Community leaders are being urged to promote actively the needs and rights of the estimated 191,000 Western Australians with disabilities.
The process started today with a special community leaders' lunch at Parliament House to call for the support of community leaders. These included the most senior judges, church officials, mayors, business organisations, academics and public servants.
Disability Services Minister Eric Ripper said today the function, which included about 40 guests, was an initiative of the Advisory Council for Disability Services and part of the Bureau for Disability Service's 'Finding Better Ways' campaign.
Mr Ripper said the general community attitude in WA still failed to acknowledge that about one in eight of the population was a person with a disability. Across Australia there were more than two million people with disabilities in some form.
"Community leaders can, in their day-to-day business, promote a greater understanding that people with disabilities are people first, have many talents, and have the same right to respect and dignity as everyone else," the Minister said.
"Because of their unique position, community leaders can promote, consider and advocate better ways to achieve 'a fair go' for Western Australians with disabilities."
The guests were not being asked to donate money or undertake extra responsibilities. Instead, they were being asked to register on a Community Leaders' List and to use their position and influence during their work, to help people with disabilities through promoting better community awareness.
Those leaders who registered would:
· take every opportunity to promote a better understanding of people with disabilities when talking to groups of people;
· by virtue of their expertise and spheres of influence, assist with specific problems for people with disabilities, when they arose;
· be prepared to allow their names to be used publicly in support of Western Australians with disabilities.
A brochure 'Community Leaders - Finding Better Ways' had also been produced to encourage greater involvement in promoting the better understanding of people with disabilities.