Barkly Progress Report: Year One

Choose the PDF link to download the full-colour Barkly Progress Report: Year One booklet.

The text contents of the booklet are provided on this page:

Foreword from Chairman Bruce Bonyhady AM

Image of NDIA Chairman Bruce BonyhadyIn July 2014, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) opened its doors in the Barkly region of the Northern Territory. In a little over a year a lot has been achieved.

People with disability in the Barkly region are receiving supports such as new equipment and providers new to the area are registered and are delivering supports.

When it was first decided to trial the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in locations around Australia, we knew that trials in metropolitan sites would tell us very little about how the Scheme should work in rural, remote and very remote areas.

And so, in 2013, the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments agreed to trial the NDIS in one of the least densely populated regions in Australia, the Barkly region.

This is an exciting time for improving the lives of people with disability in remote parts of the Northern Territory.

Through the trial of the NDIS in the Barkly region, we are learning a new way of working with remote and very remote communities. We are learning the best ways to spread the NDIS through these communities.

On a trip this year to Tennant Creek with colleagues from the NDIA and the Scheme’s Independent Advisory Committee, we were once again struck by both the size of the challenge and the opportunities.

We are working with a range of groups, including disability organisations in the Northern Territory so that we find the right solutions to the challenges of building the NDIS in remote and very remote areas.

We are taking a community development approach, building capacity directly with communities and working closely with Aboriginal corporations and service providers in health and other allied sectors. We are partnering with the First Peoples Disability Network to establish local support groups and working closely with other government agencies and departments.

This progress report focuses on what has been achieved in the Barkly region over the past year and what we have learnt.

By investing this time and effort now in the Barkly, the payoff for current and future generations across the Northern Territory and all rural, remote and very remote areas of Australia will be immense.

Bruce Bonyhady AM

What have we achieved?

  • As at 30 June 2015, 61 people with disability have approved plans in place.
  • 24 providers have registered to deliver services as part of the NDIS.
  • Additional options for shared supported accommodation for people with disability have been delivered.
  • Almost half of our staff on the ground in the Barkly trial site are Aboriginal.
  • 61 people with disability have approved plans, 44% female and 56% male.
  • The total amount of committed supports is $3,061,377.
  • 62% of participants have early intervention supports in their plans.
  • 24 providers have registered to deliver services.

(Figures as of 30 June 2015.)

Desert Harmony Festival

The NDIA joined locals in Tennant Creek to celebrate the 26th Annual Desert Harmony Festival. With a $60,000 sponsorship from the NDIA, this year’s festival celebrated people with disability, showcasing their strengths and talents.

Staff attended events throughout the festival to talk to the community about the NDIS and what it means for people with disability in remote Northern Territory.

This included a visit from Paralympian Kurt Fearnley to the local high school to talk about his experiences of living with disability.

Participants, families and carers were also invited as VIP’s to the NDIS football match between local teams in partnership with the Barkly Australian Football League (BAFL).

The BAFL agreed to schedule a local game between the Sporties Spitfi res and the Elliott Hawks, which was a 2014 Grand Final re-match to celebrate people with disability.

While we were at the Desert Harmony Festival we spoke directly to participants, families and carers about how the Scheme is working for them and met people who may become part of the Scheme in the future.

NDIS General Manager, Anne Skordis, attended the Desert Harmony Festival and said the Agency is completing more plans for people with disability each week.

“Part of what we look at is not just what each person needs in their plan but how all of the pieces of a person’s life work together,” said Ms Skordis.

“It’s about how a person’s plan works alongside school, community, family and other services that are already important parts of people’s lives," she said.

“Over time, we will find new and better ways of providing support, by building on what works well and learning from the lived experience of people with disability.”

Successful partnerships

Barkly Trial Site Local Advisory Group

A Local Advisory Group, made up of representatives from local Aboriginal organisations, community representatives, participants and providers, is providing the NDIA with local advice to ensure the NDIS is rolled out effectively in the Barkly Region. This group is working on the Way Forward Action Plan, which will detail practical actions in five areas for the NDIA to pursue: participants and community, carers and families, Scheme understanding, training and employment, and communication.

First Peoples Disability Network

To support more effective and enduring engagement with local communities in the Barkly, the NDIA has engaged the First Peoples Disability Network through the Sector Development Fund. Through this project, the First Peoples Disability Network is establishing strong relationships and networks with communities to raise awareness of the NDIS.

Barkly Regional Arts

Art is being used to build awareness of the NDIS and disability, through a strong partnership between the trial site and Barkly Regional Arts. The successful Story Plates project has encouraged five communities to explore what disability means to people living in the Barkly region, and convey these discussions visually through creating painted ceramic plates. The Story Plates were exhibited at the National Rural Health Alliance Conference in Darwin in 2015, and at the Desert Harmony Festival. The exhibition will travel to other parts of Australia later this year.

Building a local workforce

The NDIA understands that developing the local workforce is critical to the delivery of the NDIS in the Barkly Region. While this continues to be an area of development for the NDIA, progress is being made. A new service provider to the region, ITEC Health, recently trained 17 people as potential disability support workers for additional assisted living and supported accommodation services. Sixteen of these people are local Aboriginal people. The NDIA wants to see as many local Aboriginal people as possible delivering services to people with disability in the community.

Dion: connecting with his community

Dion, 24, is a talented Tennant Creek artist whose artwork and children’s book Too Many Cheeky Dogs made its way to Buckingham Palace as part of a gift from the Northern Territory Government to welcome the arrival of Princess Charlotte.

According to Dion’s guardian Joie, Dion is "mad keen on drawing dogs", all of whom he has met while living in communities across the Northern Territory.

Last year Dion, who is profoundly deaf after contracting meningitis as a baby and has muscular dystrophy, became an NDIS participant.

"I met Dion when he was almost 12," Joie says. "When he came to town he was pretty uncooperative but drawing was the thing that connected him to others and so we could communicate that way.

"I was very excited when the NDIS started because it is a needs-based system which I thought could be perfectly targeted to Dion."

What have we learned?

  • Service delivery requires agile, responsive, innovative and flexible solutions that are tailored to address community challenges and take account of cultural differences.
  • Developing trust with remote communities is key to the successful implementation of the NDIS.
  • Strong partnerships with mainstream agencies that already have a presence in a community can help to develop innovative solutions and options for delivering supports.
  • Ensuring sufficient time to build relationships with the communities is key to increasing awareness of disability services and the rights of people with disability.
  • A culturally skilled workforce will enhance the acceptance and involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in using disability support services.
  • A ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work in Aboriginal communities. What will work well in one community will not work with all communities. A tailored approach is needed.
  • As most Aboriginal languages in the Barkly don’t have a word for ‘disability’, it is key that the NDIA works closely with communities to build an understanding of what the Scheme is about, and who it can assist.
  • Additional effort is required to attract and retain providers in remote regions, acknowledging the challenges of workforce availability, service delivery costs and the need to ensure a reasonable level of support for participants.

Image of story plateCaption for back cover image of a story plate by Audrey Rankine from the Mungkarta Community:

"My story plate has a disabled woman in a wheelchair with her child in her lap and her husband pushing her. Outside the family are the people from NDIS and family members that are supporting her."

Cover Image: 

Published Date: 

7 October 2015