Senate inquiry: Current levels of access and attainment for students with disability in the school system, and the impact on students and families associated with inadequate levels of support

Update - Please note the Committee endorsed a number of the Society's recommendations in the Committee's report Access to real learning: the impact of policy, funding and culture on students with disability (released January 2016).

On 2 July 2015, the Society was invited to make a submission to the Senate Education and Employment Committee on their inquiry, titled, Current levels of access and attainment for students with disability in the school system, and the impact on students and families associated with inadequate levels of support. The reporting date for the inquiry is Friday 15 January 2016.

The inquiry is examining the experience of students with disability in the school system, and the impact of inadequate levels of support within the system. The Society consulted nationally, and welcomed the opportunity to make a contribution.

Some of the points raised in the Society's submission include:

  • Sadly, in Australia today, people with disability continue to face high levels of exclusion and structural disadvantage.  For example, people with a disability are less likely to participate in the labour force, and more likely to be unemployed. If employed, on average, those living with disability earn less than those without a disability.  People with disability are also far more likely to experience abuse, including sexual abuse and also face worse housing outcomes.

  • Disability intersects with other indicators of vulnerability, such as gender (especially for women affected by domestic violence) and indigeneity. For example, women with disabilities are less likely than their male counterparts to receive a senior secondary or tertiary education, and over 51% of women with a disability earn less than $200 per week compared to 36% of men with a disability.  Similarly, one in three Indigenous Australians is likely to experience discrimination in any year, compared with one in five members of the general population.

  • To build the capacity and capability of people living with disability, the Society strongly believes that access to proper education is a fundamental human right.   However, compounding the complex intersectional disadvantage they already experience, those with disability also face significant hurdles accessing education.  For example, eight out of ten school principals believed they did not have enough resources to educate the growing number of students with a disability.

    For these reasons, we strongly encourage the Committee to recommend full needs-based funding for students with disabilities as per the government’s pre-election commitment to implement the recommendations of the Gonski Review of education funding.