Robert Fitzgerald, newly appointed NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner sees the role as an extension of a career which he has spent “helping protect vulnerable people”.

Robert Fitzgerald, NSW’s new Ageing and Disability Commissioner

The Commissioner will be given 70 full-time staff and the power to initiate investigations or following a referral or complaint. He also has the power to use search warrants, and seize evidence.

However some disability advocacy groups still worry this is not enough to finish the planned review of disability advocacy services and funding by the end of this year. They’re concerned that disability groups could have no-one to go to if funding stops – as  it’s scheduled to do in 2020.

NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance spokeswoman, Serena Ovens, called on the government to continue funding advocacy groups for two years or more so that the review can be thorough and disability advocacy organisations can continue to support people with disabilities during the review period.

“We’re pleased with the commissioner’s appointment; Mr Fitzgerald has a great background and understanding in this area. But government made one of the Commissioner’s first responsibilities a report on current advocacy and funding,” said Ms Ovens. “Our concern is that there’s is no additional funding to do a thorough report to a short deadline by the end of December, as well as everything else that needs to be done to help people with a disability and carers to understand any changes that come out of the report,” said Ms Ovens who is also CEO of the Physical Disability Council of NSW.

The Commissioner, who is inheriting some of the activities of the NSW Ombudsman, is in the new seat as of July 1 when he will start setting up systems and staff for both ageing and disability services as well as initiating the review.

Affected by the review and any changes to funding are 22 services within NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance which are due to lose funding in 2020  plus another 16 services also due to lose funding – pending the Commissioner’s report.

In April 2018 the NSW Government extended advocacy funding until 2020, partly in response to lobbying and a petition – ongoing – set up by Disability Advocacy Alliance. However, as Ms Ovens points out, there is no plan to fund disability advocacy, information or representation beyond 2020. For further information and to sign the petition to call on NSW govt https://standbyme.org.au/

Mr Fitzgerald served on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, is a former president of the Australian Council of Social Service, and was a productivity commissioner, and a community and disability services commissioner.

SCS is an NDIS provider offering centre- and community-based programs for individuals, small and large groups. A total of more than 120 clients engage in programs which they help design themselves and are delivered by qualified disability workers to enable people to:

  • enjoy social interaction, develop social skills and friendship
  • explore their creativity and achieve goals
  • develop skills for independent living
  • maintain fitness and wellbeing
  • have input into activities

 For more information please see our website’s  disability services pages here

Or phone Sydney Community Services on 9817 0101 or 9427 6425