The Australian Human Rights Commission received more complaints of disability discrimination in 2018 than any other form of bias or bigotry, including race, gender, or sexual orientation, a new report reveals.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) study shows 42% of all complaints were based on prejudice against people with disabilities, with sex discrimination totaling 27% and race 14%. The number of complaints related to disability discrimination rose by 3% compared to the previous year.
The AIHW report also found individuals living with a disability were considerably more likely to experience poor health, violence, and unemployment than Australians without disabilities.
Forty-seven percent of Australia’s disability population — or just over 2 million people — have experienced violence, compared to 36% of individuals without a disability. Likewise, adults with a disability rate their health as ‘poor’ or ‘fair’ and are unemployed at six and two times the rate of non-disabled people, respectively.
Four in five Australians living with a disability have a physical disability. One in five has a mental or behavioral disability.
The confronting figures have led to calls for an evaluation of the nation's disability discrimination act.
People With Disability — one of the county’s key disability rights organizations — has demanded the government urgently examine the act to increase its effectiveness “because, clearly, it’s not currently working.”
The Disability Discrimination Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a person based on disability when it comes to areas like education, housing, and employment. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, of which Australia is a signatory, likewise recognizes the civil, economic, and cultural rights of people with disabilities before the law.
"We need to strengthen its enforcement, broaden its remit, so it tackles systemic discrimination and better facilitates the making of complaints by people with disability, so they have effective access to justice,” People With Disability CEO Jeff Smith told SBS.
On April 4, a Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disabilities was established.
The quality and safety of charities, not-for-profit organizations, governments, and various other institutions are expected to be investigated during the commission.
"Importantly, over 96% of people agree that the Royal Commission should cover all forms of violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation, in all settings where they occur – and that’s just what it will do,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated earlier this year. “The Australian Government has committed $527.9 million AUD for the Royal Commission, which includes funding to support people with disability to participate.”
Smith hopes the new report will foster productive conversations in the commission around reducing discrimination.
“There is an abiding need to have a deeper understanding of issues facing people with disabilities,” he said.