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Build capability and capacity


Many local governments struggle to resource actions to increase social and economic participation of people with disability. This is both in terms of the capacity of local government (money, time, and people) and also the capability of the workforce. There are always competing priorities and, especially for rural and remote local governments, budget constraints and few resources. Making social and economic inclusion a priority requires leadership at all levels within local government to recognise the benefits to not only people with disability but also the whole community.

This section provides information about how local governments increase social and economic participation by investing in people and in sourcing appropriate resources.

Drive strong leadership

Strong leadership ensures that access and inclusion are embedded across local government strategies, plans and programs. The starting point for many local governments is often strong advocacy from elected members with either a lived or personal experience of disability. This is then supported by executive and senior staff. Senior planning and infrastructure staff often drive universal access but this needs to be supported at an executive level to ensure a broader commitment to social and economic participation is embedded across the whole organisation.

Strong leadership from executive staff and elected members promotes a culture where access and inclusion are prominent in decision-making. This can mean having one or more elected member and senior council staff on disability advisory committees (the national survey showed that over three-quarters of disability advisory committees include one or more elected member) or creating more formal civic structures which recognise disability in decision-making.

Build staff capacity

Sufficient staff awareness, understanding and knowledge are essential to increase the social and economic participation of people with disability. At the compliance level, this means ensuring that staff understands their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act and the relevant access provisions in the Building Code of Australia and the Disability Discrimination Act. Many local governments go beyond compliance to provide disability awareness training and other resources for staff.

One effective method to build capacity is to provide elected members and staff with a real-life experience of what it is like to have a disability. The national survey showed that many disability advisory committees help design and deliver such training. This allows others to experience the barriers people with disability face in social and economic participation and can significantly influence operational and strategic decision-making.

In addition to organisation-wide capacity building, some local governments provide targeted training to some of their staff, for example, National Relay Service training to customer service staff. Other local governments provide tailored training to some of their staff around specific identified needs.

Universal design training

The Institute for Access Training Australia runs the following courses:The Institute for Access Training Australia runs the following courses:

  • Diploma and Certificate IV in access consulting.
  • How to conduct a building access audit.
  • Understanding access legislation and universal design in buildings.
  • Understanding access and universal design in parks and outdoor spaces.
  • Addressing access in transport infrastructure and conveyances.

It also offers a range of access awareness handbooks, for example to:

  • Make businesses and tourist services more accessible.
  • Make leisure and entertainment activities more accessible.
  • Provide better access to community facilities.
  • Understand access obligations for councillors, CEOs, managers and committees.
  • Make outdoor spaces more accessible.

Additional resources

Institute of Access Training Australia

Allocate resources

Many local governments and have relatively low levels of discretionary spending available to allocate for non-mandatory services. However, outcomes for social and economic participation appear to be most effective where local governments can prioritise resources to:

  • Drive disability access and inclusion plans.
  • Convene disability advisory groups.
  • Enable staff to work together across departments.
  • Advocate for greater disability access and inclusion.

The disability access and inclusion role in most local governments sits within the community services/development team. In metropolitan and larger regional local governments, these teams often have several staff, with one or more at least partially dedicated to disability. In smaller regional, rural and remote local governments, there is often only one staff member who covers disability, ageing, multiculturalism, diversity, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and sometimes also youth.

Where dedicated resources exist, local governments are able to provide a stronger response to access and inclusion. Since 2006, local governments in Victoria have received state funding to employ full-time or part time Disability Access Officers under the Building Inclusive Communities program. Overall, this has meant that local governments in Victoria are generally able to deliver a broader range of activities to support disability inclusion than local governments in other states.

Despite resource constraints, other smaller rural and remote local governments have also dedicated resources to drive access and inclusion.

Source grant funding

Local governments often lack sufficient discretionary funding to establish new facilities, activities, projects and programs which promote the inclusion of people with all abilities and increase the social and economic participation of people with disability. This means they need to proactively source funds from grants either on their own or in partnership with others. However, where disability action plans are mandatory, local governments are more likely to allocate funds and proactively source grants to ensure the actions are implemented.

Sources of grant funding

NDIS Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) funding

Some actions to support the elements of the place-based framework may be eligible for the NDIS Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) funding. This grant program funds activities which deliver clear benefits for people with disability their families and carers.

ILC funding is available through an open competitive grants process and is being progressively rolled out across all States and Territories.

Visit the NDIS website

Australian Government Employment Assistance Fund

This provides employers with funding to cover the cost of modifying workplaces to support employees with disability.

Visit the Job Access website

The Australia Council Artists with Disability Funding

This provides support for individual and groups of artists with disability.

Visit the Australia Council for the Arts website

Grants not specifically targeting improved services or opportunities for people with disability can help improve access and inclusion. For example, the Australian Government Building Better Regions Fund provides grants for rural and remote areas in two funding streams:

  • The Infrastructure Projects Stream for the construction of new infrastructure or the upgrade or extension of existing infrastructure
  • The Community Investments Stream for community building activities including, but not limited to, new or expanded local events, strategic regional plans and leadership and capability building activities.

Visit the website for more information

Each State and Territory government also has infrastructure and facilities grants to improve the accessibility of public facilities and infrastructure and many offer a range of sports and recreation grants for programs and facilities upgrades. Although not disability specific, these grants often target projects to grow sports and recreation activities in communities and also address barriers to inclusion.

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Checklist of actions to build capability and capacity