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New approach needed to prevent human rights violations for people with disability


22 September 2020 at 5:54 pm
Luke Michael
Experts say Australia must recognise people with disability as “critical to all aspects of life”  


Luke Michael | 22 September 2020 at 5:54 pm


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New approach needed to prevent human rights violations for people with disability
22 September 2020 at 5:54 pm

Experts say Australia must recognise people with disability as “critical to all aspects of life”  

Australia needs to remedy its flawed interpretation of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which is allowing human rights violations to occur, a new research paper says.  

A report from the University of NSW Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) said Australia has not made adequate progress achieving rights for people with disability since the early days of the disability rights movement in the 1960s.

Researchers focused on Australia’s implementation of the CRPD, which they said was “critical to fulfilling the right of people with disability to be free from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation”.

Australia signed the CRPD in 2008, pledging to protect and promote disability rights, but the report said the nation’s interpretations of the convention was flawed.

These interpretations relate to article 12 (equal recognition before the law) and article 17 (protecting the integrity of the person).  

“When Australia ratified the CRPD, it made interpretative declarations on articles 12 and 17 that set out how Australia interprets these articles. This does not reflect the current interpretation by the CRPD Committee,” the report said.

“This has meant that Australia’s interpretative declarations restrict implementation of the CRPD, prevent reform, and allow for human rights violations including the denial of legal capacity, arbitrary and indefinite detention, and forced treatments and medical interventions of people with disability.”

Researchers said there should be a new focus that recognises impairment as a “valued part of human diversity and human dignity” and accepts people with disability as “critical to all aspects of life”.

The report said this will require embracing the legal and policy standards provided by the CRPD to realise that disability is socially constructed, and that transformative equality is needed to dismantle underlying power imbalances in society. 

“If the focus continues to be on fixing, reforming or maintaining existing systems that are built on ableism, the necessary social transformation required by the CRPD will never be understood or realised,” the report said.

This research paper was commissioned by the disability royal commission to describe the international human rights context in which the commission operates.

The full report can be seen here.


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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