The Government has been accused of devaluing people with disabilities after cancelling a national awards ceremony scheduled for the International Day of People with Disability.
The Department of Social Services scrapped the National Disability Awards in February — without telling the nation’s biggest disability peak bodies.
“One of our colleagues found out by looking at the website to find out about nominating somebody, and discovered that there was a statement saying that they were no longer running,” said Christina Ryan from the Disability Leadership Institute.
“Getting rid of it was disappointing; not telling us was actually really quite appalling. It was a very brutal way of going about it.”
The website says: “In 2018, the Government will not run the National Disability Awards as the main celebration of International Day of People with Disability on December 3rd.”
It also says “It’s time to do something different”.
Disability advocate Sue Salthouse was the 2017 winner of the Lesley Hall Leadership award (one of the now former National Disability Awards).
“I felt that it was really a blow to the integrity of the disability sector and that it really devalued us.
“So, yes, it was very disappointing,” she told AM.
The Government says it wants to recognise the achievements of people with disability in the broader community, supporting everything from the wheelchair rugby world championship to recognition at the Australian Human Resources Awards.
But none of these events are happening on December 3rd — the International Day of People with Disability.
“Not having them focussed on this particular day means that they’re meaningless as far as our national day goes,” Ms Salthouse said.
Peak body holding new awards
Some of the nation’s biggest disability peak bodies will now hold the new National Awards for Disability Leadership on December 3rd.
Organiser Christina Ryan said these awards will be different — they will all go to people with disability.
“What we realised every year as we sat through the award ceremony is that they weren’t actually about us,” she said.
“They were about other people being recognised for doing good works.”
Ms Salthouse said these awards are a new chapter, but the damage has been done.
“It doesn’t allow the Government to really excuse themselves for having taken such a cavalier attitude to people with disabilities, and I’m very sad about that.”
The Assistant Disability Services Minister, Sarah Henderson, has told AM in a statement that since her appointment in August, she has heard some disappointment from the sector about the awards and she intends to review how to reinvigorate the National Disability Awards.
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