High rate of brain injury among Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples

The rate of brain injury and disability among Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples is almost twice as high as that among non-Indigenous people. By any measure, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples with a disability are among the most disadvantaged members of the Australian community. They often face multiple barriers to meaningful participation in their own communities as well as the wider community.

Unprecedented Opportunity for Support and Services

The NDIS has potential to enable access to support and services by eligible Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples at levels previously unimaginable in Australia, but ‘Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders [comprised] 7.3% of participants who received a plan in the quarter, compared with 5.6% in previous quarters combined.’ (COAG Disability Reform Council – Quarterly Report, June 2019).In early 2019 Synapse received the great news that a proposed five year project to increase participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the NDIS had in-principle philanthropic funding. The project has three strategies, each of which has been developed to tackle different barriers to participation.

Revising the Guddi Way Screen (2019)

The Guddi Way Screen is a culturally appropriate screening process to identify brain injury and complex disability. Once a brain injury has been identified, it may enable a pathway to appropriate support via the NDIS. For some people, this may the first time in their lives that a brain injury has been identified and that they have the opportunity to receive support.

The screen includes culturally sensitive questions relating to cognition, thinking skills, disability and psychosocial functioning. Synapse evaluated the utility and feasibility of the Guddi Way Screen (2018) during the Brisbane Murri Court pilot project.

Based on learnings from the Murri Court project Synapse have revised the screen, culminating in the enhanced and modified Guddi Way Screen (2019). Expert advice and guidance was central to the redevelopment and refinement of the Guddi Way Screen (2019), both its composition and the methodology to support its culturally informed application

Working with agencies

Synapse will work with community organisations, agencies and government departments supporting or working with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander individuals impacted by brain injury across criminal and juvenile justice, mental health, child safety, youth and family services, aged care, education, housing and homelessness services nationally.

Synapse is working towards increased agency capacity to understand the nature and implications of brain injury. This will be achieved through training in the Guddi Way Screening Tool, and work with our partners to co-design strategies, and associated guidance and/or training.

Working with communities

Synapse will work with local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities to build the capacity of these communities to deliver NDIS services.

Systemic advocacy

Synapse systemic advocacy activities have been designed to achieve policy and practice change to achieve greater awareness and improved response to the over representation of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples across service sectors.

Engaging with systems across Australia

Synapse spent six-months engaging with systems across Australia in every State and Territory to identify system issues that impact Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples engagement with the NDIS across all parts of community. The process has also allowed Synapse to partner nationally and identify the specialist responses needed to create system change. Synapse continues to work with contacts made during this process to co-design services which are tailored to individual systems, sectors or organisations.