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Indigenous NDIS poster-boy forced to leave home after funding withdrawn, inquiry hears

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A former Indigenous poster boy for the National Disability Insurance Scheme became part of a "stolen generation" once his funding was withdrawn, the disability royal commission has been told.

The disabled teenager, known as Joziah, had been supported to live independently near his mother in his Northern Territory hometown of Tennant Creek.

But a lack of funding led to Joziah's support being withdrawn, forcing his family to place him in care 500km away in Alice Springs in order to access basic services.

"He became what would always be regarded as part of a stolen generation, even now when it is that people, young people, children are being taken from Aboriginal families," his carer, known as Joan, told the inquiry on Monday.

Since being moved south more than two years ago, Joziah had been able to return to his country just three times due to the lack of NDIS funds in his package and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has turned its attention to the treatment and experiences of thousands of Indigenous people with disabilities in remote communities.

Barriers to accessing the NDIS and disability services will be among the issues examined during the inquiry's five-day sitting in Alice Springs.

It will consider whether those hurdles cause or contribute to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of Indigenous people with disability.

Reflecting on her experience providing care to multiple disabled Indigenous people, Joan said many already distrusted government and were then introduced to a scheme that was "so complex for them to understand that they have been even further pushed out to the margins".

The commission was told there is no longer an NDIS office in Tennant Creek, which has a population of about 3000 people.

But when an office was there Joziah was the scheme's "poster boy" after it funded him to move from an aged care facility into a home where his family could visit him.

"They had him beamed up on a big photo on all of their pamphlets selling the wares of the NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency) and how it could make a difference in people's lives," Joan said.

Earlier, the inquiry's chair, Ronald Sackville QC, said there were about 66,000 First Nations people with a profound or severe disability.

Of those, about 11 per cent or roughly 7000 people live in remote or very remote areas, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

Mr Sackville said 34 per cent of Indigenous NDIS applicants were assessed as ineligible for the scheme compared to 28 per cent of applicants who said they were not First Nations people.

Applicants living in remote and very remote areas are also found to be ineligible to participate in the scheme at a higher rate than those in the major cities.

"These figures perhaps suggest that some First Nations people with disability in remote and very remote areas are not being correctly assessed," he said.

Counsel assisting the commission Patrick Griffin SC said much of the evidence would echo the findings of a 2011 productivity report that predated the NDIS and found disability support services in remote communities were either non-existent or limited to basic care.

The hearing continues on Tuesday.

Story by Aaron Bunch, AAP


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