Commissioner Tracy Mackey's address at the book launch - Disability Practice: Safeguarding Quality Service Delivery

Thursday 15 February 2024, La Trobe University City Campus, Melbourne VIC

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today.

Before I start, I begin by acknowledging the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation whose land we meet on.

I recognise their strength, resilience and capacity on this land, which they have inhabited for more than 40,000 years.

I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and I extend that respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here.

I also acknowledge any people with lived experience of disability who are with us.

Official launch

Today we celebrate an important contribution to the disability sector, with the publication of Disability Practice: Safeguarding Quality Service Delivery. 

Let me begin by congratulating the co-editors, Professor Christine Bigby and Alan Hough, and the authors of each chapter for your achievement. I am sure your work will be a key resource for researchers, students and practitioners in the field of disability practice.

It was an honour to contribute the Foreword for this book and I thank Christine and Alan for extending the invitation.

Background to the Foreword

I was approached by Alan and Chris to write the Foreword around April last year.

At the time, I was just over a year into my role as NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commissioner.

We’d not long launched our first Strategic Plan internally, where we’d firmly stated our commitment to:

  • the rights of people with disability
  • high quality supports and services, and
  • greater choice for consumers.

So, it was very motivating when I read an early draft of Disability Practice, as I’ll call it, and saw the importance it also placed on understanding the quality of life, rights and lived experience of people with disability.

In the Foreword, I suggest that focusing on quality encourages us to focus on the best possible outcomes when we design and deliver disability supports and services – rather than guarding against the worst.

It reminds me of the expression, plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Disability Practice tells us – no – we won’t hope for the best. The rights of people with disability demand more. Instead, we must plan for the best and set about achieving it.

About the book

Disability Practice should – and undoubtedly will – become a valuable resource for people with disability, and everyone supporting them to live the life they want.

Woven into its pages is the knowledge and insight of 13 experts in disability care, reinforced by detailed clinical research, evidence, and lived experience.

It’s an impeccably thoughtful and well researched book that successfully identifies many of the barriers people with disability must overcome to enjoy the quintessentially Australian ‘good life’.

As you’ll see quite plainly in Disability Practice, the ‘barriers’ they identify seem obvious in many cases.

And, as I suggest in the Foreword, I suspect that’s largely because they’re so invisible to most Australians; they’re privileges we enjoy unconsciously.

Yet, for people with disability – and their supporters and carers – overcoming those barriers can be very a fraught and unnecessarily complex process.

What I find most insightful about Disability Practice is its use of real-life case studies to articulate the challenges it identifies, and the solutions needed to address them.

At the Commission, we often talk about people with disability being at the centre of our decision-making.

Many people might think, “well, of course, who else would you be thinking of?”!

But I suspect most people in this room will appreciate that it’s so easy to say, but so much harder to do.

Who among us ­­- policy-makers, service providers and academics – is not aware of how easy it is to slip  into a mindset that we know what’s best for people with disability? Through its use of case studies, Disability Practice reinforces the stance we’ve taken at the Commission by clearly showing how vital it is to listen to – and understand – people’s lived experience of disability.

More importantly, it shows the value of including people with disability in the process of solving the problems they face.

In Chapter 3 of Disability Practice, Aaron Jackson and Christine Bigby remind us of the importance of the voices and perspectives of people with intellectual disabilities to service provision (page 4).

They emphasise the critical role of family in the lives of some service users, particularly with severe or profound intellectual disabilities.

They say: “Service providers should prioritise effective communications with individuals with disabilities and their families to establish an open dialogue about mutual expectations, needs and concerns.” (page 56)

The power of collaboration

One thing I hope we’ll all take away from what we’re celebrating today is how critical collaboration is to supporting people with disability and delivering the best possible service system.

Disability Practice is a powerful example of people – all experts in their field – working together to examine and unravel complex issues in partnership with people with disability.

So that people with disability can live independently, and participate in the community, in the way they want.

It shows how our collective might can illuminate what needs to change so much more clearly than when we work in isolation.

It shows that the only way we’ll learn is together.

The Commission is your partner

The phrases quality of life, rights and safeguarding are used frequently throughout Disability Practice, for good and obvious reasons.

All disability supports and services should enhance the quality of life of people with disability, honour their rights and keep them safe.

We take our role in achieving this for people with disability very seriously.

We will continue working with providers to make sure the highest quality supports and services are available to people with disability.

We will continue working with workers to make sure the highest quality of care is available to people with disability.

And we will continue working with people with disability, their supporters and their family, to understand what they need from their disability supports and services, including us.

Congratulations to the contributors

I’d again like to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of Professor Christine Bigby and Alan Hough in publishing this book.

It’s one thing to spot a gap in knowledge and awareness and quite another to attempt to close it.

Not only have they written, or co-authored, several chapters within the book, but they have also organised contributions from many other disability experts and worked hard to make it available as a free resource.

I’d like to congratulate each of the contributors – many of whom are here today – on their involvement with Disability Practice.

I must give a special shout-out to my colleague Jade McEwen, who co-wrote Chapter 14 with Alan Hough on Building Quality and Safeguarding into Disability Service Provision.

This chapter tackles the complex challenge for disability service providers in ensuring high-quality and safe support is delivered to every person they support, in every type of service, in every location, by every staff member, and on every occasion. Jade recently joined the NDIS Commission, aptly in our Research and Practice Evidence Team, and is here with us today.  Jade was previously a research fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Your chapter shows why we’re delighted to have you on our team.

It’s clear that each contributor to this book is very passionate about seeing people with disability enjoy their rights and independence, with choice and control over how they live their life.

Thank you for your hard work and continued commitment to advancing the rights of people with disability.


I know there’s a jam-packed agenda for today that allows you all to delve a little deeper into the main themes of Disability Practice.

I’m sure you’ll find the conversations as useful and thought-provoking as the ideas raised in the book.

I’ve heard clearly the need for a second volume from Alan – we’ll work out how the Commission can support this.

And, I hope you enjoy the rest of today’s celebrations and leave full of ideas about what you can do to improve practice.