Diversity on Boards - Disability

Increasing the variety of people who serve on your Board offers the opportunity to tap into a rich pool of talented candidates, bringing new voices, experiences and approaches to the decision-making process. It will also help you to add depth to existing skills and ideas and, perhaps most importantly, bring the Board closer to properly representing its stakeholders.

Greater diversity will also expand the networks available to your group, help you to reach your "audience," increase the profile of your group and build support for what you are doing in key constituencies.

A number of studies have found that having a diverse Board can also bring about better organisational performance – both financial and non-financial. Diversity makes for better governance – and better governance inevitably means better results.

People with disabilities are great for Boards — they bring knowledge about how to make services, organisations and communities accessible to everyone.

Below we have listed a range of resources that will help you to make your Board more inclusive of people with disabilities. This list will expand over coming months so keep coming back to check for more resources.

Help Sheets

In their own words

  • Do you have a story to tell about being a person with a disability serving on Boards and Committees? Email your story to kathyr@ourcommunity.com.au.

Useful Resources

  • The NSW Premier's Department maintains a register of people who have expressed an interest in a Board or Committee appointment. It encourages suitably qualified people from diverse backgrounds to apply.  

  • The WA Government has a website which provides access to information relating to government boards and committees, including statutory requirements, functions and membership details. It also allows members of the public to register online to the Interested Persons Register, while allowing access to the Register by Ministers and their agencies to assist in finding suitable nominees for Boards and Committees.

  • The Queensland Register of Nominees to Government Bodies is a confidential listing of people who are interested in being appointed to government boards, committees and statutory authorities. All Queenslanders are eligible to join the register. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, women, people with knowledge and expertise on multiculturalism, young people and people with a disability are encouraged to apply to join. The register is consulted by Ministers when a vacancy becomes available.

  • The Friendship Program, operated by Disability Services Queensland, helps people with a disability and other community members form and maintain friendships. Support might include encouraging and facilitating people to join clubs and community groups. 

  • The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has information about a range of legally binding standards and guidelines to assist people and organisations with responsibilities under legislation to avoid discrimination and comply with their responsibilities.

  • Missed Business? is a guide developed by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and Marrickville Council. It aims to provide small businesses with information on how they can make their business more accessible to all their customers, particularly people with disabilities. The information in the guide may be of use to community groups wishing to be make their organisations more accessible to people with disabilities. 

  • The NSW Government has prepared Guidelines for Disability Action Planning by NSW Government Agencies to support agencies to ensure as far as possible that people with a disability are able to access services and facilities on an equitable basis without facing discrimination or barriers.  

  • The WA Government's Disability Services Commission lists a large range of publications that can help organisations become more inclusive to people with disabilities. 

  • The WA Government's You're Welcome WA Access Initiative is to improve access for people with disabilities. The initiative provides practical information to business and community groups to expand their customer base by making their services more access-friendly. 

  • Arts Access Australia has developed three publications in partnership with the Australia Council for the Arts. The Disability Fact Pack examines the legal and moral obligations for arts organisation in providing access for people with a disability. Access All Areas is a practical guide for marketing the arts to people with disabilities. Making the Journey is a case studies publication that is currently being developed.

  • Spinal Cord Injuries Australia Access conducts courses assisting students, designers, architects and other building professionals in understanding the intent and requirements of accessible buildings in the built environment.

  • Deaf Australia Inc provides links to resources about how organisations can be more accessible.

  • Spinal Cord Injuries Australia provides needs-based, in-house Public Education Training designed to: develop a corporate culture that promotes access and equity; remove the physical and attitudinal barriers that prevent people with physical disabilities from making full use of services; enhance the ability to tap into the niche market of 1.5 million people with disabilities; increase staff's knowledge of the needs of people with disabilities; meet the requirements of the Building Code of Australia and DDA; and improve customer service. The training generally incorporates issues concerning people with various types of disabilities including physical disability, vision and hearing impairments, psychiatric, intellectual and other cognitive impairment.

  • Getting the Message is a booklet produced by Blind Citizens Australia (Sydney Branch) about providing information in accessible formats, including "who needs it and how to provide it".

  • Women with Disabilities Australia have published a book called Taking the Lead – A Leadership and Mentoring Resource Kit for Women with Disabilities

  • accessibility.com.au is an online disability information resource. It includes a range of resources, including consultancy services, design and maintenance of websites that are more accessible to those with visual impairments and a guide to conversational etiquette when talking to a person with a disability.

Do you know of any resources that may be of use to organisations wanting to be more inclusive of people with disabilities? Send your comments, ideas and links to kathyr@ourcommunity.com.au.

Other Links

- National
  • The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is an independent statutory organisation, reporting to the Federal Parliament through the Attorney-General. Its goal is to foster greater understanding and protection of human rights in Australia and address the human rights concerns of a broad range of individuals and groups. Disability rights forms an important part of the Commission's work.

  • The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations has been established as the primary national voice to government that fully represents the interests of all people with disability across Australia.

  • The Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services supports people with disabilities and their families, promoting independence and self-reliance through the provision of rehabilitation services, disability employment services, provision of income support and improving access and encouraging the involvement of people with disabilities as members of the community.

  • Action on Disability within Ethnic Communities is a community-based organisation that represents the rights and needs of people of non-English speaking background with a disability and their carers. ADEC provides advocacy, information, referral, education, training and consultancy.

  • The National Ethnic Disability Alliance is the national consumer-based peak body for people from a non-English speaking background with disability, their families and carers. The overarching aim of NEDA is to advocate at a federal level.

  • National Disability Services (NDS) is the national industry association for disability services. NDS's membership includes more than 600 non-government, non-profit organisations, which collectively operate several thousand services for Australians with all types of disabilities, including intellectual, physical, psychiatric and sensory. The NDS website provides links to state and territory divisions.

  • The Association of Consultants in Access, Australia is a national membership-based professional association for people working to achieve accessibility of the built environment for people with a disability.

  • The Disability Studies and Research Institute undertakes research into and education about disability issues from a social perspective and promotes public debate associated with the social dimensions of disabilities.
  • Women with Disabilities Australia is the peak organisation for women with all types of disabilities in Australia. It is a federating body of individuals and networks in each State and territory of Australia and is made up of women with disabilities and associated organisations.

  • Technical Aid to the Disabled works to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and those caring for them through application of technology. 

  • People with Disability Australia Inc. is a national peak disability rights and advocacy organisation. Its primary membership is made up of people with disability and organisations primarily constituted by people with disability. 

  • NICAN provides information on recreation, tourism, sport and the arts for people with disabilities and supports an Australian society where any recreational opportunity values diversity, supports freed and choice and strengthens inclusive communities. NICAN aims to create active and dynamic national links between people, places and resources that improve access to recreation experiences for people with disabilities and their communities. It is funded as an information services by the Federal Department of Family and Community Services.

  • Deaf Australia Inc is the national peak organisation for Deaf people in Australia. It represents the views of Deaf people who use Auslan (Australian Sign Language). The website provides links to to state branches.

  • Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (formerly the Australian Quadriplegic Association) works to provide consumer-based support and rehabilitation services to people with physical disabilities. It also works in partnership with communities to promote awareness of spinal cord injuries and similar conditions and to create living and workplace environments capable of embracing, encouraging and supporting such people.

  • Blind Citizens Australia works to achieve equity and equality by empowerment, by promoting positive community attitudes, and by striving for high quality and accessible services which meet the needs of blind and vision-impaired Australians. 

  • Councils on the Ageing (COTA) National Seniors is the largest seniors organisation in Australia, with more than 270,000 individuals and 100 seniors organisations under its umbrella. It is an independent consumer organisation that protects and promotes the wellbeing of all older people. Its website provides links to state and territory Councils on the Ageing.

  • Deafness Forum is the peak body for deafness in Australia. Established in early 1993 at the instigation of the Federal Government, the Forum now represents all interests and viewpoints of the Deaf and hearing impaired communities of Australia.

  • The Mental Health Council of Australia is the independent, national representative network of organisations and individuals committed to achieving quality mental health for everyone in Australia.

  • The National Council on Intellectual Disability is the national association representing people with intellectual disability and their families in Australia. It aims to make the Australian community one in which people with intellectual disability are involved and accepted as equal participating members. 

  • The Physical Disability Council of Australia aims to ensure that by 2010 the needs of people with a physical disability will be met in all Commonwealth Government legislation, policies, services and programs and in all areas of the private sector and the community of Australia, enabling full participation. 

  • The Australian DeafBlind Council is a network for deafblind people or other interested people. It is a national council representing people who are deafblind, their support networks and organisations working in the field.

- Victoria
  • The Victorian Disability Advisory Council (VDAC) provides advice to the Victorian Minister for Community Services in respect of whole of government policies and strategies to increase the participation of people with a disability in the Victorian Community. The Council also works with other local and national community and government advisory groups to create opportunities for all Victorians.

  • Disability News, InfoXchange provides news and information about what is happening for people with disabilities in Victoria.

  • Disability Services is a Division of the Victorian Department of Human Services that is responsible for funding and providing a range of supports and services for people in Victoria with intellectual, physical, sensory and dual disabilities, neurological impairments and acquired brain injury.

  • Disability Online is a Victorian Government website providing people with disabilities, their families and carers with access to online disability related information across governments and the non-government sector.

  • The NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care works to promote opportunities to participate in community life.

  • The Disability Council of NSW works to: maintain and enhance delivery of quality advice to Government that promotes inclusion and awareness of people with a disability in the community; promote the integration of people with a disability into the community through community awareness training and education; encourage diversity, flexibility and innovation in the provision of services; and consult with people with a disability, their families and carers.  

  • The Disability Referral Guide is a directory of peak disability organisations in NSW. It also lists disability information services and agencies that handle complaints.

  • Ability Incorporated provides advocacy, training, education, support and other programs that meet the individual needs of people with disabilities, their families and carers.

  • The Physical Disability Council of New South Wales Inc provides a state-wide voice for people with a physical disability with the goal of securing equal rights for people with a disability.

- Qld
- NT

- SA

  • The Disability Information and Resource Centre SA aims to enhance the status of people with a disability and develop community understanding of disability-related issues by providing accurate, relevant, timely and appropriately formatted information on all aspects of disability.  

  • The SA Intellectual Disability Services Council has responsibility for the overall coordination, planning and development of services for people with intellectual disability within SA. It advises the State Government on issues concerning people with intellectual disability, assists people with intellectual disability to access quality services and promotes community awareness and acceptance of intellectual disability.  

  • The SA Department of Families and Communities' Disability Services Office funds 110 agencies to provide a range of services for people with disabilities.

- WA

  • The Disability Services Commission of WA works to make a positive difference to the lives of people with disabilities, their families and carers. The Commission provides leadership to: support local communities in welcoming and assisting people with disabilities, their families and carers; achieve access to quality support and services for people with disabilities; and protect the rights of people with disabilities who are especially vulnerable and support them to live a full and valued life.

  • People with Disabilities (WA) Inc is a consumer-managed organisation which represents and advocates for the rights and equity of all Western Australians with a disability – physical, intellectual, psychiatric and sensory.

- Tasmania

  • The Minister's Disability Advisory Committee (MDAC) provides provides independent advice directly to the Minister for Health and Human Services on a range of issues affecting Tasmanians with a disability, their families and carers.  

  • Disability Services is a Business Unit within the Human Services Group of the Department of Health and Human Services. The vision of Disability Services is "A society where all people with disabilities are able to achieve their maximum potential."

-  ACT

  • The ACT Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services has responsibility for a wide range of human services functions in the ACT, including disability policy and services.

  • The ACT Disability Advisory Council was established in May 2003 to independently advise and make recommendations to the Minister for Disability and other Ministers as appropriate across a range of issues in relation to people with disabilities.


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