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About the Disability Council

The Disability Council NSW (also known as 'the Council') was established under the Community Welfare Act 1987, and was transferred under the Disability Inclusion Act 2014  (The Act) on 3 December 2014. The Disability Inclusion Act 2014 provides a rights-based legislation framework for the Council.

Our responsibilities

The Council's main responsibilities under the Disability Inclusion Act 2014 are to:

Monitor the implementation of Government policy;

Advise the Minister on emerging issues relating to people with disability, and about the content and implementation of the State Disability Inclusion Plan and disability inclusion action plans;

Advise public authorities about the content and implementation of disability inclusion action plans;

Promote the inclusion of people with disability in the community and promote community awareness of matters concerning the interests of people with disability and their families;

Consult with similar councils and bodies, and people with disability; and

Conduct research about matters relating to people with disability.

Council membership

The Council has up to 12 members, including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson. Each member is appointed for up to four years by the Governor of NSW on the recommendation of the State Government's Minister for Disability Services.

Members are selected to be on Council because:

  • they live with a disability
  • they are an expert on disability
  • they want to improve the lives of people with disability.

The Council’s members have a variety of disabilities and backgrounds. Members include people from Aboriginal or cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD), young people and also people from rural and regional NSW. In addition, the Council includes members who are carers or family members of people with disability.

The Council is funded and resourced by the NSW Government through the NSW Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) and is supported by a secretariat team within DCJ.

The Council members meet bi-monthly.

View our Youtube video about the Disability Council NSW in Auslan with subtitles.

Contact

DisabilityCouncil@facs.nsw.gov.au
Post: Disability Council NSW, Locked Bag 4028, Ashfield NSW 2131

Our purpose

As defined in the Disability Inclusion Act 2014, the purpose of the Council is to provide the Minister for Disability Services with independent advice on matters that affect people with disability in NSW, as well as their families and carers.

The Council seeks for all people with disability to experience the full effects of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Council works so that people with disability can fully participate in the life of the community through:

  • being empowered and in control of their lives
  • having their physical, social, cultural and economic needs met
  • living safely, free of fear and discrimination
  • being included in all facets of society and having opportunities to participate as equals
  • being valued and respected.

Our priorities

The Council’s four focus areas for 2020-2021

  1. Employment
    Aim: To promote opportunities for improving pathways to and in employment for people with disability.  Leverage off the opportunity in the Disability Inclusion Action Plans and NSW Government commitment to increasing employment of people with disability.

  2. National Disability Insurance Scheme
    Aim: To promote the need for services and supports that are not addressed by the NDIS and particularly its intersection with health services.

  3. National agenda
    Aim: To build relationships and exert influence on national activities.  Particularly focus on building a national voice with equivalent Councils in other States and in the Commonwealth.

  4. Advice
    Aim: To ensure the perspective of people with disability is effectively expressed in the development and implementation of Government policy and programs.

Our vision

A socially just community in which Government policy and practice reflect the lives and experiences of people with disability as individuals, family members and participants with many roles in a broad range of diverse settings, remaining always mindful of the rights of people with disability,respecting their choices, celebrating their diversity and valuing their contributions.

Disability Council Direction Statement 2020-2021

Council member profiles

Deputy Chair – Dr Jill Duncan

Dr Jill Duncan, BSc (Speech Pathology and Audiology), MEd (Education of Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing), MEd Management, PhD, GAICD is an academic at the University of Newcastle. She has a diverse employment portfolio with experience not only as an academic in the education of children with disability, but also as an educational leader in programs for children and young people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and as an executive in the public service. Among other qualifications, Jill is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

As adolescents, Jill and her siblings became carers of their single-parent mother when she developed hemiplegia due to a brain injury. It was during this time that Dr Duncan learned first-hand the intense pressures of being a 'young carer'. In mid-adolescence, Dr Duncan acquired cholesteatoma (middle ear tumour-like growth), which resulted in multiple surgeries and a permanent conductive hearing loss. Jill’s son developed the same medical condition.

Jill has a long history of volunteer work in the education of children with disability, including her current Board position with Aussie Deaf Kids and as Editor-in-Chief (Australia) of Deafness & Education International, a top-tier journal. Jill also volunteers as a weekend respite foster carer for children with disability, most of whom have experienced trauma and are in long-term foster care.

As an academic, Jill supervises many doctoral students who are investigating various aspects of children living with disability, including those receiving the NDIS in regional, rural, and remote Australia. Jill’s two personal research foci include the buffering effect of social capital for adolescents with disability and non-discrimination in Australian primary and secondary schools.

Jill is honoured to be appointed a member of the NSW Disability Advisory Council and brings a full commitment to upholding its responsibilities under the Disability Inclusion Act.

Jill's term as Council Member expires on 31st December 2023.

Mark Tonga

Mark Tonga

Since his spinal injury (C3) during his rugby training in 2008 Mark has been a passionate and committed advocate for people with a disability. He is well equipped for this task having attained a B. Bus from UTS, now undertaking MBA from AGSM UNSW, completed leadership training with the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Macarthur Disability Service and National Disability Services. He currently holds several positions within the community and not-for-profit sectors providing him with a strong advocacy platform - one that he uses enthusiastically to increase resources and provide access, for people with diverse disabilities.

In addition to being the Chair to the City of Sydney Inclusion Advisory Panel, Foundational Chair of NSW State Library Inclusion advisory committee, Committee Member of Australian Museum - Accessibility and Inclusion Advisory, Member of Willoughby Council Access (Aged & Disability) and Client Liaison Officer for the Heart In Union Rugby Foundation.

Mark has been active in the not-for-profit sector as a former Non-Executive Director of Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association of New South Wales, Non-Executive Director of West Harbour Rugby Football Club, Non-Executive Director of People with Disability Australia (PWDA), Non-Executive Director of Assisted Community Living Ltd, & Assisted Community Living Foundation Ltd and Spinal Cord Injury Australia (Client Advocate - voluntary), Mark retain an informal association with them.

Mark is an active Christian and a loud supporter of Wallabies, Waratahs and (as a player for 5+ years) West Harbour. Later passions include watching Opera, attending a rousing orchestra (SSO, and/or Willoughby SO).

Mark has received various awards and acknowledgements, these include: Life Source Christian Church - Community Hero 2018, Tonga Community Development Australian Inc. - Disability Advocacy Award 2015, Clubs NSW – Heart of Community Award Winner 2014, Roseville Chase Rotary Club – Community Service Award Winner 2014 and have been appointed Ambassador for Charities Lifestart (Kayak for Kids) and the Hearts in Union Rugby Foundation.

On the Disability Council, Mark is surrounded by altruistic high achievers who deal with challenges daily and take that responsibility very seriously, backed by a fortnight Secretariat and a committed Minister. Help the Council fully engage with those around them, and make the system more attentive, productive and fairer.

Mark’s term as Council Member expires on 31st December 2020

Paul Zeller

Paul Zeller

Paul lives in a small coastal town in rural NSW. Paul was diagnosed with Aspergers when he was 19 years old.

Paul is passionate about social justice issues. After attending a self-advocacy workshop run by Intellectual Disability Rights Service, he has become a determined advocate for the rights of people with a disability. Since then, Paul has attended a number of State and National Conferences, and helped establish local self-advocacy organisation, South East Self Advocacy. Paul believes self-advocacy is particularly important, in particular to ensure that the voice of people with disability gets heard and are reflected in their NDIS Plan.

Paul is also has a keen interest in politics, current affairs and music. His career goals are to become a professional musician and to be in politics as a staffer or politician.

Paul is very excited about being a member of the Disability Council of NSW. Paul is keen to bring about change in areas such as:  Better avenues into employment for people with disability; better access to transport for people with disability in regional areas; Making sure advocacy is more widely promoted and available.

Paul’s term as Council Member expires on 31st December 2023

Jake Fing

Jake Fing

Jake Fing (BA(Hons), LLB, GradDipLegal) has personal experience with people living with both a cognitive disability as well as a physical disability.

Jake is a proud Gamilaroi man from Moree, NSW. He grew up on country before moving to Sydney in 2013 for tertiary studies.

Jake completed his Arts/Law degree at UNSW and completed an Honours Thesis focusing on the Moree Aboriginal Reserve during the middle of the twentieth century. Whilst completing his undergraduate studies, Jake completed a cadetship at Legal Aid NSW with placements across all three practice areas. Jake is currently completing a Master of Applied Law (Family Law) through the College of Law.

Jake has a passion for social justice and change and has been involved in policy development and implementation since his early high school years. Since relocating to Sydney, Jake has held several appointments throughout the NSW Government and also sat on the board of a number of not-for-profit organisations.

Jake’s term as Council Member expires on 31st December 2023

Dr. Rachael Sowden

Rachael Sowden

Rachael has four children who are Aboriginal, two who have autism and three who have mental health diagnoses. She is determined that all people in NSW regardless of postcode have access to supports required to live a full life with choice and voice.

Having lived the past 23 years in rural and remote locations across NSW, Rachael is familiar with the challenges of obtaining equitable access to services and supports outside of metropolitan locations.

Rachael has long held advocacy roles in education and mental health particularly in rural settings, and has a focus on young people and people with invisible disabilities.

Rachael has previously been the State media spokesperson for Parents & Citizens. She has spoken at many educational conferences over the past few years and owns a bespoke parental engagement business offering teachers nationally accredited professional development.

Rachael’s term as Council Member expires on 30th November 2021

Casey Gray

Casey Gray

Casey has been a member of the disability services sector for over 15 years.

She maintains membership of peak industry associations to stay abreast of current affairs in disability.

Casey possesses a genuine passion as well as the creativity and drive to improve the quality of direct service provision to people with disability as well as advocating for systemic change, with the aim of enabling people to live rich and fulfilling lives. She is currently most passionate about supporting people with disability to choose where and with whom they live and is actively taking steps to solve the problem.

She is keen to advocate for local and broad social change that promotes the inclusion and wellbeing of all people, while raising community awareness to break down the stigma associated with invisible disability, such as mental illness, as well as disability in general.

Casey lives with mental illness, with a primary diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder. People with Schizoaffective Disorder can experience psychosis as well as mood changes affecting their ability to function in all aspects of everyday life, such as relationship problems or difficulties in the workplace.

Through her life and work, Casey demonstrates that with the right supports, people with mental illness and other disability can thrive.

Casey’s term as Council Member expires on 30th November 2021

Ian Hyman

Ian Hyman

Ian established Hymans Valuers and Auctioneers in 1984 and is a Chartered Accountant by profession. To obtain additional experience as an auctioneer, in 1985, Ian wrote to all charities in NSW to offer his services for charity events on a pro-bono basis. Over the past 30 years, Ian has undertaken hundreds of auctions for charities all over Australia.

In 1993, Ian and his wife Hanne were blessed with the delivery of their third child, Alistair, who was born with Down Syndrome. With the arrival of Alistair, Ian was galvanised to become involved with the disability community and has served on numerous Not for Profit boards and committees including Inala Disability Services, Special Olympics, Lifestart Co-operative Ltd, the Down Syndrome Assn of NSW and the Assn of Children with a Disability. Ian was the founding Chairman of the Special Olympics North Shore Region which has the largest number of Special Olympics athletes in Australia. He is currently a Director and Treasurer of CNS Precision Assembly which is an Australian Disability Enterprise employing 22 people with intellectual disabilities in Hornsby NSW. Also, Ian established ongoing fundraising events all over Australia that have raised over $10m over the past 25 years.

In his commercial life, Ian is still the CEO of Hymans which undertakes valuations and asset disposals throughout the Asia Pacific region. He is also Chairman of Professional Risk Managers Pty Ltd which advises clients on insurance risks throughout the world.

Ian is very excited about membership of the NSW Disability Council and the opportunity to contribute to the policy debate affecting people with disabilities.

In 2017, Ian was awarded an OAM for services to people with a disability.

Ian’s term as Council Member expires on 30th November 2021

Prue Watt

Prue Watt

Prue is a strong and passionate disability advocate and enjoys engineering creative and powerful ways to change societal perceptions of disability, promote inclusivity and empower self-advocacy.

She has a particular interest in issues relating to equal access for people with disability to quality healthcare services, access to the arts and education. With a background in Paralympic sport, Prue also has a passion for promoting the importance of access and equal participation of people with disabilities in sport to optimise health, wellbeing and social inclusion.

In 2017, Prue graduated with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Neuroscience at the University of New South Wales and commenced a year-long graduate position at Safe Work Australia in Canberra in January 2018.

As well as Prue’s own lived experience of being born with significant vision loss, she has also witnessed the significant challenges that can accompany acquired disability through her mother, who has progressive Multiple Sclerosis, first diagnosed in 2007.

Prue’s diverse range of interests and varied life experiences allow her to bring unique experience, perspective and a multi-faceted approach to disability issues. She is looking forward to learning from other members of the Council and working together towards a more inclusive society.

Prue’s term as Council Member expires on 30th November 2021

Becoming a member

Members are appointed to the Disability Council by the Governor of NSW on the recommendation of the State Government’s Minister for Disability Services following Cabinet approval.

The recruitment of members is undertaken in accordance with the procedures outlined in the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet’s NSW Government Boards and Committees Guidelines and Appointment Standards for Boards and Committees in the NSW Public Sector.

The Disability Inclusion Act 2014 requires that the majority of the members of Council are to be people with disability. The Council has a diverse membership which includes people with a range of skills, experience and qualities, a lived disability experience and reflects the diversity in the community.

Calls for expressions of interest for Council membership are publicised through website and newspaper advertisements, and will be advertised on the Disability Council website when vacancies become available.

For information about Council membership and how to apply contact the Disability Council at: Disability.Council@facs.nsw.gov.au

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Last updated: 03 Sep 2021