Disability Justice Report by CEO Justin O’Meara Smith

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Experience of People funded by the NDIS who interface the WA Criminal Justice system by Interchange CEO Justin O’Meara Smith 


In 2019 Interchange received a grant from the WA Sector Transition Fund to undertake a project identify the experiences of people with disability funded by the NDIS that have an interface the WA Criminal Justice system.  In October 2019 the Report – which was the product of a sector collaboration with non-government providers, the NDIA, and WA Department of Communities and Department of Justice was published.

In 2017 there was significant reform with the Machinery of Government amalgamations of

  • the Department of the Attorney General and Department of Corrective Services into the Department of Justice, and
  • the Department of Child Protection and Family Support Department of Housing, Disability Services Commission, and Department of Local Government and Communities into the Department of Communities.

Later that year the McGowan government announced WA would join the federal model of the NDIS which in turn led more change reforms as the WA Departments sought to progress the Bilateral Agreement between the Commonwealth and Western Australia in to Memoranda of Understanding between the federal government and various state government Departments – including the newly formed Department of Justice.

Our Project Report, published on 7 October 19, provided greater knowledge of the key interface points in the Justice system and the issues that significantly impact on the access to disability services.  Improved understanding of these interface issues will continue to identify opportunities for policy and services reform to benefit people with disability.

A key recommendation from the Report was to fund Specialist Disability Service Justice Liaison Officers to help justice officials and community stakeholders to facilitate NDIS and other disability related services.  Pleasingly, on 9 October 19 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Disability Reform Council met and resolved to “introduce Justice Liaison Officers (JLOs) in each state and territory to work across their justice systems. The JLOs will provide a single point of contact for workers within each state and territory justice system, providing a coordinated approach to supporting NDIS participants in youth and adult justice systems.”

The Reform Council announcement that the NDIA will introduce the JLO role is very welcome development that will improve the experiences and outcomes for people with disability and their supporters.  We look forward to seeing how the WA government progresses their reforms to improve the experience of people with disability in the WA Justice system.

Interchange supports the NDIS WA Pre-Budget Submission, handed to Minister Stephen Dawson MLC on 28 October 19, which advocates for the WA government to fund the development of a WA Disability Justice Blueprint to develop improved approaches that better meet the needs of people with disability, protecting their human rights.

Find out more here NDIS Participant Pathways Project Sept 2019 Final Report