NSW Ombo and Aine’s walk and talk

Day 3 of #WCMTLD today and my first day of face to face meetings. I spent the morning and early afternoon at the New South Wales Ombudsman‘s office, talking with Kathryn McKenzie their Disability Director and team members from the reviewable deaths team and the disability reportable incidents team.

One thing I hadn’t expected was that it may be of use or interest of people to meet with me and discuss a perspective from the UK. It seems like the NSW Ombudsman’s office is relatively unusual within Australia in the range and breadth of functions and powers that they hold, so their teams can be relatively isolated in that there aren’t many other people to compare things with.

There were a few immediate things that sprang to mind as warranting some closer attention from me, firstly the role of the Official Community Visitors and the impact that can have on a local level as someone who people in care can talk to and who can get to know people on a personal level, in their own home and raise concerns if they have any. The second area of focus was the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission which is currently being established, interviews for the role of commissioner were imminent and many of the NSW functions around reviewing deaths and reportable incidents will move to the commission from 1/7/18.

The teams spoke very highly of the work of a number of academics especially Julian Trollor and his team and Jim Simpson’s team at the NSW Council for Intellectual Disability. I’m meeting Prof Trollor on Friday and hoping to meet with or speak to Jim this week too, I feel sure I’ve a lot to learn from them. I made copious notes this morning and will come back to them and digest the information more at a later date. For now its safe to say that there were a lot of synergies, which is always reassuring and a firm commitment to improve things for disabled people, a commitment to monitoring and improvement and not just restating the status quo.

It was a brilliantly useful morning that led to an equally brilliant afternoon and evening. Aine, former Director of Advocacy at the NSWCID, contacted me and offered to meet at the weekend. She is an absolute whirlwind of energy, ideas and opportunities for the taking around disability advocacy and generally encouraging a more positive future/society that we’d all like to live in. We¬†caught a train to the far side of the Harbour Bridge and took a stroll back across it, discussing all manner of things including a number of shared interests around moving research and academics into activism, clear messages, positive actions to improve things, campaigning, death and dying, advocacy, the role of national charities, conflicts of interest, storytelling…the list could go on for a long time, I felt like I could talk to Aine for days. We went for a few cheeky drinks in a rooftop beer garden overlooking the harbour (and the massive ship that’s currently docked and obscuring the scenic view) before heading back to Newtown for some Turkish nosh.

My head is buzzing, there’s so much to process already. We must all work together to improve things, and for now I’ll keep feeding back headline messages and sharing information. Combine this with developments at home, with the GMC finally deciding that LB’s psychiatrist, Dr Valerie Murphy’s fitness to practice is impaired.

Never has the timing of my WCMT fellowship felt more pertinent, or the topic more important.

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