For the first time the annual Health and Community Services Ministerial Council will hold a session dealing specifically with issues relating to people with disabilities.
Western Australian Disability Services Minister Kevin Minson, who travelled to Hobart yesterday to attend the council meetings, said that until now these issues had been discussed as part of health or community services forums.
Mr Minson applauded the decision, saying it was important that people with disabilities were given a platform of their own at the council.
The Minister had lobbied continuously for a special council session since taking up the portfolio more than three years ago.
"There are many people with disabilities who are not ill and who do not come under the umbrella of children and family services," he said.
"A disability does not necessarily mean a heavy reliance on either of these two areas.
"Many issues in the area of disability are specific to that area alone and I believe that every State, and the Commonwealth Government, should have a Minister with specific responsibility for people with disabilities.
"In WA alone there are 300,000 people aged under 65 with a disability - more than 50,000 of these are in the workforce.
"These people have unique needs in terms of education, recreation, travel, equipment, accommodation, respite services, family support, carers - in other words, the infrastructure allowing them to take their rightful place in our community.
"These needs should be addressed in forums specifically aimed at people with disabilities."
Mr Minson said the number of people with disabilities was growing at three times the population rate for WA.
"In WA the Coalition Government has committed to a five-year strategy known as `Count Us In' which will see an extra $125 million allocated to address the needs of people with disabilities," he said.
"Not only health services but the justice system, police, legal aid, transport and public housing are involved in this across-government plan.
"This is unequalled anywhere else in the nation and I am justifiably proud to be associated with the program."
The Health and Community Services Ministerial Council is being held in Hobart this year and Mr Minson will return to WA on Friday.
Media statement: Caroline Lacy 222 9211 or 222 9595