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Indigenous disability project to change lives

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James Cook University’s The Cairns Institute, Brain Injury Australia, and Synapse (Brain Injury Association of Queensland) have teamed up to help change the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with an acquired brain injury (ABI).

The three organisations joined together on the national Practical Design Fund project to develop a culturally appropriate assessment process under DisabilityCare Australia (DCA) – the national disability insurance scheme.

Dr Anne Stephens, Senior Researcher at The Cairns Institute, said the project, funded by the Federal Government, aims to ensure that for the first time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians living with an ABI have the same access to DCA-funded support as any other Australian with a disability.

“The national disability insurance scheme could change the lives of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are living with an ABI,” Dr Stephens said. “But they will only get the support they need if they are given the right kind of assessment.”

“The majority of these people living with an ABI will not yet have received a culturally acceptable and/or valid assessment of either their disability, or their care and support needs.

“This project helps DCA to offer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with an ABI the right kind of support, possibly for the first time, and in a way that respects both their culture and the correct assessment methods.

“In the short term, the eligibility and support needs of these people living with an ABI will need to be assessed using ‘standard’ assessment tools.

“However, our project gives DCA assessors best practice guidance and a support framework.

“Once our prototype toolkit has been validated, DCA will be able to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with an ABI with an assessment that is culturally acceptable and scientifically reliable.

“We truly believe it will change people’s lives for the better across Australia.”

During their research, the project team spoke to more than 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with an ABI, and/or their carers and service providers, from communities in the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Queensland.

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