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Including Everyone 
A newsletter by Inclusion Australia, the national representative organisation for people with an intellectual disability and their families

Catherine's update

Welcome again to Including Everyone, our regular newsletter full of information about our work, our projects, and who we are.  

Spring has been busy at Inclusion Australia with lots going on for us and our members.  

In August I was lucky to travel to Canberra with disability advocates Gavin Burner and Greg Tucker to talk at the NDIS Jobs and Skills Summit. We were invited to speak about employment for people with an intellectual disability by Bill Shorten, Minister for the NDIS. It was a privilege to be there with Gavin and Greg who spoke clearly about the need for more open employment options. This was part of a series of government forums talking about employment. You can read more about our involvement below.  

One big recent change has been more in-person meetings. At the start of October, we had our annual planning meeting with our Board, management team and members of the Our Voice Committee in Melbourne. This was our first time together since March 2020. It was wonderful for many of us to be in the same place, working together again. 
Inclusion Australia Board members and Our Voice Committee members, October 2022

Despite this, we know that COVID is still not over. Face-to-face catch ups do not work for everyone, and we still had some people joining in online. Lessons from the pandemic about accessibility and supporting people’s personal decisions about risk will remain part of our work until the risks of COVID are gone for everyone. 

This past month we have also been reminded that people with disabilities are disproportionately affected by climate events and disasters with yet more flooding across the East Coast. In March this year we were one of 40 disability organisations who signed an open letter calling on the then-Government to improve emergency support for people with disability. This need remains, and our thoughts are with those impacted by the floods.  

There have also been lot of change in the disability community. We congratulate Kurt Fearnley on his appointment as Chair of the National Disability Insurance Agency, and welcome new CEO Rebecca Falkingham. We also welcome the appointments of Graeme Innes and Maryanne Diamond to the NDIA Board. It is wonderful to have people with disabilities in such important roles. This is something the disability community has wanted for a long time. We hope that this is the start of more opportunities for people with disabilities to have roles in the running of the NDIS. 

We are also saying goodbye to some sector colleagues with Mary Sayers stepping down as CEO of Children and Young People Australia (CYDA), and Down Syndrome Australia CEO Ellen Skladzien announcing her intention to move on at the end of the year. I want to thank Ellen and Mary for their support and advocacy for people with an intellectual disability in your roles. You will be greatly missed. 

Elsewhere in this edition you will also find the latest on our Disability Royal Commission work, what’s happening with the Our Voice Committee, projects on making decisions, and details about recent and upcoming conferences by our members.  

Until next time, stay safe. 

Catherine McAlpine, CEO Inclusion Australia

Our Voice

Our Voice is an official committee of the Inclusion Australia Board. All the members come from around Australia and have an intellectual disability. We give advice on issues that are important to people with intellectual disability.  

We have had a busy time recently with lots happening!  

In September, Our Voice members Payge Hollis and Laura Naing were part of a conversation at the Virtual Disability Conference. They talked about the issues people have had with the NDIS and ideas to make it work better for people with an intellectual disability. You can find out more about their session here on the conference website.  

In October, Our Voice met together in Melbourne.  The meeting was for the Inclusion Australia Strategic Workshop. It was the first time that the new members of Our Voice had worked together in person.

Our Voice members (L-R) Luke, Sonia, Sarah, Payge and Kyal with Becky Rowe from Inclusion Australia

We talked about how we could make the Inclusion Australia Values and Mission easier to understand for everyone. We gave our ideas to the Inclusion Australia Board to think about. This included using simpler words. We also did work with Becky from Inclusion Australia about our webpage and telling more people about what we do. 


Sadly, Laura and I could not travel to Melbourne with everyone else. This was sad, but Becky helped Laura and me be part of the meeting online. We could see everyone and felt part of what was happening. Hopefully we will all meet again in Hobart in November at the Speak Out Conference.   

Take care everyone!

Kalena Bos, Our Voice Chair 

To find out more about Our Voice, visit: 

Employment - making it work 

The Australian Government has held a series of meetings about employment recently as part of their big Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra on 1-2 September.  

This has included specific forums on disability employment. In August our CEO Catherine was in Canberra for the NDIS Jobs and Skills Forum. She spoke about the ‘Polished Pathway’ which can mean many young people with a disability never get a chance to work in paid employment. You can read her speech in full here

Catherine was joined by Gavin Burner from SACID in South Australia and Greg Tucker from VALID in Victoria. They spoke about their experiences of working in Australian Disability Enterprises and the importance of people with an intellectual disability having more choices and being paid properly for their work. Both Greg and Gavin met with NDIS Minister Bill Shorten to tell their stories in person.  

(L-R) Greg Tucker (VALID), NDIS Minister Bill Shorten and Gavin Burner (SACID)

There was also a surprise for Gavin who got the chance to chat with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese who dropped by to an evening event to say hello. 

Gavin and Catherine enjoy a chat with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

The forum was followed by a Disability Employment Roundtable hosted by Minister Rishworth, Minister for Families and Social Services to launch Employ My Ability - the Disability Employment Strategy with a framework for government, employers and the community to increase employment outcomes for people with disability.  

Gavin and Catherine were back in Canberra in October talking with Minister Rishworth about ADEs and a way forward which increases employment options for people with an intellectual disability.  

(L-R) Catherine McAlpine, Minister Amanda Rishworth and Gavin Burner 

In exciting news Greg, Gavin and Catherine were asked to talk about jobs for people with a disability as part of a employment especial for the ABC's Let Us In! podcasts about life with a disability, hosted by Kurt Fearnley and Sarah Shands. Fiona McKenzie from CID also spoke about employment on the show. You can listen to the episode and others in the series on the ABC website.   

Let Us In! is a disability podcast by the ABC (image from ABC website) 

Although we have been very busy with all this work, we are pleased to see that improving employment for people with a disability is getting the attention it needs. This news article by the ABC shows how the current shortage of workers is creating more opportunities for people with disability:  

We will continue to stand with people with an intellectual disability for proper pay for proper jobs. For more on our Employment work visit: 

Follow our hashtag #EqualPayEqualRespect on social media to find out more.  

The NDIS review must include everyone

The Australian Government has announced there will be a 12-month an independent review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The Government says the review will look at the NDIS design, operation, and sustainability to “get the NDIS back on track.” 

Following soon after the recent appointment of a new CEO and NDIA Board chair, the review is an opportunity to revisit the original aims and principles of the scheme as it approaches its 10-year anniversary. 

The review will be co-chaired by Professor Bruce Bonyhady and Lisa Paul AO, former Secretary of the Australia Government Department of Education and Chair of the Expert Panel for the Quality Initial Teacher Education Review. 

They will be supported by a panel of disability advocates, including former Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Kevin Cocks AM; General Manager of the Melbourne Disability Institute Kirsten Deane OAM, Executive Director, Community Connections, Dougie Herd; Dr Stephen King from the Productivity Commission; and Judy Brewer AO, a high-profile speaker, writer and advocate on issues relating to education, autism, and family carers. 

Inclusion Australia welcomes news that the review will “work with participants, their families and carers.” However, with around 20% of NDIS participants having an intellectual disability, and over 60% with a cognitive disability, it is critical that people with relevant lived experience are supported to participate in the review.  Targeted, accessible, co-designed strategies are needed to ensure the voice and experience of people with an intellectual disability are heard and taken into account. 

As noted in a recent speech by Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Ben Gauntlett, “people with intellectual or cognitive disability need to be included in how we design policy.”  This review provides an opportunity to show that the NDIS can reflect the need of all people who use it. 

The panel will deliver a final report by the end of October 2023. 

Read our statement on the NDIS Review here.  

For more information on the Review, visit 

Our Disability Royal Commission work   

With formal public hearings drawing to a close in the coming months, the Disability Royal Commission has had a busy schedule of hearings. This has also meant a challenging time for the disability advocacy community to support witnesses, make statements and plan appearances. 

The Commissioners met recently in Brisbane and heard distressing evidence from people with disabilities and advocates for public hearing 29 about the experiences of abuse and harassment in public places. Julie Butler, Advocacy Practice Leader from Speak Out Tasmania gave evidence at the hearing about instances of bullying, harassment, threats, and physical assaults reported by people with an intellectual disability.  

Julie said name calling is very common - for some people it happens every single time they go into their community, with buses and shopping malls very common places for abuse. More concerningly, it is extremely common for such issues not to be reported. Julie said a majority of people she works with are “frequently told by parents and support workers to walk away or ignore this behaviour – so it goes unchallenged and accepted.”  

A common theme across all witnesses was the way that people with disabilities change their own habits and behaviours to try and avoid potential violence and abuse. This includes not catching the bus and never shopping alone, only with support. Julie explained how this can deskill people, making them less independent and reinforcing old community views that people with intellectual disability always need support.  

The hearing showed the need for initiatives like VALID’s Staying Safe project which helps people with an intellectual disability have conversations about what to do if you experience abuse. Led by and developed with people with disabilities, Staying Safe includes short films and an accessible handbook for talking about safety.    

Screenshot taken from VALID's Staying Safe resources 

Meanwhile, other recent public hearings highlighted the appalling conditions in which many people with disability are forced to live. In August, the Royal Commission met in Parramatta, NSW to look at homelessness, including people’s experiences in boarding houses, hostels and other housing arrangements [link].   

As part of the hearing, we partnered with People with Disability Australia and Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA) to issue a joint statement demanding action to remove barriers to secure, safe and accessible housing.  

Of particular concern to Inclusion Australia members was the drift back to institutional housing models. Although many old centres have closed, some have been replaced with new buildings and apartments on the same sites, with the same staff, still segregated from the community. Our CEO Catherine McAlpine called on the Commissioners to “examine the institutionalisation people with intellectual disability are still experiencing across all housing models, especially housing that is provided by organisations with a history of large-scale institutionalised practices.”  

In September the Commissioners met in Perth for public hearing 27 – looking at conditions in detention in the criminal justice system. Our CEO Catherine McAlpine attended Day 1 of the hearing noting how solitary confinement and other detention strategies are ‘compounding and compounding’ the barriers experienced by young detainees with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities.  

We are pleased that the public hearings are allowing the opportunity to bear witness to the experiences of people with disability. However, we remain concerned about the pace of the hearings and the recommendations that will follow. It is critical that the commissioners and their teams have time to consolidate and reflect and work with the disability community on the recommendations that will follow.  

The next hearing will be held in Melbourne from 24-28 October 2022, with a much-needed conversation about the experience of violence against, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.  This includes people from the D/deaf and hard of hearing community. 

For more on the hearings read the Royal Commission’s Connect newsletter.   

To read Julie Butler’s evidence in full see Transcript Day 3 - Public hearing 28, Brisbane    

To read more about our work with the Disability Royal Commission visit: 

Getting together again     

It is conference season around the country with self-advocates coming together in different ways.

Earlier this month our friends from Parent 2 Parent met at the Alexandra Headlands on the Sunshine Coast for the 2nd annual Loud and Clear Queensland Conference and Concert.  

The conference is an opportunity for people with disability to be involved in their community, meet new friends, develop new skills and have a fun. It is organised by people with intellectual disabilities for people with all abilities and this year members have planned for it to be "bigger and better”.  

Speaking before the conference, Jodi Wolthers, CEO Parent to Parent said "We are excited to work with the members of Loud and Clear to present the 2nd annual Loud and Clear Conference. It is an exciting opportunity for self-advocates to plan, deliver and participate in a conference that highlights their abilities."

Loud and Clear Queensland self-advocates at their first conference in 2021

Events included “Got Talent" – an exciting concert to showcase the abilities of performers in a talent show. It featured performances by the Gubby Gubby Dance, the Spiral Theatre Band, Sunshine Troupe, MC Wheels, The Outsiders plus other talented artists.  

Payge, a dancer and Loud and Clear member said "The best thing for me at the conference is the acts in the talent show providing inclusion for people with intellectual disability. It will be educational, and we will learn new things which we will take the information and learning with us forever. It will be a fun, awesome time.  I can't wait to meet new friends and have a blast!"  

Long-time Loud and Clear member Tim told us "The conference and concert will give us better talking and communication skills. We want to show the community the abilities of people who have disabilities, so they have a better understanding. We love making friends, and we excel in friendships and social activities". 

The event is a huge organisational effort, with all-hands on deck. "Our conference and concert has been 6 months in the making and it will bring communities and people together, while showcasing the talent and passion of our disability community” said Leanne, the Loud and Clear Coordinator. “I'm so excited, it's going to be an amazing event".  

For the latest news and photos from the Loud and Clear Conference visit: 

Meanwhile… the historic passing of Queen Elizabeth II had an unexpected impact on our friends at Speak Out Tasmania. Their annual self-advocacy conference was due to start on 22 September – until it was announced as the official Australian day of mourning for the Queen. With this year marking 40 years of the conference, the idea of having to cancel was particularly difficult for the team.  

Working around the clock, the Speak Out team moved quickly to find a new date for the conference that would work for everyone. Thankfully the stars aligned, and the conference celebrations will go ahead as planned on 2-3 November in Hobart. Next year the team hopes to have more than 24 hours to organise their 41st conference! 

For more details on the Speak Out 40th anniversary conference or to register please visit: 

Go West! 

In September our CEO Catherine was able to visit our West Australian team after many delays due to COVID. She met some of the team for the first time in person.  

Our WA team (L-R): Emma Softly, Becky Rowe, Lorraine Sequerah, Brooke Canham, Christine Kuca-Thompson, with CEO Catherine McAlpine.  

Whilst in Perth, Catherine also met with DDWA’s On the Couch Group. Started in 2018, the group is a place for people with an intellectual disability to share ideas about how to make mainstream services better. The group meets to talk about important things like making friends, having a good home and finding a job.  

Catherine spoke to On The Couch about customised employment and finding different ways to create proper jobs in regular workplaces for people with an intellectual disability.

DDWA CEO Mary Butterworth said the session went down very well with everyone. “Catherine’s straightforward information was well received by the attendees. It prompted lots of conversation about different types of work they could consider for the future. 

To find out more about future On The Couch sessions, visit 

Supporting decision making 

Getting support for decision making is critical for many people with an intellectual disability. It means people can make their own choices in a way that works for them.  

Supported decision making has been a big focus for us and our members in 2022.  

Inclusion Australia’s Make Decisions Real project is co-designed and led by people with an intellectual disability. It will help people with an intellectual disability and their supporters learn about supported decision making.  Our Make Decisions Real team have been busy recording a series of accessible videos about the steps involved in making decisions with support. They are aimed at people with an intellectual disability and people who support them to make decisions. They include real stories of people making different decisions about their lives and the supports they need. Filming completed recently and they will be released before the end of the year.   

Our Make Decisions Real team recording their new films

Meanwhile our colleagues at CID and SACID ran conferences about making decisions for people with an intellectual disability on the same day in September as part of their joint My Life My Choices project. People listened to experts with an intellectual disability and shared stories about decision making.  

It was a first chance for people to see the new My Life My Choices Conversation Cards, which were co-designed by people with disability for people with disability

The cards help people to think about decision making in their lives. They support learning about decision making, rights, and opportunities while encouraging relationship building and open communication. People can point to, hold and share the cards to express themselves to promote two-way discussion, and build their own views of decision making. 

Speaking about the cards, SACID Executive Director Felicity Crowther said “we hope they will open up conversations between people with disability and their supporters about decision making. Every Decision Maker and each decision is different. The cards focus on strengths and self-leadership.”  

To find out more about the conversation cards visit: 

CID and SACID also launched a great new film about making your own decisions. It shows people with an intellectual disability talking about how it feels to make their own decisions and choices. Each person shares the importance of supported decision making in their lives and the impact it can have. You can watch the film in full here: 


Stay in touch 

There are lots of ways to find out what’s happening at Inclusion Australia: 


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