Informed debate vital for disability justice

From the West Australian:

Mentally impaired people can’t simply be treated as
criminals, say Taryn Harvey and Andrew Jefferson.

For over a decade disability, mental health and legal advocates have been calling for law reform to end indefinite imprisonment of people deemed to be “mentally impaired” due to intellectual or cognitive disability, or serious mental illness.

People’s stories have been shared in these pages in an effort to put a human face to this issue and some context to their offences, but largely they are an unacknowledged, misunderstood and extremely vulnerable group.

Last week, the State Government introduced legislation to address this injustice by establishing disability justice centres. It comes no less than 17 years after amendments to the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act (1996) allowed for the establishment of “declared places” for this purpose.

We commend the Government for taking this action, and for their commitment to pursuing a community-based service delivery approach.

Prison is never an appropriate facility for people who have been deemed unfit to plead due to mental impairment. Imprisoning people who are unfit to plead fundamentally contradicts the basic principle of a person’s right to a fair trial, What greater injustice could there be than people who are unfit to plead ending up spending longer in prison than if they had pleaded guilty and been convicted?

The current situation is harmful to the individuals themselves and counterproductive to successfully habilitating them. People with intellectual or cognitive disability are incredibly vulnerable in prison, and custodial workers don’t have the skills and experience needed to support them effectively.

The nature of the prison environment and lack of effective support can contribute to a deterioration in their mental health and the development of challenging behaviours which again custodial workers are not skilled in responding to.

These settings contradict what we know works when supporting people with intellectual or cognitive disability to live successful lives in their communities — including for those who have complex learning needs and histories of criminal offending.

While establishing the centres as a specific and identifiable place where mentally impaired accused will be supported is new, the service delivery models, knowledge, techniques and risk management that the centres will draw on are not.

Supporting people with intellectual and cognitive disability who have offended isn’t novel or untested. There is considerable evidence and experience locally, nationally, and internationally of successful community-based approaches.

What’s different is that for the first time there is a very public attention and focus on this issue. There is no doubt that there have been flaws in community engagement processes and communication about how the sites were identified, assessed and final choices made.

It is equally clear that there is a critical lack of understanding about what intellectual or cognitive disability is; what happens to people with these disabilities in our justice system; who would be eligible to receive treatment in the disability justice centres; and how would any risk to the people and the community be managed.

An example of this lack of understanding was when a member of the community called out in Parliament in June that convicted murderer Dante Arthurs might be housed in one of the centres. As the minister correctly pointed out, Arthurs would never be placed in a disability justice centre because he has pleaded and been convicted of a crime.

Examples like these only add to confusion and misunderstanding about the centres, and we need to make sure that the conversation is as informed as possible.

Only a person deemed unfit to plead following an independent assessment will be considered for being housed in the centres. And of those, only those who are considered by the Mental Impaired Accused Review Board as being appropriate would be placed there. The board makes it very clear that it places any potential risk to community safety as its top priority in making these decisions.

Disability justice centres are custodial environments but they are not urban prisons. They are staffed, secure, residential environments that allow people to receive the education, supported learning and skill development that will allow them to lead safer, more productive lives. They
are based in community settings because this is the most effective approach.

We call on the State Government to develop a planning framework that recognises that community-based services are essential and also provides community confidence in how decisions are made.

Taryn Harvey is chief executive of the Developmental Disability Council of WA.
Andrew Jefferson is executive director of People with Disabilities WA

$2.2 million for Disability Equipment Grants program

I have been on this LotteryWest Disability Equipment Grants program since it started close to 10 years ago. Back then, With a budget of around $500,000 I marvelled at how small grants could turn someones life around by giving them the tools they needed for independence .

Of all the committees, boards, councils and advisory groups I have been on this one really gives me a sense of the community we are part of.

It constantly reminds me of that great Paul Kelly song-
“from little things, big things grow”.

Group photo taken at presentation of LotteryWest cheque to Disability Equiptment Grant Program

Group photo taken at presentation of LotteryWest cheque to Disability Equiptment Grant Program

This from Jacqui Caldwell, ILC Marketing & Communications Officer, sums it up Beautifully ;

I’ve been working at the Independent Living Centre for nearly one year and what a huge learning curve I’ve been on. With the ILC providing a range of services it takes a while to learn about each and every one of them. I know of and often hear about our grants and funding programs but today it really hit home about the difference these grants make to people’s lives.

Ms Andrea Mitchell MLA, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Disability Services, presented a $2.2 million cheque on behalf of Lotterywest to the ILC for the Disability Equipment Grants (DEG) Program. Following this, people who have received grants told their stories.

Lee, a man in his early seventies who has cerebral palsy, told how he began using a computer when he was 63 and how specialised computer equipment, purchased thanks to a DEG, has enabled him to share his sense of humour and communicate more with people as well as allowing him to pay his bills online and be more independent.

Belinda, mum of six-year-old Mikayla, who is diagnosed with Aicardi Syndrome and is dependent on her wheelchair to get around, shared how being able to convert their car into a wheelchair accessible vehicle has made a huge difference to their lives. Transferring Mikayla in and out of the car is now a lot less strenuous and makes decisions such as popping down to the shops with the kids to grab a loaf of bread much simpler.

These are just two stories – last year over 570 grants were provided to individuals to assist with funding equipment through the DEG program.

Bangkok – Chiang Mai , Thailand Tour for people who are blind or have low vision

8 Days – 7 Nights
Bangkok – Chiang Mai , Thailand
24th May – 31st May 2014

Prepared for :-

Mr George Booth
Travel Tree (Australasia) Pty. Ltd.

Prepared By :
June Bidin
Tour East (T.E.T.) Ltd.
Tel: +66-2-237 6144 ; Email :
19th June 2013

DAY 1 – 24 MAY 2014 – SATURDAY

17: 25 Arrival with SQ976. Transfer to your hotel in Bangkok
Free and easy upon arrival
Evening Option : Guide to accompany group dining at one of the local restaurant

DAY 2 – 25 MAY 2014 – SUNDAY

AM Old Bangkok in Tuk Tuk
Experience the city like the locals by riding in a Tuk Tuk (15-30 minutes) around Rattanakosin Island (old part of Bangkok). Pass by the historical building, hundred years old temples, garden & parks, and magnificent monuments along the way. A police escort will ensure your group will have a smooth ride in the midst of Bangkok infamous traffic.
After the Tuk Tuk ride, we visit the Grand Palace, once the official home for the Kings of Siam. Dubbed as the “must see” for all visitors to Bangkok, The Grand Palace complex includes the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Keow) an unquestionably one of the wonders of the world today with its impressive Buddha image, carved from one piece of Jade, which is the holiest and most revered of religious objects in Thailand today. There are also the Royal Funeral Hall and the Royal Coronation Hall opened for visitors.

Next we visit The Siam Museum. This fun new museum is not your the ordinary museum that only display ancients artefacts. In fact it uses the modern technology to explore the origins of the Thai people and their culture. Housed in a European-style 19th-century building that was once the Ministry of Commerce, the exhibits are presented in an engaging, interactive fashion not often found in Thailand. They are also refreshingly balanced and entertaining, with galleries dealing with a range of questions about the origins of the nation and its people. Each room has an informative narrated video started by a sensory detector, keeping waiting to a minimum. An Ayuthaya-era battle game, a room full of traditional Thai toys and a street vending cart where you can be photographed pretending to whip up a pan of the local street food which will definitely help keep the younger as well as the matured visitors interested for at least an hour.

After all the visit we board the converted rice barge to cross the Chao Phraya river for Lunch at the Supatra River House – Thai cuisine.

Optional Afternoon Tour – Long Tail Boat Ride (30-45 minutes)
Ride the fast long tail boat along the Chao Phraya River going inside the smaller canal for a glimpse of the life along the river.

Return to the hotel and free & easy upon arrival.
Dining at Local Thai Restaurant
Overnight in Bangkok

DAY 3 – 26 MAY 2014 – MONDAY
AM Early breakfast
06:30 Leave Bangkok for Floating Market and Sampran Riverside
A glimpse of everyday life in Thailand can be seen at the Damnern Saduak floating market. An exhilarating narrow long-tailed speedboat ride through the marshes and stilt houses prepares you for this unique market.
Thai style canoes laden with colourful fruits, vegetables, sweets and meats gently ply their way through the canal.
We continue our journey to Sampran Riverside – half an hour away from the floating market. Lunch will be at the restaurant by the Riverside.
After lunch you will be treated to a Thai Village show which includes cultural activities, a wedding ceremony, Thai dancing, an elephant show and a whole host of other activities.
• Special half an Hour session with the elephants afterwards can be arranged to feed the elephant or simply play with the elephants.
• Foot Massage / Head & Shoulder Massage at Sampran Riverside

17:00 Estimated arrival in Bangkok
Free and easy evening
Evening Dinner at Dine In The Dark

DAY 4 – 27 MAY 2014 – TUESDAY
AM/ PM Free and easy
17:00 Asiatique Night Market

We board the Sky Train for the fastest way to get to Asiatique . Upon arrival at the Boat pier, we take the public boat transfer to Asiatique. A 10-minutes ride will take you to Asiatique. Recently opened Asiatique is Bangkok latest event venue for a night of fun entertainment.

Modelled after Bangkok’s four major trade districts, ASIATIQUE, The Riverfront weaves together all the essential elements that define what Bangkok was, as well as redefine what it is and what it will become in the near future.

Find both traditional and modern Thai culture through performing arts, Thai puppets by Joe Louis Theatre and Calypso Show as well as more than 1,000 retail shops selling Thai handicrafts, Thai desserts and snacks, souvenirs home décor and spas. Thai and International fine dining establishment and sports bars can be found along the 300 meter promenade overlooking the mighty Chao Phraya river.

Dinner at one of the restaurant at Asiatique – Thai / French / Japanese / Western / Italian

• Joe Louis Puppet Theatre
• Foot Massage / Head & Shoulder Massage

Return to the hotel by coach all the way.

DAY 5 – 28 MAY 2014 – WEDNESDAY

07:30 Leave your hotel for Hua Lumphong Train Station
08:20 Train departs to Chiang Mai
20:30 Estimated arrival in Chiang Mai
Transfer to your hotel in Chiang Mai

DAY 6 – 29 MAY 2014 – THURSDAY

08:00 Half Day With The Elephant – Life as An Elephant Caretaker (Mahout)

A pleasant morning is spent in the company of these magnificent gentle giants. In present day Thailand, elephants are only used as tremendously powerful beasts of burden. But in the earlier times, they were a vital part of the King’s army and played a very important role in Thai History.
We will drive approximately 60 km. north of Chiang Mai to the Elephant Camp. In an unspoiled setting, marvel at these colossal beasts of burden performing amazing feats of strength and skill, at the command of their ‘mahouts’.
You may try your skills and command the elephant yourself! Shower with the elephant if you wish!
Then follows an exhilarating elephant trek through the neighboring jungle, past bamboo trees and hanging creepers, upwards towards a remote Lisu hilltribe village. The Lisu hilltribe people originated in Tibet and their villages are usually located in the mountains around 1000 metres. Local lunch is provided. Then comes the time for your relaxing bamboo raft trip along the River. On return to Chiang Mai, the journey continues by road to an Orchid Farm at Mae Sa displaying a full variety of some of Thailand’s exquisite blooms.

16:00 Return to your hotel in the late afternoon.
19:00 In the evening, we take a short trishaw ride (15 mins) to the Whole Earth restaurant.

DAY 7 – 30 MAY 2014 – FRIDAY

08:30 Chiang Mai Exploration Tour
The city of Chiang Mai has a wealth of beautiful and historic Buddhist Wats (temples), and on this tour a visit to the most fascinating Wats is made. Near the summit of Doi Suthep, is the 600 year old temple of WAT PHRATHAT DOI SUTHEP. After a drive up the mountain’s winding road, the final climb to the site is via an enormous mythological Nagas (Dragon-headed serpent) staircase of 306 steps (elevators are available). Inside the cloister is an intriguing copper-plated chedi topped by a five-tier gold parasol, which contains partial relics of Lord Buddha. On a clear day, there are incomparable views over the city of Chiang Mai from the temple grounds. Other temples visited on this tour include WAT SUAN DOK, whose large central stupa contains Buddha relics which supposedly self-multiplied! , and WAT CHEDI LUANG consists of an impressive chedi, originally built in 1411. It reached a height of over 85 meters before it was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1545. It now reaches a height of only 60 meters. The temple also contains the city pillar.

• Handicraft Market

19:00 Khantoke Dinner
Enjoy an evening out by having Khantoke Dinner, the customary northern Thai style of eating with food being served in large platters at low tables while you sit on mats on the floor. As you enjoy your meal, let yourself be entertained by a selection of northern cultural performances. To end the evening, there is a special hilltribe show performed by various members of Yao, Lahu, Meo, Lisu, and Karen hilltribe.

DAY 8 – 31 MAY 2014 –SATURDAY

AM/PM Free & Easy
A day in the embrace of nature! Located south of Chiang Mai is one of the most fertile troves of natural treasure in Thailand, Doi Intanon National Park. The invigorating mountain air, the fresh, cool climate, makes it a rejuvenating break from the city.
Doi Intanon, 8514 feet above sea level – the highest peak in Thailand, is probably the most preserved in Thailand. It is extremely popular among bird watchers, with more than 383 species have been reported. On this tours stops are made at: Wat Phrathad Chom Thong with its holy relic and ancient treasures, Wachiratharn Waterfall, the twin chedi – built by Thai Airforce to honour King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit, and. A A short trek along Michael’s Trail offers a beautiful and unforgettable experience.
Lunch on this tour is served picnic style.

16:00 Transfer to the Airport for your onwards flight

Blind Citizens Australia National Convention 26 – 27 October 2013

This year’s BCA convention will be held at the Bankstown Sports club in Sydney on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 October. The theme for convention is “Embracing Change”, so take a sneak peek at some of the sessions we have planned below:

To keep up on what is happening on Twitter use the Hashtag #BCACONV

National Disability Insurance Scheme
Q&A Take 2: Two Years On

Join Federal Discrimination Commission and BCA member, Graeme Innes, and see what NDIS will look like for people with disability, how a person can manage their plan and package of funding, the choices that may be available, and how people over the age of 65 and people who do not qualify will receive the assistance that they need. This will be a no holds barred discussion and is one not to miss! Come along with your own questions and get ready for a true Q&A style discussion that is sure to be energetic, informative and in, true BCA style, ranging in opinions!

Echolocation: Seeing with Sound (concurrent)

Have you heard about people who are blind who can easily avoid obstacles without contacting them with their cane? What about people that can determine what and where objects are in an unfamiliar environment without having to physically touch them? This is all made possible through echolocation: a technique which involves using echoes to determine where things are in space. Come along to this session, learn how echolocation works and find out how you can develop or enhance your own skills in this area.

Living with Vision and Hearing Loss (Concurrent)

A panel of speakers recount their experiences of living with vision and hearing loss and will invite questions and discussion from the floor.

Advocacy: How to walk the walk and talk the talk

This session is designed to provide you with some key foundation skills to negotiate effectively in order to achieve your advocacy goals. You will learn from some experts as well as from each other’s successes.

Branches: Where to now?

Local branches have Been integral to the ‘life’ of BCA as a forum for contributing to policy development and social engagement. However, with the busy lives people now lead, technological developments and new modes of communication, are Branches still relevant to BCA? This session explores and seeks the input of members on the future of BCA’s Branches and options for reform.

Accessible Recreation (concurrent)

Why limit yourself to playing adapted blind sport when you could be participating in a wide range of sport and recreational activities in your local community with sighted friends and family? In this session, you’ll find out about a range of activities suitable for people with varying levels of vision. The session will include the opportunity to test out some equipment and share your own inclusive sport and recreational experiences.

Accessible First Aid (concurrent)
Have you ever thought how helpless you would be in a situation where a friend, loved one, child or a stranger might need your help? First Aid must be accessible to all in the community, not just for people who are sighted. With knowledge, you can do the basics to provide practical assistance to keep a person alive until professional medical assistance arrives. Come and hear how you can enhance your knowledge with simple, hands-on guidelines. This session will also provide strategies on how to advocate for your needs when using services in a medical centre or hospital. Gain strategies on how to best present yourself to ensure that the information given to you is provided in the most appropriate manner for you to understand.

Networking in Social Situations

This session will look at the challenges people who are blind or vision impaired face when networking in a sighted world and when interacting with peers in noisy situations. Hear from presenters who network as part of their professional roles and explore techniques for communicating in noisy social situations. Don’t forget to bring your own tips on how you manage in noisy environments.

BCA: Have Your Say

This session will provide attendees with an opportunity to air their views about the future of Blind Citizens Australia.

That’s a brief summary, but you can access a full copy of the draft program from our website at

Ready to register?

Here’s all the information you’ll need:

Full registration is available for $185.00 per person. This Includes all sessions, lunch and refreshments on both days and a three course convention dinner on the Saturday night.

Peter Greco Interviews Greg Madson on Vision Extra

Our Guest on Vision Extra is Greg Madson, Candidate for President of Blind Citizens Australia.

You can hear Greg’s interview, go to
or listen here