Today’s forum for people with disabilities and carers provided an opportunity to discuss the feedback produced by the workshop that was held earlier this year and also to consult the participants on council’s new disability policy and action plan.
While current budgetary resources meant that the forum must remain at its current quarterly frequency, this will be reviewed early next year. Assuming that I am returned as a councillor after November’s elections, I will be advocating for the forums to be held on a bi-monthly frequency or for another working group to be established to exclusively examine strategic and advocacy issues. Either option will ensure a greater level of engagement for people with disabilities and ensure an improvement to the level of accessibility within Maroondah.
One of the major concerns from the feedback was the lack of publicity in regard to the forum, this has been rectified with council issuing media releases to publicise the forums and it being included on the council website. This will assist in ensuring that the community is aware of the forums and the opportunity to provide input and to inform council on accessibility issues. Terms of reference have been developed to provide direction for the forum and help improve communication and feedback between participants in the forum and council.
The guest speaker was from the Commonwealth Respite Centre who spoke about the programs that are available for carers and for people with disabilities in seeking respite or taking a break from their usual duties.
Today’s forum also included a workshop on council’s future Disability Policy and Action Plan. The policy, which is expected to be adopted in draft status at the next council meeting, will govern council’s approach to accessibility issues and its role as an advocate on behalf of the community. It is imperative that the views of people with disabilities and carers are taken into account so that council can be responsive to the needs of the community.
While the forum provided an additional opportunity for comment, people will be able to submit their thoughts on the policy once it reaches draft status. I encourage members of the community to take an interest in the policy as it will shape council’s position on accessibility.
One of the areas that requires feedback is in regard to the need for a Disability Advisory Committee. Councils such as Monash, Knox and Whitehorse all have committees which provide strategic advice to council in regard to accessibility issues. This differs from Maroondah’s forum, in that the focus is on strategic issues with representation from peak groups. The forum for people with disabilities and carers provides an opportunity for input on specific issues, while the committee could oversee the strategic direction on council’s approach to accessibility and supervise the implementation of the disability policy and action plan.
Such concepts must be considered as part of council’s approach to accessibility to ensure that Maroondah strives to create an inclusive municipality.
The next forum for people with disabilities and carers will include a session on the Ringwood Transit City and the need for an accessible and safe Ringwood Station.