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AFDO eNews

Issue #12
4th May 2020

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Ross JoyceFrom our CEO

Ross Joyce

Welcome to the latest edition of AFDO eNews.   

Our member organisations work together to advocate for the rights of people with disability in Australia.  However, it's also important to recognise that our members are individual disability organisations in their own right.  Each organisation has its own community, specialist skills and knowledge, and knows how to best communicate with their community.  I'm pleased to provide updates on a sample of what some of our members have been working on in their own right for the disability community.  

As we head into May, we are continuing to call for the Australian Government to urgently include Disability Support Pension (DSP) recipients in the $550 per fortnight CoronaVirus Supplement.  It is well recognised that 50% of people with disabilities already live in poverty so additional costs at this time are causing people a lot of distress and anxiety. 

While we continue our campaign, which we have been undertaking over the last two years, concerning the inadequacy of the DSP to support, and its access, to ensure equity of income for all people with disability, I would like to highlight that although fortnightly JobSeeker Payment rates may be higher than the DSP for the next six months, once the CoronaVirus Allowance stops, the rate of JobSeeker Payment will be much lower than the rate of DSP.  This means that switching from the DSP to the JobSeeker payment would not be in your best interest.

If you are thinking about switching from the DSP to the JobSeeker Payment so you can get the extra supplement - I urge you to read the DSP Fact Sheet from Economic Justice Australia, or to get advice from a community legal centre first, as changing to the JobSeeker payment will cancel your DSP, and you may not be able to get it back again!

Economic Justice Australia is the peak organisation for community legal centres providing specialist advice to people on their social security issues and rights.  For a list of community legal centres that can help you, please visit the Economic Justice Australia website.

Below is an overview of some of our work, and the work of some of our member organisations, as well as the latest disability sector news and information.  I hope you enjoy this edition of AFDO eNews, and please stay safe.  


COVID-19 Health Sector Plan for People with Disability

The Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for COVID-19 guides the Australian health sector response.  A Management and Operational Plan for People with Disability (the Plan) has been developed, which you can access on the Department of Health webpageThe Plan is available in PDF, Word, and Easy Read. 

The Advisory Committee on Health Emergency Response to COVID-19 for People with Disability met on the 21st April and one of the key themes that came out of the meeting was the need to prioritise, where possible, implementation of the Plan towards people who are at most risk of developing adverse outcomes related to COVID-19, especially people with complex health care needs.

The Advisory Committee will continue to meet weekly, and the next steps for the Advisory Committee are: 

  • Representatives of all states and territories will be invited to one of the next two Advisory Committee meetings to discuss relevant issues, including support for people with disabilities in hospital settings, and the health needs of people with disabilities in prisons.
  • A further Roundtable, involving additional stakeholders, will be scheduled within a month.
  • A Plain English Summary of the Plan will be developed by the Department of Health.
  • The Department of Health will lead the development of a draft evaluation framework for consideration by the Committee.
  • The Chair will write to the Communicable Diseases Network of Australia (CDNA) to initiate a discussion about COVID-19 surveillance for people with disability.
  • The Department of Health will also urgently develop, in collaboration with members, a draft risk framework to assist in prioritising actions under the Plan.
  • Urgent work will continue on the Communications Strategy, mechanisms for expert advice for hospital and primary care workers, and access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
AFDO joined with other organisations to commission a Statement of Concern from Australian experts in the areas of human rights, bioethics, and disability to emphasise key human rights principles and standards needed to underpin ethical decision-making in the context of disability and the COVID-19 pandemic.  You can download the Statement of Concern on our website.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) accessible resources

The Department of Social Services (DSS) has released a range of new resources in Easy Read and Auslan about COVID-19.  You can access these resources on the DSS Disability & Carers webpage.


Are you looking for easy to understand information on the COVIDSafe app? 

Our colleagues at the Council for Intellectual Disability have published an Easy Read document on COVIDSafe app in HTML and PDF.

Disability Information Helpline

The Disability Information Helpline provides information and referrals for people with disability, who need help because of COVID-19.  The Helpline can help people with disability, as well as their families, carers, and support workers.

The Disability Information Helpline is free, private and fact-checked.  You can contact the Helpline in the following ways:
  • Phone (free call): 1800 643 787
  • If you are deaf, or have hearing loss or a speech impairment, you can call the National Relay Service on 133 677
  • Livechat: click on this livechat (external) link, then on the button in the bottom right hand corner.
The Helpline is available Monday to Friday, from 8am to 8pm (AEST) and Saturday & Sunday from 9am to 7pm (AEST).  It is not available on national public holidays.

Other COVID-19 information and resources 

We have a section of our website dedicated to information and resources on COVID-19.  You can access this information and resources via the links below.  

NDIS and CoronaVirus

Every Australian Counts logo
AFDO is one of four organisations that make up the National Disability and Carer Alliance (the Alliance) which is the organisation behind Every Australian Counts.  Below, we share a message from our Every Australian Counts Campaign Director, Kirsten Deane on the NDIS and CoronaVirus.

"At this really uncertain time, good clear information about what is happening with the NDIS is absolutely critical.

We know everyone has heaps of questions – and sometimes the info on the NDIS website can be a bit hard to understand. So we’ve been putting your questions together and sending them to the NDIA for answers. 

We held a huge online Zoom forum with Scott McNaughton from the NDIA a few weeks ago. That was followed by an interview with the man at the top – NDIA CEO, Martin Hoffman. There were a lot of big announcements on things like iPads and devices, grocery delivery fees, access to PPE, and much, much more. You can check out their answers on our website.

We have introduced a special section on our website to cover all things NDIS and Coronavirus. There is NDIS and Coronavirus FAQ page and a Resource page where we have pulled together plenty of great resources and tools from all around the web.

And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for our emails for quick explainers on NDIS changes as soon as they come out. 

We know it’s a tough time for everyone at the moment. There’s a lot of uncertainty and we don’t know what will happen next.

But one thing we are certain of – we are stronger when we work together."

Stay safe.
Kirsten and the Every Australian Counts team

Advocacy Campaigns



As mentioned in our previous newsletters, we have been advocating alongside our colleagues at Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), Disability Representative Organisations (DROs) and Disability Advocacy Organisations to ensure that people with disability are prioritised during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

You can read more about the COVID-19 advocacy campaigns that AFDO is either a part of, or that we endorse on our website.

Assistive Technology For All

Our NDIS & Special Projects Officer, Ramona Mandy represents AFDO on the Assistive Technology For All Alliance (ATFA) who’s work is currently around a national campaign for an aids and equipment scheme for all people with disability who are not eligible for the NDIS.

Older Australians who are ineligible for the NDIS and younger people with a disability or acquired injury who are not NDIS participants have limited access to assistive technologies. This includes devices such as wheelchairs, prosthetic aids, screen-reading software and rails in the bathroom to help them remain independent at home. 

We are calling on the Australian Government to stop people from falling through policy and program cracks by establishing a National Assistive Technology Program so that everyone has equitable access to life-altering technology.

Would you like to help advocate for a National Assistive Technology Program for people with disability outside the NDIS? There are a number of ways you can get involved.  Please visit the Assistive Technology For All Alliance (ATFA) webpage to learn more and to join the campaign.

Six people standing together smiling at the camera. One person is in a wheelchair, and one person has a guide dog, one person has a prosthetic leg, and the other three people do not have obvious disabilities.

Disability Royal Commission 

Share your story

Sharing your story helps the Disability Royal Commission understand the impacts of violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation on people with disabilities.  It will also help the Royal Commission make recommendations to stop it from happening again.

One way you can share your experience is by making a submission. You can do this in any way you feel comfortable – by telephone, email, video, or through the Commission's website

You can still make a submission to the Disability Royal Commission during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Please visit the Disability Royal Commission website for more information on how to share your story.  AFDO encourages all people with disability to fully engage and submit your story to our Royal Commission, now is our time! 


Have your say 

The Royal Commission will is publishing Issues Papers on different topics so that you can have your say on issues that are important to you.  Below is a list of Issues Papers that you can provide your feedback on.

  • Rights and Attitudes
  • Emergency Planning and Response
  • Criminal Justice System
  • Health Care for People with Cognitive Disability
  • Group Homes
  • Education and Learning

The Issues Papers are available on the Royal Commission website, and you can provide feedback to the Royal Commission by phone, email, audio recording, or by video recording. Responses can be in any language. The Royal Commission will translate the response to English.

We will be submitting our responses and/or joining with others, where they provide stronger understanding and expertise, so please join all of us in this critical part of this process to ensure our voices are heard and that it is realised that the abuse and exploitation of people with disability, is not a historical issue, but is shamefully continuing to happen every day, in real-time, right now! 

New "Connect" eNewsletter

Sign up to Connect, the Commission's new e-newsletter and keep up to date with everything that’s happening at the Disability Royal Commission.

In the first edition, which was released last week, you can find out about the First Nations Advisory Group which was set up to provide support and guidance to the Commission on matters specific to First Nations peoples with disability.

You can read the first edition of Connect on the Commission's website, and you can subscribe to the Connect eNewsletter here.

Disability Support Pension (DSP)

Mutual obligations suspended

The Federal Government has suspended participation requirements (mutual obligations) for people who receive the DSP, due to COVID-19, until at least 22nd May 2020.

This means that if you are on the DSP, you will not have to complete your mutual obligations, including:

  • looking for work or going to interviews
  • doing work experience or training
  • doing any of the activities in your Job Plan.

Mobility Allowance

The Australian Government has also stopped Mobility Allowance reviews, so it’s easier for you to keep your payments during the COVID-19 outbreak.  This means that if you are already getting Mobility Allowance, your situation will not be reviewed to check that you are still eligible for Mobility Allowance.

Other Centrelink changes

The Australian Government has also suspended mutual obligation requirements for:

  • JobSeeker Payment
  • Youth Allowance as a job seeker
  • Parenting Payment
  • Special Benefit.

You can find more information about these changes at:

News from our members

AFDO's membership is made up of Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), Disability Representative Organisations (DROs) and Disability Advocacy Organisations, that have all been busy advocating for people with disability in different ways.  

Below, we have included some information to give you an idea of some of our member organisations have been working on recently, we congratulate and support all of our members in their continuing role for people with disability across Australia.

Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia logo

Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (A4) 

In recent times, A4 has been especially busy with writing extensive submissions on the following issues/inquiries:

  • the NDIS Tune Review;
  • the Disability Royal Commission. A4 sent detailed submissions on education, group homes, and psychosocial disability to the Royal Commission in recent months. These submissions are available on A4's website;
  • the ACT Government inquiry on youth mental health in collaboration with Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder (SOfASD) in the ACT; and
  • the Senate Inquiry into autism.

These submissions include recent analysis and reporting of autism prevalence in Australia.  A4 has also commented on autism-related data from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). 

A4 is also supporting a number of autistic people and their families with Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) NDIS plan reviews.  You can learn more about A4 and their work on the A4 website.

Brain Injury Australia logo

Brain Injury Australia (BIA)  

Founded in 1986, Brain Injury Australia is Australia's peak advocacy organisation representing the over 700,000 Australians living with a brain injury.

Alongside providing policy advice to Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, and representing consumers on a range of advisory groups, Brain Injury Australia also drives multi-year public education campaigns on brain injury, which include: 

  • traumatic brain injury (TBI) - the leading cause of traumatic TBI is from falls, due to the ageing of Australia's population;
  • people with a brain injury in the criminal justice system (as many as 80% of adult prisoners report 1 or more brain injuries);
  • inflicted TBI (sometimes referred to as “Shaken Baby Syndrome”), the leading cause of death and disability in children who have been abused;
  • TBI in the military (1 in every 10 Australian Defence Force personnel who served in the Middle East reported a post-deployment TBI);
  • women, domestic and family violence and TBI; and
  • concussion in sport.
You can learn more about Brain Injury Australia, and their advocacy and education campaigns on the BIA website.
Deaf Australia logo

Deaf Australia

Deaf Australia represents the Deaf, deaf, and hard of hearing community who use Auslan (Australian Sign Language) as their primary or preferred language and as cultural identity of the Deaf Community.
Deaf Australia promotes greater recognition of Auslan as a right. They work for access to Auslan supported services and programs to ensure that Deaf, deaf and hard of hearing people can gain information and knowledge so that they can contribute to the community and their own wellbeing as equally as everyone else. 
Deaf Australia work with the stakeholders, public, industry, and governments to remove barriers that limit access for Deaf, deaf, and hard of hearing people in the areas of education, health, employment, communication, and justice. They do this by developing effective policies and advocating for amendments to relevant legislation (e.g., the states and territories’ Juries Acts and Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)) and for improved funding, research and supports to enable full participation in Australian life.  

You can learn more about Deaf Australia and their work on the Deaf Australia website.
Deafness Forum of Australia logo

Deafness Forum of Australia  

Deafness Forum of Australia advised the Government on how to avoid problems in transitioning programs into the NDIS. 25,000 families would be affected by moving hearing services from the Health portfolio. A second issue was a gap in the plan to integrate the National Auslan Booking Service (NABS) with the NDIS, which would have denied access to 1,000 Auslan users. In both these matters, the Government made welcomed changes in response to Deafness Forum’s representations.

On behalf of its stakeholders, advice was given to both the Disability and to the Aged Care royal commissions on the efficacy of virtual engagement during this pandemic.

Deafness Forum was involved in informing proposed changes to consumer law on button battery safety - they are used in hearing aids and can be dangerous to children.

The reluctance of the Government to caption its public announcements on social media is dangerous in an emergency: Deafness Forum leads national advocacy efforts to address this systemic problem.

You can read more about Deafness Forum and their work on the Deafness Forum website.
Disability Justice Australia logo

Disability Justice Australia

Membership Drive
Disability Justice Australia is seeking new members from anywhere in Australia.  Membership is free for people over 18 who have ongoing support needs associated with any type of disability. Please contact Susan Bonneau or call Toll Free or via the National Relay Service on 1800 808 126 if you would like a Membership Application Form sent to you.

Check out the Disability Justice Australia website if you need further information about what they do.

Calling for Volunteers for Victoria Police Community Encounters Program
Disability Justice Australia runs a volunteer program for people with disability who want to help train Recruits at the Victoria Police Academy in disability awareness.
  • Obviously, volunteers need to be residents of Victoria.
  • Disability Justice Advocacy will train and support you in human rights to become a representative for all Victorians living with disability. 
  • You will help teach the cadets to communicate with respect, consideration, and understanding to you, and to all Victorians living with disability.
  • Travel costs are also provided.
Limited places available so act now if you are interested.
Please contact Susan Bonneau or call Toll Free or via the National Relay Service on 1800 808 126 if you would like a Community Encounters Volunteer Invitation and Application Form sent to you.
Disability Resources Centre logo

Disability Resources Centre

Transport for All campaign.
Equal access to public transport (trains, trams, buses, taxis, and rideshares) is a human right. It also allows many people with disabilities to live a full life and connect with the community. Victorian activists have been campaigning for a fully accessible transport system for almost 50 years. The state response has been consistent: “It’s a complicated process, we need more time.”

We think 50 years is time enough. We need to demand action NOW.   

Please join the campaign. Together we can make our voices heard.

You can learn more, and join the campaign on the DRC website.
Down Syndrome Australia logo

Down Syndrome Australia 

Down Syndrome Australia has been focused on supporting their community to have access to good information during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They have created new resources for families, and have a dedicated section of their website with CoronaVirus information for their community. This information has been put together to help people with Down syndrome and their families access the information they need during this difficult time. The information is available at Coronavirus Information.  

Down Syndrome Australia has also conducted a survey of thier families about their experiences with the pandemic. They have used that information in their advocacy work with Government and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

They are also looking at new ways for families to connect and share stories. Down Syndrome Australia recently launched the Ask About Down Syndrome App. This is the world’s first app providing information about Down syndrome and was developed alongside people with Down syndrome.  The app features people with Down syndrome answering questions and sharing stories about community inclusion, the barriers they face, and how these issues can be addressed. The app also links to a range of resources that support and promote community inclusion.  You can download the app on the App Store and Google Play Store.

More information about all Down Syndrome Australia’s work can be found on the Down Syndrome Australia website.
National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum logo

The National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum

The National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum represents the needs of consumers and carers on projects of national importance. Members, from all states and territories and key national organisations, use their lived experience, understanding of the mental health system and communication skills to advocate and promote the issues and concerns of consumers and carers.

Members are currently or have recently participated in the following projects:
  • the co-design of a national combined voice for mental health lived experience
  • membership of working groups responsible for the implementation of The Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan 
  • submissions to national inquiries such as the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Mental Health and the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety 
  • national consultation processes relating to issues such as digital mental health and the peer workforce
  • development of reports, positions statements and papers on topics of relevance including a position paper on Psychosocial Disability.
You can read more about NMHCCF and their work on the NMHCCF website.  
People with disabilities WA logo

People with Disabilities WA (PWdWA)

PWdWA is an advocacy organisation funded through the National Disability Advocacy Program and the WA state government to provide individual and systemic advocacy state-wide in Western Australia (WA). PWdWA have individual advocates that can assist people with NDIS reviews and appeals, submissions to the Disability Royal Commission, and any other issues where a person is not being heard or is experiencing discrimination.  

Their organisation is run by and for people with disabilities and they have developed a model of co-design they aim to use in all projects that brings a diversity of disability views to everything they do. Their co-design model and toolkit are on their website and encourage the sector to use co-design wherever possible.

They are the peak disabled persons organisation for people with disabilities in WA, providing representation and advice to the state government, NDIA, and other key stakeholders.  At a systemic level they are bringing the experience of people with disability in WA to the NDIA and state government through their NDIS Systemic Advocacy Project. PWdWA also work closely with Shelter WA to address housing issues for people with disabilities, and are engaged with the Summer Foundation Projects promoting SDA in WA.

They are a member-based organisation and have a current ILC Grant to improve member engagement and support regional peer networks and self-advocacy in regional WA. PWdWA have lots of resources and toolkits developed through their projects and by their advocates that they share widely to support self-advocacy. Their website project page and page on how they can help has resources to help people with NDIS, DSP, Health rights, Board membership, keeping safe, and making submissions to the Disability Royal Commission.

Currently, PWdWA are running the Diversity Field Officer Service in Metropolitan and Wheatbelt areas of WA with support from AFDO. Over 20 businesses have benefitted from this expertise from cafes, recreation services, gyms, and health services. PWdWA is supporting new businesses through to September 2020.

You can learn more about PWdWA and their work on the PWdWA website.
Physical Disability Australia logo

Physical Disability Australia (PDA)

PDA’s Youth Alliance network was created specifically for Physical Disability Australia Members aged 18 to 30 years.  It provides a dedicated forum, voice, and network for young Australians living with physical disability.  This PDA initiative will provide an avenue for their voices to be heard whilst also building on a sense of community, confidence, acceptance and belonging.

PDA’s Youth Alliance is also about growing a network of emerging young leaders, encouraging them to move the organisation and disability rights forward with strength, purpose and shared belief.

A number of exciting plans are already in the pipeline, with the Youth Alliance Link-Up being the first to be launched.  This weekly online social hour brings together PDA’s young adults to socialise, chat and escape the current challenges faced as a result of COVID-19.

This exciting event is run every Wednesday at 5pm (AEST), and everyone is encouraged to be involved, to catch up with both old and new friends, to escape isolation and to belong.

If you’re interested in joining this fun-filled hour, check out the links on PDA's social media pages (see below) or email to register, or for more information.  To keep up to date with planned events, stories and ideas follow PDA's social pages and sign up for their FREE MEMBERSHIP by going to

The PDA Youth Alliance looks forward to meeting you and welcoming you to their network, each Wednesday: 
  • 4:30pm ADEL/DAR,
  • 3pm PERTH
Instagram: pda_youth_alliance (

Facebook: PDA Youth Alliance Social Link-Up (18-30 year old PDA Members) (

PDA’s main Facebook page: (

PDA’s main Instagram page: (
Women with Disabilities ACT logo

Women with Disabilities ACT (WWDACT)

Women with Disabilities ACT (WWDACT) advocates to government on behalf of women, non-binary and feminine-identifying people.

WWDACT also provides information, safe spaces in which to meet, and training to their members and friends. As with most community organisations, they are currently absorbed with helping their community through this time, and making sure that nobody is forgotten in the government's work to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

You can learn more about WWDACT and their work on the WWDACT webpage.
Women with Disabilities Victoria logo

Women with Disabilities Victoria (WDV)

WDV's systemic advocacy and policy work have not slowed down.  WDV is continuing their systemic advocacy and policy work, and reshaping their training and community engagement programs for more online delivery to ensure that they can reach project partners, family violence, disability and other priority workforces most in need of capacity building at this time.

Workforce Development Programs are working hard with project partners to find ways to continue delivering training and developing resources for the prevention of violence against women with disabilities. 

WDV have been talking with partner organisations like Our Watch and the Centres Against Sexual Assault about key messages for the Disability Royal Commission.  Their practice development projects with Our Watch and Domestic Violence Victoria continue. 

WDV will continue their policy work through Zoom meetings, emails and over the phone. This includes doing systemic advocacy and giving presentations. If you have any inquiries about WDV's policy work please contact

You can learn more about Women with Disabilities Victoria and their work on the WDV website.
Youth Disability Advocacy Service (YDAS) logo

Youth Disability Advocacy Service (YDAS)

The Youth Disability Advocacy Service (YDAS) is Victoria’s only advocacy service that works together with disabled young people to achieve their human rights. Disabled young people who are aged 12–25 can access YDAS' free individual advocacy service if they need advice or assistance.

YDAS also does systemic advocacy work and delivers programs for disabled young people and the youth sector. This includes:

  • Emerging Young Leaders Program for young people with disability;
  • Map Your Future, a workshop available electronically and in-person to support young people to set goals and plan for their goals;
  • Together, provides sector training for organisations so they can be more inclusive and accessible for young people with disability. 

YDAS is a core agency of Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic). YDAS was established in 2006 and is funded by the Victorian Government.  You can learn more about YDAS and their work on the YDAS website.

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)


Getting the Most Out of Your NDIS Plan - Online Information Sessions

AFDO has been funded by the Victorian Government under the Transition Support Package (TSP) for the past 3 years, to help the Victorian community to transition to the NDIS.

Part of this funding during 2019-2020 included writing and delivering information sessions on how to get the most out of your NDIS plan.  With social distancing now required with the COVID-19 outbreak, we will be holding these information sessions online. 

Our next information session will be held in two parts: 

  • Part One - Wednesday 20th May from 11.00am - 12.30pm
  • Part Two - Friday 22nd May from 11.00am - 12.30pm

We are holding the information sessions online using the meeting program called Zoom. However, if you do not have access to the internet, you can join the meeting by telephone by using a standard landline or mobile phone at normal call costs.  

If you would like to learn how to get more from your NDIS plan, you can get more information, and register at:
Getting the most out of your NDIS plan 20 and 22 May 

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