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Annual Report - Appendix 2: Commonwealth Disability Strategy
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Appendix 2 – Commonwealth Disability Strategy

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy (CDS) encourages assistance to people with disabilities to access government policies, programs and services. The CDS encourages government organisations to:
  • provide information to people with disabilities in accessible formats;
  • consult with people with disabilities to find out what they need;
  • employ people with disabilities;
  • purchase accessible services; and
  • recognise people with disabilities as consumers of services.
The Department reports against a series of performance indicators in addressing CDS requirements.

Policy Adviser Role

New or Revised Program/Policy Proposals Assess Impact on the Lives of People with Disabilities Prior to Decision.

In 2005-06, the Department continued to consider the impact of policy and program proposals on people with disabilities. For example, the Department considered potential impacts when it developed the new National Chronic Disease Strategy and the National Service Improvement Frameworks, which were endorsed at the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference in November 2005. The Department also considered the impact on people with disabilities in the development of the national HIV/AIDS Strategy 2005-08. The Department assessed all proposals for the National Respite for Carers Program which targets carers of frail older people and younger people with disabilities and sponsored the Master Builders Australia National Lifestyle Housing for Seniors Awards, influencing the design of housing for older people.

All new policy/program proposals affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples require an impact statement of these proposals, acknowledging that a significant proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have acute or chronic health needs or disabilities. New measures implemented by the Department in 2005-06 included Healthy for Life, Combating Petrol Sniffing and other substance use, and the continued expansion of Primary Health Care Access Program.

One of the functions of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2005-06 was to advise the community on issues affecting public health, ethical issues and research funding. The principal committees of the NHMRC include members with knowledge of the needs of people with disabilities, and were responsible for ensuring that, where appropriate, policy and program proposals assess the impact on people with disabilities. The NHMRC Human Genetics Advisory Committee considered developments in human genetics and related technologies in order to provide advice about the impact on all Australians, including those with a disability resulting from a genetic disorder.

People with Disabilities are Included in Consultations about New or Revised Policy/Program Proposals.

In 2005-06, the Department continued to consult with a diverse range of community groups, including people with disabilities, about new policy and program proposals. For example, the Department consulted with all stakeholder groups during the development of implementation plans for the HIV/AIDS Strategy 2005-08. The Home and Community Care (HACC) program, administered jointly by the Australian Government and the states and territories, provides care to older people and people with disabilities. Consultations concerning HACC included representation by people with disabilities.

The NHMRC also continued to consult widely with the community, including people with disabilities, in setting its strategic research priorities and formulating health and ethics advice and guidelines.

Public Announcements of New, Revised or Proposed Policy/Program Initiatives are Available in Accessible Formats for People with Disabilities in a Timely Manner.

In 2005-06, the Department ensured that all public announcements met departmental standards for accessibility and were available in electronic and other appropriate formats, including the Department’s web site. Examples of materials provided in a timely and informative manner included:
  • announcements on the review of Australia’s plasma fractionation arrangements (accessible from the Department’s web site, the National Blood Authority and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as the Department’s free call information lines and email address);
  • announcements, registration forms for the National Competition for Organ and Tissue Donation were available from the Department’s web site, in a range of formats. The Department also provided information regarding the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) on its web site and the PBS Information Line and made consultation papers for the development of the National Eye Health Framework available in a range of alternative formats for people with visual impairment; and
  • the NHMRC provided a range of information on its web site including calls for public submissions, reports and guidelines, and general information relevant to its programs and their stakeholders. Calls for submissions were also advertised in the print media. Submissions could be lodged in writing, by email, on audio or video tape.
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Regulator Role

Publicly Available Information on Regulations and Quasi-Regulations and Regulatory Compliance Reporting is Available in Accessible Formats for People with Disabilities.

In 2005-06, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) had primary responsibility in the Department for providing information on the regulation of therapeutic goods. The TGA provided FreecallTM and FreecallTM Teletype (TTY) information lines and an email address (footnote) where people could request publicly available documents. The TGA web site allowed easy access to information about the TGA and the regulation of therapeutic goods. The TGA constantly reviewed the site to ensure that it met current accessibility and usability standards, including the needs of people with disabilities.

The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) also regularly updated its web site with information on its functions and activities. This included the conditions of all licences issued, risk assessment and risk management plans prepared for applications to release genetically modified organisms into the environment, and quarterly reports. The OGTR also maintained a free call number to respond to enquiries. Callers to this number were able to access hard copies of all publicly available material.

In 2005-06, the Department continued to provide access to all relevant regulations and contracts governing the Australian Government Hearing Services Program on the Office of Hearing Services web site.

NHMRC information was also available in electronic format on its web site and in other formats on request.

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Purchaser Role

Publicly Available Information on Agreed Purchasing Specifications is Available in Accessible Formats for People with Disabilities.

The Department continued in 2005-06 to provide publicly available purchasing specifications in accessible formats as part of open Request for Tender (RFT) documents available electronically through the Department’s web site tender page. All RFTs have details of departmental contact officers who can provide information in other accessible formats to meet stakeholder needs.

Processes for Purchasing Goods or Services with a Direct Impact on the Lives of People with Disabilities are Developed in Consultation with People with Disabilities.

Consideration of the concerns and interests of stakeholders, including people with disabilities, is a requirement of the Department’s procurement plan. Where goods and services purchased have a direct impact on people with disabilities, those requirements are specified in the tender documentation.

Purchasing Specifications and Contract Requirements for the Purchase of Goods and Services are Consistent with the Requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

The Department’s procedural rules require purchasing officials to consider references to specific legislation, in specifications and contract documents. The Department’s contracts for services and consultancies contain provisions for the contractor to agree to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Publicly Available Performance Reporting Against Purchase Contract Specifications Requested in Accessible Formats for People with Disabilities is Provided.

In 2005-06, the Department displayed all business opportunities (tenders) and grant/funding invitations on the Department’s web site, in accordance with departmental policy. All published material met departmental standards for accessibility. Printed formats were also available on request.

The Department also provided applicants with performance reporting information on purchase contract specifications, for the allocation of aged care places and related approvals under the annual Aged Care Approvals Round. This information was available on request through the Department’s internet site in accessible electronic formats and in printed form.

Complaints/Grievance Mechanisms, Including Access to External Mechanisms, in Place to Address Concerns Raised about Providers’ Performance.

The Department had a variety of mechanisms in place in 2005-06 to respond to complaints and grievances from stakeholders, clients and members of the public. Feedback could be provided by calling the Department’s enquiry lines, by email or in writing.

The NHMRC had a toll free number for general feedback, or could be contacted by email or in writing. Anyone whose interests were affected by a reviewable action by the NHMRC could contact the NHMRC Secretariat by telephone, in writing, or by submitting a formal complaint to the independent Commissioner of Complaints.

The Aged Care Complaints Resolution Scheme, overseen by the Commissioner for Complaints, provided complaints access to all consumers of Australian Government-funded aged care. Advocacy services were available in each state and territory to assist clients to understand their rights or make complaints, and to contact service providers on a client's behalf. Complaints and grievance mechanisms for the HACC program, including access to external mechanisms, were also in operation.

The Department’s Office of Hearing Services had a comprehensive complaints/grievance mechanism in place to address concerns about provider performance. This was in addition to the general client feedback mechanism and the annual client satisfaction survey.

The TGA and OGTR service charters offered mechanisms for feedback (and to resolve complaints) to stakeholders and members of the public on the performance and service delivered.

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Employer Role

Employment Policies, Procedures and Practices Comply with the Requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

The Department ensures that all employment policies, guidelines, and processes meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and do not discriminate on the basis of disability.

The Department’s commitment to the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 is included in its 2004-2007 Certified Agreement and Australian Workplace Agreements. All staff and managers are responsible for supporting the principles of workplace diversity, as articulated in the Department’s Workplace Diversity Plan. The Department is a financial member of the Australian Employers’ Network on Disability.

Recruitment Information for Potential Job Applicants is Available in Accessible Formats on Request.

In 2005-06, the Department continued improving its recruitment process. In doing so, the Department liaised with peak bodies to ensure accessibility to all applicants and that information is available in a variety of formats. The Department’s process and systems have been endorsed by the Australian Employers’ Network on Disability.

The Department provided recruitment information both in electronic format (through the internet or via email), and in hardcopy. By providing Rich Text Format versions, the online recruitment system complied with W3C guidelines on accessibility for visually impaired applicants, and also the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission guidelines on accessible document formats. Email and hard copies of documentation were usually sent within 24 hours. A TTY telephone service was also available for hearing impaired applicants (footnote).

Agency Recruiters and Managers Apply the Principle of ‘Reasonable Adjustment’.

When completing the Department’s Personal Particulars form, applicants can identify any special requirements they may have for interview or testing. The form also has an improved reference to reasonable adjustment needs. The Department has posted guidelines on reasonable adjustment for all staff on its web site.
These needs can also be identified as a result of a pre-engagement medical assessment. The Department provides chairs of selection committees, business managers or the Health Management Unit with information and support to make adjustments during the recruitment process, or on commencement of new staff.

Training and Development Programs Consider the Needs of Staff with Disabilities.

The Department continued in 2005-06 to ensure that training programs were developed and delivered through flexible and accessible means. The Department’s training nomination process provided staff with the opportunity to identify any special requirements they may have had, and where these were identified, arrangements were made to cater for these special requirements.

The Department’s recently refurbished on-site training suite in Central Office is disability friendly. The training rooms are situated on the ground floor to enable ease of access for staff with mobility impairment; have a 20 inch monitor located at the front of each of the three IT training rooms for use by visually impaired staff and include speakers in a non-IT training room for staff who are hearing impaired. Arrangements have also been made for signing interpreters when required.

Training and Development Programs Include Information on Disability Issues as They Relate to the Content of the Program.

All staff training programs included information on disability issues where applicable.

Complaints/Grievance Mechanism, Including Access to External Mechanisms, in Place to Address Issues and Concerns Raised by Staff.

The Department has an established process to address staff complaints and grievances through the 'Fair Treatment and Review of Actions' policy. Further, the Department’s intranet site includes information about external review mechanisms.

PBS Information Line Freecall:1800 020 613.
TGA Freecall: 1800 020 653, TGA Freecall (TTY): 1800 500 236, TGA email address <tga-information-officer@health.gov.au>.
The OGTR Freecall number is 1800 181 030.
The Recruitments TTY telephone service is (02) 6289 5945.

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Produced by the Portfolio Strategies Division, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.
URL: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/annrpt/publishing.nsf/Content/appendix2-commonwealth-disability-strategy-2
If you would like to know more or give us your comments contact: annrep@health.gov.au