By Alastair McEwin, Disability Discrimination Commissioner  Originally published in Sydney Morning Herald 5 October 2016.

Getting a morning coffee on the way to work is a ritual many of us take for granted. Not Jeremy, who is a young man with a communication disability.

The thought of not only being able to order coffee, but run a business, was a pipe dream. Until the National Disability Insurance Scheme arrived in Lake Macquarie.

Jeremy had the opportunity to start communicating for the first time with an iPad app. He now does a local coffee run where he takes coffee orders from local business people, fulfils them and makes the deliveries. And six months ago he was unable to communicate with the wider community.

The NDIS is a major social reform in Australia. The last time we saw something on a similar scale was the introduction of universal health care for all Australians in 1975 – Medicare. The introduction of Medicare was not without its challenges, but universal healthcare is now considered a fundamental and essential part of our lives.

The NDIS is about ensuring people with disability can get out and about in the community – it’s about getting them to work, to school and to cafes and restaurants so they can catch up with family and friends. It’s about getting people with disability being able to be part of the workforce, getting an education and spending money on food and drinks – in other words, being part of the economic, social and cultural fabric of our lives.

It isn’t just making life equitable for people with disability. It’s also making it possible for them to participate in every-day life with their families. In the Hunter region, a family has used the NDIS package to take a support worker for their family member with disability with them on family holidays. This gives real meaning to the term “family holiday” – it’s hardly that if the person with disability cannot go away with their family.

And the NDIS is even allowing parents of children with disability to work full-time. One family, through the NDIS, now has support after school and during the school holidays for their daughter with disability, which allows both parents to keep working full-time; in doing so, they are able to contribute to the economy through paid employment and paying taxes.  And their daughter gets to spend her holidays doing things she loves like hydro therapy.

Given its scale, there will be implementation issues for the NDIS. There will be challenges in rolling this out across the country. And there will be doubts. Yet we have had other massive social reforms that are now so embedded in our society that we cannot imagine life without them (the conversion in 1966 from metric to decimal anyone?). The NDIS needs to be seen in this light – it needs time to become a part of our lives and, more importantly, to provide the equity of access to people with disability that has been denied to them for so long.


Tulgeen is on Bus 103 for the next six months.  Spot us and win!!

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Send a photo of Tulgeen’s banner on the bus with enough background for us to pick where it is. All entries received for each month over the next six months will be drawn from a hat for a luscious little prize. Each photo can only be used once. Send your entries to onthebus@tulgeen.com.au

Don’t forget it’s illegal and unsafe to use your mobile whilst driving so please take your photos whilst stationary please.

The winner from each month will be  announced here, on Facebook and by email.

Tulgeen’s 2016 AGM – A Celebration of Achievement and Community

The 2016 AGM was a warm celebration of community and our achievements over the past 12 months.

A great keynote speaker:  former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes 


 A great crowd with old faces and new present…


And, recognition of loyalty and service…


All the elements of a good celebration!!

Thank you to everyone for a great past 12 months and for making the AGM a joyful success.

Tulgeen launches ‘Cooinda’ a one-stop shopfront for the National Disability Insurance Scheme

Pre launch plaque AC and KM Cooinda plaque

Tulgeen’s new one-stop shopfront ‘Cooinda’ meaning ‘Happy Place’ in local Djiringanj language was launched on 14 Oct by NSW Local Member, the Hon. Andrew Constance.  Also in attendance were new Bega Valley Shire Mayor, Kristy McBain and  local elder Colleen Dixon who provided a Welcome to Country for all guests.


The new shopfront is at 26 Eden Street in Bega and serves to provide all information related to Tulgeen and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Cooinda launch Cooinda launch 2

Guests were welcomed by Grattan Smith, Chair of Tulgeen and Acting CEO, Jen Russell.

In his address to the crowd, Andrew Constance emphasised:   “I don’t what anyone to forget what the NDIS is about. The NDIS is not about money, it’s about people…it’s about the principle of choice and control…For too long our country has made life incredibly hard for people with disability and their carers…People with disability are in charge now…getting to pick and choose what THEY want and need…It’s good to see Tulgeen making changes and transforming to build on the incredible services already being provided.  This is about all of you…in the full knowledge that this is so that you can enjoy your human rights.

Following the launch, both the Minister and the Mayor spent time speaking with staff and Tulgeen’s NDIS participants.

Being new, the Mayor was provided with a brief tour of nearby facilities.

SSPS Bega Mayor

Craig Snowden, Coordinator of one of Tulgeen’s Social Enterprises, Tulgeen Packaging Services explains his operation to the Mayor.


Literary Lunch Graeme Pic

Following his keynote address at the Tulgeen AGM, take the opportunity on  Friday 21st October at 12pm to enjoy a very special literary luncheon at noon at Merimbula Wharf Restaurant with former Human Rights & Disability Commissioner Graeme Innes.  Bookings are essential and tickets are available from Candelo Books  www.candelobooks.com or 02 6292 3386.

Graeme Innes AM was born blind, but he’s never let that stop him. Lawyer, mediator, human rights and disability advocate, he’s been the driver behind some of the most significant reforms in human rights and disability advocacy both nationally and internationally.

‘Finding A Way’ is Graeme’s unique story of a life lived to the full. Born in the inner west of Sydney in 1955, his parents brought him up to believe that he should never be treated differently because of his disability. But life wasn’t always easy. Graeme’s memoir reveals the many personal challenges he’s faced over the years including being awarded a law degree at Sydney University only to be turned down for jobs time after time because of employers’ assumptions about his disability. But rather than let the system beat him, Graeme always found a way to show people his potential, he went onto become the Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, leading work on Australia’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and also was involved in the Disability Discrimination Act and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Don’t miss this very special opportunity to meet one of Australia’s most inspiring disability advocates, here in the Bega Valley.

Tulgeen welcomes Local Member for Bega the Hon. Andrew Constance

Andrew’s visit to Tulgeen

Grattan Smith, Chair and Jen Russell, Chief Executive Officer A/g warmly welcomed to Tulgeen The Hon. Andrew Constance, NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure and Local Member for Bega.  As the previous NSW Minister for Disability, Andrew maintains a particular interest in Tulgeen and how developments within the National Disability Insurance Scheme affect Tulgeen’s clients.

The Minister was eager to hear about Tulgeen’s plans for development and our progress in implementing the NDIS.  In particular, Andrew was most impressed by plans to create a Community Hub through the creation of the Living Room and Food Basket space at Riverside Nursery and if funds permitted, the creation of a new home at the Taronga Precinct for the Bega Valley Workcrew.  Both Mel Pickering, Retail Manager at Riverside Nursery and Jarrod Palmer, Coordinator of Bega Valley Workcrew were on hand to explain plans as was Paul Spiteri, Operations Manager of the Disability Enterprises.

Andrew offered warm congratulations to the team behind the establishment of INSYNC@merimbula and welcomed the greater access to constituents in the southern reaches of the electorate.  Unfortunately, time constraints did not permit a visit to the Merimbula site.

Andrew had the opportunity to visit Tulgeen’s centre-based Respite Support service based at INSYNC and also to participate along with Tulgeen clients in a lively music session at Tulgeen’s INSYNC led by Damon Davies.

Unfortunately time pressures meant that a full tour of Tulgeen was not possible this time.

Tulgeen thanks the Minister for his time and looks forward to welcoming Andrew again.

Evolution Research Presents Important BSWAT information for Supported Employees, their Families and Advocates


On behalf of the Department of Social Services (DSS), Annette Blacklow from Evolution Research presented important information relevant to Supported Employees and their families and/or advocates on 8 September at the Hilton Room at Tulgeen.

The presentation ran for an hour and a half and covered key facts and processes about the now defunct BSWAT scheme, the class action associated with the BSWAT scheme and avenues for participation and payment.

If you missed the presentation, all info is contained in the presentation below.

For more information or if you still have questions:

Phone 1800 799 515

Email: BSWATPayments@dss.gov.au