Welcome to the BDAN Conference: The NDIS and Advocacy

A warm welcome to the BDAN Conference: The NDIS and Advocacy.
It has been almost 18 months since the rollout of the NDIS in the Barwon region. Barwon is one of seven regions across Australia to pilot the NDIS before its national rollout, which will start in 2016.
This conference seeks to reflect on the last 18 months: what issues have arisen, what trends have emerged, and what the NDIS has meant for different groups with specialised needs within the wider disability sector. We also want to look forward: what issues may arise in the future, what skills advocates need when working within the NDIS framework, and how advocates can support those who fall outside the scope of the NDIS.
This conference brings together people from across the disability sector: people directly affected by the NDIS, community workers, advocates, lawyers, public servants and more. We hope you find it a stimulating, informative and productive day, and we welcome any feedback you may have.

About BDAN

BDAN is a network of legal and non-legal disability advocacy organisations. BDAN’s aims include to provide:
  • strong, combined agency advocacy on issues related to the NDIS, which may include systemic and individual issues
  • information resources targeted to stakeholders, NDIS staff, advocacy agency staff and clients
  • information on referral pathways to advocacy services for stakeholders, NDIS staff, advocacy agency staff and clients
  • ongoing education as identified and needed.

Venue Map

Geelong Cats Community Centre, Simonds Stadium
370 Moorabool Street, South Geelong VIC 3220
Venue information
  • Attendees who wish to use the hearing loop will be advised on the day as to where to be seated.
  • Auslan interpreters will be present during all sessions.
  • Attended care workers and communication support workers will be available.
  • All rooms and bathrooms are accessible by wheelchair.
  • If you have any queries about accessibility, contact Robyn Gaile: .
You can find a list of participating organisations at the back of this program. If you would like to find out more about BDAN, contact the VLAF Project Officer at .

Conference timetable and running sheet

Morning theme:Has the participant’s voice been lost? Making sure that the NDIS hears what participants say
9.15 – 9.45 am /


9.45 – 9.55am /

Welcome, acknowledgement of traditional owners and housekeeping

Robyn Gaile, DARU Coordinator, Disability Advocacy Resource Unit (DARU) will open the conference and provide an overview of the day ahead. Robyn will also launch the BDAN brochure about advocacy in the Barwon region.
10.00 – 10.30am / NDIS and me
Moderator: Robyn Gaile, Disability Advocacy Resource Unit
Tina Gulino will speak with Robyn about her personal experience with the NDIS. This session will explore whether the NDIS is working from the perspective of participants, and what it means to live with a disability more generally. This will be followed by a short video about Victorians living with mental illness under the NDIS. This video was developed by consumers and carers in the Barwon region with Indigo Daya, a participant under the scheme, and supported by an alliance of the Mental Illness Fellowship of Victoria, Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC), Tandem Carers, Geelong Mood Support, Karingal Transcend, SalvoConnect and Pathways.
10.30 – 11.15am /

What happens if you are not eligible for the NDIS?

Moderator: Michelle Stevens,DeafBlind Victorians
What happens if someone is not eligible under the NDIS? What other options are available to them, and where can they seek assistance? A panel discussionwith:
  • Elizabeth McGarry, CEO, Association for Children with a Disability
  • Leonie Dillon, Advocacy Officer, Barwon Disability Resource Council
  • Deb Connock, Manager, NDIS Transition Team, Department of Human Services

11.15 – 11.45 am /

Morning Tea

11.45 am – 12.30 pm /

SAFE: Self Advocacy For Effectiveness

Moderator: Sue Smith, Self Advocacy Resource Centre (SARU)
A discussion about how participants can best exercise their rights under the NDIS: from having real and meaningful input into their individual plan through to informing the way the NDIS works and advocating for systemic change. Panellists will discuss different self-help advocacy tools, including fact sheets and the work of the NDIS self-advocacy working group. Featuring:
  • Ian Parsons, Research Fellow, Centre for Rural and Regional Law and Justice, DeakinUniversity
  • Peta Ferguson, President, Brain Injury Matters
  • Neil Cameron, Founder, United Brains

12.30 – 1.15 pm / Lunch
Afternoon theme:NDIS: where we are nationally and locally
1.15 – 1.45 pm /

Big Picture Thinking: The NDIS trial from a national perspective

Moderator: Deidre Griffiths, Villamanta Disability Rights Legal Service
David Fintan, Branch Manager of the NDIA’s Legal and Governance Branch, will give an address on the national rollout of the NDIS, what insights can be gleaned from the experiences of other States and Territories, and where to next for the NDIA.
1.45 – 2.30 pm / Navigating the appeals system
Moderator: Tess McCarthy, Office of the Public Advocate
This session will look at appeals and external merits applications in the context of the NDIS. It will bring together some of the key players in the advocacy field, including:
  • John Handley, Senior Member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal
  • Len Jaffit, Manager, Commonwealth Entitlements Program, Victoria Legal Aid
  • Leah Kateiva, External Merits Review Officer, Regional Information and Advocacy Council (RIAC)

2.30 – 3.00 pm / Concurrent Session A: Supported and substituted decision making
Moderator: Lance Youston, Regional Information and Advocacy Council (RIAC)
An overview of the issues relating to guardianship, administration and supported decision making within the NDIS framework. John Chesterman,Manager of Policy and Education,Office of the Public Advocate (OPA), will present this session.
Concurrent Session B: What Women Want: Getting the most out of the NDIS for women
Moderator: Diane White, Victorian Legal Assistance Forum
In this session, Sharon Granek, Program Manager,Women with Disabilities Victoria (WDV), will hold an interactive discussion with audience members about what kind of tools and information women with disabilities need in navigating the NDIS. This will inform the work of WDV in preparing fact sheets and other tools for women with disabilities in Victoria.
3.00 – 3.30 pm /

Afternoon Tea

3.30 – 4.30 pm / Concurrent Session A: Advocacy tips and pitfalls
Moderator: Nive Achuthan, Senior Lawyer, Victoria Legal Aid
Session A will explore different practical skills for advocates working within the NDIS framework. This session will be run by:
  • James Keith,Advocate, Regional Information and Advocacy Council (RIAC)
  • Leah Kateiva, External Merits Review Officer, RIAC
  • Deidre Griffiths, Principal Solicitor and Executive Officer, Villamanta Disability Rights Legal Service
  • Jai Phillips, Outreach and Information Manager, Communication Rights Australia
Concurrent Session B: Future Forecasting for the NDIS
Moderator:Sharon Granek, Women With Disabilities Victoria
Session B will look at what future issues may arise as the rollout of the NDIS continues. The session will look at the issues people with mental illness face getting support under the NDIS, and the future role of advocacy as the sector continues to change.
This session will be run by:
  • Nathan Grixti, Consumer Advocate,Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC)
  • Mary Mallett, CEO, Disability Advocacy Network Australia

4.30 – 4.45 pm / Close of conference
Len Jaffit, Manager, Commonwealth Entitlements Program, Victoria Legal Aid will thank speakers and participants, and close the conference.

Speaker profiles

/ Robyn Gaile
DARU Coordinator, Disability Advocacy Resource Unit
Robyn Gaile is the Coordinator of the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit, which provides web-based information and resources, forums and training for Victorian-based disability advocacy organisations. Prior to her current employment, Robyn was the Executive Officer of Blind Citizens Australia, the national peak consumer organisation of and for people who are blind or vision impaired. She has 19 years experience working in education, training and employment services for people with a disability. She is a member of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council and sits on the social inclusion and built environment working group of the City of Melbourne Disability Advisory Committee.
/ Tina Gulino
Chair, Barwon Disability Resource Councl
From the day Tina was born, her family began fighting for her human rights. Tina found her own voice and now speaks for herself. She is one eight children and an avid supporter of the Geelong Cats. She’s currently chair of the Barwon Disability Resource Council. She was a lead Barwon participant, run by the Committee of Geelong. She’s currently involved in some of the projects run by WDV as a reference group member: Enabling Women and Gender and Disability Workforce Development Program.
/ Michelle Stevens
Founding Member, Deafblind Victorians
Michelle was born blind and lost her hearing due to near fatal illness 22 years ago. Over the years, Michelle has been intensely passionate about Deafblind advocacy and improving the lives of the Deafblind community.
In 2010, Michelle graduated from LatrobeUniversity with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and a graduate diploma in Deaf Studies and languages. Michelle is a founding member of Deafblind Victorians, which is a self-advocacy group for Deafblind Victorians. Michelle has been involved with the Deafblind community for over 20 years.
Currently, Michelle is the acting president of the Australian Deafblind Council (ADBC). She believes they are living in exciting times to make sure ADBC has a true voice in the disability sector. Michelle believes ADBC will be undergoing huge changes which she feels is necessary for Deafblind advocacy to move ahead.
/ Elizabeth McGarry
Association for Children with a Disability
Elizabeth heads up the Association for Children with a Disability, a Victorian based, not-for-profit family-focussed organisation which exists to assist children with a disability and their families through the provision of information, support and advocacy.Elizabeth is resolute in her belief that real life experiences should inform the development and implementation of public policy. Like many involved with ACD, Elizabeth has personal experience of disability within her family. She is a passionate advocate for the right of every person to be afforded the opportunity to realise their full potential.
/ Leonie Dillon
Advocate, Barwon Disability Resource Council
Leonie’s educational and professional background encompassesCommunity Development, Early Years Children's Services and Family Support. This work has always focused on bringing about systemic change to reflect families and individuals changing needs and choices. Leonie’s present work is as a non-legal advocate at Barwon Disability Resource Council, which commits to promoting rights, social and economic inclusion for all.
/ Deb Connock
Manager of NDIS Transition Team, Department of Human Services
Deb Connock is the Manager of the NDIS Transition Team with the Department of Human Services. She is based in Geelong. She has been with the Department of Human Services for the past two years.
/ Sue Smith
Self Advocacy Resource Unit
Sue works at SARU and enjoys sharing advice and ideas gained from her thirty years’ experience in self advocacy and community development. She is currently the chairperson of Community Art and has helped manage community arts projects in partnership with community organisations including Compassionate Friends, Self Help Addiction Resource Centre, Warrior Women and Reinforce. She also has a background in the production of videos and training packages for community organisations.
/ Ian Parsons
Research Fellow, Centre for Rural and Regional Law and Justice, DeakinUniversity
Ian Parsons currently works as a Research Fellow in the Centre for Rural Regional Law and Justice in DeakinUniversity’s School of Law. His background is in community development, research, policy and law reform in both public and community sectors, with a major focus on human rights issues for people with disabilities. From 2002–2006 he worked as a Ministerial Adviser to the Hon Sherryl Garbutt, Minister for Community Services and Minister for Children in the Bracks Victorian State Government. He has also worked in a research and policy capacity at the Victorian Law Reform Commission, primarily on the review of Victoria’s guardianship legislation from 2009–2012.
He has written several books on disability rights issues, all published by Villamanta Publishing Service.
/ Peta Ferguson
President, Brain Injury Matters
Peta Ferguson was studying Arts/Law at MelbourneUniversity in 1974 – 1975. She then dropped out and hitch-hiked to the Northern Territory where she worked for a few months as a governess and meatworker on a cattle station. After some further travel she returned to Melbourne and took a deliberate overdose of prescription medication.
The effects were substantial; she didn’t talk for three years or walk for four years. After leaving the institution where she ‘lived’ for five years, she married, brought up three stepchildren 24/7, including one child with Aspergers, had a biological child and divorced ten years later.
She then, in 2007, discovered the existence of Brain Injury Matters (BIM), a self-advocacy group for people with acquired brain injury. She joined and has been president for the last few years.
/ Neil Cameron
Founder, United Brains
Neil has been active in the Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) ‘scene’ since 1981 when he acquired his brain injury, more so recently. From 2008–2011 he was president of Brain Injury Matters, then he was the treasurer from 2012–2014. He remains a vital member of BIM. Just recently, in 2012, he founded ‘United Brains’, which is a network of ABI advocacy and support groups statewide, a much-needed organisation which will benefit from a large injection of funds from the NDIA.
/ Deidre Griffiths
Principal Solicitor and Executive Officer, Villamanta Disability Rights Legal Service Inc
Deidre Griffiths is the Principal Solicitor & Executive Officer of Villamanta Disability Rights Legal Service Inc. In addition to disability rights legal work, she is involved in community legal education/community development, and policy and law reform work. Deidre is a board member of Disability Advocacy Victoria Inc. (DAV Inc.) and a member of the Disability Law Committee of the Law Institute of Victoria.
/ David Fintan
Corporate Counsel, National Disability Insurance Agency
David Fintan is Corporate Counsel at the National Disability Insurance Agency. He has 15 years’ experience advising government and private sector clients. Before joining the NDIA, David was a partner at DLA Piper, where he specialised in public and administrative law including the design and implementation of regulatory schemes, legislative drafting, information law and trade sanctions. Before DLA Piper, David was a Branch Manager at the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and a lawyer in private practice. He is married with three children (5, 7 and 14 years) and two dogs.
/ Tess McCarthy
Policy and Research Officer, Office of the Public Advocate
Tess McCarthy is a Policy and Research Officer at the Office of the Public Advocate. Tess completed her Master of Public Policy and Management in 2013, and before that she was at the Victorian Law Reform Commission where she worked on the review of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1986 (Vic). Tess has been involved in the disability sector for the past 6 years in both personal and professional roles. Tess is keenly interested in social inclusion, law reform and decision-making arrangements for people with cognitive impairment and mental ill health, particularly in relation to NDIS matters.

John Handley

Senior Member, Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT)
John has been a Senior Member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for 24 years, having previously practiced for 14 years as a solicitor. John practiced for eight years in Shepparton where he was also the president of the Council for Disabled (Goulburn Valley Region). His legal practice predominately involved acting for applicants seeking compensation for personal injury and disability. His work with the Tribunal has involved hearing appeals against decisions refusing persons compensation for injury in the compensation and veteran’s divisions. John is also an accredited mediator.
John has contributed, at a national level, to the creation and implementation of the process model for management of NDIA applications. John is also the co-ordinatorin the Victorian Registry of the AAT of NDIA applications, where the majority of applications have been issued since 1 July 2013.