STATEMENT ON COMMENTS BY SENATOR PAULINE HANSON ON STUDENTS WITH DISABILITY, 21 JUNE 2017
All Means All is the The Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education. We are a multi-stakeholder alliance of people and organisations working together for the implementation of an inclusive education system and the removal of the legal, structural and attitudinal barriers that limit the rights of some students to access an inclusive education in regular Australian classrooms.
A key part of our work is to ensure that discussion about students with disability is balanced, informed by sound evidence and respectful of their rights.
All Means All is extremely disturbed by and strongly condemns the comments made by Federal Senator Pauline Hanson today in relation to the education of students with disability.
Students with disability, including autistic students, have the right to attend a regular classroom in a mainstream school. This right is recognised in Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (as clarified by General Comment No. 4 on the Right to Inclusive Education) to which Australia is a Party, and protected by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 established under it). This right also aligns with the priorities of the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 which states “The shared vision is for an inclusive Australian society that enables people with disability to fulfil their potential as equal citizens”.
In fact, Australia contrary to its obligations under Article 24 of the Convention, has steadily increased the proportion of students with disability in segregated “special” education over the last 12 years. This regression was queried earlier this month by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Research evidence clearly suggests that students with disability benefit academically and socially from education in regular mainstream classrooms and the education of their non-disabled peers is not academically affected and is socially and emotionally enhanced.
Senator Hanson should read Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and General Comment No. 4 before she advocates for a return to the segregated models of 100 years ago.
Italy which has an education system recently ranked by UNICEF well above Australia, abolished segregated special education in the 1970s and has educated all students with disability in regular classrooms for the last 40 years.
No one denies that regular schools need more resources to educate the diverse body of learners representing Australian school children or that teachers, education assistants and particularly school leaders need to be upskilled and supported. However, the denial of education rights to students with disability can never be the appropriate response.
We call on Senator Hanson and other public figures commenting on education of students with disability, to do so in a manner that is informed and respectful of the fundamental rights of students with disability.
You can visit our website for more information at www.allmeansall.org.au
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