IDEAS EO Diana Palmer, IDEAS staff and Board Members Andrew Boker and Karen Peacock travelled from across New South Wales to join the convergence into central Sydney.

A group of women and children and two men dressed in a mix of purple and white clothing are standing outside a city building, holding protest signs

More than 500 people with a disability and their supporters rallied in Martin Place on Sunday 24 February, calling on the NSW Government to reverse its decision to axe funding for disability advocacy.

The Berejiklian Government has refused to commit to ongoing funding for disability advocacy services – a move which disability organisations say will force services to shut their doors and leave people without access to vital support services.

NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance spokesperson and CEO of the Physical Disability Council NSW, Serena Ovens, said the NSW Government’s refusal to provide funding certainty is an insult to the almost 1.4 million NSW residents with a disability.

“If the NSW Government pushes ahead with its plan to axe disability funding, the doors to our vital services will close. People with a disability need the support of these services to ensure our voices are heard,” Ms Ovens said.

“The number of people at this rally proves how serious an issue this is for people with a disability and the broader community.

Ms Ovens said that news today that the Berejiklian Government has decided to provide a very small amount of funding for another 12 months would, if true, be welcomed however it would be another sign the government is more interested in short-term fixes just weeks out from an election, rather than in providing a serious long-term commitment to disability advocacy.

“Today, just hours before our rally, we’ve received second-hand news that the Premier has decided to provide the sector with another lot of short-term temporary funding, but has again refused to commit to long-term funding. Of course, if this is true it is good news in the short-term, but it doesn’t address the long-term issues facing the disability advocacy sector. And we won’t believe anything until we see it in writing and get the courtesy of a call ourselves.

“If the NSW Government MPs think we’re going to go away quietly, they’ve got another thing coming. People with a disability need this funding – we cannot allow the government to play politics with these vital services.

“People with a disability rely on advocacy services to make sure we’re getting a fair deal - whether it’s advocating for improved access on public transport, protecting workplace rights, dealing with horrific cases of abuse, exploitation or discrimination, or helping them navigate the NDIS. 

“Ensuring the 1.37 million voters with disability in NSW have access to advocacy, representation and support needs to be a funding priority for the NSW Government. We’re hopeful that the Premier will recognise the significance of this and commit to the funding before NSW goes to the polls in March.

“Providing funding for disability advocacy is something that has the support of the majority of parliament and the whole of the community. The Liberal and National Parties are the only parties holding out on funding this vital support.”

Media contact: Alana Mew, 0419 929 722

The Stand by Me campaign is run by a coalition of 22 disability advocacy, information and representation organisations in NSW. For more information go to www.standbyme.org.au


Key messages from Sunday’s Stand By Me rally:

Kate Washington, the Shadow Minister for Disability gave a commitment that every Labor MP will guarantee to fund disability advocacy right across the State in perpetuity...

“Labor will protect disability advocacy services in NSW. This is about dignity, decency and respect!”

David Shoebridge Greens MP, commented on the strong presence from Greens colleagues at the rally...

“Advocacy is essential and we have a 100% commitment to full funding.

We’re committed to making sure people with disability are fully fledged citizens of this state, supported by parliament.”

Alex Greenwich, Independent Member for Sydney --

“Today I joined hundreds of Sydneysiders & colleagues from across the NSW Parliament to support disability advocacy at the #StandByMe rally. While I was able to confirm another 12 months of funding from the government, we need to keep campaign going for ongoing recurrent funding.”

Paul Green MP with the Christian Democrat Party --

“It’s important that no one is left behind in the transition to this new system, that’s why advocacy is so important.”

Greg Piper, MP for Lake Macquarie -- 

“The risk of losing advocacy services for people with a disability is unjustifiable and adds to the anxiety &burden these people, their carers and loved ones deal with every day. Is this the best a “caring” government can do?

Kathy Boland, representing Northern Sydney Regional Family & Friends of people with disability group --

“We note the absence of the Minister for Disability Ray Williams today”.

Shu Hua Chan, NSW Council for Intellectual Disability --

“People with disability are brave but many times I have been at risk. I have been excluded. Advocacy groups give me a voice, walk with me, fight for me. ... And I will not be silenced.”

 

How to take action
Read more about the Stand By Me alliance 

Sign our online petition and email Premier Gladys Berejiklian

Ask the Premier and the NSW Government to commit to permanent, long-term funding for disability advocacy services in NSW.

NSW advocacy services need $20m a year for essential support for people with disabilities - which is a drop in the ocean of NSW’s budget.