Lack of understanding of intellectual disability, its causes, manifestations and best management is one of the biggest factors limiting community ability to accept and respond to the needs of people with disabilities, a national disability conference has been told.
Opening the 8th National Joint Conference of the National Council on Intellectual Disability and the Australian Society for the Study of Intellectual Disability in Fremantle, Disability Services Minister Paul Omodei said attitudinal barriers must be overcome if people with intellectual disabilities and their families and carers are to achieve full community participation.
Mr Omodei acknowledged that people with no experience of intellectual disability could not be expected to fully understand the challenges individuals and families faced but called on the community to do more to understand - and support - the needs of people with intellectual disabilities.
“Many families caring for a loved one with intellectual disabilities have a difficult road to travel,” he said.
“Government and non-Government agencies can only do so much to support people with disabilities and their families and whole-of-community partnerships are crucial if we are to address the needs of our more vulnerable citizens.”
Mr Omodei said the theme of the four-day conference, Beyond Business As Usual, went to the heart of this issue.
Delegates would be exploring ways of increasing community awareness of the rights and needs of people with intellectual disabilities and the disadvantages they still faced.
“As recently as 30 years ago, parents were still being told to lock their child with intellectual disability away in an institution and get on with their lives,” the Minister said.
“We have come a very long way since then but despite massive shifts in community attitudes, we now need to consider creative new ways to increase community participation.
“After excluding our fellow citizens for so long, we have a collective responsibility to help create a caring and compassionate community that ensures the needs of all of its citizens are met.”
Mr Omodei said the State Government had pledged an additional $34.5 million in growth funding for disability services over the next five years but this was not an instant fix that would satisfy all needs.
“Money is only part of the equation and progress in the disability field can’t be measured by how much has been put into facilities and services,” he said.
“Our aim is to make a positive difference to the lives of people with disabilities by assisting families in their caring role and by working to strengthen communities to support their needs.”
The joint conference has attracted an array of internationally-renowned speakers and some of Australia’s leading authorities in the field of research and advocacy for intellectual disability.
A daily workshop facilitated by delegates with intellectual disabilities will provide all participants with the opportunity to discuss further a range of issues raised at the conference.
Hugh Ryan 9213 6700