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Senate Go Ahead for Inquiry into Students with Disability

18 June 2015 at 12:20 pm
Xavier Smerdon
The Federal Opposition with the support of Independent MPs have secured a Senate inquiry into students with disability and their experiences in the Australian education system including allegations of mistreatment.

Xavier Smerdon | 18 June 2015 at 12:20 pm


Senate Go Ahead for Inquiry into Students with Disability
18 June 2015 at 12:20 pm

The Federal Opposition with the support of Independent MPs have secured a Senate inquiry into students with disability and their experiences in the Australian education system including allegations of mistreatment.

A motion moved on behalf of Labor Senator Kim Carr and and newly Independent Queensland Senator Glenn Lazarus called for the inquiry by the Senate Education and Employment References Committee.

The inquiry will look at the current levels of access for students with disability in the school system, the impact on students and families associated with inadequate levels of support; the social, economic and personal benefits of improving outcomes for students with disability at school as well as recent allegations of abuse.

The inquiry will also look at the impact on Government policies and funding cutbacks.

In April, the Federal Government agreed that a national safeguards regime needed to be established, as part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme rollout, to protect school students with disabilities from restrictive practices.

The Assistant Minister for Social Services Senator Mitch Fifield made the comment after it emerged that an ACT primary school student with autism was put in a cage-like space at school.

“It’s appalling, what we’ve heard from the ACT. Regrettably, we do hear of instances around Australia in schools from time to time where there are inappropriate restrictive practices used,” Senator Fifield said.

Former former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, went a step further saying such abuses were widespread and called for a broad inquiry into the treatment of children with disabilities in Australian schools.

"It's not an isolated incident," Innes said

Inness told Pro Bono Australia News today that the Senate Inquiry was good news because it would hopefully lead to more resources within the education system and a better and more positive awareness of children with disabilities.

“The inquiry will investigate the barriers they face including the assumption of low expectations for people with disabilities,” he said.

The Federal Opposition said in April that the reports of mistreatment of students with disability in the school system were shocking and deeply disturbing.

“The abuse or neglect of students with disability is absolutely unacceptable,” Labor’s Shadow Education Minister Kate Ellis said at the time.

“Labor believes all children – including those with disability – deserve the best education and should be treated with dignity and respect at all times.

“Parents of children with disability are often made to feel like troublemakers because they demand support for their child at school and that’s just not right.”

“Labor moved to establish this Inquiry because we know that far too many students with disability are missing out on the educational opportunities others take for granted, and Australia cannot afford for our children to be left behind,” Acting Shadow Minister for Education, Mark Butler said.

Research by Children with Disability Australia found that as many as one in four children have been denied enrolment, almost one in five only attend school part-time, and 68 per cent of parents believed their children did not receive adequate support at school.

“The long-term consequences of this educational disadvantage are crippling, both for children with disability and for Australia’s productivity,” Butler said.

“The Inquiry will look at the impact of the Government’s broken promises on funding and support for students with disability, including their cut to the $100 million per year More Support for Students with Disabilities program.”

Children with Disability Australia has welcomed the inquiry saying it is ready to participate and provide testimonials from many of its 5000 members regarding the barriers to education children and young people with disability face and the urgent need for reform.

“We are constantly informed of the poor education experiences of students with disability. Students with disability are often discriminated against,” CEO of CDA, Stephanie Gotlib said.

“Insufficient funding for education continues to be a significant national issue. Often staff are not being adequately trained and there continues to be an entrenched culture of low expectations in the education system which limits students’ opportunities to achieve and learn.”

“The direct experience of education for many students with disability is overwhelmingly and shamefully inadequate. CDA believes there is an urgent need for a national inquiry into the education of students with disability to examine the present experiences of students, the reform undertaken to date and the future reform required.” Gotlib said.

The Inquiry is set to report to Federal Parliament by 3 November 2015.


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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