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Aboriginal communities are preparing for the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The NDIS means Aboriginal people with disability and their families will have more choice, voice and control than they have been used to having in the past. It will be a big change.

Some carers will be able to get more support for their loved ones than they have previously had, and that may well mean that they can return to work in some capacity. The ranks of working carers are likely to grow as the NDIS expands.

One way to learn more about what is available and how the scheme will work is to use the resources and contacts available through the My Choice Matters (MCM) website. MCM is the NSW Consumer Development Fund set up by the NSW Government to support people with disability, their families and carers to participate confidently and get the most out of self-directed supports and individualised funding NDIS will offer.

MCM provides opportunities for people with disability, their families and carers to build their skills and abilities to live life their way through events, training and information sessions, workshops, peer support, mentoring and leadership development.

The MCM website brings people together to share their experiences and collect ideas and information that everyone can use. You can get new ideas about what's possible; you can learn new things and find out what other people do; and you can find out what you need or can offer to others.

However, the existence of MCM is not generally well-known among Aboriginal people, which is a shame as it can certainly play a role in community readiness and information sharing in preparation for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The fact that Aboriginal people don’t know much about either the National Disability Insurance Scheme or the My Choice Matters website portal became clear late last year, following the release of the NSW Government, Living Life My Way, Yarnin' about Disability (NSW) report, in December 2013.

The NSW Government went out to Aboriginal communities across NSW in June and July last year to talk to Aboriginal people with disability, their families, carers and communities about the transition to the NDIS and how they need to be supported to be ready for it. What Aboriginal people said at these Yarn Ups has been summarised in the report. This report is helping guide how the government will support Aboriginal people in NSW.

The report states: “It is clear from what Aboriginal people told us at the Yarn Ups that there is limited awareness of what the NSW Government is doing to support people with disability, their families and carers as NSW moves towards full implementation of the NDIS in July 2018.

“Public and media attention has rightfully focused on the NDIS. However, until July 2016 only eligible residents of the three local government areas in the Hunter launch site (Newcastle, Maitland and Lake Macquarie) will receive supports through the NDIS. From 2016, the NDIS will start to expand to a full rollout across NSW. By July 2018, all eligible residents across NSW will be covered by the NDIS.

“The NSW Government will continue to implement its five-year commitment under Stronger Together 2, providing growth and improved services for people with disability in NSW, and moving to more person centred supports across the whole of NSW.”

At the Yarn Ups, Aboriginal people said they hoped the My Choice Matters website portal could provide information to Aboriginal people with disability, their families and carers to help people plan for the NDIS including details of levels of support that will be provided and how this can be changed for stages of life or change in circumstances.

They hoped the information could be distributed through community events and celebrations such as Seniors Week, Carers Week, NAIDOC and Reconciliation Knock-out Carnivals, or by holding a disability information day or organising yarning circles.

They suggested MCM could also develop:

  • A helpline that anyone could call for information or assistance;
  • A guide or directory on support providers;
  • Booklets on individualised funding packages and examples of the types of packages which have been used by other people;
  • Checklists to guide people through the process of planning supports and managing their packages.

These resources could be handed to Centrelink, Aboriginal Medical Services, Aboriginal Home Care services and local support providers for clients or through a mass mail-out in Aboriginal communities. Resources should be developed in accessible formats including for people who have literacy challenges, such in an audio format and a telephone hotline.

MCM could be used to organise skills workshops for Aboriginal people in financial management, self-advocacy, negotiation, and personalised assistance (individual / lifestyle planning). In one Yarn Up, a two-day Gathering was suggested to guide people on developing and articulating their aspirations and dreams, thinking about the supports needed to achieve these aspirations and learning how to plan and budget an individualised funding package for these supports.

MCM could also support people to share stories and learnings from each other through information sharing workshops and DVDs. Mentors could be engaged to work with Aboriginal people on an individual basis and grow their confidence.

Another idea was that MCM could sponsor people to be trained on legislation and legislative requirements for directly engaging or employing workers. It was also suggested that general disability information could be provided to families, carers and communities, such as how to identify patterns of behaviour and triggers of behaviour in a person with particular disability types.

Some participants also suggested that MCM could be used to engage more case workers or managers who would assist Aboriginal people with disability and their families and carers to understand the changes and support them to make decisions.

For more information on My Choice Matters visit: http://www.mychoicematters.org.au/

Source: Australian Government, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Knowledge Circle, Yarnin about Disability (NSW). You can download the full report here: