Over the years we have become recognised as the peak consumer disability organisation in Western Australia and numerous organisations and government departments regularly consult with us. Our mission statement today reads, “Empowering the voices of people with disabilities in Western Australia”.
A wide range of issues are brought to us, particularly those affecting individuals. Some of these we identify as issues for systemic advocacy. These can vary from issues related to travel, access, family law, criminal prosecution, immigration, education, accommodation and respite, social security benefits and entitlements, ombudsman, aids and appliances, disability related costs, compensation, grants and many others.
Over the years we have addressed numerous issues at a systemic level. These have generally focused on the issues which impact on the day-to-day lives of people with disabilities and practices and policies that exclude them such as health, education, community housing, access, transport, mental health, multipurpose taxi schemes, attendant care, service provision plus the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
People with Disability WA (PWdWA) was originally conceived in the year leading up to the International Year of Disabled People (IYDP) in 1981.
In 1980, a small group of people tendered a submission related to the IYDP for a computer, to set up a database that volunteers would operate. This submission was successful and the next stage was to find a home for the computer and a base from which to operate. A place was found in the old library in Leederville and the people involved were able to use half the library.
1981 – International Year of Disabled People
The excitement and high expectations around the changing social and political environment in 1981 raised government and the community’s level of awareness of people with disabilities. It also highlighted the many problems people with disabilities faced in taking an equal place in Australian society.
In early 1981, a committee was set up calling itself DASH – Disabled Advocates and Self Help. The committee consisted of nine people, all but one with a disability.
The perceived need at that time was for an umbrella organisation, which could provide guidance and information about community services and facilities available to people with disabilities and their families.
On 9 March 1982 DASH was registered as an incorporated association under the Associations Incorporation’s Act. This was the forerunner of PWdWA.
Finding funding for the new group was difficult and many short term “grants in aid”, mainly from the Department of Community Services, were obtained to keep the organisation going.
The first real funding commitment for DASH was the establishment of the Disability Resource Centre. This took place in March 1984. DASH acted as the sponsoring and controlling body of the Centre, which collected and shared information on all aspects of disability and related issues and increased the role in the area of advocacy.
One of the key objectives was to “enhance the degree of control which disabled people need to acquire over their own services”. This quote is from an early description of the goals of the new body.
In December 1985 DASH amalgamated with two other disability agencies, the Disability Information Service Council and the Western Australian branch of Disabled Peoples’ International (Australia). From this amalgamation, the Constitution of People With Disabilities (WA) Inc. was formed on 25 June 1986.
One of the major principles, which the organisation was founded on, is still a key feature, that it’s managed by people with disabilities. The original idea was that it would be a self-help group based on the disability rights movement and would be representative of people with disabilities. This would make sure that people with disabilities would always drive the organisation and it would be focused on consumers.
PWdWA continued to manage the Disability Resource Centre as the service provision part of the organisation and after being in Applecross and Cottesloe, the Centre was relocated to the Department of Community Services building at 189 Royal Street in East Perth in July 1987.
By 1991 PWdWA had four full time staff. Because of the Commonwealth and State Disability Agreement, signed in July 1991, which made both levels of government responsible for advocacy, PWdWA was jointly funded by the Disability Services Commission and the Department of Human Services and Health.
In January 1993, PWdWA moved to new premises in Oasis Lotteries House at 37 Hampden Road in Nedlands.
In 2014, PWdWA joined Advocacy Western Australia and Sussex Street Community Law Service Inc to continue to provide state funded individual advocacy services. We continue to be funded by Department of Social Services under the National Disability Advocacy Programme for individual advocacy and systemic advocacy.
We are still a strong member-based organisation and membership is open to all people with disability in Western Australia for free.
You can find out more on our annual reports page.