Last week I had the privilege of meeting with Michelle Moss & paige Armstrong at QDN . From the outside QDN is an unassuming building in the suburbs of brisbane but on the inside it is a hive of activity. QDN is the leading dpo for queensland as I mentioned in a earlier blog DPOS in Australia currently receive funding from local and national government to carry out representative functions around disability and this is how qdn gets money.
As a result all around its meeting space are graphics photos and evidence of consultation.
It was really interesting to hear about some of the emerging challenges and opportunities facing DPOS in Australia particularly around competition from the private sector and adoption of the language of independent living by the government without full comprehension of what that looks like in practice.
My key learning from my meeting were
1) use membership
QDN have a large membership at least by UK dpo standards and they actively engage with there membership providing them with opportunities to understand and use their rights. The volume of easy read materials was particularly noticible.
Talking to Michelle I learned a lot more about the new national disability insurance scheme which is the roll out of direct payments and personal budgets in Australia it’s big, relatively new and has teething troubles but has massive potential. Organisations like QDN are making sure that all disabled people are aware of the opportunities for choice and control the scheme offers. QDN is doing some really interesting to ensure that people with learning disabilities are not left behind.
What I found slightly surprisingly and depressing is Australia has a long history of institutionalising disabled people and is still struggling with deinsitutionalisation particularly around small group homes.
3)training the trainers
To support QDNs development of leaders they run training of trainers for any disabled people that want to get involved in projects.in fact they build it into all project programmes to ensure that it’s not just the usual suspects taking part.
4)representation vs advocacy
There is a big divide in Australia between representative dpos and organisations that do collective and individual case advocacy. The roles are separated which surprised me as most organisations in the UK do both.