This report is divided into three sections. The first section, ‘Emerging’, focuses on the activism era in the disability rights movement – particularly its highpoint, the United Nations’ (UN) International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981. In addition, ‘Emerging’ casts back to 1971 and the first known direct action by people with disabilities – and forward to the eve of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in 1991 and the end of the activism era.
The second section, ‘Engaging’, focuses on the advocacy era of the disability rights movement. ‘Engaging’ explores why – despite activists moving into powerful advocacy positions, using the DDA to win important victories and conducting multiple campaigns – systemic progress was limited by a shift in government policies towards neoliberalism. As a consequence, the concerns of the disability rights movement were often unheard or ignored between 1991 and 2011, with the sector only beginning to find its voice between 2008 and 2011 as the proposal for a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) gained momentum.
The third section, ‘Uprising’, focuses on the mainstream era of the disability rights movement. Beginning in 2011 and running up to the appointment of the Disability Royal Commission in 2019, the campaign for and rollout of the NDIS redefined both the disability sector and disability advocacy – giving disability issues unprecedented political and economic weight. ‘Uprising’ explores the domino effect of the campaign for the NDIS: how the Every Australian Counts campaign created the first rallying point for the disability rights movement since the UN International Year of Disabled Persons, how the campaign led to the rollout of the NDIS, which the Commonwealth saw as one of the biggest job-creation opportunities in Australia’s history; how the rollout of the NDIS turned disability, previously seen as a marginal political and policy area, into a major socio-economic portfolio within government; how the Yooralla scandal, which broke in the midst of the rollout of the NDIS, raised serious questions about the quality of the disability services workforce and the safety of people with disability; and how, ultimately, those questions of quality and safety could only be adequately answered by a Royal Commission.