A raft of new legislation in Western Australia such as the Equal Opportunity Act (1984), the Authority for Intellectually Handicapped Persons Act (1985) and the Equal Opportunity Amendment Act (1988) laid the groundwork for the development of a more welcoming and inclusive community for people with disability.
The Authority for Intellectually Handicapped Persons (AIH) which began operating in January 1986 was charged with advancing the rights, responsibility, dignity, development and community participation of people with intellectual disability in Western Australia.
In particular, it oversaw the development and implementation of an innovative new concept, Local Area Coordination, to assist people with disability living in country areas.
Working in partnership with individuals and families, Local Area Coordinators were able to tap into existing networks or help create new ones, to provide crucial support such as recreation services and respite. The program started in Albany in 1988 and was expanded to other country areas the following year. It was introduced to Perth in 1991 with full WA coverage in 2000.
AIH - known fondly as ‘Irrabeena’ after Western Australia's first assessment and treatment centre for people with intellectual disability - was complemented in 1991 by the establishment of the Bureau for Disability Services. Together, these two agencies set the scene for the creation of the Disability Services Commission.
The Western Australian Disability Services Act, proclaimed in 1993, was the final, and possibly the most significant step in this series of reforms. The Act amalgamated AIH and the Bureau and brought the Commission into being to unify and streamline formal service provision for all Western Australians with disability. Creating a new department specifically for disability services (an Australian first) with its own Minister added political clout and ensured the disability sector finally had its own voice in the Cabinet room of successive State Governments.