In a life threatening emergency dial Triple Zero (000)

In a life threatening emergency dial Triple Zero (000)
ACT Public Hospitals

Canberra Hospital

5124 0000

Calvary Hospital

6201 6111

Mental Health

Call Mental Health Triage on

1800 629 354

(free call except from mobiles or public phones) or

6205 1065

Poisons Hotline

For a poison emergency in Australia call


Drug and Alcohol Help Line

The Drug and Alcohol Help Line is available 24-hours, 7 days a week on

5124 9977

Health Protection Service

For after hours urgent public health matters including environmental health, radiation safety, food poisoning and communicable disease management phone:

(02) 6205 1700


24 hour health advice

1800 022 222

ACT State Emergency Service

Emergency help
during flood or storms

132 500


I have the right to access justice

What is the Disability Justice Strategy?

The Disability Justice Strategy is a ten-year plan which aims to ensure people with disability in the ACT have equal access to justice. It is part of the ACT Government’s vision for an inclusive society that gives everyone the chance to participate in community life and leaves no-one behind.

The plan is underpinned by the following principles:

Who is it for?

The Disability Justice Strategy is for:

People with disability are those who have ‘long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others’. (CPRD)

The justice system is the combination of courts, tribunals and legal processes that deal with criminal, civil and other legal issues.We all have the right to a voice in the legal system

“We just want access to justice like everyone else.”

Consultation participant

The service system is the wide range of human and legal services that engage with people with disability such as health, education, housing, disability services (including advocacy services), regulatory services, police, and legal advice and representation.

Why is it needed?

In the ACT, there are approximately 62,000 people who identify as having a disability. While we do not have clear ACT data, we know from national and international research that:

This data shows that people with disability face a range of disadvantages which lead to an increased level of contact with the justice system and a greater level of legal need than a person without disability. In fact, of all the groups of people in society who are disadvantaged it is people with disability who experience the greatest occurrence of legal issues including: accidents; consumer issues; credit/debit; crime; employment; family; government; health; housing; money; personal injury and rights.[6]

These legal issues often occur because of the compounding disadvantage experienced by people with disability including: poverty; poor educational outcomes; isolation; poor connections; poor health; reduced life expectancy; and increased risk of being subject to violence and crime. There are a range of ACT Government strategies under development or in the early stages of implementation which seek to address some of these areas of disadvantage early. These initiatives include: the Blueprint for Youth Justice 2012–22 (revised); Early Support by Design; the Future of Education: An ACT Education Strategy for the Next Ten Years; a Charter of Rights for Victims of Crimes; the Early Childhood Strategy; the Housing Strategy; the Family Safety Hub; Justice Reinvestment; and Building Communities, Not Prisons.

The Disability Justice Strategy acknowledges and supports the invaluable role these initiatives will play in addressing compounding disadvantage before it leads to contact with the justice system. The strategy’s role is to focus on improving access to justice for people with disability who are engaged with the justice system.

The two key initiatives being led by the Education Directorate, development of a territory-wide Early Childhood Strategy and implementation of the Future of Education ten-year roadmap of reform, align neatly with the Disability Justice Strategy. The Early Childhood Strategy, and the rollout of the universal access to preschool for three-year-old children, will support earlier identification of disability through earlier access to preschool so these children receive the adjustments needed to support their effective engagement with learning. A focus on more effective transitions for children from early childhood education and care to preschool will also support better information sharing in relation to their adjustment needs, enabling coordinated and responsive supports. As children with disability move into their formal years of schooling, a greater focus on inclusion, student wellbeing and strong communities for learning through the Future of Education Strategy will support improved outcomes for all children and young people.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s report Equal before the Law: Towards Disability Justice Strategies(2014) states that there are five barriers experienced by people with disability who seek access to justice.

The aim of the Disability Justice Strategy is to address these barriers because they mean that often the people with greatest need are not able to access justice in a fair and equitable way. The removal of barriers will require cultural change and systemic improvements in the justice system.

[1] Human Rights Watch 2018, I Needed Help, Instead I Was Punished: Abuse and Neglect of Prisoners with Disabilities in Australia.
[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, Personal Safety Survey 5.
[3] Emerson, E. et al, Physical Violence and Property Crims Reported by People with and without Disability in New South Wales 2002–2015, University of Sydney, Centre of Disability Research and Policy.
[4] Law and Justice Foundation of NSW 2012, Legal Australia–wide survey legal needs in Australia.
[5] Law Council of Australia 2018, The Justice Project Final Report Part 1 – People with Disability p. 10.
[6] Law and Justice Foundation of NSW 2012, Legal Australia-Wide Survey, Legal Need in Australia.

What needs to change?

Table 1 provides examples of shifts in the justice and services systems that would address the barriers and change the experiences of people with disability

Achieving shifts in the justice and services systems will create a range of social and economic benefits including:

It is important to note that the range of disadvantages experienced by people with disability are best addressed early in the life of a person with disability, as well as early intervention in the development stages of legal needs will lead to better outcomes. If the human services system works effectively to identify needs and provide supports at an early stage this can work to reduce the level of future contact with the justice system.

How has the strategy been developed?

People with disability in the ACT have clearly stated a need for equal access to justice and the ACT Government responded through a commitment to a Disability Justice Strategy. The development of the strategy has been a collaboration between the Community Services and the Justice and Community Safety Directorates (the Disability Justice Strategy Team) guided by the Disability Justice Reference Group. The membership of the reference group includes people with disability, lived experience of the justice system, and representatives from government and non-government organisations across the justice, disability and human services sectors.

Public consultation took place through the ACT Government’s Your Say webpage, through online surveys supported by discussion papers and four public conversations held in a variety of venues across Canberra. The Disability Justice Strategy team also met with key stakeholders across the disability and justice sectors, and members of the public individually. These conversations, together with research conducted by the Disability Justice Strategy team, have informed the development of the Disability Justice Strategy. The What We Heard Report and discussion paper can all be accessed at YourSay websiteExternal Link

Further detail can be found in Towards Disability Justice for the ACT which discusses what we know about the issues faced by people with disability, what we heard during consultations, and suggestions for action.

Table 1 State of the ACT justice and services systems

FROM – Current state

TO – Future state

People with disability are not always able to receive legal information in accessible ways and have their rights upheld

Legal information is accessible and available across all areas of legal need and people with disability understand their rights

Limited awareness and understanding in the justice system of the needs of people with disability

Organisations and workers understand the needs of people with disability and are given the tools to make reasonable adjustments for those needs

People with disability are often invisible in the justice system because they are not identified

There are multiple opportunities to identify the needs of people with disability in the justice system

Services are disjointed with gaps in service provision and few reasonable adjustments are made

Services are informed and skilled and provide coordinated and responsive supports to people with disability

People with disability are over-represented in the justice system

Services and supports are in place early to divert people with disability away from contact with the justice system

Data gathering, and information sharing is limited

Services ask if people have adjustment needs and are able to share information, with consent, to allow reasonable adjustments to be made throughout the system and to support improved data collection for analytical purposes

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