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Better disability support for CALD Canberrans

According to the 2016 census, 26.4 percent of Canberra’s residents are migrants. Although those born overseas have the same rate of disability as those born here, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australians are hugely underrepresented when it comes to accessing specialist disability services. For some, this may in part be due to cultural expectations that families alone will take care of their own, and I certainly honour that choice. But currently many CALD Canberrans lack the information needed to make an informed choice.

Today my colleague Elizabeth Lee moved a motion calling on the ACT Government to establish a grant program for disability advocacy groups to fund a CALD advocate. I spoke in full support of this motion. Currently, the ACT is one of the few jurisdictions in Australia not to have a disability advocacy service. Funding a single advocate to bridge the space between disability services and multicultural residents, including seniors, would go far towards fixing this problem in our territory.

Culturally and linguistically diverse Canberrans with disabilities need to fully understand what their options are so that they can seek the supports that suit them as individuals within their respective cultural frameworks.

A designated CALD advocate would help make sure that disability services (a) provide culturally relevant services, (b) deliver correct and helpful information that actually reaches those in migrant communities, and (c) demystify and de-stigmatise issues of disability and demonstrate in a culturally sensitive way that disability does not need to be a limitation that people just have to live with.

The alternative, which I reject, is a willingness to allow certain Canberrans to enjoy less fulfilling lives. I am glad that the minister, in responding to this motion, admitted that the ACT Government can do much better, and I hope to see real improvements.

Click on the arrow button to read my speech.


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