Abstract: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face complex challenges in gaining consistent access to the range of services required to live successfully in remote Australia. Geographical distance from urban centres, environmental extremes, high costs and cross-cultural considerations are factors in people being able to choose and use services that best meet their needs. For people with disabilities, accompanying ill-health, limited transport and low levels of community understanding of their situation are additional obstacles. The purpose of this paper is to share the findings of research on ways to improve the positive impact of services on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities in remote Australia. It presents six key insights that have emerged from the activities of our organisation over the last decade, with special reference to our research with Aboriginal people with disabilities in four communities in the Northern Territory and South Australia in 2015-16. Notable observations arising from the research are that people tend to be passive in their responses to service providers, that community knowledge and education levels on disability are very low, benchmarks and standards relevant to remote communities are applied unevenly and that competencies to work cross-culturally are under-developed among service providers. We find that groups that support empowerment and advocacy for people with disabilities are largely absent from remote communities. A significant theme is that the design of services for Aboriginal people with disabilities in remote locations tends to be transactional in character rather than transformative, a point developed further in the paper. Through case studies and examples, we offer greater depth and human insight to the subject, as well as bringing out the voices and perspectives of people with disabilities. The paper proceeds to make recommendations orientated towards improving services, an aim best accomplished by integrating what has been learned from research into augmented national strategies, standards and approaches. We argue that for disability in remote communities to be better understood, greater knowledge should be generated in ways that empower people with disabilities themselves. The fundamental challenge for people with disabilities in remote Australia is how best to gain access to care and support services within a community environment that encourages social and economic inclusion. We recommend that further strategic, design and operational work is conducted to tackle the challenges and problems we describe in the paper.
Fisher, Steve, Lennon, Georgia, Abbott, Maureen, Kinden, Freya, 2017, Improving the positive impact of disability services on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities in remote Australia: insights and recommendations from the work of Ninti One, Conference Paper, viewed 30 November 2023, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=11123.