Social Inclusion and Victorians with a Disability Inquiry Forum Resource Kit

This forum was jointly convened by Victorian council of Social service (VCOSS) and Disability Advocacy Victoria (DAV) and was held at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre on 12 February 2014. The aim of this forum was to support organisations and individuals to explore themes around social inclusion in order to prepare a submission to the Social Inclusion and Victorians with a Disability inquiry. The feedback gathered at the forum will be used in the VCOSS submission to the Inquiry.

Panel Session

The panel session, facilitated by Llewellyn Reynders, VCOSS Policy and Programs Manager, provided context to the inquiry and subsequent discussion groups.  Panel members included Paul Ramcharan, Associate Professor at RMIT University and Melanie Muir, Disability Advocacy Victoria (DAV) Chair and Senior Advocate at Leadership Plus.

Presentation by Paul Ramcharan

Paul provided a brief overview of models of social inclusion theory, and their strengths and weaknesses. The models included Social skills training and behavioural change, Social role valorisation, Civic friendships, Social model, and Human rights and citizenship. He suggested context and environment are central to social inclusion. It is vital to have plans, strategies and targets for pervasive life choices because not much has changed over the past 30 years. Statistics show that people with a disability still have low participation rates in employment, mainstream education, marriage relationships, and they remain in a different queue for housing.

Paul’s presentation itemised each of the Inquiry terms of reference questions and provided a commentary on the effectiveness of tools such as the Disability Services Act and the Victorian State Disability Plan. Overall, Paul recommended that realisation of economic social and cultural rights will be built upon measurable outcomes and not simply by the number of Government initiatives and programs.

Resources referred to in paul’s presentation include:


Presentation by Melanie Muir

Melanie used some of the indicators contained in the Victorian Social Inclusion Report to demonstrate the disparity people with disabilities experience in achieving whole of life participation. The indicators ranged through work, learning, engagement, social resources, community and institutional resources, housing and personal safety.

Melanie used case examples she has been involved with through her work as an advocate with Leadership Plus and supported her stories by referencing a range of recent research reports across a variety of areas including employment, education, transport, domestic violence and child relinquishment.

Group Discussion

The four groups each chose two of the terms of reference to discuss for 15 minutes each.  The key points discussed in the groups is provided here under the corresponding terms of reference:

a) define ‘social inclusion’ for Victorians with a disability;

b) identify the nature and scale of relative inclusion (exclusion) and participation of Victorians with a disability in the economic, social and civil dimensions of society;

  • Undertake a literature search to clarify terms such as social inclusion and social exclusion
  • Social inclusion and exclusion are popular ‘buzz’ words, but they are not meeting any specific objectives
  • Despite 30 years of anti-discrimination laws levels of inclusion have not changed significantly and exclusion still exists
  • Discrimination is pervasive and subtle
  • We now need a cultural shift to normalise disability – this might take a generation or more to achieve. Start at school.
  • Closure of institutions was seen as a great step forward for inclusion and cultural acceptance of disability. However the ‘burden of care’ was shifted from institutions to families and communities, with no real change in terms of acceptance or inclusion.
  • There needs to be a clear understanding of how & what we are measuring in terms of inclusion (or exclusion). Making something clearly measureable creates accountability.
  • One suggestion is to measure levels of early intervention to prevent exclusion & increase capacity building
  • Importance of an evaluation framework with systematic monitoring & reporting
  • Devolvement and responsibility from institutions to family & community


c) understand the impact of Victorian government services and initiatives aimed at improving inclusion and participation;

  • Service objectives must be measurable
  • Data collection and broader statistics with forward projections can aid in forecasting needs, trends etc
  • Every department should have a measure of social inclusion in its service delivery
  • ‘Market forces’ –driven by what the client identifies as their needs and objectives should drive the (measurable) outcomes & accountability. There is currently not enough choice within services for clients to set objectives that can fulfil their potential
  • Closing the Gap and Millennium Goals have very clear measurable and accountable targets
  • Individual objectives, planning and services – should be aggregated up to see patterns and trends
  • Localised services are currently losing out to peak and state-wide services. Services are in danger of not being relevant to local communities because they are not tailored to those communities.
  • Social Inclusion should be across all departments
  • All new policies and programs should report on the impact on people with a disability


d) identify examples of good practice on inclusion and participation driven by local government and the community sector;

  • Banyule and Yarra City Councils, through the Metro Access Workers have been working to increase accessibility. Called “Good Access is Good Business”, it’s working with small business to ensure accessibility. An assessment is carried out by a person with a disability at the business site and it offers advice and recommendations to improve access. What it has really achieved is raising awareness of access issues with business
  • Monash Council has been working on some community projects focussing on access and communication, providing information in alternative formats. For example there are menu cards with photos for cafes. This initiative has been quite successful.
  • Initiative by state government to allocate the Advocacy Funds that set up the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit, Self Advocacy Resource Unit, Youth Disability Advocacy Service and (?) some money towards Women with Disabilities. Great as it is ongoing funding, employed people with disabilities, and works on empowerment of people with disabilities.
  • Jonathon Welsh and Choir of Hard Knocks, has now developed Institute of Hard Knocks and has a range of initiatives through partnerships with a range of bodies.
  • Sandhurst is undergoing deinstitutionalisation program, the level of planning and work with people has been good.
  • Metro, Rural and Deaf Access Workers have been in place since the last State Plan and they have been a successful conduit for change in community attitude and encouraging a whole of life approach to disability services.
  • Maroondah City Council have been instrumental in introducing Changing Places which are personal hygene centres with hoist and change table facilities. Currently there are only two centres and these should be considered for much wider roll out.
  • State Disability Plan has made a good attempt to cut across all levels of government.


e) assess how the Disability Act 2006 has impacted on the social inclusion of people with a disability with respect to Victorian government services; and

f) recommend ways to increase social inclusion, including the roles of and collaboration between local, state and federal governments, the community sector, individuals with a disability and their carers.

  • What is the Impact of new policies & programs on existing policies and programs? This should be measured.
  • Education: that meets individual student learning needs. Positive measures provided to families; increase family support; funds used on direct support rather than on managing issues in legal settings.
  • In need of effective complaint procedure, Education Commissioner appointed, similar to Health Services Commissioner.
  • NDIA: More funding for advocacy is likely to be needed with ‘full scheme
  • Funding streams for advocacy remain independent to and of NDIA funding.
  • In education, there have always been good top down policies for inclusion however they seem to fall apart in the implementation phase. E.g. schools for kids with Autism. There needs to be better training for principals, teachers and school councillors.
  • Legislation requires compliance with building access standards however these standards are only minimum standards and do not equate to full accessibility for everyone.
  • Cut down on bureaucracy for adjustments and equipment to ensure that needs are met in a timely manner. People with disability should not have to wait 3 years for a wheelchair or to have a bathroom altered so they can access it.
  • Meaningful targets are key to real inclusion in all parts of life such as employment, education, community involvement i.e qualitative as well as quantative measures.
  • How does the national disability Strategy, the various State Disability Plans and the NDIS inform each other? Could the collaborations and connections be better communicated?
  • It’s important to maintain an independent voice for advocacy where disability services and government collaborate.
  • Developing an ISP is already collaborative, involving agencies, people with disabilities and their families/carers in the process, and could be made more creative, flexible and responsive to individual needs.


Other Resources

Wednesday 12th February, 2014

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