In October 2020, The Disability Royal Commission held a public hearing on "Barriers to accessing a safe, quality and inclusive school education and life course impacts". Our Executive officer, Cecile Sullivan Elder, was part of an expert panel on day 1 of the hearing, together with Mary Sayers from Children and Young People with Disability Australia, and Michelle O’Flynn and Nikki Parker from Queensland Advocacy Incorporated.
Family Advocacy were asked to give expert evidence as a result of our submissions on the topic of education. The submissions were made all the more powerful by the stories shared by families who have reached out to Family Advocacy for support. It was an honour to be able to represent these families and their children, and to give them a voice so their lived experience and the barriers they face can be heard.
The panel spoke to issues which are brought to their attention all too often, which include: adjustments and supports being insufficient, or not being provided; low expectations of students with disability and the flow‑on impacts; suspensions, exclusions and expulsions; barriers and problems with existing complaints and review mechanisms; barriers in transitioning beyond school.
Overwhelmingly, families report that the skills and attitudes of the schools as to whether their child receives the appropriate adjustments and supports is key, and families are even saying that minor adjustments that could make a significant difference in many cases aren't occurring.
- Cecile Sullivan Elder
Throughout the week, we heard from a range of witnesses, including parents, students, advocates, educators and academics who strongly highlighted that many students with disability are still not being provided with access to an inclusive education alongside their peers. We heard how the education system is failing to comply with human rights obligations and to support the basic needs of each student, and how this has led to suspension, expulsion and often home schooling, and the devastation this has caused for the students.
It's so important for the Commission to hear these stories and understand the dramatic impacts to students and families. It is these stories that shape the work of the Commission and help make sure it is meaningful and effective. If you are considering sending a submission to the Commission and need support, please contact Troy Hester at our office on 02 9869 0866 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For information, resources and to view our Disability Royal Commission webinars, please visit our Royal Commission page.
For a direct link to a recording of the hearing in the Disability Royal Commission's website, click here.