Parliament: Interesting Speeches

Speech given: Dolor sit amet

United Nations Human Rights Council

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disability, and has also signed up to the optional protocol. This is why it is very disappointing to learn, via the Australian Cross Disability Alliance, of concerns raised last week by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The UNHRC has raised serious concerns about human rights violations against Australians with disabilities during its review of Australia’s human rights record last week in Geneva.

The Universal Periodic Review, or UPR, allowed member states of the HRC to assess how Australia is tracking against its human rights obligations. The UPR provides a platform for Australian NGOs to update the international community on the human rights situation of Australia.

The UPR Disability Coordination Group has been working as part of the 200-strong UPR NGO Coalition to raise priority human rights issues for people with disability, including forced sterilisation, indefinite detention, involuntary treatment, restrictive practices, legal capacity and violence in institutions. Members of the UPR Disability Coordination Group were in Geneva for the UPR of Australia. Rosemary Kayess, who is the Australian Centre for Disability Law chairperson, has pointed out:

There are many critical human rights issues in Australia, including those for people with disability. We are pleased that key disability recommendations were made by numerous HRC member States.

These recommendations focused on the prohibition of forced sterilisation, ending violence against people with disability, including the high prevalence of violence against women and children with disability, and addressing the indefinite detention of people with disability in the criminal justice system. We implore the Australian Government to accept and implement these recommendations.

Therese Sands, the Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia said:

Australia’s approach to forced sterilisation is still a serious concern to the international community. It is time that Australia prohibited this practice.

Violence against people with disability—particularly those in institutional and residential settings—is an urgent, unaddressed national crisis. It has a devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our communities, particularly women and children with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability and people with disability from non-English speaking backgrounds. It occurs because of failures in legislation, policy and service systems, and it is time for Australia to now act decisively.

Damian Griffis, CEO of First Peoples Disability Network, also said:

We welcome Australia’s commitment to address the indefinite detention of people with disability in the criminal justice system who are deemed unfit to plead.

The over-incarceration of Aboriginal people is a national shame. More and more data is now coming to light that confirms the anecdotal evidence we receive relating to the high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people with disability. The indefinite detention of Indigenous people with disability, without conviction, is a clear example of this.

Here in South Australia, we also celebrate, with a multitude of events, the United Nations-sanctioned International Day of People with Disability. This is why it is essential that we keep front of mind the concerns that the United Nations are raising.

In 2015, it is a complete human rights violation that people with disabilities cannot access the justice system, the education system, the health system and the community on an equal basis with our non-disabled peers.

We are not yet equal and must continue to fight for our rights. Yes, there are positives—the Disability Justice Plan being one—yet, every day, people with disabilities face cuts to programs and constant battles with bureaucracy to access what the rest of the community would take for granted. Dignity for Disability looks forward to continuing our work alongside every member in this place to ensure that the human rights of people with disabilities are accepted fully, adequately and without question, now and into the future.