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New report urges: Stamp out stigma and enhance support

People born in a non-English speaking country have similar rates of disability as other Australians but are about half as likely to receive formal disability services according to a report launched in Redfern on February 13.

Nas Campagnella (centre) says, “We want the same thing as you. Ask us questions directly. Don’t assume.” Photo: Stephen Webb

Settlement Services International’s (SSI) latest policy paper Still outside the tent: Cultural diversity and disability in a time of reform, said people with disability from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds were struggling to engage with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Co-author of the paper, SSI Research and Policy Manager Tadgh McMahon, said, “Evidence indicates that people with disability from CALD backgrounds have half to one-third of the rate of usage of mainstream services that people born in Australia have had, and there is no evidence to suggest that this is a reflection of their preferences or that they need less assistance.

“What is needed are more ‘soft’ and ‘multiple’ community-based entry points to the disability service system to help these marginalised groups access services such as the NDIS.”

The report noted barriers to inclusion such as cultural stigmas around disability, a distrust of government agencies, and language barriers, arguing that a comprehensive cultural competence framework was needed for the disability service system.

Nas Campanella, a journalist and newsreader with the ABC and Triple j (who has a vision impairment and a genetic disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth) welcomed the report launched at an SSI Speaker Series event she chaired and which focused on strategies to foster inclusivity.

“When you see someone with a disability remember that we are a human being just like you,” Ms Campanella said. “Many of us pay bills, work, have relationships and family, and want the same thing as you. Ask us questions directly. Don’t assume.”

Yasmin Farhart from Master of Ceremonies, MCYF, (who has a hearing impairment), said communities could drive inclusion by supporting disability access groups; giving people with disabilities a platform for speaking; stamping out stigma; and providing translation services to reduce language barriers.

“We are still being stigmatised, still finding it difficult to find employment, and to find a voice.”

Karen Bevan, SSI general manager for community service delivery, said SSI’s Ability Links NSW, was one program that fitted well within a cultural competence framework and was working to “shift the needle” towards stronger inclusion of CALD people with disability.

Case studies in the report highlight how “Linkers” help people from CALD backgrounds understand the NDIS and assist them to access services that meet their needs.

“We need to really embed a cultural competency framework into the NDIS rollout,” Ms Bevan said, ‘but that needs to come with a range of soft entry programs that support people from CALD backgrounds into NDIS pathways or else helps them find pathways into other services and supports.”

To assist this, SSI supports the recent recommendation of the Productivity Commission to increase funding for Information, Linkages and Capacity Building to $131 million a year until 2023 to deliver better outcomes for CALD people with disability, she said.

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