Australia 'failing kids with disability' – Royal Commission


Students with a disability are experiencing systemic failures and human rights breaches, evidence presented at the Disability Royal Commission has found.

The hearing, held on Monday, focused on the systemic neglect, abuse, and discrimination faced by students with disability across Australia – including the use of restraints and seclusion, suspension and expulsion, and the life-long impacts of this mistreatment.

Reports by the Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) have revealed high levels of exclusion, bullying, and lack of supports for students with disability. Two in five respondents to CYDA’s 2019 survey reported being excluded from school activities, and 48 per cent reported being bullied in the past year.

CYDA, Family Advocacy NSW and Queensland Advocacy Incorporated, provided evidence of what they called “the ongoing failure” of education systems to comply with human rights obligations and national disability standards, and the failure of complaints processes to acknowledge or resolve issues.

Mary Sayers, CEO, Children and Young People with Disability Australia, said decades of research demonstrate that all children, with and without disability, experience better educational achievement when they can learn together in a safe and inclusive environment.

“A successful education creates the building blocks for success later in life. That’s why it’s so important that all children learn and grow in the same environment,” Sayers said.

“We are pleased the Disability Royal Commission is investigating the barriers to inclusive education and the discrimination faced by students with disability and how this can be overcome.”

Cecille Sullivan-Elder, CEO, Family Advocacy, said the organisation has seen a doubling of educational related advocacy calls over the past few years highlighting the many significant issues experienced by students with disability across NSW schools.

“This focus at the Disability Royal Commission this week is welcomed, and our hope is that the injustice experienced by many will be heard strongly throughout the course of the week and lead to the appropriate reform,” she said.

Michelle O’Flynn, Director, Queensland Advocacy Incorporated (QAI) said that in order to have healthy functional communities, schools and families, every person needs to feel welcomed and that they belong.

“Life for children beyond family begins at school – it is an enduring impression and there is great responsibility on all schools and governments to make that a happy and creatively formative time for students,” O’Flynn said.

“Failure to succeed at this is therefore not the failure of the student but on all of us”.