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ACHRA Communique 18 Feb 2015

The Australian Council of Human Rights Authorities (ACHRA), which comprises the State, Territory and Federal human rights and discrimination authorities, have met in Sydney to consider a number of issues of common concern and interest.

A primary focus of the meeting is the continuing, systemic and serious barriers to equality of opportunity for people with disability across Australia. The Authorities identified the following issues, which require urgent and sustained attention:

  • barriers to employment and work opportunities, including a failure to implement adjustments;
  • barriers to the built environment and, as a result, limits on community participation;
  • barriers to justice and equal protection before the law;
  • negative attitudes towards people with disability that impact in all areas of life; and
  • barriers to education, particularly at the compulsory school level.

The Authorities noted the following matters of particular concern:

Employment and work opportunities

People with disability in Australia are significantly underemployed despite their capacity and merit. They face attitudinal barriers in recruitment and selection processes. Employers (including governments) not only fail to understand the capacity of people with disability, they are often unaware of their own obligations under discrimination laws. Having more inclusive recruitment practices and better understanding the level of support available nationally to implement workplace adjustments would mean people with disability are not excluded from the workforce.

Built environment

Some progress has been achieved through the adoption of the Disability (Access to Premises-Buildings) Standards 2010 (Cth). The 2015 review of those standards and their implementation is an important opportunity to consider what further work needs to be undertaken to ensure that the standards are being implemented effectively and achieving their capacity to make real and enduring positive changes for people with disability. 

The Authorities noted the vital need to extend the work on accessible buildings to include universal design requirements for housing across Australia. The Authorities seek to ensure that the review is inclusive of people with disability and looks at the issues of access to the built environment beyond the technical coverage of the Premises Standards and considers  the benefits of inclusive design for the community, including for children, older people and parents.

Justice and rights

The Authorities noted the progress that has been achieved in South Australia in the development and implementation of its Disability Justice Strategy and the work of the Federal Disability Discrimination Commissioner on access to justice. Barriers to access to justice and equality before the law are significant for all people with disability, and in particular for people with cognitive impairments. The failure to ensure that peo