This article was written by Kara, our new Community Engagement Manager!

Hi, I'm Kara! Two months into my role as Community Engagement Manager at Like Family and it’s been such a delight getting to know all our Members, Carers, Coordinators and Partners. I look forward to continuing to build the sense of community among our multi-faceted family, and to bringing you content from my experiences along the way.

I recently attended DSC’s Annual NDIS Conference, their first since the NDIS Review and its proposed changes were released. This gathering felt like a crucial opportunity to tap into emerging insights as well as seek answers to the pressing question of "what's next?" for people living with disability, service providers, and the wider community. Over two days I met so many incredible people. All of them committed to not just making a difference, but to carving out space in their organisations to allow the needs of their participants to always be front and centre.

In the spirit of the collaboration required to provide this kind of participant-first service, I asked several of them to share their key takeaways and insights from the conference. Yasser Zaki (CEO of Tender Loving Care Disability Services), Cherie Cordina (Executive Leader from AHP Disability and Homecare), and Nicole Gamerov (Founder & CEO of MyCareSpace) have almost 40 years of collective experience working in and navigating the ever-changing disability sector. Our conversations during the conference both challenged and deeply resonated with me, so who better to work with to ensure the information we provide you from the conference paints the full experience?

Fundamental Themes: Community and Lived Experience

"We are disabled by our bodies, but also by society."

Community and lived experience emerged as powerful catalysts for change during the conference. Connection to and participation in community at the local level is key to dismantling the systemic segregation that has burdened the disability community for so long. The panel for Foundational Supports reiterated that the responsibility for inclusion cannot fall only on individuals living with disabilities. Those providing support and the wider society at large have to play their part.

Cherie sees the importance of inclusive decision-making and advocating for “the active involvement of individuals with disabilities in shaping their support systems”. This was underscored in Sheree Henley's moving account of her son Isaac's journey on the Self Direction and Safeguards Panel, and the incredible outcomes he has achieved with the help of his ‘micro board’.

Yasser recognised the Lived Experience theme but also called for “a balance between lived experience and provider representation to deliver a much fairer and broader view on the sector”. He loved Professor Bruce Bonyhady’s clarification in the NDIS Review panel on bringing accountability to the whole sector equally, with a focus on improving the quality of service delivery and increasing accountability for all. Yasser believes this will create a better and safer scheme without taking away the choice and control concepts from the participants.

Empowering those living with disability with autonomy, and ensuring that their voices are at the centre of the conversation is the key to unlocking the full potential of the NDIS, but the onus falls on all of us to care for each other. To turn towards instead of away from the difficult moments and hardships and ask how we can help instead of asking “where’s your support worker”.

Bill Shorten’s Address

“The NDIS can't be the only lifeboat in the ocean”

One of the most anticipated moments of the conference was the address delivered by NDIS Minister Bill Shorten. He unveiled his “Getting the NDIS back on track Bill”, meant to implement priority recommendations from the NDIS Review. The intent of the two part legislation is to restore the integrity, consistency and transparency of the NDIS in line with its original intent. Some key takeaways for us were:

  • Clearer Entry Criteria: Aimed at ensuring transparency in participant eligibility and needs assessments. There are genuine concerns in the community on potential limitations on participant choice and flexibility within the budget framework. Collaboration with stakeholders, most importantly those currently using the NDIS, remains pivotal in refining the bill's provisions.
  • Planning Framework Transformation: A new planning framework shifting from a support-based to a budget-based approach, aiming for fair and reasonable funding allocations. It introduces a managed transition to new plans over five years, emphasising individualised budgeting for participants.
  • Effective Early Intervention: Addressing shortcomings in early intervention pathways, the Bill emphasised the need for tailored support for diverse needs, aiming to prevent long-term effects and maximise independence. It seeks to differentiate between support needs based on age and condition, prioritising timely and evidence-based interventions.
  • Defining NDIS Supports: By defining NDIS supports with reference to UNCRPD principles, the Bill clarifies eligibility criteria, aims to rebalance disability supports, and provides clarity for participants. It aims to redirect applicants to foundational supports, reducing reliance on the NDIS for non-disability-related needs.

This update represents a significant milestone in the evolution of the NDIS, marking a decisive step towards fostering greater inclusivity, empowerment, and autonomy for individuals with disability. As we navigate these changes, it is imperative that participants remain at the forefront of policy and decision-making processes. Or as Nicole so aptly put it: “we cannot pay lip service to ‘nothing about us without us’. Community consultation and co-design will be a critical part of how the government responds to the NDIS Review”.

Embracing Collaboration

“Connections keep people safe.. find your people”

Despite the challenges ahead, there is more transparency than ever before. As we look towards the future one thing remains clear – collaboration will be a cornerstone for both participants and providers in navigating this evolving landscape of the NDIS.

Yasser highlighted the importance of providers working together to find the niche services that they can add value to each other with. A focus on honest collaborations will bring more growth, more resources, more stability, which can then become a foundation for true service diversity.

Nicole reflected on the Navigator panel discussion, and emphasised the high levels of collaboration that will be required to deliver this new role successfully. She sees how people struggle to find quality services and support, and how the current system relies so heavily on people who don’t have capacity to deliver the outcomes people need. She emphasised the need for strategic collaborations across providers with diverse skills sets, so we can build a stronger community that is outcomes focused.

Cherie didn’t mince words, "We can't sugarcoat it; this period of change is scary", but our collective commitment to fostering inclusivity, embracing collaboration, and amplifying the voices of those with lived experience will drive the positive change we want to see in the sector (and the world!).

A big thanks to Kara, Yasser, Cherie and Nicole for sharing their insights with us. If you’d like to learn more about the NDIS review and its proposed changes, check out our articles on: