Submission on A New Act to Replace the Disability Services Act 1986
Department of Social Services
The Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) welcomes the Department of Social Services’ (DSS) consultation paper, A New Act to Replace the Disability Services Act1986 (Cth),and the opportunity to provide comment on the proposed new Disability Services Act.
In providing this submission the Commission acknowledges the previous work of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) 1996 report in relation to the Disability Services Act, Making Rights Count: Services for People with a Disability(ALRC Report 79), and inits2014report on legislative recognition of the right of persons with disability to make decisions that affect their lives and have those decisions respected, Equality, Capacity and Disability in Commonwealth Laws(ALRC Report 124). Recommendations made by the ALRC in these two reports remain only partially implemented, and therefore many are still relevant and applicable today.
The Commission supports a new Disability Services Act that would give effect to, in conjunction with other laws, Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).Australia ratified the CRPD in 2008,a significant advancement since the 1986 Disability Services Act was enacted. Perhaps the most notable development in the disability service landscape since the ratification of the CRPD, is the creation and roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) from 2013. The replacement of the Disability Services Act is long overdue to reflect these important changes.
The Disability Services Act has a role not just in enabling persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life(CRPD Article 9(1)) but also to assist people with disability to achieve progressively the full realisation of their economic, social and cultural rights (CRPD Article 4).
The recommendations made in this submission are broadly in keeping with those made by the ALRC, particularly the notion that any new Commonwealth disability services legislation should be ‘grounded in a recognition of the rights of people with disabilities and the need for achievement of high quality services, rather than simply the provision of funds to service providers’. The Commission recognises and is very supportive of DSS’ goal to have a new Disability Services Act that ‘clearly expresses the rights of people with disability, and outcomes they are entitled to expect’.