NDIS has 'failed' Aboriginal people with a disability
The National Disability Insurance Scheme needs to be overhauled because it has failed Indigenous Australians, an advocate has told Victoria's truth-telling inquiry.
The program excludes many because the application process is expensive and the assessments are not culturally safe or appropriate, First Peoples Disability Network Australia chief executive Damian Griffis said.
"The NDIS needs to do much, much better. It has failed to date," Mr Griffis told the Yoorrook Justice Commission in Melbourne on Thursday.
"We need to run the systems that get our mob into the NDIS. We need to develop our own assessment tools because we do need to get access to the NDIS, no question.
"But the way it's set up at the moment.... there are some families that have gotten results out of it but that's the exception."
The Worimi man said many Indigenous parents do not feel comfortable disclosing their own or their child's disability to government agencies because they're worried the family will be split up.
"There's never any evidence to show they're bad parents. It's often a rush to judgement," Mr Griffis said in his evidence.
"They may need some extra support but it's never a question, in my experience, of whether they're a loving parent."
Mr Griffis said poverty was also making life harder for Indigenous Australians with a disability and there wasn't always the support services available to help them.
There was also no recorded data on how many Indigenous children in out-of-home care were living with a disability.
"We absolutely need to know," Mr Griffis said. "But it needs to be collected by our people. It needs to be done by us because that's the only way we can do it safely."
It would also be beneficial for non-Indigenous people to learn from traditional understandings of disability, Mr Griffis said.
"In traditional language, there is no comparable word to disability and that's a wonderful thing," he told the commission.
"The way we describe disability in our community is entirely appropriate - it's impairment based. It might be, brother can't move around too well, cousin's a bit slower than everyone else.
"It's not said in a negative way but more, that's what we need to think about so this person can participate in community.
"We would say we're thought leaders on inclusion."
The Yoorrook Justice Commission has been hearing evidence for months as Victoria works towards establishing a treaty or treaties with First Nations peoples.
The latest round of hearings, which were mostly held behind closed doors, wrapped up on Thursday.