Improving the lives of people with disability worldwide

Joint media release

  • The Hon Kevin Rudd MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Senator the Hon Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers

5 December 2011

The Australian Government today announced support to improve the lives of people with disability worldwide at a symposium on the World Health Organisation and World Bank's World Report on Disability in Sydney.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas said the Australian Government will contribute $2 million towards a new United Nations Trust Fund to assist countries to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

"The Australian Government is pleased to support this symposium—further discussion and action on the World Report on Disability will help us to improve the quality of lives of people with disability worldwide," Mr Rudd said.

"Australia is already making a difference right around the world. We're helping children with hearing impairments in Samoa to go to school, we've worked with Cambodia to develop disability rights legislation and in Indonesia, children with disability can now go to school because more than 1,000 buildings we funded have wheelchair access. "

The United Nations Trust Fund will support developing legislation to protect the rights of people with disability, improving the delivery of services, encouraging dialogue between governments and persons with disability and improving the data and research on disability.

"Our contribution is a further demonstration that Australia is not only meeting its formal and legal responsibilities under the Convention. It shows that we are genuine when we say we want a 'fair go' for people with disabilities," said Mr Rudd.

Delivering the opening address at the symposium, Senator McLucas commended the World Health Organization and the University of Sydney for their pioneering work and to ensuring the insights of people with disability remain at the forefront.

"Today's symposium has brought together a diverse mix of people from the disability sector, including policy makers, researchers, leaders from Disabled Persons Organisations, representatives from the World Health Organization and members of the World Report on Disability's editorial committee to discuss how we can improve the lives of people with disability," Senator McLucas said.

"This report brings to the fore some of the stories about people with disability, which are too often shunted off to the margins. It shines a light on the fact that people with disability have a markedly lower labour force participation rate or have poorer health outcomes when compared with the rest of the community."

The report provides an extensive review of the challenges people with disability face around the world, including their experiences of inequality, and recommendations on how to overcome these barriers.

It recommends that all governments enable access to all mainstream policies, systems and services, adopt a national disability strategy and plan of action, and increase public awareness and understanding of disability.

"The Australian Government is working hard to improve support services and care for people with disability," Senator McLucas said.

"Further, in March this year we launched our National Disability Strategy, which sets a 10-year national framework for all governments to tackle the barriers faced by Australians with disability in mainstream government services.

"And we are working with the states and territories to build the foundations for a National Disability Insurance Scheme, which would entitle all Australians to support in the event of significant disability."

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