The ACT Disability Reference Group (the Reference Group), formerly known as the ACT Disability Expert Panel, is an advisory group which will work to ensure the ACT Government is aware of the issues which affect people with disabilities in the ACT.
The Reference Group will also advise the ACT Government on ways in which the ACT can be a more inclusive community for people with disabilities. Members of the Reference Group will draw on their own experience and their broader engagement with people with disability, as their carers and service providers to provide that advice.
The work of the Reference Group will be underpinned by the six policy areas of the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (the Strategy):
- inclusive and accessible communities;
- rights protection, justice and legislation;
- economic security;
- personal and community support;
- learning and skills; and
- health and wellbeing.
The Strategy provides the framework for governments to engage people with disability in the development of policies and programs.
As a Human Rights jurisdiction, the ACT Government is committed to ensuring the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is observed and applied through policy and practice. The ACT Government also has an obligation under the National Disability Agreement to engage a consultative group of people with disability to guide the decision making government. The Reference Group will form part of this consultative role.
Terms of Reference
The ACT Disability Reference Group will:
- provide advice to the ACT Government on issues affecting people with disabilities;
- advise on, and participate in, community engagement to build an inclusive Canberra;
- provide strategic whole of government advice to the Minister of Disability on relevant national policy development including on the six National Disability Strategy strategic policy outcomes;
- foster cooperative linkages with people with disability, their families and other unpaid carers, organisations, government and community;
- alert the ACT Government to emerging issues, potential risks and opportunities related to the ongoing implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); and
- provide advice on strategies that raise community awareness of the rights of people with disability including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the role of government and community in promoting these rights.
The Reference Group will comprise between seven and 15 members, a majority of whom are people with disabilities, including the Community Co-Chair.
The Reference Group will have two Co-Chairs. The Community Co-Chair will be appointed by the Minister.The Director-General of the Community Services Directorate (CSD) will also be Co-Chair.
Composition and Representation
The Reference Group will comprise people who work together in the best interests of people with disability in the ACT. The Reference Group is not a representative body but rather an advisory group of people who are able to draw upon valued and relevant perspectives and experience. Reference Group members may bring a range of expertise including:
- person with a disability;
- young person with a disability;
- person from an Aboriginal background;
- person from a Torres Strait Islander background;
- person from a culturally and linguistically diverse background with a disability;
- people of all ages and backgrounds who are carers of people with disabilities; and/or
- knowledge of the disability service system.
The Minister has the discretion to appoint additional members, including ex-officio members.
Terms of Appointment
- Appointments will be for a term of up to two years, with the option one further two-year term of membership.
- Members may form working groups and/or sub-committees and/or co-opt individuals with expertise for particular projects or issues.
- Membership is confirmed by the Minister for Disability. Individual community members, including the positions of Co-Chairs will be appointed by the Minister.
- If members do not attend three consecutive meetings or miss 50% of meetings in a year, without the leave of the chair, their place may be opened to a new member.
Members will be remunerated for participating in bi-monthly meetings, leading community engagement and significant out-of-session contribution up to 15 hours per year. Remuneration will be agreed in advance of out-of-session forums and engagements.
Remuneration will be consistent with the ACT Remuneration Tribunal determination.
Role of the Chairs
The Minister for Disability will appoint a Community Co-Chair (the Director-General of CSD) will also be Co-Chair) for the Reference Group. The Co-Chairs will:
- represent the Reference Group including in any public context;
- facilitate orderly and constructive discussions between members on matters within the Terms of Reference;
- liaise with ACT Government directorates;
- assist members to work together as a group by:
- facilitating discussion;
- ensuring all members have equal opportunity to contribute ideas, opinions and concerns; and
- drawing participation from all members;
- maintain a positive and constructive atmosphere at meetings by encouraging courtesy, respect and openness;
- seek to resolve conflict within the group and provide feedback as necessary to group members on expressed opinions or actions;
- liaise with the Secretariat to develop meeting agendas and ensure that any action required is appropriately assigned and progressed; and
- inform the Minister for Disability about the priorities and work of the group through meetings and correspondence.
- The Reference Group meets bi-monthly (six times per year).
- Working group/sub-committee or out-of-session meetings may be held as necessary.
- A draft agenda will be developed prior to each meeting by the Secretariat in consultation with the Co-Chair/s. In developing the agenda, consideration will be given to any direction provided by the Minister.
- The agenda and papers are to be circulated to members no less than one week prior to the meeting.
- Meetings are to be facilitated by the Co-Chairs, or in their absence a member nominated by the Co-Chair/s.
- Whenever possible, decisions of the Reference Group are to be made by consensus. If consensus cannot be reached, decisions will be made by a majority vote of those members present. The advice provided to the Minister will include the diverse range of opinions of members.
- A member who abstains from voting, or does not agree with the majority ruling, can request to have their concerns noted in the minutes of the meeting.
- At each meeting, members are to provide updates on consultations they have attended on behalf of the Reference Group.
In order for decisions to be made at meetings there is to be a quorum of no less than half the total current number of members plus one.
Leave of absence and apologies
- If a member is unable to attend a meeting, they are required to submit an apology to the Secretariat stating the reason for the absence. Apologies are noted in the Minutes.
- Proxies and/or observers will not be accepted to replace the absent member.
- If a member fails to attend three consecutive meetings without leave from the Co-Chair/s, their term may be cancelled.
- Members may apply for a leave of absence from their Reference Group responsibilities for up to three months. This must be agreed to by the Reference Group for it to be effective.
- For a period of absence of longer than three months from Reference Group responsibilities, the request must be submitted to the Minister for agreement.
Resigning from the Disability Reference Group
Members may resign from the Reference Group at any time. All resignations must be provided in writing to the Minister, stating their intention to resign from the Reference Group, with a copy provided to the Co-Chair/s. The appointment of replacement members is at the Minister’s discretion.
Secretariat support will be provided by the Office for Disability, within CSD. The Secretariat is responsible for:
- Developing agendas in consultation with the Co-Chair/s;
- Distributing the agenda and meeting papers in appropriate formats;
- Taking minutes and distributing them to Reference Group members within two weeks of Reference Group meetings;
- Monitoring action items arising from Reference Group business and assisting in their implementation, including liaising between the Reference Group and Government agencies; and
- Arranging venues and refreshments for meetings.
Business Between Meetings
The Co-Chair/s may conduct business between meetings on behalf of the Reference Group, including the preparation of correspondence. The Co-Chair/s may delegate this to other members, as required. All submissions and significant correspondence must be cleared through the Co-Chairs and the Minister.
Members are expected to advise the Secretariat when they have completed agreed actions arising from previous meetings.
Official Business and the Representation of Reference Group Views
The Co-Chair/s may represent the Reference Group at meetings and forums when attending on behalf of the Reference Group. The Co-Chairs must represent existing Reference Group policy in the public domain, including the media, as needed to achieve the Reference Group’s Work Plan.
Members representing Reference Group are expected to comply with the ACT Governance Principles 2017 Code of Conduct and report back to Reference Group on official activities.
Formal speeches and papers that are delivered by a member on behalf of the Reference Group or the Minister must be cleared by the Co-Chair/s or the Minister respectively prior to their presentation.
All contact with the media on behalf of the Reference Group requires consultation with the Co-Chairs. Any information to be released to the media on behalf of the Reference Group must be cleared through the Chair and the Minister.
The Secretariat can update the Community Services Directorate’s website with the Reference Group’s work, including:
- the Work Plan;
- progress reports;
- speeches; and
Unless otherwise indicated, all papers and minutes are confidential and the Group will determine what papers are marked for release at the end of each meeting or in subsequent meetings.
The Secretariat will provide a brief public summary of meetings, which is available for all members and will be available online.
Members may be provided with other confidential material which they can not disclose to anyone outside the group and should treat with the utmost care and discretion.
Conflict of interest is defined as any instance where a Reference Group member has a direct financial or other interest in matters under consideration, or proposed for consideration, by the Reference Group.
A member must disclose to the Co-Chair/s any situation that may give rise to a conflict of interest, a potential conflict of interest, or a potential perceived conflict of interest. The Co-Chair/s will make the determination whether there are adequate grounds for excluding a member from any related discussion or decision making regarding a conflict of interest issue.
Reference Group members are expected to observe the highest standards of ethical conduct as outlined in the Governance Principles – Appointments and the ACT Code of Ethics (Section 9 of the Public Sector Management Act 1994), including honesty, courtesy, fairness and conflict of interest.
Documentation outlining appropriate conduct in relation to ethical standards, conflict of interest and other issues is outlined in the Governance Principles – Appointments available from the ACT Office for Disability or the Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate.
The Minister has the discretion to suspend or terminate a member’s appointment if there is an identified conflict of interest or a breach of the Code of Conduct.
The Minister retains the discretion to terminate a member’s appointment to the Reference Group for serious breaches of attendance, or the Code of Conduct.
Review of Terms of Reference
The Terms of Reference shall be reviewed every two years.
ACT Disability Reference Group
Office for Disability
Community Services Directorate
GPO Box 158
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Phone: (02) 6207 5323