction Code? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  My understanding   and I may want to check this   is it's in relation to meeting at least the silver standard that you referred to earlier. 

MS EASTMAN:  Would we be right in understanding that if the Commonwealth is to commit $10 billion to a housing fund, that the aim is that, into the future, Australia will have accessible housing for anyone who needs housing if they live with disability? Would that be the objective of the fund? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Well, the objective of the fund is to increase the overall supply of social and affordable housing. 

MS EASTMAN:  But one of the keys is to ensure that it's accessible housing, the Royal Commission's heard, that, for many people, an offer of a house might sound good, but if it's not going to be accessible, then it might leave them still with those pathways into homelessness and a barrier out of homelessness? 


MS EASTMAN:  Do you agree with that? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Yes.  So, the commitment as stated at para 66 is that all new housing financed by that fund   in other words, which will be 30,000 new dwellings   will be constructed in accordance with those universal design principles. 

MS EASTMAN:  My final question for both of you is do you accept that the housing policy is not connecting with a disability policy at the Commonwealth level at the present time? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I   well, given that Mr Flavel and I are in the same Department and we have   I'm driving the changes in the Australian Disability Strategy and we are   we take account of each other's policies in development of new policies   so historically I think   so, historically, perhaps not. I think, going forward, absolutely that they will be connected and, in fact, even if you look at the Closing the Gap Sector Strengthening plan, for example, it has   it has disability and housing as two of the four key priority areas. 

MS EASTMAN:  What needs to be done at the Commonwealth level to ensure that, for meeting the rights of people with disability, that they're not going to slip between the gaps where you've got systems and policies that might be addressed by a range of different departments? Ms Mitchell, how do you hold that all together to ensure that there's that disability perspective on all policies that might touch on the interests of people with disability? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  So, one of the outcomes and areas in Australia's Disability Strategy is that all new policy development must take account of the outcomes and priority areas for people with disability. And so, in so much as if the Attorney General is developing a new policy or the Department of Environment is developing a new policy, they must account for the outcomes under Australia's Disability Policy. It is a Commonwealth policy. Every Commonwealth entity is required to adhere to the Policy, and as I've said a couple of times, states and territories and local government also have signed up. 

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you for your Statement. I didn't get the chance to ask you some questions about emergency responses and the    system. But the Commissioners might have some questions on those issues too. Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:  I shall ask Commissioner Galbally first if she has any questions she would like to put to you?

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Thank you. No questions.

CHAIR:  Thank you. Commissioner Ryan? 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Just one or two. I'm just referring to the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. Do you think it would be appropriate for that Agreement to reference Article 19 and 28 of the CRPD and Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? In other words, those things which the Commonwealth is meant to provide in terms of housing rights that are referenced by UN Declarations, do you think it's appropriate to have that articulated as one of the objectives or outcomes of the housing agreement in the future? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  That could certainly be in the future agreement. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  And you kind of answered this before but do you also think that, given that people with disability are not listed as a priority housing cohort among the priorities   that appears to be a significant deficit in the Housing Agreement that people with disability are not even referenced as a priority housing cohort. I know there is a provision for states to add others, but, nevertheless, it seems to be a glaring omission not to have people with disability listed among women and children with   given that I think most surveys show that nearly a third of the people who occupy social housing, for example, are people with disabilities, it seems to be a glaring omission that they shouldn't be listed as a priority housing cohort. Do you agree? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Yes, Commissioner. As I said, I wasn't in the role at the time. This current Agreement was developed through the course of 2016, '17, early '18, so not had the benefit of talking to the key decision makers, noting obviously it was signed off by the then PM and Premiers and Chief Ministers about what was the decision matrix for deciding on priority cohorts for inclusion in the current Agreement. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  I understand that the National Construction Code was subject to a regulatory impact statement which has been referenced by other witnesses. Is that something that was procured by the Commonwealth and could you provide the Royal Commission with the text of the regulatory impact statement? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  I'm not aware of the regulatory impact statement for the National Construction Code but   

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  It might have been regulatory impact analysis. 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  Analysis. I will have to take that on notice. 


CHAIR:  Thank you. We will hear evidence later today, I think, that   from Ms Short, that during the financial year ended 30 June 2022, around about 1,600 participants in the NDIS reported that they had been homeless during that year. And a total of about 6,200 NDIS participants had either been homeless or were at risk of homelessness, in accordance with the definitions or criteria that was used by the NDIS through one or other of its agencies. Given those   that evidence and those facts, in the basis of your experience, what can be done to address that? What would you see as the way to approach that? Is it to just take the National Disability Strategy and use the processes that have been provided there, or is there something more specific that can be done within the framework of the NDIS to address a problem of apparent homelessness among NDIS participants of all people? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  So, Commissioner, the NDIS had to do individual plans with all of those people. So  

CHAIR:  I understand how it works. My question is what can we do about it? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  Well, I think evidence was given yesterday that you can't cure homelessness without housing availability.


CHAIR:  That's it? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  Well, as I   as I've stated before   

CHAIR:  Are we in a slot of despondence? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  Commissioner, as I stated before, accessible and affordable housing is key to the Australian Disability Strategy and the responsibility for the provision of social and community housing remains the responsibility of the states and territories. And we're working with them, and as Mr Flavel has said, we provide considerable money from the Commonwealth to support those processes in the states and territories.

CHAIR:  But these are NDIS participants? 

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  So, the question might be better placed to the NDIS about the processes that they use. But if a person is at risk of becoming homeless and they're an NDIS participant, then the NDIS work with them very closely and they provide interim accommodation. There is any number of actions that they take to stop someone falling into homelessness.

CHAIR:  Alright. Mr Flavel, can you give us any more reason for optimism so that we can extract ourselves from the slot of despondence. 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Your words, Chair, but I think I agree with Ms Mitchell that it's really   your question was specifically about NDIS participants. I think that is very much in the domain of the NDIA because these are people who have a plan and are in sort of full purview, if you want to call it that, of the Agency. That's different than, I think, people outside the NDIS who may be homeless or have particular challenges around accessing suitable accommodation.

CHAIR:  Yes, and to take up Commissioner Ryan's question, and?  Question mark? 


CHAIR:  What follows from that? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  I'm not sure I follow your question, I'm sorry.

CHAIR:  Well, you made a Statement. And I just want to know what follows in terms of policies that might apply? Yes, I understand that it's the NDIA, but I'm looking to see what might be suggested for the Commonwealth's role in dealing with this, given that these are NDIS participants. The NDIS   I understand that the states have a financial role to play, but it is essentially a Commonwealth scheme. What can we do about this? 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Sorry. In relation to those NDIS participants, I think it is very much in the purview of the NDIA, and the solutions are really for them. Because I think, as has been identified, one has to look at the pathways and how people who have a plan are finding themselves in the situation of homelessness. I think that is, you know, a significant concern.

CHAIR:  Yes. Well, I rather thought that there might be something to be said for a National Disability Strategy addressing this issue, not just the   say it's the NDIA's problem. But, anyway, you say it's the NDIA that needs to   

DEBBIE MITCHELL:  Commissioner, the NDIS is actually a joint system between the Commonwealth and the States  

CHAIR:  Yes, I understand that, but it's a Commonwealth Act that sets out the framework and it's a Commonwealth responsibility in the sense that it's the Commonwealth has enacted legislation in order to implement it after a process of consultation and cooperation with the states and the states providing financial assistance of one kind or another. 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  And the States agreeing to key elements of the scheme as well. The legislative framework, as you know, also includes, you know, particular responsibilities that the states do agree.

CHAIR:  Yes. I understand that there's the   what's that expression that I keep forgetting, APTOS, whatever it is. 


CHAIR:  Yes, APTOS, whatever. Yes. Alright. Thank you. What do we do now, Ms Eastman? 

MS EASTMAN:  That concludes the evidence. Thank you, Mr Flavel and Ms Mitchell. I deferred playing some evidence that we pre-recorded with William yesterday. So, we'll play that, and then immediately after that we'll adjourn for morning tea for about 15 minutes.

CHAIR:  Thank you again, Ms Mitchell and Mr Flavel for coming to the Commission and giving us evidence and providing us with assistance on the important policy issues that we confront. Thank you very much. 

MATTHEW FLAVEL:  Thanks for the opportunity.


Video played

MS EASTMAN:  William, can I start by asking you a little bit about your story, about your life or?


MS EASTMAN:  And how you've come to be part of the community here at Newtown? What would you like to tell us about your life? 

WILLIAM:  Yes. Newtown Neighbourhood Centre has a lot of diverse service providers that help out, including providing a bit of food as well to people who are living in the sort of   the   let's say the people who have less money as well as who are a bit of a struggle to   to live in Sydney, Australia. 

MS EASTMAN:  Have you had a bit of a struggle living in Sydney?

WILLIAM:  Yeah, you can say I have been a struggle because previously I was   before living in social housing, living in a boarding house.  So, this boarding house was around at the inner west.  So, it's quite close to Newtown, but I didn't know of this service that existed in Newtown. 

MS EASTMAN:  How did you come to be living at the boarding house?

WILLIAM:  The boarding house was a place that   there's not really much rental properties as well as, yeah, I had trouble basically to find suitable accommodation and affordable accommodation in Sydney, as well as you want to be living independent, to look after yourself independently, not   try not to live with friends too much but they can help out. 

MS EASTMAN:  So with the   when you were living in the boarding house, how long did you live in the boarding house?

WILLIAM:  Boarding house, I first lived in the boarding house for a few years, more than two years in the same boarding house. That was in Leichhardt. The first boarding house was introduced by me by a friend who lived in the inner west of Sydney, and it was a boarding house that existed previously. It wasn't renovated quite recently, at that time. 

MS EASTMAN:  And when you were living at the boarding house, did you have a job? What were you doing? 

WILLIAM:  No, I wasn't working full time, in a full time capacity, but sometimes I had some jobs which were contract jobs, like in information technology, IT. That involved project work and that involved, let's say, putting out laptops, bagging laptops, as well as loading software onto the laptops. 

MS EASTMAN:  And before you were living in the boarding house, what were your circumstances before you found the boarding house?

WILLIAM:  In the circumstances before finding that boarding house, because it was a bit difficult to afford a place, as well as finding income to support myself, and that was really challenging bits of life that you felt that you couldn't   you had to give up a lot of stuff and you had to give up a place that you want to live, and there was some times that you had nobody to go to and no place to go to.  So, you can say that during, when I lived in the boarding house, and when I moved to another boarding house in the inner west, obviously, I was involved in, or attended appointments, appointments with a Disability Employment Services. 

MS EASTMAN:  You did? 

WILLIAM:  Yes. Yes. Yes.  So, that was at that phase in life that you attended appointments, that you felt that they could help you find a job, and you could basically be helped out in a humane way, not in a intimidating way or a wrongful way. But sometimes you felt there was a bit of change in what they do, in the sort of helping out. The DES providers were changing their location, people were moving about, and you felt you couldn't cope, basically. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, when the DES   when you were working with the DES providers  

WILLIAM:  DES provider. 

MS EASTMAN:    they would have been looking at your employment options, not the rest of your life?

WILLIAM:  They sort of   yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  What did they do?

WILLIAM:  They were sort of target driven, sort of. They wanted you into a sort of, a charity based job, a door to door charity based job. There wasn't that much support about it. You were going out by yourself. You didn't really talk to the employers that much, over the phone but not face to face. And the DES provider was just pushing that job over and over again. 

MS EASTMAN:  Was it a job you wanted to do?

WILLIAM:  No. No. No. 

MS EASTMAN:  Yeah. At that time, so what, if you were looking for a job with the DES provider –


MS EASTMAN:  - what supports did you need to find out the right job for you? 

WILLIAM:  Yeah. What support?

MS EASTMAN:  Did you need anything? 

WILLIAM:  Not really, but obviously it has to be sometimes in the interests of what you were doing.


WILLIAM: Like, in IT if it was charity work it was out of the scope, out of the interest of what you have done previously. 

MS EASTMAN:  Can I ask you about the attitudes towards people with disability?

WILLIAM:  Attitudes? 

MS EASTMAN:  Have you thought about that?

WILLIAM:  Maybe it's – given the that – let’s say in the second boarding house, they didn't really know if you were disabled or not. It would just   sort of more intimidating way. It felt that you were a bit targeted in terms of they were slipping notes under your door in the second boarding house. But in the first boarding house, they weren't doing that too much. And in terms of attitudes, I think that there wasn't any definition of what an attitude is to this disabled person or – or person who – who was seeing a counsellor or something like that. 

They - there's   there's no sort of   if   if there was a job provider that, say, you have to be on DES, he'd said, "You're fine, you're fine" but they still want to be   they still want to force you into DES because there's that sort of   sort of a force   like, a forced hand onto you. They want to keep you in that DES - DES provider, or something like that. They know you still   they write things about you. You have a health plan, but they can write things about you, about a health plan. But it's sort of   sort of, there's a half truth to it that you want to escape, but you can't, sort of like that, yeah. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, you don't have a DES provider at the moment?

WILLIAM:  No, I don't have a DES. I've escaped that DES back onto the normal mainstream providers. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. So back to the mainstream.

WILLIAM:  Yeah. 

MS EASTMAN:  Have you got any thoughts or ideas that you want to tell the Royal Commission that might make the lives of people with disability, particularly where they live and the type of housing available to them, what would make things better? 

WILLIAM:  Maybe it was a bit of a long, hard journey. You can say you had to go through a lot of processes that you have to go through. You have to get your doctor to fill out some information in regards your application to social housing. Maybe   

MS EASTMAN:  What would have made it easier for you? 

WILLIAM:  Easier. Maybe if there was some more jobs available for disabled people, maybe. But even that, they   there wasn't that much affordable housing or there's a limited amount of stock of affordable housing as well as paying that much for affordable housing, that you had to go into social housing. 

MS EASTMAN:  Now, is there anything else that you wanted to talk about today that I haven't asked you about, that you wanted to discuss with us? 

WILLIAM:  Yeah.  So, during the time in the second boarding house, the second boarding house had a caretaker. The caretaker took the rent as well as introducing the property, you know, to go - go inside the property with you to introduce the room, to – to - as well as to – to look after the entire boarding house, something like that.  So, a person actually knocked on the door a few times as well as slipping notes under the door, as well as sort of intimidating that were complaining about what you had inside the room. If the room smelt a bit, that was natural because it hasn't been rented out for a time being, and they said you have to clear this smell out. The smell was something that it could be done only if there was somebody living inside.  So, it's sort of intimidating as well as being half abusive in terms of how you were treating the people who lived. Maybe -

MS EASTMAN:  And what were you supposed to do?

WILLIAM:  It was targeted towards me. 


WILLIAM:  Maybe it was someone   

MS EASTMAN:  Did you do anything about that, like, you know, who did you go to talk to about that?

WILLIAM:  No, I couldn't talk to - you have to find out what's causing the problem. Eventually that you had to move out, basically. You had to move out, because you just couldn't take the sort of   the way that the caretaker was treating you as well as not treating other people fairly or unfairly. That's the thing. You sort of, you felt that you were unfairly targeted, basically. 

MS EASTMAN:  And is it   it's better now, isn't it   

WILLIAM:  Yeah, it's much better now with the housing, with the – the room size as well as you have your own facilities, yeah, yeah, laundry and whatever facilities, but by yourself. You don't have to share the place and you're not   you're not intimidated by that caretaker, basically. 

Video stopped

MS EASTMAN:  Commissioners, that's William who we met along the way, and he wanted to share with his story with you. So, thank you for the opportunity to share that and to listen to that. Could we adjourn maybe for 15 minutes?

CHAIR:  Yes. It's now 11.25. Shall we adjourn until 11.45? Thank you.



CHAIR:  Yes, Ms Eastman. 

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Commissioners. So, I welcome Ms Zoe Dendle, and Zoe Dendle is the Acting Executive Director of Housing Homelessness Disability New South Wales as part of the New South Wales Department of Communities and Justice. There's a copy of her statement in the Hearing Bundle which is part two, volume one, behind tab 16. And I think we've first got to do oaths or affirmations; is that right?

CHAIR:  Yes, thank you very much, Ms Dendle, for coming to the Royal Commission to give evidence. Thank you for your Statement, which we have and we have read all 46 pages of it. Just so you know where everybody is, Commissioner Galbally is on the screen. She is joining the hearing from Melbourne. Commissioner Ryan is on my left, and I'm the Chair of the Royal Commission. And if you'd be good enough to follow the instructions of my associate who is over there, he will administer the affirmation to you.



CHAIR:  Thank you very much. I'll now ask Ms Eastman to ask you some questions. 

MS EASTMAN:  Ms Dendle you've provided a Statement to the Royal Commission dated 5 August this year. 

ZOE DENDLE:  Mm hmm. 

MS EASTMAN:  I might need you to do a bit more than nod your head so we can hear you. 

ZOE DENDLE:  I have. 

MS EASTMAN:  There's been some corrections you wanted to make to the Statement. 

ZOE DENDLE:  There has. Thank you. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you provided us a supplementary document setting out those corrections. 

ZOE DENDLE:  We have. 

MS EASTMAN:  And there was one further correction, I think, to paragraph 29; is that right? Which came in   sorry, 26, that was brought to the Royal Commission's attention on Monday.  So, can I just deal with that correction.  So, Commissioners, it's page six, paragraph 26. It's the second line and it's the figure. So, we delete 16,281 and replace that with 11,022; is that right? 


MS EASTMAN:  Okay.  So, together with that correction and the corrections that you provided to us on 25 August, are the contents of the Statement true and correct? 

ZOE DENDLE:  They are. Thank you. 

MS FURNESS:     can I just indicate that paragraph 20 should also be amended in the same way as 26. It also states the 16,281 which should be 11,022. 

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Ms Furness. I only had the reference to paragraph 26. Right.  So, with just that correction to the numbers, the contents are true and correct? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  It's the case, isn't it, that this statement was prepared with some assistance across the Department and from other officers; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That is correct.  The Statement's reflective of both the Department and other New South Wales agencies. 

MS EASTMAN:  And though this is your Statement, some of the content, in terms of the technical aspects and the operational aspects, are not part of the areas that you have direct responsibility for; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That is correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And the Crown Solicitor offered to provide two additional people to give evidence with you as part of a panel.  Is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That is right. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you will tell me if there are areas in your Statement where you don't feel equipped to answer or it's not within your particular area of expertise or experience; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I will. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. Thank you. I want to start with the statement. You are the Acting Executive Director in the area of Housing, Homelessness and Disability and this is a position that you've held since 27 September 2021. And just to understand a little bit about your role and responsibilities, your current role requires you to lead the commissioning of housing, homelessness, disability and other related services, including policy settings, working with the Commonwealth and other state and territories, program design and implementation of systems stewardship. 

ZOE DENDLE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Can you tell me, does that mean that you work to the National Agreement?

ZOE DENDLE:  We do work to the overarching National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. 

MS EASTMAN:  Were you present when Ms Mitchell and Mr Flavel gave their evidence today?

ZOE DENDLE:  I was. 

MS EASTMAN:  I want you to look at paragraph eight of your statement. As I understand it, this takes it from your particular functions into what the Department's main focus is, working with the community and non government partners and other agencies. And you so you've identified there a number of different cohorts. Can I describe it that way? So, you're looking at improving outcomes for vulnerable children and young people, but people with disability is identified as a particular area. In terms of that area, what is the Department's main focus in working with community, non government partners, and other agencies to improve outcomes for people with disability? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So, there's a range of different aspects across the Department that works with people with disability.  So, with the transition of services to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Department's no longer delivering a service. 

MS EASTMAN:  I might just ask you to slow down, just so the interpreters can keep up with you, and also that I can make sure that I don't miss anything you tell me. Thanks. 

ZOE DENDLE:  So, the Department's no longer a delivery of service for people with disability. That transitioned to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, but we still have interfaces with the Commonwealth and other states and territories from a disability policy setting. We also work to principles of disability inclusion across all portfolios of the Department to ensure that people with a disability are captured across all programs. And in disability in the Housing Operations arm, there's also a focus there for people with disability for when Housing Operations staff are supporting clients. 

MS EASTMAN:  The Department no longer has any role in what might be described as being a case manager for a particular people with disability; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That is correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. Now, again, looking at your Statement, you provide some context before you answer some of the questions that the Royal Commission asked you and the Department to address. And under Context you say:

"The New South Wales Government's mainstream service delivery agencies are required to make their services accessible and to make reasonable adjustments to services where needed."

Now, what's the source of this? Does this come out of a policy? Is it a legislative requirement? What's the source of this statement? 

ZOE DENDLE:  It's a guiding principle that we work by in the Department. 

MS EASTMAN:  And what does it mean to say that the services must be accessible? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So, it's linking to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It's where all services, for the general population, should also be available for everybody on an equal basis. 

MS EASTMAN:  Right. And I don't think in your Statement there is any reference to the Convention on Persons with Disabilities so how does that Convention and the rights in the Convention apply to the work of the New South Wales Government mainstream service delivery agencies?

ZOE DENDLE:  So, all policies that are developed, all programs, or all products that are available for people are focused for people who are vulnerable and that encompasses people with disability. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, the Convention   you're familiar with the Convention at all? 


MS EASTMAN:  So, the Convention sets out a range of different rights in different areas. You're aware of that?


MS EASTMAN:  And some overarching principles. 

ZOE DENDLE:  The general themes.

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of looking at the particular sets of rights, does the New South Wales government have a process by which it takes a particular right in the CRPD and applies it to the development of policy or the making of laws? Do you know about that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Hard to comment on direct references necessarily to the Conventions in policies or documents. I'd need to take that on notice for specific reference in documents, but definitely there is the principle of disability inclusion. So, as a government department, we are required to have a Disability Inclusion Action Plan, so there is that principle that's applied. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, if there's a Disability Inclusion Access Plan, then that Plan has got to meet the rights set out in the CRPD?

ZOE DENDLE:  Again, I'm not sure if it's a direct reference to the Convention itself in the document, rather than the general themes and principles that the Convention stands for. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. The other one that you've got here is:

"To make reasonable adjustments to services where needed."

Now, the Statement does actually have a fair bit on reasonable adjustments. Now, if this is an area you're not familiar with, let me know. But if you can turn to page one8, paragraph 79 you tell us:

"The responsibility to provide reasonable adjustment arises under the Disability Discrimination Act and applies to all accommodation providers."

I just want to be clear, are you saying there that the obligation on reasonable adjustments only applies to accommodation providers? Or does this extend to New South Wales government as well? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So, this reference is specific into the question around housing and community infrastructure.  So, it has been answered in response to accommodation providers in this instance. 

MS EASTMAN:  And going to your Statement on context, where you refer to "making reasonable adjustments" does that word, or the expression "reasonable adjustments" have the meaning by reference to the Disability Discrimination Act or something else? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Not a direct link but, again, implied principles. 

MS EASTMAN:  Just perhaps while we're on this bit   and I know this is an area that colleagues have got particular expertise on, but I assume that you're familiar with the concept of reasonable adjustments?

ZOE DENDLE:  Right. 

MS EASTMAN:  And this is an example, isn't it, in terms of home modifications, to how reasonable adjustment might work in practice?

ZOE DENDLE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And the purpose of a reasonable adjustment is what, in your understanding? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So, my understanding is that a reasonable adjustment may come in the form of either a minor reasonable adjustment or modification or a major modification. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, would a reasonable adjustment be something that, for example, the Department or an accommodation provider would have to do if a person with disability required some change or some different way in which the services might need to be provided; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  It would.  So, my understanding is if it was minor reasonable adjustment, it would be the responsibility of the provider. So, in the instance of public housing, that would be the Land and Housing Corporation, or in the instance of community housing, if that aspect was owned by a community housing provider, it would be the responsibility of the community housing provider. 

MS EASTMAN:  In terms of the Land and Housing Corporation and its obligations, I think your statement says that:

"The Corporation meets the funding obligation to give effect to reasonable adjustments, not the Department."

Is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That is my understanding where it's a minor modification. If it's a major reasonable adjustment that's required, that is where the NDIS funding would come into effect. 

MS EASTMAN:  I want to ask you about the differences between minor and major, but just looking at this, I just want to look at paragraph eight0, so:

"It's the Corporation's responsibility to do the funding and the Department's role is to communicate with the tenants around their tenancy."

So, if I'm a person who is in housing, public housing, owned by the Corporation, and I need to have an adjustment to my housing arrangements, it would be the Department who would communicate with me as part of my tenancy about what adjustments I could ask for; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That's correct. So, the Land and Housing Corporation own the land, the asset, and the Department are the tenancy managers. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, in terms of sort of understanding how this idea of minor and modification   minor modifications and major modifications work, is it the Department's role to give information to the tenants about what is a minor modification and what might be something considered to be more substantial and a major modification? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That is my understanding, and that would be through the form of an occupational therapist assessment. 

MS EASTMAN:  And why do people need to have an occupational therapist assessment for either a minor or a major modification?

ZOE DENDLE:  So that is the requirement under the modifications, that there would need to be an allied health professional, so, in this instance, an occupation therapist, to assess what modifications would be required. 

MS EASTMAN:  But what's the reason for having an OT report or assessment?

ZOE DENDLE:  I would have to take that on notice because that is an operational consideration.

MS EASTMAN:  The Statement very helpfully sets out what might be a minor modification. So they can be things such as   and this is in the table, Commissioners, on page one9. They can be things like adjusting where the letterbox is, relocating the bin area, could be installing a doorbell or a button. It could be adjustments to the handles. It could be adjustments to kitchen cupboards. And I'm just taking a few examples, relocating power points, things like that. So, these   would you agree these seem to be sort of small modifications to what's already existing, either externally or internally in a dwelling; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That's my understanding. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. But you've still got to have an OT report to say, "I think I need the doorbell button to be a little bit lower or higher"? 

ZOE DENDLE:  As I understand it, I do believe that there are some circumstances where an occupational therapist report is not required when it's deemed a minor modification. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. In terms of an occupational therapist report, does the Corporation or the Department have an in house group of occupational therapists who can go and assist tenants with disability to identify what modifications need to be made? 

ZOE DENDLE:  We do. In acknowledgement of the need for more occupational therapists to assist with social housing applications and home modification applications, the Department invested $2 million in '21/22 and again this financial year for additional occupational therapists for DCJ housing staff to have access to assist with the home modification process. 

MS EASTMAN:  A relatively recent thing, to have the in house OT? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So in terms of the increase, that is my understanding that that came into effect last financial year in recommendation   in response to one of the recommendations in the Ombudsman's report. 

MS EASTMAN:  So minor modifications, they're the sorts of things we've just looked at. And in terms of meeting that cost, is there any policy about how much would be spent on a minor modification? Do you know that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I'm not aware of that. I'd need to take that on notice. 

MS EASTMAN:  Then there's also a category of major modifications, and they're described as highly tailored to individual requirements. And the statement   this is paragraph eight6   says:

"...that result in modifications beyond the reasonable adjustments responsibility of a social housing provider."

Now, I want to ask you about that. So, in terms of using the Disability Discrimination Act, a reasonable adjustment is any adjustment up to the point it imposes unjustifiable hardship on the person to make the adjustment. You're aware of that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Mm hmm. 

MS EASTMAN:  And are you aware of what the elements are that go into working out what an unjustifiable hardship is? 

ZOE DENDLE:  No, not in detail. 

MS EASTMAN:  Accept this proposition that unjustifiable hardships are not just limited to the cost of the adjustment. It can be a range of other factors as well. Are you aware of that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I would accept that. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of the minor modifications   and we just look at the examples in the table   you'd agree with me that none of the making of adjustments of that kind would impose an unjustifiable hardship on the State of New South Wales or the Land and Housing Corporation, would it? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So, the provider in this instance for public housing, the Land and Housing Corporation, would be funding these minor modifications. 

MS EASTMAN:  When we talk about major modifications, I'm not quite sure on what basis that you could say a major modification is beyond reasonable adjustment responsibilities of a social housing provider? Are you saying there that the very nature of a major modification would impose unjustifiable hardship on the social housing provider? 

ZOE DENDLE:  My   my understanding is that the major modification comes into effect as identified by the NDIA's reasonable and necessary definition. 

MS EASTMAN:  But somebody   assume there's somebody who is in social housing in New South Wales, and they have a disability but they're not an NDIS provider   NDIS participant. And they may need a modification to their house, say, if they've got a mobility disability in terms of perhaps widening the doorways or making adjustments to bathrooms, and they might need to be tailored to that person particularly. Are we right in understanding that the policy approach is that those sorts of adjustments would not be made? They cost too much? 

ZOE DENDLE:  No, that's not correct. Again, my understanding is that Land and Housing Corporation do assess on a case by basis major modifications where required for non NDIS participants. 

MS EASTMAN:  And that would be a New South Wales responsibility?

ZOE DENDLE:  That's my understanding. 

MS EASTMAN:  And is it the view that if the person is an NDIS participant, then the funding for any major modification should be with the NDIS funding arrangements in that particular person's plan; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That is my understanding. I will just say, though, that this part of the statement does fall under the remit of Land and Housing Corporation and our Housing Operations, so that there are some things I need to take on notice. 

MS EASTMAN:  I accept the limits on this, but I just   it's really to use this as an example on how you approach reasonable adjustments in services that are needed. 


MS EASTMAN:  So, would you agree with me that this seems to think about adjustments only through the perspective of how much it's going to cost? 

ZOE DENDLE:  From the home modifications perspective, around accommodation in this instance, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And has the   do you know if the Corporation or Government generally has put a ceiling on how much will be spent on making adjustments for people with disability in their dwellings? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Not that I'm aware of. I'd need to take that on notice. 

MS EASTMAN:  Now, there's also something that works with the Disability Discrimination Act called the Disability Access to Premises and Building Standards 2010. Are you familiar with that?

ZOE DENDLE:  No, not overly. 

MS EASTMAN:  Not really. That might be something your colleagues know about. Alright. So, when we asked you to provide a Statement, we did ask you some questions, just to get a sense of the prevalence of people with disability who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in New South Wales. So, you   we've done that by reference to people who might be applicants on the New South Wales Housing Register. So, if you want to have a look at your statement, this is back to paragraph 19 on page four. So, in terms of the New South Wales Housing Register, just tell me if my understanding is correct, that if somebody is seeking accommodation or a dwelling through social housing in New South Wales, they have to make an application? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Yes, in New South Wales, there is what's called a Housing Pathways application process for somebody to put in a housing application to go on the Social Housing Register. 

MS EASTMAN:  And there's a range of criteria that you have to satisfy or eligibility criteria that you have to satisfy. And, Commissioners, a copy of the eligibility criteria policy is behind tab 19, starting at page three in that bundle. I won't take you to that, Ms Dendle, just given time. But the Policy   would the Policy be the first place that somebody who might want to apply for housing should go to work out if they're eligible or not? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Yes, the housing policy would state the criteria. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of just assisting us, for people with disability, is the fact of having a disability enough to meet the eligibility criteria, or does it have to be something more? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So, predominantly, people with a disability would generally meet the criteria for the priority housing wait list. So, to meet the criteria for the prior to housing wait list, you meet the criteria for the general wait list, and then there's also an additional four criteria that you can meet. And, in most instances, people with a disability do meet the criteria of the existing accommodation is inappropriate for basic requirements. That's not to say that they wouldn't fit one of the other criteria. Often they would fit many of the four. But, in most instances, they always fit that criteria for the priority wait list. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. And then looking at the information that you've provided to the Royal Commission, is in terms of the number of applicants on the Housing Register at the present time there's almost 50,000 people; is that right? Or that's for the 2021 period. 

ZOE DENDLE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  We have asked you about how do you collect information that might identify a person living with disability, and you've told us that you do collect that information and about 22 percent of the people who are currently on the Housing Register identify as people with disability; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  As defined by the Disability Support Pension.

MS EASTMAN:  That was the next thing. So, the thing with that definition, is it's not just any type of disability, is it? It's that you define "disability" for the purposes of the register as:

"A person who is on the Disability Support Pension."

And that's the main source of income to the household head. So, would I be right in understanding you apply that approach to identifying disability, being on the DSP and being on the person who's the household head on the DSP, but that's not necessarily going to pick up everybody who may identify as a person with disability for the purposes of register; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That's correct. So, that picks up what we call the household head. There is also data collected on the number of people who may be in the household with disability, but that number is often quoted as a number "or more", and by "or more" that means there may be some people in the household that's not picked up by the Disability Support Pension, so if they're on the aged care pension, if they're a small child, for example. 

MS EASTMAN:  And for the 22 percent of people who you treat as people with a disability, all of those people identified as a priority   as priority applicants? 

ZOE DENDLE:  No, they're not. 

MS EASTMAN:  Why not? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I'd have to take that on notice. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of then some of the data that you've provided us for waiting lists, can I ask you about that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Mm hmm. 

MS EASTMAN:  Is the process that the waiting list may depend on   just tell me if I'm right on this   when you apply, so where you are in the queue, but it might also apply in a priority setting where you might go up the list and not be waiting in the queue; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Yes. So, it also depends on the availability of supply, location, accessibility and if it's suitable for the person on the wait list. So, you're correct in saying just hypothetically, if you're first on the priority wait list doesn't necessarily mean that you will get access to a property first. It is around the suitability for each individual. 

MS EASTMAN:  So a person can actually go online and say, "I live at Parramatta or I want to live at Parramatta, here's my particular circumstances." That location of living in Parramatta or that particular local government area, that might have a bearing on the housing stock available in that area, and if that's your preference to live in that area, that might depend on how long you were on the waiting list; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Absolutely. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. And so across New South Wales, there's going to be real differences in where people are seeking social housing; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Correct. There's differences across the State. 

MS EASTMAN:  Are you able to help us with some of the numbers that are provided in the statement? So this is page nine, paragraph 36. Because we asked you about some waiting times, and we've heard some people telling us that they've been on the housing list for a long time. And I don't know if you were following the evidence yesterday, but 'Claudia', who's a young person, said she thought she joined the housing list in 2016, for example, and she's now 25 but she's not sure where she is or what might happen to her. And I'm not asking you to talk about her circumstances. Or we heard from ‘Charlotte’ at the beginning of the hearing about dropping off the waiting list. So assume that there has to be something, doesn't there, that the person remains on the waiting list? Do they have to do something? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Not unless their circumstance changes and they wish to update their circumstance. 

MS EASTMAN:  So they have to identify if there might be some changes in what the accessibility might be, if they're an applicant with disability. Whether they need steps or they don't need steps or whatever it might be? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That's correct.  So, the suitability assessment is based on the original housing application, and if somebody does need to change what that information is, then that would be taken into consideration for where  

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. Looking at the tables here, so the median waiting time for newly housed in public housing is reported as two and a half months in 2019/2020 and two and a half months in 2020/2021. That seems to be quite quick, two and a half months. What is it about a person who would have that priority flag on the waiting list that would enable them, as a   I assume this is average across all the locations   to be housed within 2.2 months? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So, again, it would be around the availability of the supply in that area and also the suitability for the applicant. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. And you haven't got, I think, any further data to say, of the priority list of people with disability either coming out of homelessness or at risk of homelessness, whether, for that group, the priority would also be 2.2 months? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I can take that on notice to drill down to that data. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. So, priority might be that you're in relatively quickly, two and a half months, and I say "relatively quickly" because table four sets out the maximum waiting time for newly housed public housing. And for the period 2019 to 2020, that's 176.3 months. And that's now gone up in 2020 to 2021 as 180.8 months. So, my rough calculation is that's about 15 years. That's a long time. What's the reason why it is so long for somebody who has applied for housing? Can I ask you about that? Would these have been people who applied 15 years ago or are these people who are applying now and if you've applied at recent times, your expectation might be that you'll have to wait for 15 years? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So, again, it comes down to the availability of supply and the suitability. So, suitability of public   social housing, community housing has really changed in previous years as well. So, a lot of your older   older housing accommodation might look like   is more your three to four bedroom home where people are now maybe looking for a one to two bedroom, for example. So, predominantly on the waiting list, there is people who are wanting a different type of accommodation than some of the older housing stock enables. So, that's one of the factors. And then it also comes down to supply in geography and suitability for the applicant. 

MS EASTMAN:  We heard yesterday about reasonable offers, and Ms Moorhouse spoke about her experiences. I'm not asking you to comment on her case specifically, but she talked about two reasonable offers. And you've included in the material for the Royal Commission   Commissioners, this is behind tab 20   a policy called Matching and Offering a Property to a Client Policy. Is that something you're familiar with? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That is an operational document. 

MS EASTMAN:  And that says:

"Generally a client will receive up to two reasonable offers of housing from their preferred social housing provider. This means that where a client selects public housing and community housing as their preferred provider, they may receive offers from the Department and any community housing providers participating."

So, that's a way   that's where the two offers come from; is that right? So, if a person has two offers and they have rejected both offers, what happens to them.

ZOE DENDLE:  My understanding is that the two offers are made on the original housing application, so it can be that if the person needs to update their circumstance and details, that that can be done. And I also understand that there is a process where somebody can put in an appeal if they feel that their offer has been rejected on unfair grounds. 

MS EASTMAN:  I take it that this is not a policy that you're responsible for, or it is? 

ZOE DENDLE:  No, this sits as an operational matter. 

MS EASTMAN:  And when   we've looked at the Policy. There's nothing in there that speaks to the experience of people with disability and whether or not the   a reason for rejecting an offer might be that it's just not accessible to suit disability? 

MS FURNESS:     on the basis that it does do that in terms of the reasonable offer on page one and the third dot point, accessibility. 

MS EASTMAN:  Getting to that. So the Policy does not   let me put it this way. The Policy does not provide that, for people with disability, that the two reasonable offers are not relevant to people with disability? So, people with disability are treated in the group for whom two reasonable offers might be made. If they reject the reasonable offers, as you say, they have appeal processes, but there's nothing specific for people with disability in relation to the number of offers? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Again, my understanding is that the offers are made based on the housing applications individual needs, so that would include accessibility. So, an offer should only be deemed as reasonable if it took into consideration the accessibility requirements for that individual or household. 

MS EASTMAN:  And one of the   again, if you don't know this, tell me. In the Policy, there's a range of references to legislation and compliance, and one includes the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act and the other includes the Disability Discrimination Act. You're aware of that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I'm not familiar with the Policy that you're referring to   . 

MS EASTMAN:  And this Policy doesn't have any process for making reasonable adjustments or explain how reasonable adjustments under the Disability Discrimination Act works. Are you aware of that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I was not. 

MS EASTMAN:  Now, I want to ask you about the New South Wales Strategy. It's the New South Wales Homelessness Strategy, 2018 to 2023. Is this a policy you're aware of. 


MS EASTMAN:  So, this is in your area? Is this Homelessness Strategy a policy developed to meet the National Homeless and Housing Strategy that I was asking Mr Flavel about this morning? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So, it's   as mentioned in the DSS session earlier today, there are some requirements under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement for states and territories to have strategies but there's nothing that's sort of mandated as such within those strategies. So, we've developed a New South Wales Homelessness Strategy 2018 to 2023 which based on the dates as you'd be aware, will be coming to a close June next year. So, we'll actually be going out for consultation early 2023 to look at the next iteration of that Strategy. 

MS EASTMAN:  Were you involved in the development of this Strategy?

ZOE DENDLE:  I was not. That was before my time. 

MS EASTMAN:  But it's part of your responsibilities now in terms of actions on the Strategy? Alright. So, I've looked at the Strategy, and I'm going to put these general propositions to you:  that the Strategy itself does not identify people with disability as a separate cohort. Do you agree with that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So the Strategy itself is for people with core vulnerabilities which encompasses people with disability, and throughout the document there are references to people with a disability, people with mental health, people with mental illness. 

MS EASTMAN:  So if you've got that   if you've got the Strategy   and Commissioners if you have it, on page nine, so this is behind tab 20 in the volume. There's a heading called Disability but it says:

"The National Disability Insurance Scheme, NDIS, provides all Australians under the age of 65 who have permanent and significant disability with the reasonable and necessary supports that they need to enjoy an ordinary life. The NDIS provides an unprecedented opportunity for people with disability to live more independently in the housing of choice, and the services though need."

So, that's it on a description of disability. So, you're aware, aren't you, that not all people with disability are NDIS participants? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That's correct. And I'll also just reference that when the Strategy was developed, it was sort of pre NDIS, so we've obviously   lot of lessons learned since the NDIS has come into effect and absolutely correct that the NDIS doesn't take into account all people with disability. So, the next iteration of the Homelessness Strategy will absolutely be more reflective of that. 

MS EASTMAN:  Because one of the aspects of this Policy was to assist New South Wales to understand the prevalence and the impact of homelessness; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  So that's set out in page nine and following. There's not a separate heading for disabilities in relation to those issues. But on page 10, there is a reference to people with mental health issues? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That's correct. So, there's the reference on page 10. There's also further reference on page one4. 

MS EASTMAN:  There's one on page 10 also to people experiencing chronic homelessness and sleeping rough. So, there's a reference to a person who has disability support needs? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Mm hmm. 

MS EASTMAN:  There's also a reference in regional and rural areas, have access to disability services   could be constrained in those areas. So, I think it's fair to say that, isn't it, that there is a few references to disability throughout the document but there isn't actually a definition of disability used in this document; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That would be correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  If we go to the glossary at the end, there's no definition or description of what "disability" means for the purposes of this Strategy. Do you agree with that? 


MS EASTMAN:  One of the difficulties, of course, that if you don't have clear definition of, say, "disability", that it's pretty hard to work out how this Policy is actually going to apply with people with disability. It can have shades of meaning, can't they? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Correct. We obviously refer to people with vulnerabilities which encompasses people with disability, which can come in many forms:   Physical, mental health, mental illness. So, it can be used interchangeably when we refer in the Strategy to people with mental health. 

MS EASTMAN:  So some people with disability might say, "having a disability doesn't make me vulnerable but the circumstances in which I find myself create that vulnerability and that being aware of disability is important to understand when and how the context might render somebody vulnerable."  You agree with that? 


MS EASTMAN:  And this Policy also has a couple of focus areas. One's prevention and early intervention, and looking at that approach, there's no discussion of disability in terms of prevention and early intervention, looking at those areas. You're aware of that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Again, because the Strategy's focused on people who are vulnerable, which encompasses people with disabilities. 

MS EASTMAN:  And, again, if we went through this, one of the focus areas is focus area three. An integrated person centred service stream. That's on page 25. And that does identify four percent of people reported having a disability in the cohort of people who access the Specialist Homeless Services. Do you see that? 


MS EASTMAN:  So, would you agree that there was clearly some evidence in the preparation of this policy that there were housing needs for people with disability who were experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. Would you accept that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I would. And I understand that as part of the consultation process for the Strategy, it included people with lived experience and also some disability peak bodies. 

MS EASTMAN:  And this Strategy has been reviewed by the New South Wales Auditor-General; is that right? 


MS EASTMAN:  And you've provided a copy of the Auditor-General's report dated 4 June. And, Commissioners, you'll find that behind tab 22. Ms Dendle, has the work done by the Auditor-General been a factor that has been taken into account in any plans to develop a new and revised strategy? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Absolutely. So, as I mentioned, we'll be going out for consultation for the next iteration of the Homelessness Strategy in early 2023, and it will take into consideration a number of things. So, evaluations from some of the current early intervention and prevention initiatives funded under the Strategy, recommendations and findings from the audit report, recommendations from the Commission. So, we'll absolutely be taking all of those things into consideration. 

MS EASTMAN:  And I think you've very kindly and very timely provided us a report from the New South Wales Ombudsman which looks at modifying public housing properties to meet the needs of tenants with disability, and this was a process identified through complaints to the Ombudsman. Are you familiar with that document? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I'm familiar with the document but the accountability for   the recommendation does sit the Land and Housing Corporation and the Operations arm of the Department. 

MS EASTMAN:  Well, some of the recommendations, you'd agree, from the Ombudsman's report would touch on some broader general policy as well. You agree with that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Yes, I do. 

MS EASTMAN:  And some of the issues are around delay, poor communication, inadequate complaint handling processes? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Mm hmm. 

MS EASTMAN:  Those would be all things that would be in the department's interest; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That's right. 

MS EASTMAN:  And the Ombudsman made a number of recommendations in his report. Are you familiar with those recommendations? 


MS EASTMAN:  If you want to have a look at them, they're at page 50.

ZOE DENDLE:  My    might   sorry, I'm just finding the tab.

MS EASTMAN:  The Ombudsman's report is behind tab 27. So page 50 in that report. I don't want to ask you about any particular recommendation in any detail but I want to put this proposition to you:  that many of these recommendations go to the manner in which a person is treated with their engagement with the social housing system. Would you agree with that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Yes, I would. 

MS EASTMAN:  And Ms Moorhouse raised yesterday this sort of sense of having to engage with the system, or the application process. So she said some people are lovely but some people she engaged with, she just had this feeling that   I think she said she felt like she was treated like a criminal. But in terms of a person centred approach, which I know you've talked about, how do you ensure that anybody engaging with a person with disability through these systems or processes is equipped to understand experiences of people with disability and also have effective communication with people with disability? Is there anything that the Department does, and bearing in mind these recommendations could do better? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So there is training for Departmental Housing staff in supporting with a disability, so there is internal training and resources. There's a support resource page on the internal departmental website that's available for staff. Obviously noting it's not just departmental staff that support people with a disability. It's also our funding providers that the Department funds community housing providers and Specialist Homelessness Services, for example, to work with our vulnerable cohorts, including people with a disability. And an example of resource there, it's available for Specialist Homelessness Services is what's called Practice Guidelines for Specialist Homelessness Services and there's a module in that for working with people with a disability and interfaces with the NDIS. 

MS EASTMAN:  Does the Department keep any data of the number of people who have undertaken any training modules? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I can definitely take that on notice. From a learning and development perspective, there should be data available. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. So, a little bit earlier we talked about the role of the NDIS. And from a New South Wales perspective, how does New South Wales approach the distinction between what's NDIS's responsibility and what's New South Wales' responsibility? We've talked about that a little earlier in the context of making major modifications to somebody's dwelling, but, generally, is there a particular policy setting that sets out the   what's NDIS and what's New South Wales? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Not familiar with one cover all document. So I'd have to take that on notice but there's a range of information available. So, there's the APTOS that has principles included, and then I think there's a range of different ways that the Department works with the NDIA for people who have NDIS support plans. So, a few examples is New South Wales do contribute funding for Specialist Disability Accommodation and Supported Independent Living. For people who may be accessing Specialist Homelessness Services or properties managed by community housing providers, workers would work closely with Local Area Coordinators or the NDIS support worker for somebody if they're on an NDIS plan and living in a refuge, for example, or a property managed by community housing providers. The Department also has a team that's dedicated to working with the NDIA for children in out of home care, so there's a lot of different touch points for the NDIA. 

MS EASTMAN:  If someone slips between the cracks, do you see the New South Wales Department being the place of last resort? 

ZOE DENDLE:  The   also the intention of the   the NDIS in its establishment was that the Department wouldn't be a provider of last resorts. 

MS EASTMAN:  The Department would be? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Wouldn't. 

MS EASTMAN:  Would not be. 


MS EASTMAN:  So the expectation is   and when I say "last resort" let's take somebody, for example, who is homeless or is right on that precipice of becoming homeless. If New South Wales and the Department are not the last resort, then who is? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Yeah. I think it's probably important to remember as well that the department   because we don't provide a service delivery for people with disabilities. So that A T   what was formal ATAC that would provide case management no longer exists with the transition to the NDIS but we do fund NGOs, so, again, Specialist Homelessness Services are an example. So they absolutely   they operate a no wrong door principle, so if anyone approaches a service for support, they are supported into accommodation or case management or whatever support's required or referred on to find that support. So, absolutely that would apply. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. So, I want to ask you a few more questions on this topic but perhaps draw your attention to the questions we asked you for question 21. This is page three4 of the statement. And this is about DCJ working closely with the NDIA to plan and coordinate streamline services. Do you remember that question? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Yes. Page three4, I've got that. 

MS EASTMAN:  And paragraph 179 is part of the discussion around a task force, a tasking group; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. So, are we right in understanding that there's a couple of steps in this. First, that the Disability Reform Ministers have prioritised work to improve the supply of affordable and appropriate mainstream housing, and NDIS funded accommodation for people with disability? Is that right? That's paragraph 176. Okay. And is it right to understand that step of giving effect to the priority of mainstream housing, but also NDIS funded accommodation is the process that's then described at paragraph 177 and following? So that's what started in February 2021 with the meeting of the deputy department heads; is that right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That's correct, and particularly with the new Federal Minister, Minister Shorten coming into the role, housing is high on his agenda. So it's absolutely a focus of the discussions when the Disability Ministers from states and territories meet and the interfaces that it has with Housing will affect it. Paragraph 179, New South Wales has been tasked with leading what is called ‘Tasking Group 2’ so there's just a number of outcomes based work that's been focused on tasking groups, and one of the items under Tasking Group 2, which is looking at mainstream interfaces, is looking at accessible and affordable housing for people with a disability, whether it be in social and affordable housing or in SDA. In terms of where that work is up to, the group met recently and will be commissioning a body to look at, in the first instance, some good data on supply and demand and need for people with a disability and housing. 

MS EASTMAN:  Has any of the work of the tasking groups been published or is publicly available? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I will need to take that on notice. 

MS EASTMAN:  And, in particular, I'd be interested if the tasking group's proposed project plan for housing that's currently being worked through with all jurisdictions and the Commonwealth is a document that's been publicly available? Do you know that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I don't think it's been publicly available, but I will take it on notice to see if we can share it with the Commission. 

MS EASTMAN:  And has the Tasking Group 2, which is the New South Wales one, had the involvement of people with disability as part of that consultation working group? 

ZOE DENDLE:  My understanding as part of the project plan absolutely is the intention. So, the work for Tasking Group 2 is very much in its early iteration. So, although the whole program of work came from the deputy department heads meeting in February '21, the work under Tasking Group 2 is more recent. And there's been one, maybe two meetings to date to progress that work and there will be a whole lot of sub working groups across agencies to keep that driving. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. So, I'm going to ask the Commissioners   they may have some questions. So, my final topic is   and I'm not going to ask you about the detail of the National Construction Code or building code standards. I assume that's not your area. 

ZOE DENDLE:  It's not. 

MS EASTMAN:  But you're aware, aren't you, that New South Wales is not signing up to the national code?


MS EASTMAN:  Will that have any bearing in terms of the work you do in developing policy around housing, and also the experiences of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So although New South Wales hasn't signed up to the National Construction Code to mandate silver standards, overwhelmingly, a large proportion of new builds in New South Wales do adhere to silver standards. So, obviously, we believe in the principle of accessibility for everyone. So, Land and Housing Corporation, as I understand it, there's a regulation guideline. I'd have to take on notice the name of the actual document, but it's from 2020 and within that it states that all of their new builds need to be silver standard. Within the Department we have some programs that we fund. One is called the Social and Affordable Housing Fund. And another is the Community Housing Innovation Fund. That fund goes to community housing providers and, again, an overwhelmingly large proportion of their new builds are silver standard. 

MS EASTMAN:  I don't know if this is your area either but there's a document you've provided us called Housing 2041. Are you familiar with that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I'm familiar with it but it's a Department of Planning document. 

MS EASTMAN:  And is this a vision for housing for New South Wales into the next 20 years or so? 

ZOE DENDLE:  It is. So, it's the overarching 20 year vision for housing for the next 20 years. It sets out again some high level principles, and then there will be a range of work that will flow under that. So we currently have in New South Wales the Future Directions Strategy which is also coming to an end next year and we're looking at the next iteration of what the Future Directions Social and Affordable Housing Strategy will look like. But Housing 2041 is essentially the overarching principle. 

MS EASTMAN:  And that makes reference to universal design and the importance of ensuring that all construction, particularly with social and community housing, is built in a way that is accessible for people with disability and also older people; right? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Now, yesterday, we had a panel. I don't know if you followed the panel. 

ZOE DENDLE:  I did. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you're probably very familiar and may work with some of the members of the panel, but their message was that solving housing might be complex but it's not impossible. And in terms of a New South Wales approach, what would it take to solve or at the very least improve the housing circumstances for people with disability who are homeless or at the risk of homelessness? What's your view about what needs to be done? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So in terms of current investment in New South Wales, so this financial year, the Stronger Communities Cluster, in which the Department of Community and Justice sits, is investing $1.2 billion in housing and homelessness initiatives. In addition to that, there's the housing package with the Department of Planning which is 2.8 billion for this financial year that's looking at accelerating new supply First Home Ownership Grants, etcetera. So, there's definitely the acknowledgement   and of the increased need for social and affordable housing. I think the supply constraints is no surprises to anyone, and I think particularly with the last few years, with the extra pressure points from the pandemic and natural disasters as well, that has also meant that there has been additional investment in the housing and homelessness sector. 

One of the things that the panel mentioned yesterday was the principles of Housing First, so that essentially is whereby somebody would have access to rapid housing and then wraparound support were put in place, and in New South Wales we've got some good examples of that in place. One of which is what we've   is called the Together Home Program and that came out in response to the pandemic to support rough sleepers into accommodation with wraparound supports. And the reason I mention this is I think it's a good example of how government can work alongside the sector   state government works alongside the sector and also the NDIA to support people with a disability. So, there are packages as part of that program which are called high needs packages, and currently 40 percent of people accessing those are people with a disability. 

MS EASTMAN:  So you   I mean, the Together Home Program set out in the statement, Commissioners, at paragraph 126 and following, and I think the Auditor-General comments on some aspects of that in her report as well. I suppose the question might be if it was possible for New South Wales to respond in a public health emergency to support people who were homeless, but also to help people who may have been on the risk of homelessness, to stay in their accommodation, then it can be done quickly, can't it? That might be put   

ZOE DENDLE:  With additional investment, there's always the opportunity to do more. 

MS EASTMAN:  Right. Thank you.  The Commissioners may have some questions for you.

CHAIR:  Yes. Thank you. I'll ask Commissioner Galbally whether she has some questions for you. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Thank you. I'd like to ask you about the Australian Disability Strategy and the outcome area   areas and the key system measures. So, one of them is average wait times for social housing for people with disability. And, you know, just wondering about your progress? Do you have a strategy on that topic as a signatory to the Strategy? Do you have a timeline on that? Do you have the baseline well on the way to being collected? So I'm interested in that one. There's another one which is the number of social housing dwellings that meet livable housing standards. And that's not just new builds. That would include refurbishment of old builds, not as reasonable adjustment, but as universal access. And I'd like to know your progress, your plan, your strategy plan, your progress and, you know, the future of those two outcome areas from the ADS? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Thanks, Commissioner. To your first question around the Australian Disability Strategy and the progress on the outcome, I'll need to take that on notice. I'm not sure in terms of the tracking and reporting of that from a state level, but work that is directly linked for the Australian Disability Strategy is the work that I mentioned earlier around Tasking Group 2 and the work that we're doing in New South Wales leading to look at housing for people with disability. So that is directly linked to the housing outcome that's referenced in the Australian Disability Strategy. To your second question around liveability standards for existing properties, again, I'll need to take that on notice, just because the maintenance of properties does sit under the remit of Land and Housing Corporation. So, I will need to take that on notice. 


CHAIR:  Commissioner Ryan. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Ms Dendle, just a thing of clarification. Do you remember back in your statement and when you were speaking with Counsel Assisting, there was discussion about what constituted a major and a minor adjustment. 

ZOE DENDLE:  Mm hmm. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  And there seems to be almost a working rule within the New South Wales government that if it's a minor adjustment, it's their responsibility to pay for it, and if it's a major adjustment and the person is a participant in the NDIS, they're referred to the NDIS to get some sort of adjustment. What I was wondering is, have you   if that seems to be pretty much a working rule, is there a working arrangement been established between the New South Wales government and the NDIA so that an individual seeking an adjustment isn't sort of working between a jungle of bureaucracy of sort of working out, for example, of having to go to you, be refused, go to the NDIS, they might refuse them, and then they're in a rock and a hard place. Have you been able to establish a working relationship where there's an understanding that a person refused by you because it's a major work will be picked up almost automatically by the NDIS?

ZOE DENDLE:  Thank you, Commissioner. So my understanding is that the work occurs at a local level between the DCJ Housing Operations and the local NDIS relevant officers but I will need to take that on notice because it is a matter for our Operations arm.

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Do you think it would be a good idea so that people don't have to go to a wrong door to establish that as a working relationship and publish that? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Yes. So, my understanding is that those relationships do exist. I just can't talk to the exact mechanics of it. I need to take it on notice in terms of articulating what that looks like. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Thinking of the Ombudsman's report, based on complaints about seeking home modifications, there's some discussion about whether or not people need OT reports. Does it not seem reasonable to you that if a person fronts up to the Department of Housing and wants some sort of modification that would be pretty much solved by compliance with the National Construction Code   for example, a person in a wheelchair seeking to remove the hob from a shower or the shower screen   why on earth do they need an OT report to do something that is, you know, frankly bleeding obvious? Is there really a need for people to have   I mean, I think this does bug people, that they have to constantly prove their disability over and over again and get paperwork for things that do appear to be bleedingly obvious. If I have a wheelchair, it's pretty obvious I'm going to need lower kitchen benches at least somewhere in the kitchen. I probably want a doorbell that's in a spot where I can use it, etcetera. 

ZOE DENDLE:  Again, my understanding is that there are exceptions for some minor modifications where an OT assessment isn't required, and in response to the Ombudsman's recommendations there was a taskforce that was established between LAHC and the Department to drive those recommendations. And, as I understand it, all are in trail or have been actioned and I can take it on notice to get an update on those actions. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Is there any chance of there being some guidelines that are published to the public so that people with disability would understand that these are circumstances in which I don't need an OT report because there's already a previous agreement between the Commonwealth and the state that a person with a wheelchair doesn't need to continually prove that they need access   an accessible house. 

ZOE DENDLE:  Yes, I can absolutely take that on notice. There may be such a document that already exists that's been developed by the Operations division. I can take that on notice. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Can I take you to a part of your statement that   I think it's paragraph 226 where you talk about the regulation of boarding houses in New South Wales. And I couldn't help but notice that the number of visits and inspections being conducted to boarding house premises by the Department of Communities and Justice has declined by a factor of 45 percent over the last three years. Is there some explanation for that? And the reason why I ask is you would be aware that the Act itself was being reviewed, and among the proposals being considered in the review was pretty much handing over the responsibility for regulation of boarding houses to the NDIS, since most of the people involved were NDIS providers. Is there some evidence that the Department is losing steam and interest in supervises boarding houses because they're anticipating some future policy where it will be handed ore over? 

ZOE DENDLE:  So the reduction over those two years is reflective of the pandemic and also taking into consideration lockdown periods so there were some times when visits weren't able to be made due to COVID safe principles.

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Have they resumed? You wouldn't still be operating under pandemic situations now. Could you perhaps give us some information on notice that would suggest to us that they are now back at something that was similar to 2019? 

ZOE DENDLE:  Absolutely.  So, yes, I can confirm that the visits are back, operating still in COVID safe ways. But the reduction in that data over that period is reflective of COVID and predominantly the two lockdown periods in those two financial years. But I can get some up to date data for   to date this financial year for you. 


CHAIR:  What is it about the training or the expertise of an occupational therapist that makes them uniquely qualified to make these assessments as to whether adjustments are necessary? 

ZOE DENDLE:  My understanding, based on the Allied Health requirements of an occupational therapist, is that they work around fine and gross motor skills. So, accessibility for somebody within a house, which is why it falls within the remit of an occupational therapist.

CHAIR:  And they're the only discipline that can make this assessment. Is that the view that is taken? 

ZOE DENDLE:  That is my understanding.

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Do you know the approximate cost of an OT assessment of a major modification for someone?

ZOE DENDLE:  I'd need to take that on notice. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  It would be some thousands of dollars, sometimes, wouldn't it?

ZOE DENDLE:  I would need to take that on notice, again. Unfortunately, the panel that we requested had my colleagues from Land and Housing Corporation and Operations for which the home modifications sat.

CHAIR:  One reason for my question, apart from the issues that have been raised as to whether an assessment is truly required in all cases, is I think we heard some evidence that there are not sufficient OTs available. And if there are insufficient OTs available, I just wonder whether, in this broad wide land, there mightn't be some other people who might be able to do the job. Perhaps at a lesser cost. 

ZOE DENDLE:  Yes. So one of the strategies in response to access to OTs was the funding I mentioned earlier where the Department has invested the additional $2 million last financial year and this financial year.

CHAIR:  Yes. I understand that. That's an attempt to overcome the shortage of OTs, but my question is really directed as to whether it's a question of shortage of OTs or whether there's an artificial division of responsibility between OTs and everybody else, with OTs being given a monopoly on this kind of assessment. I've got nothing against OTs, I should say. It's just puzzling to me, that's all. This may be something you want to take on notice, but let me put a hypothetical to you. Somebody who's in the NDIS, they're living in public housing. They're   they don't need at a particular time to use a wheelchair, but their condition deteriorates and they do need a wheelchair, and that means that there's a difficulty because the doorways aren't wide enough. What does that person do as a matter of practice, and as far as you're concerned, to get the doorways widened? What does the person have to do? 

ZOE DENDLE:  I will take this on notice so I can get the correct information for you as to what the process would look like.

CHAIR:  I'm just wondering why, in that situation, it wouldn't be a reasonable adjustment within the meaning of the Disability Discrimination Act for the state authority, the Corporation, to bear responsibility for widening the doorways, as distinct from putting it to the NDIS. But you might like to take that on notice and let us know what the practicalities are. 

ZOE DENDLE:  Alright. Thank you.

CHAIR:  Well, then, thank you very much. Is there anything that any Counsel wishes to raise with Ms Dendle? No? 


CHAIR:  Alright. Very good. Thank you very much for your attendance today, and for the statement. If you'd be good enough to take the matters on notice, I'm sure that counsel will arrange for a timetable for that to be done in due course. 

ZOE DENDLE:  Thank you for the opportunity.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much. 

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Ms Dendle.


MS EASTMAN:  Could we adjourn until 2 o'clock, please?

CHAIR:  Yes. It's now nearly 1 o'clock. We'll adjourn till 2 and resume at that time. Thanks. 



CHAIR:  Ms Dowsett.

MS DOWSETT:  Thank you, Chair. This afternoon we'll be hearing from Ms Lisa Short, who is the State Manager, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory from the National Disability Insurance Agency.

CHAIR:  Ms Short, thank you very much for coming to the Royal Commission and for your very detailed statement, which we have all read. If you would be good enough to follow the instructions of my associate who is over there, he will administer to you either the oath or the   the affirmation. 



CHAIR:  Thank you, Ms Short. I'll just indicate where Commissioners are. On the screen, you can see Commissioner Galbally, who is joining the hearing from Melbourne. Commissioner Ryan is on my left. I'm the Chair of the Royal Commission, and Ms Dowsett is going to ask you some questions. 

MS DOWSETT:  Thank you, Chair. Ms Short, you prepared a statement for the Royal Commission, as the Chair has indicated, and that's the statement dated 3 August 2022. And, Commissioners, that's at tab   Bundle A2, tab 13. There was also a corrigendum dated 28 August 2022 in which you corrected the statistics in some of the paragraphs of your statement. 

LISA SHORT:  That's correct. 

MS DOWSETT:  And that's at tab 13A. With those corrections, are the contents of your statement true and correct? 


MS DOWSETT:  Thank you. Now, you are, as I said in introduction, the State Manager for New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory for the NDIA. 

LISA SHORT:  That's correct. 

MS DOWSETT:  And you indicate at paragraph 9 of your statement the responsibilities of your role, and they include managing and leading the functional areas within the operation and implementation of the NDIS for New South Wales and the ACT. 


MS DOWSETT:  Coordinating and driving service delivery from a quality or participant experience and a productivity perspective? 


MS DOWSETT:  And delivery of quality planning outcomes in accordance with relevant timelines and quality standards? 


MS DOWSETT:  And working across New South Wales and the ACT to plan and deliver NDIA systems and processes that protect the integrity of the participant experience and ensure participants and their carers are provided with consistent, high quality experience from access through to plan reviews? 

LISA SHORT:  That's correct. 

MS DOWSETT:  So if we could summarise all of that, you're operations? 

LISA SHORT:  I'm operations. 

MS DOWSETT:  Thank you. Now, you did, in your statement, provide with us some statistics, and I'd like to direct your attention, if I could, to paragraph 29 of your statement. 


MS DOWSETT:  So I'm going to be looking here at paragraphs 29 and 30, and the concepts of, or definitions of "homelessness" and "risk of homelessness" from the NDIA perspective. We see from paragraph 29 that you talk about people who self report homelessness. 

LISA SHORT:  That's correct. 

MS DOWSETT:  And that self report comes from the short form questionnaire. 


MS DOWSETT:  And you've given us in paragraph 25 of your statement the options that exist in the short form questionnaire for participants aged 15 and over? 

LISA SHORT:  That's correct. 

MS DOWSETT:  Are we correct to understand that the numbers you've given us in paragraph 29 are only those people who have answered option K, "temporary shelter (homelessness)"? 

LISA SHORT:  29. No, I believe it's short term crisis, temporary shelter and supported accommodation and boarding house/hostel. 

MS DOWSETT:  What, then, is "risk of homelessness" defined for the NDIA's perspective? 

LISA SHORT:  So they would all be counted as risk of homelessness, people in that type of accommodation:  Short term crisis, shelter. Hang on, I'm sorry, you're correct. You were correct. Yes, short term crisis or temporary shelter would be homeless, and then the other supported accommodation and boarding house or private hotel or hostel could be indicators of risk of homelessness. 

MS DOWSETT:  So, I just direct your attention to paragraph 30 where you've set out A is the statistics for hostel, B is for boarding house or hotel and C is short term crisis. 


MS DOWSETT:  Does that mean   because in 30, aren't you talking about people, participants who are at risk of homelessness? 


MS DOWSETT:  So short term crisis is risk, isn't it? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes. Sorry, risk. 

MS DOWSETT:  Does the NDIA have a definition of homelessness that informs that category in the short form questionnaire? 

LISA SHORT:  Not a definition as such, no. 

MS DOWSETT:  So it's just for people to tell you? 


MS DOWSETT:  You were following the evidence this morning from the Department? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, I was. 

MS DOWSETT:  And you would have heard Ms Mitchell say that if a person is at risk of homelessness and they're an NDIS participant, then the NDIS works with them closely and provides them with interim accommodation, and there are a number of actions that the NDIA can take to stop someone falling into homelessness. So, I just want to break that down. Does the NDIS provide interim accommodation to someone who is homeless? 

LISA SHORT:  We can, on a case by case basis. So participants who present as homeless, if they become homeless or at risk of homelessness because of their disability, we can provide them with short term accommodation. We can also then put funds into a participant's plan for a specialist support coordinator. And their role to be to engage the participant with mainstream housing and homelessness services to identify a longer term option for that participant. 

MS DOWSETT:  So, when you've said that if they become homeless because of their disability, how does the NDIA assess whether that is the reason they've become homeless? 

LISA SHORT:  Well, for an example, if you perhaps have a person that perhaps has an intellectual disability, and may be autistic, may be displaying behaviours of concern in the home, making the family members feel unsafe, they may decide that it's time that the person, or the participant lives independently from the family, and that would be a direct result of their disability. 

MS DOWSETT:  Right. You've provided us with a document called The Escalation and Prioritisation Matrix. Commissioners, that's in volume 2 at A15. And that matrix has a risk category that's "instability of accommodation arrangements of a person". 


MS DOWSETT:  And at each of the levels of escalation and prioritisation, it includes the words:

"And the NDIA has a role in working with the state services to rectify."

So to rectify the instability. 


MS DOWSETT:  Or the risk of homelessness. 


MS DOWSETT:  How do you work out when the NDIA has a role to play? 

LISA SHORT:  So, the NDIA has a role to play to prevent homelessness for our participants by ensuring they have adequate supports in their plan that will assist them to maintain a tenancy, to build a capacity to do things like pay their rent on time, keep their properties clean. So, that's our role in prevention of homelessness, is putting in those capacity building supports for our participants to prevent them from losing their tenancy or being evicted. 

MS DOWSETT:  And from a participant's perspective, what does that look like? How does the support get into the plan? 

LISA SHORT:  So, a range of ways that the   if in the pre planning meeting those types of accommodations were identified, if a participant identified that they were in short term crisis accommodation, that would trigger the planner to have a deeper conversation about them   with the participant about their situation, and then ensure that there's adequate plans in the funds that are appropriate to assist the participant to navigate the housing and homelessness services and to help them explore alternative housing options. 

MS DOWSETT:  Thank you.  I've just been asked if you could just slow down your pace a little so the interpreters can keep up. 


MS DOWSETT:  It's okay. I'll get the warning for myself in a minute. So, that's if it's triggered   sorry, if there's something in the pre planning documentation that triggers a deeper conversation. If somebody's already an NDIS participant, you've told us in your statement that if the NDIA becomes aware that a person has become homeless or at risk of homelessness, it can trigger an action. What does it trigger? What happens next for the participant when the NDIA finds out they're at risk of homelessness? 

LISA SHORT:  So, when the NDIA identifies that a participant has become homeless, the first thing you would do is make contact with the participant or their carer or their guardian or whomever we could contact and organise to meet with that participant to look at what plan   what extra funds may need to go into their plan to assist them to navigate the homelessness and housing sector. 

MS DOWSETT:  Does the support coordinator assist with that navigation? 


MS DOWSETT:  And so would that be expected to be a proactive role that the support coordinator is involved in? 

LISA SHORT:  Absolutely. Part of the support coordinator's role is to assist the participant to engage with community and mainstream supports, as well as to implement their plan, connect them with other supports they may have funded in their plan and to ensure they're able to utilise their plan in the way it was intended.

MS DOWSETT:  You've used the language in your answer then and in your statement about "connecting and engaging". What is it that the support coordinator does beyond providing the name and perhaps contact details of the mainstream service? 

LISA SHORT:  So, they would walk with   alongside the participant in that process. So, they would assist the participant to make any applications they needed to make for social housing, ensure that the participant understood what the next step was in that process, assist the participant to gain any assessments or evidence that may be required to submit to the housing provider, to accompany them to look at potential properties  

MS DOWSETT:  Just slow down again. 

LISA SHORT:  Sorry. Accompany them to look at any potential properties, assist them to arrange moving in, yeah, work with them around how their rent will be paid, assist them with furnish   furniture, all that sorts of stuff. 

MS DOWSETT:  We've heard evidence from NDIS participants who indicate to the Royal Commission they don't know what their support coordinator can do to help them. They don't understand the role. What does the NDIA do to provide participants with information about what the support coordinator is supposed to be doing? 

LISA SHORT:  So, after a plan is approved and there's support coordination in the plan, the participant attends what we call an implementation meeting. That meeting will either be with the agency delegate who will approve the plan or will be with our Local Area Coordinator from one of our partners in the community. And the role in that meeting is to explain and make sure the participant's, you know, aware and comfortable moving forward with what the role of their support coordinator should be, and what they can do if they're finding that they're not actually getting the service they require from that support coordinator. 

MS DOWSETT:  Does the fact that some of the witnesses are telling us they don't know what their support coordinator can do for them, if we're hearing that evidence, does it suggest there's a problem in that meeting? The information is not getting through? 

LISA SHORT:  I'm not quite sure the reason behind that, but I'm certainly aware that there are levels of quality with support coordinators around the country and in New South Wales. We   the agency provides training for organisations who support   who employ support coordinators. Some support coordinators are sole traders, so they're running their own business. We've recently put out a new support coordination framework which identifies for support coordinators what their role is and what the agency's expectations of that role are. The organisations that employ them are responsible for ensuring that their staff are aware of what their role is, in the role of support coordination, and there are a range of resources available for providers on our website. 

MS DOWSETT:  Would you accept the proposition that from an NDIS participant's perspective, so someone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness, their capacity to get the right support will depend largely on the skill, knowledge and pro activity of their support coordinator? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes. In some circumstances, yes. 

MS DOWSETT:  And you spoke about that meeting with the   either the delegate who's made the plan or the Local Area Coordinator, the LAC, who's going to explain what the coordinator's role is. What is the NDIA doing internally to make sure that information gets out to the participant through that delegate or the LAC? 

LISA SHORT:  So, again, that discussion is had in the meeting. When we   when we engage a support coordinator on behalf of a participant, we send what we call a request for service. So, that goes out to the support coordinator and lists and identifies   identifies what the vulnerabilities might be for each participant and outlines what services we expect from that support coordinator and how often we expect them to report back to us on their progress. 

MS DOWSETT:  And do you check progress against that expectation? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, we do. 

MS DOWSETT:  And how do you do that? 

LISA SHORT:  We do that regularly when we do check ins. So, we regularly check in with participants in between plan start date and plan end date, and we do a desktop review, of course, before we call participants, and that's one of the things that we look at. 

MS DOWSETT:  And, so, again, I'll just ask you to slow down a little. But these regular check ins, are these every six months, every three months?

LISA SHORT:  That's again on an individual basis. There are many participants who say, "Don't contact me until my plan reassessment date because I'm fine getting on with my life." Others will want be contacted more often. But we do have   on our system we have   we can identify participants who may be particularly vulnerable that we would call more often, for things like if they are not utilising their plan, that would be a trigger. For participants who have little or no informal support, and for participants who might have only one provider providing them with services, we call them more often. 

CHAIR:  For a participant whom you would describe, to use your language, vulnerable, what role would that person play in practice in the selection of a support coordinator? 

LISA SHORT:  The participant?

CHAIR:  Yes. 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, so choice and control would suggest that we   participants would choose their own support coordinator.  The agency can, however   if they're not sure, they haven't heard of any providers, they're not aware of who a good support coordinator could be, the agency system will allow us to select a support coordinator for that participant. 

CHAIR:  Is that what happens in practice most of the time with someone who has, for example, a significant intellectual disability? 

LISA SHORT:  Someone with a significant intellectual disability, it would often be the guardian or their plan nominee who would choose the support coordinator? 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Why? Sorry, why?


COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Why wouldn't the person choose them themselves?

LISA SHORT:  Well, someone with a severe intellectual disability may not understand the role of the support coordinator. They certainly could choose themselves if they wished, but often it's the carer or the nominee or the guardian. We would support them to make that decision if that's what they wanted to do.

CHAIR:  If the agency selects a support coordinator for a particular participant, what is done to ensure that there is a working relationship between the support coordinator and the participant, with a view to ensuring that the participant can understand what the support coordinator is meant to do and has the opportunity of checking himself or herself whether that actually happens? 

LISA SHORT:  We would ask that question in our check in conversations with participants. Certainly, if there was   the participant wasn't utilising their plan, that would be, you know, an alarm for us. Especially if the only funds being drawn down were support coordination and the participant wasn't linked to any funds   any other services. So, that would certainly trigger a check in. So, conversations with our participants around   and their carers and families, around the quality of the support coordination is very important.

CHAIR:  What happens if the agency forms the view that the support coordinator isn't doing what they're meant to be doing, and particularly in the case of someone who may be at risk of homelessness? 

LISA SHORT:  So, if the agency made a determination that the support coordinator wasn't fulfilling their role adequately, there's a few things we would do. We would speak to other parts of the business who look after providers and what providers do, who would engage with the organisation that employ that support coordinator. We would also make a notification to the Commission, the Quality and Safeguards Commission, that the quality of service being provided isn't adequate to meet the participant's needs.

CHAIR:  And what would then happen to change the situation? 

LISA SHORT:  Well, I imagine the Commission would then investigate and   I'm not really sure, Chair, what their   their role would be after the investigation.

CHAIR:  Someone at risk of homelessness, this sounds like a process that is not actually calculated to produce a rapid solution to the accommodation problem, doesn't it? 

LISA SHORT:  No, Chair, it doesn't. And I thought we were talking about participants generally in that question, but, yes, certainly if someone is at risk of homelessness and a support coordinator isn't doing their job, we would want to talk to that participant about choosing a different support coordinator.

CHAIR:  Sorry. 

MS DOWSETT:  Thank you, Chair. So, in fact, my question was about somebody, when you   when the NDIA had become aware that they had become homeless   


MS DOWSETT:    and your answer began with "risk of homelessness". But if we can make sure, perhaps, that your answers today focus on those two categories, homelessness and risk of homelessness. 


MS DOWSETT:  Rather than participants generally. So, you've been answering questions about if the quality of the support coordination isn't effective or isn't doing what the NDIA expects and you report it off to the Commission   and we're having them here on Friday. We'll have some questions for them about what they do. But given that you've described the NDIA as having capacity to appoint a support coordinator, do you appoint a new one so that at least there's somebody doing the job of helping the person who's homeless or at risk of homelessness? 

LISA SHORT:  Certainly if that's what the participant wants. We have to take the participant's opinion into account for choice and control. 

MS DOWSETT:  But if you didn't take it into account in appointing the first one?

LISA SHORT:  Well, we don't appoint how   the system randomly appoints it. It's not a planner choosing for the participant. We can't be pointing business to particular providers. So, the system can generate one that's in their local community and that is registered for the type of supports coordination or the level of support coordination that that participant requires. 

MS DOWSETT:  And so in that emergency or urgent context, where somebody has become homeless, it is, as I understand it, the support coordinator's role to assist that person to obtain accessible crisis accommodation? 

LISA SHORT:  Correct. 

MS DOWSETT:  And to assist them to apply for social housing, if that's something they wish to do? 

LISA SHORT:  Correct, or private rental or whatever their situation may be. 

MS DOWSETT:  And in the social housing context, to respond to offers of accommodation? 

LISA SHORT:  Correct. 

MS DOWSETT:  And that would include going on the inspection with them? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, in some situations, yes. If the participant required it, yes. 

MS DOWSETT:  And making requests for adjustments and modifications to a property? 


MS DOWSETT:  And would that include completing the forms? 

LISA SHORT:  Or assisting a participant to complete the forms, yes. 

MS DOWSETT:  And assisting the participant to obtain any assessments that happen to be necessary? 

LISA SHORT:  That's correct. 

MS DOWSETT:  And those are assessments, whether for social housing or for home modification, under the NDIS? 

LISA SHORT:  Correct. 

MS DOWSETT:  In her evidence this morning, Ms Mitchell said that   that the Department wasn't the last resort provider. Sorry, I'm paraphrasing because I didn't actually write it down in my notes. Is the NDIS the last resort? Are you the organisation that stops people on the pathway to homelessness or helps them recover from being homeless? 

LISA SHORT:  The NDIA is responsible for providing reasonable and necessary supports to participants who are homeless or at risk of homelessness within the framework of our legislation. So, the APTOS guides us in regards to responsibilities, and it clearly states that the provision of housing, social and   social housing, public housing and homelessness services is the responsibility of states and territories, and the agency is responsible for the provision of supports related to someone's disability that might assist them to maintain a tenancy and prevent them from becoming homeless or at risk of homelessness, and navigating those systems as well to ensure they can secure long term housing.

CHAIR:  Why wouldn't section 14 of the Act authorise the NDIA to provide funding for short term accommodation itself for people at risk of homelessness? 

LISA SHORT:  Chair, I'm not   I can't memorise section 14 of the Act. Which is   

CHAIR:  Let me remind you:

"The agency may provide assistance in the form of funding for persons or entities for the purposes of enabling those persons or entities to assist people with disability to realise their potential for physical, social, emotional and intellectual development and participate in social and economic life."

Why wouldn't that authorise the agency to provide funds or even to establish its own form of crisis accommodation or whatever that would allow it to assist people who are participants in the NDIS directly, rather than require them to go through what, for many, would be an extraordinarily complicated and difficult process of navigating bureaucratic decision making procedures? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, Chair, I think that's a policy issue that's probably a bit out of my remit, but certainly we're decided by the APTOS. It's a set of principles, I know, and   but it is   is what we have to guide us on the separation of the responsibilities between the states and the Commonwealth.

CHAIR:  But it's not inevitable, is it? That division of responsibility as between state and the Commonwealth, that's something   that, as you say, I understand it's not your decision, but it's something that is a matter for policy makers? 


CHAIR:  And it would be one possible solution to the sorts of problems, or at least a partial solution to the sorts of problems we've been hearing about for two and a half days? Is that a yes? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, Chair, I agree.

CHAIR:  Alright. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Did you hear the evidence before you from the New South Wales government?

LISA SHORT:  Yes, I did. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Did you hear Ms Dendle say that the New South Wales government did not consider itself the place of last resort for the provision of housing for people who are homeless and had a disability? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, I did. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  So who's right? 

LISA SHORT:  I think I'll leave that to the Royal Commission. As I say, in my practice, the APTOS is the guidance, and it says very clearly that the NDIS is not responsible for the provision of social and public housing or homelessness services, that that is the responsibility of the states. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  I'd be really surprised if that issue has not been discussed at a really high level between the New South Wales government and other state governments and the NDIA, has it not? 

LISA SHORT:  I'm sure it has, but I don't know, Commissioner. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  You would understand, what would you do? How does a participant work out who's going to help them, if two pretty senior public servants on the same day can have a different opinion on who's responsible? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes. I think when we're talking about a participant wanting to know who's responsible, we wouldn't put that in the lap of the participant. We would work that out between the agency and   and housing or homelessness services are not   attempt not to ever involve the participant in that   those discussions, because they don't really need to worry about who's going to fund it. They just need it funded. 

MS DOWSETT:  If I could perhaps draw on the example of Colin. I don't want you to discuss his case in particular but that kind of scenario. Somebody's who's been   he's become homeless and he needs a place to be.  He's an NDIS participant, he needs accessible housing, and he hasn't been able to secure it. His evidence, I'm sure you heard earlier this week, is that he is still moving between short term temporary accommodation. That process you've just described in answer to Commissioner Ryan, that the government   the agency would work with the relevant state government and find the right solution and not engage the participant, could you perhaps tell us how that should occur in a situation like Colin's? 

LISA SHORT:  Firstly, I'd like to say I did listen to Colin's testimony and I was absolutely   could not imagine how traumatic that situation in the flood could have been for him and his   his sister and brother in law. In saying that, Colin, yes, an NDIS participant, after the flood. So in that situation the emergency services need to go in and do their bit, but post   post the flood, the NDIA made   we were aware of participants in that disaster area. We attempted to make   we attempted to make over 900 phone calls to participants in that area and, unfortunately, the telecommunications were down and we were only able to contact, I think, 135. 

We did put in a   in our national contact centre a, like, if you're in the Lismore floods, press 1, that were then taken to the top of the list so we could identify any participants who were in urgent need of equipment or might have needed short term accommodation, equipment replacement, wheelchairs and the like.  And we, you know, managed to get through to many more. Our Local Area Coordinator partner, based in Lismore, Social Futures, also deployed staff to the recovery centres and evacuation centres in those areas to identify any people with disabilities who may have needed support. I haven't really answered your question. 

MS DOWSETT:  No, so once they've identified them   because, you know, we've got a scenario.  So you've identified someone. Your LAC has done their job. They've identified them. What next? Where do they sleep tonight? 

LISA SHORT:  Okay. They sleep in crisis accommodation that was provided by State Emergency Services, initially. We could then put in short term accommodation or medium term accommodation into their plan until their house was repaired or if they could return to their previous accommodation. If not, once again, we put in intensive or specialised support coordination to assist them to navigate. And, unfortunately, hearing Colin's experience of his support coordinator, that's not what should have happened. 

MS DOWSETT:  Back to the crisis accommodation provided by the state, if it's not accessible or all the accessible beds are already taken up by the time you get down to our hypothetical participant, then what? 

LISA SHORT:  Then I believe Colin was in a motel at some point. It's difficult. There was absolutely no accommodation available in Lismore. 

MS DOWSETT:  But you do accept the NDIA had   has a role in those kinds of scenarios and it should have been more proactive than might have been Colin's experience? 

LISA SHORT:  Should have been more proactive, but, again, in Colin's experience, he even testified that there was nowhere, no vacant dwelling to move into, and that   that's a whole another level, yes. 

MS DOWSETT:  Now, you referred in your answer before to you might have provided medium term accommodation. 

LISA SHORT:  Mm hmm. 

MS DOWSETT:  My understanding is that medium term accommodation is only available if you're approved for SDA but you're waiting for it to become available or you're approved for home modifications and you need somewhere to live while that takes place. Are you saying medium term accommodation is available in other scenarios? 

LISA SHORT:  Well, in times of disasters. I'll give you an example back during the COVID pandemic. The government made some allowances in regards to supports that participant could draw down on their plan from. So, things like PPE, different supports for when people are in lockdown. So, in times of disaster we certainly would, if we're aware of   if we're aware that the participant requires medium term accommodation while their home is being fixed from a disaster, that's certainly something we'd look at on a case by case basis. 

MS DOWSETT:  And in that scenario, would the agency do an own motion plan variation or reassessment and just get that money in?  You wouldn't need a change of circumstances for that person? 

LISA SHORT:  No. No. We'd just get it done. 

MS DOWSETT:  In   stop me if I already asked you this question because I flicked back in my notes, but did I ask you about SDA accommodation? 

LISA SHORT:  No, I don't think so, Counsel. 

MS DOWSETT:  Thank you. In the context of talking about SDA this morning, Ms Eastman asked whether the Commonwealth was in the business of building NDIS housing, and Ms Mitchell said that that would be a question for the NDIA.  So can you tell us, is the NDIA, on behalf of the Commonwealth, in the business of building SDA accommodation? 


MS DOWSETT:  What does the NDIA do insofar as SDA accommodation is concerned? 

LISA SHORT:  So, the SDA provides funding for a participant to live in an SDA property. So, it's an incentive to encourage developers to invest in Specialist Disability Accommodation. And it provides our participants with the safe and secure access to their own home, especially when, you know, the cost of renting such an accessible apartment would be way outside of what a participant who's eligible for SDA could afford. 

MS DOWSETT:  Does it come down to this:  the NDIA will pay the rent on an SDA accommodation. 

LISA SHORT:  Basically, yes. 

MS DOWSETT:  Right. You said "basically". Is there a nuance that we need to understand?

LISA SHORT:  Yes. Definitely, yes. 

MS DOWSETT:  And the other times that the NDIA will literally pay the rent is medium term accommodation? 


MS DOWSETT:  And the short term crisis accommodation? 


MS DOWSETT:  Are there any other scenarios in which the NDIA pays the rent? 

LISA SHORT:  There's Individualised Living Options that may pay   may pay a portion of the rent. Now, these ILOs, as they're known as, are not my specialty because they're mainly developed in Western Australia, but I believe there are   there are two levels of that. We can fund a   like, to begin, to explore, Individualised Living Option for a participant, and then we can fund a, you know, a housing solution. So, it may be that somebody   a housemate situation whereby that's an increase in informal support, and the NDIA may subsidise the rents component of the housemate living in   in there. 

It could be a neighbour who's prepared to provide a range of informal support or drop in support, and the agency can fund some of that. So, because they're individualised and basically in Western Australia, I don't really have a live example to give you, I'm sorry.

CHAIR:  Why would this be limited to Western Australia? 

LISA SHORT:  It's not limited. It can   it is happening now. It's starting to happen all over the country, but the Western Australian government started the design of that model before the NDIS. So, a lot of that has continued. So, Western Australia is very familiar with it. New South Wales providers are just starting to explore it. 

MS DOWSETT:  So, if you get ILO funding in your plan and you have stage 1, as you said, it's the design and exploration phase, somebody comes in and looks at what's the right support for this participant. Then stage 2, implementation. I accept what you said about you're not familiar with this, but presumably the capacity to implement relies upon there being a provider and a dwelling in which it can be provided, that supports can be provided? 

LISA SHORT:  That's correct. So, the participant and the provider would work closely together to design what the model might look like. 

MS DOWSETT:  And it may be the case   is it correct to say that that design and exploration phase might   may determine that ILO is not the right option and you should be in Supported Independent Living, maybe, for some capacity building? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes. Possibly. 

MS DOWSETT:  When the NDIA is making its planning decisions, deciding what is a reasonable and necessary support, what's going to be included in the plan, do you have regard to the availability of accommodation options that are consistent with those supports? 

LISA SHORT:  No, we don't take that into account. We put the reasonable and necessary supports in the plan. 

MS DOWSETT:  So if a participant gets approved for an ILO but there's no provider available and there's no building available, what happens next for that participant? 

LISA SHORT:  So the support coordinator would work with that participant to explore other options. It could be that the participant might be willing to move to a different area, or might move closer to family. There would be a whole range of, you know, options that they would explore as part of that exploration package. 

MS DOWSETT:  Shouldn't that happen as part of the planning, rather than after it's in the plan for a thing that can't be delivered? 

LISA SHORT:  So, we wouldn't know that what the parts want wants couldn't be delivered after they've explored that with the provider or with the support coordinator. So, a participant may say, "I've heard about these Individualised Living Options. I'd like to apply for that."  We put the exploration and supply funding in their plan first and then when they have identified where they want to live and who with and how it's going to work, then we put the implementation funding in. 

MS DOWSETT:  There's no obligation on a participant to identify the kind of support they want, is there? 

LISA SHORT:  There's no obligation but they can. Participants often want to choose who they live with and where they live, and that's perfectly their right. 

MS DOWSETT:  Absolutely. But what if their goal is a little more general, "I want a stable, secure home. Give me any option that gives me that". 

LISA SHORT:  So we explore what does that mean for you. What does a stable secure home look like for you. 

MS DOWSETT:  Then you would have an assessment around that? 


MS DOWSETT:  You would build a plan? 


MS DOWSETT:  And if the plan can't be implemented, the support coordinator needs to come up with another one. 

LISA SHORT:  Well, needs to work with the participant to find an alternative, but we wouldn't stop seeking the model that the participant prefers. 

MS DOWSETT:  Except if there's nowhere to deliver that model. That's what we're trying to examine   what I'm trying to   

LISA SHORT:  Sometimes an Individual Living Option would allow a participant to access private rental, whereas perhaps on their own they wouldn't be able to access that. 

MS DOWSETT:  Is it your experience, as the State Manager for New South Wales and the ACT, that there is a lack of housing? There are a lack of accommodation options available for NDIS participants? 


MS DOWSETT:  And would you agree that the lack of housing contributes to homelessness and a risk of homelessness for NDIS participants? 


MS DOWSETT:  They become homeless because there's nowhere for them to go? 

LISA SHORT:  That's correct. 

MS DOWSETT:  Does the NDIA have a role in providing advice to state and territory governments about the level of demand for housing? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, and we do on a regular basis. We meet with New South Wales government at all different levels, at the local level, at the system level and the policy level to talk about issues such as that. 

MS DOWSETT:  The local level of the New South Wales government. I'm sorry, I don't understand. 

LISA SHORT:  Sorry, the housing, you know, the local housing office. 

MS DOWSETT:  Right. 


MS DOWSETT:  And when you say you meet regularly, is that monthly, quarterly? 

LISA SHORT:  At the local level, I think it would be on a case by case basis regarding a particular participant, so resolving an issue for a particular participant. At the system level, we meet with   I meet with New South Wales government bi monthly and talk about a whole range of issues, housing and homelessness being one of those. And at the systems   at the policy level, our state relations branch meet with senior officials from New South Wales government regularly as well to talk through some of these issues. 

MS DOWSETT:  So, I want to change tack now and ask you some questions about applying for access to the NDIS. We're almost going backwards a little. And we asked you these questions in the   or asked New South Wales the question in the notice your statement responds to. And I'd like to direct your attention to paragraph 44. So, we had asked a question about whether the NDIA provides funding or other support to a person with a disability who is experiencing homelessness to obtain medical or other assessments to support their application for access. And in paragraph 44 you say that:

"Not all access requests require evidence in the form of written assessments."

And I just would like to understand how that paragraph fits with your paragraph 42C where you talk about:

"...accepting statements from prospective participants and their support workers as secondary evidence, in addition to medical evidence."

It sounds like medical evidence is always required? 

LISA SHORT:  In order to gain access, a person   a prospective participant needs to meet some criteria. The first criteria is they must be under 65 years or under. They must be an Australian resident. They must have a permanent and significant disability relating to one of five domains, which are physical disability or impairment with mobility, with self care, with self management, with communication or with learning. So, in order to prove permanency of an impairment, evidence from medical practitioner is usually required, like a GP, because we   you know, access delegates in the agency can't make an assessment as to whether someone's impairment is a lifelong impairment. 

MS DOWSETT:  Right. So, the question is, is a written assessment always required, and the answer is some degree of medical evidence is   

LISA SHORT:  Some degree of medical evidence, yes. 

MS DOWSETT:  And you go on in paragraph 44 to say that:

"In some cases, where a person with a psychosocial disability is applying to access the NDIS, evidence of a history of repeat homelessness may be accepted by the NDIA in lieu of a formal functional assessment as part of the justification of the substantial reduction in capacity."

What is evidence of repeat homelessness, given your answer before about there's no definition of homelessness other than a self report? 

LISA SHORT:  So evidence of a history of accessing crisis services. So, it could be a letter from a homelessness service to outline the history of access for a particular participant to those service would be   would be evidence. 

MS DOWSETT:  And who decides whether the formal functional assessment is required or whether that letter from the service is enough? 

LISA SHORT:  So the access delegate would make that decision. They would look at whether they have enough information in front of them to make a decision on access. If not, they would request further information to enable them to make that decision. 

MS DOWSETT:  You talk at paragraph 42B and 49 about how, with the consent of the prospective participant:

"The NDIA can contact their support workers or health professionals to obtain evidence in support of the application."

LISA SHORT:  That's correct. 

MS DOWSETT:  If a delegate isn't satisfied on the basis of the evidence that a prospective participant has submitted and consent has been given, does the delegate contact those people before making a decision to reject the access application? 

LISA SHORT:  Generally. Yes. 

MS DOWSETT:  In what circumstances wouldn't they? 

LISA SHORT:  If they had enough information in the written evidence to suggest that the participant wouldn't make access. They may not make a call but generally they would. I have made those calls myself, previously. 

MS DOWSETT:  So there's something in the material provided that satisfies the delegate, you, that this person, this prospective participant, is never going to satisfy the access requirements? 

LISA SHORT:  Well, there may be not enough written evidence that the delegate may want to question the health professional about, ask for more information, which   and if they can do that over the phone, they would, rather than request the participant to go back to them for more information. 

MS DOWSETT:  Perhaps you misunderstood my question. I was asking   I thought you had said there were some occasions where a delegate would make the decision to reject without making that phone call. 

LISA SHORT:  Yes. Yes. There would be. If there was absolute evidence that the participant won't make access, they would do that. 

MS DOWSETT:  Now, the Chair asked you some questions earlier about section 14 of the Act, and he helpfully read it out to you, but you have also referenced section 14 in your statement, and it appears in footnote 19, but it's in answer to the question about evidence gathering and supporting a prospective participant to obtain the assessments that they might need. Now, my question is how is the availability   the potential availability of funding under section 14 communicated to prospective participants? 

LISA SHORT:  I'm not sure if it is. Access isn't actually my part of the business. I have dealt in it many years ago, but I'm not actually sure. So, can I take that on notice, please, Counsel? 

MS DOWSETT:  You certainly can, and you may need to take the next couple on notice but I'll keep going. What's the application process if you want to use section 14? 

LISA SHORT:  Once again, yes. 

MS DOWSETT:  Right. And in paragraph 47, you note that:

"When a potential participant's application has been declined, the LAC can support the prospective participant in gathering evidence to seek review of that decision to decline."

My question is does that assistance include getting them some section 14 funding to get their medical evidence? 

LISA SHORT:  I'll have to take that on notice. 

MS DOWSETT:  I thought you might. Thank you very much for that.

CHAIR:  Just to put paragraph 44 in context, you were asked about that by Ms Dowsett and paragraph 44 indicates that:

"Evidence of a history of repeat homelessness may be accepted by the NDIA in lieu of a formal functional assessment as part of a justification of a substantial reduction in capacity for self management." 

That, I take it, is a reference to one of the criteria set out in 24(1) of the Act that an applicant must satisfy before a plan can be approved? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, Chair. 

CHAIR:  So that what you're referring to is the third of the requirements, namely.

"...that the impairment result in substantially reduced functional capacity to undertake or psychosocial functioning in undertaking one or more of the following activities, communication, social interaction."

So, homelessness, repeated homelessness, can provide, I think you say, as part of a justification for satisfying the third of the requirements? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, Chair. 

CHAIR:  But it is not capable of being used to satisfy any of the other requirements. Is that the way I should read 44? For example   

LISA SHORT:  Yes, I think so.

CHAIR:    if someone has had repeated periods of homelessness, would that not be an indication that a person has a disability attributable, for example, to cognitive impairments?

LISA SHORT:  Yes, Chair, it could. It could.

CHAIR:  And is that what happens in practice? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, Chair.  The reduction in capacity for self management could indicate a range of impairments, yes.

CHAIR:  Yes. I see. Alright. Thank you. 

MS DOWSETT:  And does that evidence come to the NDIA through the service? If a homelessness service is connecting, to use your words, the prospective participant with the NDIS, they know to send them along with a letter that talks about how often they have accessed the service. 

LISA SHORT:  So when a participant submits an access request form, there is a evidence of disability form attached to that. Now, I'm going from my memory here, so that is where that information could be provided on that part of the form. 

MS DOWSETT:  And you have referred in your statement to the capacity   the ability of a prospective participant to make a verbal application. So, you say that you don't have to fill in the form. 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, you can make a verbal access request. 

MS DOWSETT:  And when you make a verbal access request, it is still the case that you then need to send in the evidence package that supports that access request, isn't it? It's not all done on the phone? 

LISA SHORT:  I don't have any experience with verbal access requests. So, can I take that one on notice, please? 

MS DOWSETT:  Yes, please. I'm going to move on to the final set of topics that I have for you today, which is about SRSs. Now, I preface this by acknowledging that you are from   you're the State Manager of New South Wales and the ACT and that Supported Residential Services are a Victorian thing, so I won't be asking you questions specifically about how the SRS scheme works but I do want to ask you questions about how the NDIS intersects with that scheme. So, if there's something you feel is a little too SRS y, please just say if you can't answer. 

So, the Royal Commission will hear evidence in the next couple of days about the SRS scheme, and we understand that there are approximately 4,000 people who live in SRSs in Victoria, and about a third of them are NDIS participants. I want to run through, if I can, a list of potential, reasonable and necessary supports. Things that the NDIS might fund for a person that might also be provided by the SRS. Now, you won't be able to answer the second bit. We'll have other witnesses who will do that. But can I run through this list with you. 

So under the head being of Personal Care Supports, would the NDIS fund assistance with daily hygiene that might be showering, bathing, brushing hair, brushing teeth or dentures? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, it would. 

MS DOWSETT:  Would the NDIA fund meals, the preparation and cooking of meals? 

LISA SHORT:  That would be on an individual basis. If the SRS did not provide meals and the participant was required to cook their own meals but was unable to do so because of their limited function, yes, the NDIS would fund that. 

MS DOWSETT:  Perhaps I wasn't clear. Just forget about the SRS for a moment. Just does the NDIS fund, as a reasonable and necessary support, the things I'm going to list to you. 


MS DOWSETT:  So the cooking of meals, can you get NDIS funding for that? 

LISA SHORT:  The cooking of meals, yes. 

CHAIR:  Ms Dowsett, these questions don't have anything to do with the SRS, do they? I mean, you're wanting Ms Short to provide evidence as to what the NDIS will fund, but that's independent of whether it happens to be associated with the SRS or not, isn't it? 

MS DOWSETT:  Perhaps I have confused the point, Chair.

CHAIR:  You've probably confused me. Not necessarily anyone else, but anyway   

MS DOWSETT:  So, what I'm seeking to do with this piece of evidence is establish what it is the NDIS funds.

CHAIR:  Yes. 

MS DOWSETT:  It will go together with some evidence you will hear from a different witness about what the SRS   

CHAIR:  We can ignore the SRS for present purposes? 

MS DOWSETT:  Yes. Please do, Chair. 

CHAIR:  Alright.

MS DOWSETT:  So, we did meals. Assistance with eating, so actually having your meal, is that something the NDIS funds? 


MS DOWSETT:  Toileting and managing incontinence. 


MS DOWSETT:  Dressing? 


MS DOWSETT:  Managing medication? 


MS DOWSETT:  Accessing health care providers? 


MS DOWSETT:  Laundry, cleaning your clothes? 


MS DOWSETT:  Cleaning bedding, linen and towels? 

LISA SHORT:  Not the provision of it, but the cleaning, yes. 

MS DOWSETT:  Cleaning of the house, like so   


MS DOWSETT:    cleaning your bedroom? 


MS DOWSETT:  Bathroom? 


MS DOWSETT:  Kitchen and living areas? 


MS DOWSETT:  Outdoor areas? 


MS DOWSETT:  Maintenance, repairing broken windows and doors? 

LISA SHORT:  Not generally. 

MS DOWSETT:  Accessing the community? 


MS DOWSETT:  And providing support to improve living skills? For example, money and household management? 


MS DOWSETT:  Behavioural management? 


MS DOWSETT:  Thank you. So, within the NDIS framework, is there a person with responsibility for ensuring that a person who receives funding for a particular support actually gets the support? 

LISA SHORT:  That's a difficult thing to monitor, Counsel. If the NDIA becomes aware that there are some concerns that a provider is being paid for support provision that they're not providing, then our   our LAC partners and our planners internally would refer that matter to our fraud under our Chief Risk Officer division, who would investigate that matter. We would also, at the same time, make a referral to the Quality and Safeguards Commission because of services   much needed services not being provided to participants. 

MS DOWSETT:  And you may not be able to answer this because it is, I'm now picking up the SRSs, and so people who live in SRSs have residential and services agreements and they have ongoing support plans. To your knowledge, is there anyone within the NDIS that looks at any potential overlap between those two sets of documents to see whether a person is receiving the same services twice? 

LISA SHORT:  That would be difficult. I believe in the SRS, the participant pays for their board and lodging to the SRS provider from their Disability Support Pension, which we don't have oversight of how they spend their Disability Support Pension. The agreement between the SRS proprietor and the participant is between those two parties. The NDIS has no part in that. However, we're aware of some issues with participants residing in, or have resided in SRSs. We have the ability now to put an alert on every participant's record who resides in an SRS, and that alert will alert planners to be talking through these issues with participants when they're doing their check ins, to try and prevent any of that. And if we become aware of that, we would report that directly to the Human Services Regulator who regulates the SRSs in Victoria, as well as the Quality and Safeguards Commission. 

MS DOWSETT:  When did that alert come into effect? When did it start happening? 

LISA SHORT:  I'm not quite sure. That's Victorian team so   

MS DOWSETT:  Can you take that on notice? 

LISA SHORT:    we'll take that on notice. 

MS DOWSETT:  You've said that this might   this alert might trigger during the check in conversation. Is it also part of the planning conversation to say   to invite the participant to share their SRS documentation. I accept you have no oversight of them, but the participant might share that with you so you know what they are getting? 

LISA SHORT:  Absolutely. That would be a question we would ask, yes. 

MS DOWSETT:  I want to now explore the issue of plan management arrangements. Now, this is when   perhaps you can explain plan management? 

LISA SHORT:  So there's three types of way a participant could manage their plan. They could be agency managed and if they're agency managed they can only use registered providers, that is providers who are registered with the Quality and Safeguards Commission. They can use   they can self manage so that means that they manage all their funding and their providers themselves, and they pay the providers directly. If they are plan managed, they have a plan manager which then pays their providers based on the invoices providers give participants. 

MS DOWSETT:  And if a plan is plan managed, is it correct to say that the NDIA doesn't have any oversight, any capacity to see who is providing the services, the supports, to the participant? 

LISA SHORT:  Generally that's correct. We   there is a recent requirement for plan managers to put ABNs on the system of invoices they are paying. So, that gives us some oversight, but not all. Our new pay system that's coming in, into   that we're rolling out starting at the end of the year will have much better ability for us to capture that type of information readily at hand. 

MS DOWSETT:  If they have an ABN to put in? 

LISA SHORT:  Well, if plan   yeah, that we'll be able to drill down onto the ABN and get information about who the provider is. It won't necessarily tell us when supports were provided or   or what supports were provided. So, it's difficult for our system to capture, basically. 

MS DOWSETT:  The only information you see at the moment for a plan managed payment is that the money goes from the NDIS to the plan manager, and you see the description of what the   what the support was. 


MS DOWSETT:  But all we see for who the payment goes to is it all goes to the plan manager? 


MS DOWSETT:  And you don't see who that gets disbursed to? 

LISA SHORT:  Well, the plan manager records the ABN of the company that it's being disbursed to? 

MS DOWSETT:  Under the new system or under the current system? 

LISA SHORT:  Under the current system,  I believe   I will take that on notice because I'm not 100 per cent sure. I'm pretty sure it is the new   an addition to our current system, but I'll take that on notice. 

MS DOWSETT:  So by "new", it may be in force now. 

LISA SHORT:  It may be, I want to give you an informed answer, so I will check.

MS DOWSETT:  Could we please have, as part of your answer on notice, the date   if it is in effect now, the date on which it came into effect? 


MS DOWSETT:  Thank you. Now, as part of that change to the information that the NDIA is capturing, will you have the capacity to see if an NDIS provider subcontracts to an SRS proprietor to provide the NDIS funded support? 

LISA SHORT:  Once again, I'll need to check that for you, Counsel. 

MS DOWSETT:  Now, you spoke a little while ago about an alert system that is put on the plan for every resident of an SRS? 

LISA SHORT:  That is a participant, yes. 

MS DOWSETT:  Who is an NDIS participant, yes. In paragraph 64 of your statement, you referred to an alert that is triggered   I think that's the right paragraph   yes, paragraph 64:

"NDIS planners are also notified through a system alert when plan utilisation is irregular, such as if funding is being over or under spent."


MS DOWSETT:  Are there similar alerts triggered if there is a change in participant's address? 

LISA SHORT:  We wouldn't be aware of a change of a participant's address unless we were notified, and then that   the change of address would just be changed in the system. There wouldn't necessarily be an alert to that. 

MS DOWSETT:  We understand from some information provided to us by the NDIS Commission that the NDIA doesn't always have a record of a participant's address. Is that correct? 

LISA SHORT:  Some participants use a post office box or they use   prefer to use informal support's address. So, once again, I'll have that checked for you, Counsel, sorry. 

MS DOWSETT:  And can you also check whether for all of the NDIS participants who are SRS residents, whether that is necessarily recorded, if you have that information? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes. Certainly. 

MS DOWSETT:  Back to the triggering of alerts, are alerts triggered if there's a change in support coordinator? 


MS DOWSETT:  If there's a change in a plan manager? 


MS DOWSETT:  And if there's a change in an NDIS provider? 


MS DOWSETT:  Some evidence was given by Dr Pearce, the Victorian Public Advocate, in Public hearing 22   in Public hearing 20, about an NDIS participant who had been moved from an SRS to some private rental accommodation with $600,000.00 in their NDIS plan, and in the space of seven months, that money had been spent and the resident, the NDIS participant, was facing eviction. What triggers should have been alerted in the NDIS to let you know about the move, and the spending of the money, or is that not something the NDIS   NDIA should have been alerted to? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, we certainly should have been alerted to that, Counsel. There may have been an alert regarding the over utilisation of that plan. I imagine there would have been alert on that. And that alert should trigger our check in, at least a phone call. However, sometimes with participants in SRSs, it's the SRS proprietor that answers the phone and can make it challenging to speak to a participant. 

MS DOWSETT:  What can the NDIA do if it becomes aware of some of these changes, and it wants to explore whether the change is the result of the genuine exercise of choice and control, or coercion of a vulnerable participant? 

LISA SHORT:  So we'd want to talk to the participant about that. We'd also refer that to our Chief Risk Officer Division in our Fraud and Investigation team, and also to the Commission, because that would require an investigation that the Commission would undertake. 

MS DOWSETT:  And if you are concerned that the participant has, in fact, been coerced, is there anything more you can do other than those steps you've just pointed out about where you'd refer it to? What can the NDIA itself do? 

LISA SHORT:  Again we put specialist coordination support in the plan to ensure that there are eyes on that participant and the participant has access to someone to advocate for them to stop the coercion. 

MS DOWSETT:  Just excuse me one moment. I just have one last question for you: have you seen the joint statement that was prepared by Ms Mitchell and Mr Flavel? 


MS DOWSETT:  So, you may recall that in that statement, they referred to an investigation of a $500 million under spend   $500 million SDA under spend. What can you tell us about, firstly, what that under spend means?

CHAIR:  Well, I think they explained, it's not really an under spend. Their explanation was that that was an estimate made by the Productivity Commission as to the expected cost of the program, and it turns out to be $500 million less. If that’s the correct explanation, it's not really an under spend. I know that's what they've said in their statement. But anyway, if you know anything about it and whatever this means, please tell us. 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, I don't really, Counsel. That is something that I can take on notice for you.

CHAIR:  I'm not sure that the numbers provided by the Productivity Commission in 2011 have necessarily all stood the test of time. 

MS DOWSETT:  We don't need you to take that one on notice. 

LISA SHORT:  Thank you. 

MS DOWSETT:  I just wanted to see if there was anything further you could add to what we'd already heard. Chair, those are my questions for this witness. I now hand her to you.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much. Ms Short, if you don't mind, I'll ask my colleagues whether they have any questions. I'll start with Commissioner Galbally in Melbourne and ask Commissioner Galbally whether she wants to ask you questions. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Thank you. The question I'd like to ask is about specialist support coordination and whether everyone at risk of homelessness would have a specialist support coordinator and who are they and where does one get one from? 

LISA SHORT:  Thanks, Commissioner. There's three levels of support coordination. There's level 1, which is sort of support connection, so it's a very basic aim that's just linking a participant in about community and mainstream. Level 2 is support coordination, which is more intensive and more of a wraparound support. And then specialist coordination is a higher level, it's paid at a higher level, and it requires the support coordinator to have specific knowledge of navigating mainstream systems and supporting participants to navigate complex mainstream systems. So, everyone who had   was   would be identified by the agency of at risk of homeless or homelessness certainly should have access to a specialist support coordinator rather than just a general support coordinator. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  And would that be the same for everyone in an emergency situation, like Colin? Would they have a specialist support coordinator? 

LISA SHORT:  Colin's support coordination was already in his plan during   you know, prior to the flood, but I do believe Colin has an upcoming plan reassessment date booked in, whereby, yes, he will be offered specialist support coordination. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  But there's no system at the moment for when there is an emergency of that kind to just automatically upgrade that role on the grounds that it's going to be very tough and, you know, tricky for people with disabilities? 

LISA SHORT:  Absolutely, but, yeah, you're right, Commissioner, there is no current system for us to do that. 


CHAIR:  Thank you. Commissioner Ryan. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Thanks. I'd like to ask you a couple of questions about paragraph 25 of your statement which relates to self reported information from NDIS participants about the sort of housing they live in. And I notice a couple of the options. Option D is:

"Large residential, less than 20."

And the other, small   sorry, greater than 20, and small residential, less than 20. To the best of my knowledge, large residential centres have been outlawed since 1980 and should have been closed. What is the NDIS doing funding people for SIL living in large residential centres, and should there not be a plan to make sure that that stops happening? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, Commissioner. This   this list in the short   this short form outcomes framework questionnaire was developed during trial and transition and probably does need to be updated. So, during that time, we were actually exiting participants from large residential centres which is why this is identified here. But you're quite correct. That needs to be updated and taken off the list. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Do we have people living in large residential centres still in Australia? Because   and my observation is I've seen a couple in operation during the course of the Royal Commission operating. I suspect that some of the SRSs we're going to talk about later in the week constitute large residential centres. Are you able to tell us that they're gone or that you have a plan to remove them? 

LISA SHORT:  Well, I know that there are some SRSs that have over 20 people so if   they're considered a large residential centre, using that term, but I'm   I'm not sure   large residential centres come to my mind as the old, you know, the Stockton Centre or, you know, those large institutions that governments have been working hard to close. And certainly they're all closed in New South Wales. But if we're including SRSs in that definition, then you could assume that some still exist. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Are you able to give the Royal Commission an assurance that there wouldn't be people you're providing SIL support for that are living in residential centres that might have 15 or 20 people living together? Because I have a feeling I've seen one or two?

>>:  Can I just interrupt. 


>>:  I'm not sure whether this witness can give that assurance or   

CHAIR:  I think that's right. I don't think it's fair  

>>:  Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:    to ask Ms Short to give an assurance on behalf of the NDIA, the Australian Government or anybody else here. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Fair enough, but could you provide information as to whether or not the NDIS is aware of whether there are still large residential centres operating in Australia that would have closed by now under arrangements that existed before the NDIS commenced? Because I think I've seen a couple. 


COMMISSIONER RYAN:  One in Tasmania that's got 40 odd units all clustered together on a site that's very close to a garbage dump, and there are some legacy models that have been left over in earlier attempts to close large residential centres that resulted in significant clusters of housing, all located together. I'd like to know whether the NDIS is aware of that or not? And if they could provide the Royal Commission with any information about them? 

LISA SHORT:  Certainly, Commissioner.

CHAIR:  Thank you. We may have been given information about this in one of the 25 earlier hearings, but if so, I don't remember. You've told us about the three categories of support coordinators. What are the   is there some kind of registration requirement for each of those categories? 


CHAIR:  Or can the same person do all three, or how does it work? 

LISA SHORT:  No, Chair, the same person couldn't to all three. So, there's registration. In the framework for support coordination, it outlines what skills and qualifications we would expect from a specialist support coordinator in particular.

CHAIR:  So people get registered according to their category, whether they're category 1, 2 or 3. 

LISA SHORT:  They may be registered for all three but they need to ensure that the staff at that service are paid at the higher level, and that's why we provide a higher cost for the specialist support coordination, because we expect a higher level of skills and experience and qualifications. 

CHAIR:  So, in any particular instance, a support coordinator who's allocated to someone like Colin might, in fact, have the qualifications for a special support coordinator. We'd need to inquire in the particular case whether that is so. 


CHAIR:  Yes, I understand. Thank you. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Mr Chair, can I ask one other question?

CHAIR:  Yes. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  Paragraph 118 of your statement refers to what people would need to do to get necessary and reasonable home modifications. And one of the requirements is:

"A suitably qualified occupational therapist has performed an assessment and recommended home modifications considering all possible alternatives, including the use of equipment."

It looks like the NDIS has the same obsession with occupational therapists that New South Wales disability has, or New South Wales   what's it called   Community and Justice Department has. Is it absolutely necessary for a person always to have an occupational therapist, which is a considerable amount of money and time to get one of those, to make quite often a submission to the NDIS which would be to get housing which would qualify for the silver level NCC and the person, for example, might be using a wheelchair, and I would have thought it was bleeding obvious that they needed those modifications? 

LISA SHORT:  Certainly, Commissioner. The NDIA doesn't require an OT assessment for minor home mods and adjustments like hand rails or ramps, and participants can purchase that stuff through their core supports. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  What about the removal of a hub   a hob in the shower, for example? 

LISA SHORT:  Yes, so, at the moment, we do require an occupational therapy assessment for those reasons, and I think the role of the OT is to be able to assess a participant in their environment and recommend better ways that a participant   or things that could assist the participant to be more independent in their own home. So, the agency at the moment is considering   or the government is considering allowing lower cost home mods to not require an assessment by an OT at all, that the participant can organise for those minor modifications to occur without the need for an assessment or a quote. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN:  I wouldn't mind extending the scope of that project but I applaud it.

CHAIR:  Could be a practical example of competition policy in action. Alright. Thank you very much, Ms Short, for giving evidence today and for the detailed statement that you've provided. We very much appreciate the assistance you've given to the Royal Commission. Thank you very much. 

LISA SHORT:  Thank you, Chair. 


MS EASTMAN:  Commissioners, the final witness for the New South Wales part of the hearing is some evidence provided by 'Dave', which is a pseudonym. I'm pleased to say 'Dave' is here with us in the hearing room, but what we might do is just show the prerecorded evidence, but I don't require 'Dave' to come up or present himself to you.

CHAIR:  Alright. Thank you very much. We'll have that evidence now. 

Video played 

MS EASTMAN:  I'm happy this morning to be talking to 'Dave' which is not your real name, but we're going to go with 'Dave'.  Is that alright, Dave? 

'DAVE':  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  'Dave' we're down in Newtown and we're in the Inner West of Sydney, and this is an area you know pretty well. 

'DAVE':  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, Dave, can I start    tell us what your story is. 

'DAVE':  Well, I first had some contact with the mental health workers when I was eight or nine because of my parents, and the first time I lived in boarding house style accommodation would have been when I was about 16. 

MS EASTMAN:  How did you get into boarding house accommodation? 

'DAVE':  Divorce. I was living with a father on a pension. That was the accommodation he could afford, motel style accommodation. I assume it's the on same sort of thing as a boarding house, very similar in every respect. And then when I go well, I get a flat. When things, when I get stressed out, run down, over time, back to the boarding house. But, of course, as time goes on, the gaps between jobs just gets longer and longer. And now I'm over 60, really just looking for the finishing line. 

MS EASTMAN:  Oh 'Dave', can I take you back a little bit to when you were a teenager. Do you remember what it was like at school, if you had mental health problems at school? What was that like? 

'DAVE':  Well, they didn't   nothing resembling problems that I was aware of, really, until year 11. And I'm a bit of an isolator. I come in, I do enough to keep the system off my back, and then I disappear. 

MS EASTMAN:  So what did you do when you finished school    anything?

'DAVE':  Uni for a while I got a couple of credits in first year Arts. Too unstable. By then even my father had pissed off, so I had to support myself. Didn't know what I wanted to do. Yeah, drinking too much as well. So, I got out of there and got a job and pretty much self supporting on a   pretty much self supporting thereafter. 

MS EASTMAN:  What sort of jobs have you done in your life? 

'DAVE':  First phase of the career, public service jobs. I've worked for State rail, Australia Post, Department of Social Security, Department of Government Stores, the navy, maybe one other, two others. That was sort of a phase, first third of my working life. Second third, I managed to make a go at some stuff a bit left field in   call it performing arts in schools. Worked myself to exhaustion. After 15 years of that, I was totally close to collapse, physically, mentally, on every level. The last   that's another third. The last third has been call centres, basically charity, fundraising stuff. But even with that I've   you know, the jobs get further and further apart. I become less and less employable. But yeah, I'm a bit of a social isolator, so I'm quite happy to  

MS EASTMAN:  So tell me about some of the places that you lived in, because I think when you chatted to me before, there's in and out of hostels and boarding houses? 

'DAVE':  Not hostels. Fortunately, I haven't got to the   

MS EASTMAN:  Not hostels. We talked about hostels. 

'DAVE':  Yeah, we talked about   boarding houses. Not the   to me, they're not the last resort. Last resort is couch surfing, temporary hostels or the park. Or prison because a lot of people go in and out. 

MS EASTMAN:  And that's not been your experience. 

'DAVE':  I fortunately managed to avoid all of those. 

MS EASTMAN:  Most of your living has sort of been in different boarding houses and long term things.

'DAVE':  Boarding house to flat. Well, this one has been. I've been there for 15, 16 years, and fortunately has a good landlord. Has had a nice   until recently, it had a good stable population. All of these are old buildings and old housing stock because people make a difference, whether they've got their lives together or whether they're running riot. 

MS EASTMAN:  I think you said the human environment is more important than the physical environment. 

'DAVE':  Yes. Yes.

MS EASTMAN:  What does that mean for living in a boarding house?

'DAVE':  Well, if you can get on with the people, leave your doing open without fear of being robbed, if they're quiet, they're not violent and they're not thieves, then you can live in peace. And, you know, if you live together long enough, you get to know each other. 

MS EASTMAN:  And a lot of people you've lived with at different points in time also had disabilities. And we talked about how you worked out whether somebody has a disability or you identify yourself in that way, but I think you've told me that that's something you've seen. 

'DAVE':  I think everyone who has passed through the place as, at the least, been really unlucky in their family life, but a couple had heart surgery followed by minor issues, which stopped them working again, and get older. Couple have come out of prison with, you know, usually drug issues before they go in. We were lucky. You know, we had a run of people who managed to clean up their lives and stay out of trouble, but they're never getting out of the boarding house except maybe to the housos. Yeah, quite a few people. Probably half of them have prison in their background and mental health issues.

We have one at the moment with autism spectrum and been hit by a bus as well, and can't keep himself out of petty crime. Got a couple of social isolators. There's one guy there I've said six words to me in a couple of years. He just doesn't seem to   he's not unfriendly, but he just doesn't want to talk to people, doesn't want to deal with people, only comes out when necessary. But he's five foot tall and very lean so I don't know what's gone on in his life story. Got a Koori guy pushing 70. Couple of these guys have been sort of functional alcoholics, you know. They pay the rent. They keep their lifestyle together without getting into trouble with the law or their neighbours and, you know, that's functional enough, isn't it? 

MS EASTMAN:  And you've told me that you really like reading and been watching a fair bit of TV. 

'DAVE':  Got some garden going   happening, you know. 

MS EASTMAN:  How does that help you in your life, doing those sorts of activities?

'DAVE':  A lot. 

MS EASTMAN:  Does that give you a sense of    

'DAVE':  A lot of poverty is really mental. It's what you can think of. I mean, one of the guys got his $2.50 pensioner ticket, spends the day on the trains and the buses, goes   you know, he's Indonesian. There's a business community of them around Kensington so he goes over there, bumps into people, talks language, has a nice little lunch, goes to the Bondi, you know, takes advantage of this beautiful city. But other people seem to have nothing in their head but their grievances. I notice that with the worst of the mental health cases. Some of them just going in a mental cycle of their grievances and looking for those patterns to reappear. 

MS EASTMAN:  Is the NDIS, is that something that is part of your life or  

'DAVE':  No. 

MS EASTMAN:    you've heard about for the guys that you live with?

'DAVE':  One of the guys has been through the whole system and got his pension and some NDIS component. It   look, I don't like dealing with the system. So, just to go through all that now, I would happily forfeit 100 bucks a week to avoid all that. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay, so what would   

'DAVE':  But some of the older ones, you know, you try   they're set in their ways. It's great that these services are offered but if they feel that they're pushed on them, then no. 

MS EASTMAN:  Not into it. 

'DAVE':  Not into it. 

MS EASTMAN:  So what sort of supports are around?  Is there local community or neighbourhood supports? 

'DAVE':  I really don't know because, as I said, the only one who's gone through that system, it's all too complicated. He keeps telling me I should try, and I close my mind to it, but I really just wouldn't   he loves mucking around and reading all that stuff. And I just wouldn't want to. And it's a bit of an admission for defeat. Certainly not for me because I'm just borderline this or that. You know, I'm functional enough to stay out of major trouble. I changed my lifestyle before my health collapsed, you know. I did not have that heart attack or surgery, these sorts of things. 

MS EASTMAN:  It sounds like you look after yourself and make decisions for yourself. 

'DAVE':  Well, I'm still capable of that, but, yeah, I respect that there are a lot of people who can't. While I can, it's my last bit of freedom, so the   you know, being self managing is, you know, my last thread of self respect. 

MS EASTMAN:  The Commissioners are also keen to know what do you think needs to change to support people with disability who, you know, don't live in the sort of average or ordinary housing, and their housing might not be so stable? What do you think would make a difference from your own experiences, but also the folk around the Neighbourhood Centre where we are today? What do you think the Royal Commissioners should know? 

'DAVE':  Well, first of all, you've mentioned the Neighbourhood Centre. So, this sort of resource where if you want to meet people or they want to meet you, you are there, literally three minutes' walk from my home, and there are a lot of boarding houses around here. So, you're very close to a lot of your target audience. That accessibility for those who need it   I'm from, like most of the   most of them, not all of the boarding house demographic. I'm old and set in my ways. You know, there are a couple of younger people, transgender people who have been through but, by and large, we're old and set in our ways. 

And having enough money to pay the rent, a few luxuries and stay out of problems with society. For me personally, I'm a hardcore tobacco addict, so the price of government policy on tobacco affects me. But the services being there but not sort of pushed on, and for the   for the people who seriously need these services, I can't   you know, I have a thing about these service providers. It's an unnecessary   I haven't experienced them in the NDIS but where I have experienced them, they're unnecessary and useless. 

And you'd be better off just giving the money directly to the people who knew how to spend it. Instead of subsidising something, if you give them an extra 100, 200 a week then they can come up to Sydney. They can actually afford to do that more easily. Just seems, you know, like unnecessary. I'd let the free market go on that, just empower. The last thing they ever seem too want to do is empower the people. We saw it in Aboriginal Affairs of however many years of all the money going to white public servants and white landlords and white consultants, and by the time you get to the ground, there's nothing, and that's sort of unskilful. 

MS EASTMAN:  So it's sort of really take a grassroots approach, go to the people? 

'DAVE':  Yeah, keep these services on the ground. I mean, if the day comes when I want to know about these things or my circumstances change and I think I need to know about these things you're just here. And this, what do they call it here, the one stop shop is far less intimidating than going into, say, the Department of Social Security and asking questions there or doing things on the phone. Very accessible. 

MS EASTMAN:  Well, 'Dave', absolutely pleasure to talk to you today and thank you for your time and sharing your story, and talking to us at the Royal Commission. We really appreciate it. 

Video ended 

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Commissioners, and thank you to 'Dave' who I can see in the  

CHAIR:  Yes, thank you, 'Dave'. I don't know where you are in the audience but thank you very much for doing that extraordinarily interesting interview with Ms Eastman and giving us the benefits of your experience, which you put very clearly, if I may say so. 

MS EASTMAN:  So Commissioners, that completes the New South Wales part of the hearing and tomorrow we'll turn our attentions to Victoria. So, if we adjourn now and, as I said earlier, the Royal Commission's hosting an afternoon tea for some of the services that support people with disability in Western Sydney and everyone is invited. Thank you.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much. We'll adjourn until 10 a.m.