‘Left in lockdown’- People with disability call for a COVID Recovery Plan

Media Release

Organisations representing hundreds of thousands of people with disability across Australia are calling on political parties to commit to establishing a COVID Recovery Plan for people with disability.

The groups want the incoming Australian Government to urgently implement a plan to address the fact that people with disability are being left in lockdown – while the COVID-19 virus is left to surge in the community.

People with disability have experienced fear, illness, isolation, neglect, and death over the two years, with our needs often forgotten during COVID-19.

COVID-19 isn’t over, and for many people with disability, the current lifting of public health measures without a plan to protect them, is causing significant distress.

People with disability need significant support to stay safe with so much COVID-19 in the community.

COVID-19 has had a greater impact on our community than others, and most particularly on First People with disability, migrants and refugees with disability, and people with disability in congregate settings.

COVID-19 has worsened many of the inequalities our community faces but has also shown that more accessible services are possible.

Two years after the pandemic began, now is the time to support people with disability, our families and caregivers, and organisations, as we rebuild our lives and look to the future.

There are also people developing post-viral disability, known as long COVID-19, who need support.

We are calling for the development of, and investment in, a COVID-19 Recovery Plan for people with disability that:

  • addresses the harm caused to our community,
  • puts in place a blueprint for the future, and
  • addresses the needs of with long COVID-19.

Some key elements of a COVID-19 Recovery Plan are:

  • Increased health services to address harm caused, both physical and mental.
  • Commitment to accessible and available information from the Federal Government.
  • Extend the Disability Royal Commission, because of COVID-19 impact, and accept recommendations made.
  • Ensure remote school and work can continue for those who need it.

The full COVID-19 Recovery Plan is available for download.

The Plan is endorsed by the eight national disability peak organisations.

  • Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
  • Children and Young People with Disability Australia
  • First Peoples Disability Network Australia
  • Inclusion Australia
  • Disability Advocacy Network Australia
  • National Ethnic Disability Alliance
  • People with Disability Australia
  • Women with Disabilities Australia

Quotes attributable to Dominic Golding, Policy Officer, National Ethnic Disability Alliance

“The pandemic isn’t over for our community, and we need a Recovery Plan to make sure people with disability are not left behind. Migrant and refugee people with disability need specific information, services and support to keep our community safe from COVID-19.”

Quotes attributable to Catherine McAlpine, CEO, Inclusion Australia.

“People with an intellectual disability are at high risk from COVID-19, and many have missed out on essential supports during the pandemic. We want all disability support providers to ensure that people with disability can access support during an emergency. People with an intellectual disability must also have equal access to healthcare if they get COVID-19, as well as vaccines.”

Case studies for media are available.

Media contact: Amelia Brock, 0430 187 161, [email protected]

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Disability sector statement of concern on the Religious Discrimination Bill

Inclusion Australia has joined with organisations from across the disability sector to raise concerns about the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill. Read our joint statement.

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned about the harmful impacts the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill will have on Australians with disability.

We all support protection against discrimination on the ground of religion and of religious freedom as essential to any thriving democracy, but this must not be allowed at the expense of the rights and dignity of others.

We have particular concerns with the Religious Discrimination Bill and its provisions permitting ‘statements of belief’ overriding the existing legal and policy protections for people with disability from humiliating, insulting, ridiculing and demeaning behaviour. This gives licence to an increase in such behaviour towards people with disability, undermining our confidence and sense of worth as Australians.

There are significant risks particularly for people with disability who have intersectional identities like those from communities that are LGBTQAI+, Cultural & Linguistically Diverse, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, who already face intersecting discrimination, along with women and girls with disability as well as children and young people with disability as they grow and form their own identity. We see discrimination of all people with disability being exacerbated and openly allowed by this Bill.

Discrimination protections seek to ensure that people are not treated less favourably, yet the statement of belief provision will allow people to be treated in ways that demean or humiliate them because of their disability. This is clearly less favourable treatment and will be expressly permitted by this new legislation, overriding the provisions of the federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and equivalent provisions in every State and Territories law’s.

People with disability are often subjected to unwelcome & uninvited statements of religious belief that demean disability as the result of sin, possession, or karma. Some examples that they have been told:

  • their disability is a “punishment from God for their, or their parents’, sins”
  • their disability can be “healed by prayer” or by “living virtuously”
  • they “deserve to suffer from their disability for what they have done in a previous life”.

While these may seem extreme religious views and statements, they are views commonly expressed to people with disability and the Bill will legitimise these views as long as they are personally held beliefs of religious doctrine and are made in good faith. It would be extremely difficult to prove that a person expressing such views is not acting in good faith because they genuinely hold the view that what they are expressing is their religion’s will and they are seeking to “save” the person. The limits in the Bill on very extreme statements are insufficient to protect people with disability from personal, hurtful and demeaning statements that undermine our dignity and humanity.

All people with disability deserve services, education, employment, health care and communities that are free of prejudice, stigma, denigration, and discrimination. The Religious Discrimination Bill will encourage prejudice, stigma, denigration, division, and discrimination against people with disability, and undermine all efforts to build and sustain an inclusive Australia.

These are impacts that undermine Australia’s commitments to the equality, and equal dignity and rights for people with disability under:

  • the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability
  • the vision of Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031
  • the purpose of the Disability Royal Commission
  • the principles of dignity and equity that Australian disability communities continue to fight for.

We are strongly opposed to this legislation and urge you to speak and vote against the Bill if Part 2 is proposed to be retained in any format.

Yours sincerely,

Disability Sector Representative Organisations (as listed below)

National Organisations:

  • Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
  • People with Disability Australia
  • National Ethnic Disability Alliance
  • Children and Young People with Disability Australia
  • Disability Advocacy Network Australia
  • Down Syndrome Australia
  • Inclusion Australia
  • Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia
  • Brain Injury Australia
  • Physical Disability Australia
  • Blind Citizens Australia
  • All Means All
  • National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol  Spectrum Disorders Australia.

State & Territory Organisations:

  • Disability Voices Tasmania
  • Disability Advocacy and Complaints Service of South Australia
  • People with Disabilities Western Australia.
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