The Way Forward, a disability inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond

High Level Meeting on the Realisation of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities

Speech, E&OE, (check against delivery)

23 September 2013

Chair, on behalf of the Government of Australia, I join with previous speakers in condemning the brutal attacks in Nairobi. A tragic reminder that terrorism remains a global threat. One Australian is among those killed and I extend my sympathies to the nations who have lost citizens and families who have lost loved ones.

As we approach 2015, it is right that we celebrate the enormous progress that has been made in poverty eradication globally since 2000.

But there is much more to do to achieve the ultimate goal, encapsulated in just 3 words – ‘leave no-one behind’.
We must ensure development is benefiting those most in need and most vulnerable.

And our discussions today remind us that we cannot afford to let people with disabilities remain invisible in our international development agenda.

Some one billion people across the world are living with a disability.

People with disability have higher rates of poverty, lower rates of participation in the workforce, and less access to education and health services than people without disability.

Even in prosperous countries, including Australia, people with disability face many of these challenges.

Australians with a disability do not want to be, nor should they be, objects of care.

They want to be supported, yet as independent as possible, and in control of their lives, with choices and opportunities.

They want the chance to get a good education and to contribute to the workforce.

The Australian national Parliament has recently passed a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

This will ensure that people with significant and permanent disability can receive support based on their needs, and have choice in, and control over that support.

Through our aid programs, Australia has an important role in improving the lives of people with disability in other countries.

We have all witnessed the challenges faced by people with disability in developing countries where disability can increase the risk of poverty and poverty can increase the risk of disability.

A couple of years ago, at the launch of the World Report on Disability in Australia, I met a young man from Indonesia with a condition which limited his muscular development – Antoni Tsaputra.

He spoke of the deep scepticism from those who insisted his condition would prevent him from getting an education.

But his father was determined to ensure that his son did receive an education.

Antoni finished primary and secondary school successfully and then applied for an Australian scholarship to attend an Australian university.

Recognising Antoni’s leadership potential, particularly in the field of disability, Australia supported him to complete a master’s degree in journalism, and assisted his father to join him as his carer.

On completion of his degree, Antoni received an Award for Academic Excellence as a tribute to his academic achievement.

Antoni has since returned to Indonesia to work for the local government of Padang City.

He is designing programs to empower people with disability and advising on appropriate employment opportunities based on the skills of people with disability.

When Antoni spoke at the launch of the World Report on Disability about his dream of living in a more inclusive and barrier-free society, he didn’t want his story to be seen as remarkable, but instead a journey to which all children with disability could aspire.

Australia works with partner countries in the Asia-Pacific region to promote disability-inclusive education, remove physical barriers, and to provide services to people with disability.

And we are supporting people with disability, through disabled people’s organisations, to advcocate for changes to government policies.

We are working to tackle the stigma that still surrounds disability, which can be one of the largest barriers to full participation in community and economic life.

Australia encourages all countries to give increased attention to including people with disability in development, through their national development plans and through aid programs and partnerships.

It is not right – and it makes no economic sense – that a person’s disability should determine whether they can go to school, or get a job or participate in community life.

The post-2015 development agenda must take account of people with disability, to ensure that we leave no-one behind.

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