Don Grimes AO - Awarded September 2017
Don Grimes began his career as a medical practitioner in London and Tasmania, before entering parliament as a politician in 1974 as an Australian Labor Party Senator. Following Labor's election victory in March 1983, Don was appointed Minister for Social Security in the Hawke Government.
In 1983 Don satisfied a pre-election commitment by establishing the Disability Advisory Council of Australia, which provided a mechanism for disabled people to directly advise the government.
This initiative was closely followed by the Handicapped Programs Review (1983–85) and its legislative outcome, the Disability Services Act 1986. The Handicapped Programs Review involved a comprehensive public examination of government social policy as it affected people with disability.
The review paved the way for the way we view disability services today, as it was based on the principle that future government funds should be directed towards services and programs that provided the individual with the greatest amount of flexibility.
The resulting report, New Directions, highlighted existing shortcomings in provisions for people with disability, including segregation, institutionalisation, lack of choice and Dickensian-style sheltered workshops.
Don’s crowning ministerial achievement was the enactment of the Disability Services Act 1986. The measure was testimony to his readiness to challenge the opinions of professionals and organisations when he felt that those opinions did not serve the best interests of stakeholders.
Despite the opposition of some service providers, there was bipartisan support for the Act which, for the first time, linked government funding of organisations to specified outcomes for their clients with disability.
In his second reading speech Don emphasised that the bill represented a 'new deal' for people with disabilities and provided 'a proper recognition of their rights and dignity and opportunity for the fullest possible participation in the community'.