‘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]

Disability sector peaks logos

Equal Pay, Equal Respect: time to end discriminatory wages for people with an intellectual disability

The experiences of people with disability working in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs), also known as sheltered workshops, will be the focus of the Disability Royal Commission this week.

As the peak representative body for people with an intellectual disability and their families, we welcome this public hearing as an opportunity to talk about the impact of extremely low wages on people with an intellectual disability who work in ADEs, and ways to increase opportunities to work in open and self-employment.

People with disability who work in ADEs, who are mostly people with an intellectual disability, earn as little as $2.50 per hour. This is unfair and needs to change now.

The work people with an intellectual disability do is useful and valuable. People care about their jobs and do them with pride; in their workplace, in working hours, with their workmates. People are often working for large businesses that carry out profitable contracts which benefit local communities and consumers.

However, in most cases, ADE workers with disabilities are the only employees not receiving at least minimum wage. A person with disability working full time will earn $9,000 less than a person on minimum wage. No Australian should earn this little for their work.

The Australian Government can fix this injustice today. We want the Australian Government to act now to ensure that all people with disability who work in ADEs are paid at least the minimum wage.

Fair pay should also be the first step away from the segregated model that underpins most ADEs.

Inclusion Australia is calling for a fully resourced five-year transition plan for workers in ADEs to move to open and self-employment.

The plan, co-designed with people with an intellectual disability and their families, will mean people with an intellectual disability can have more choices and options about the kinds of work they could do, with the right support.  It should include services, specialist DES providers, the NDIA and the government.

No one currently working at an ADE should lose their jobs during this transition. Each ADE will transition differently, and a tailored transition plan will be needed for each service.

There is knowledge and expertise about supporting people with an intellectual disability at work in the existing ADE system that is important to keep. We believe that many ADEs could transition into open employers of people with an intellectual disability. Some may be able to act as a community hub to support broader inclusive employment across their communities.

There is also work that needs to be done during this transition to make sure there are more jobs in open and self-employment for people with an intellectual disability, as well as the right kinds of support. The polished pathway into ADEs from school must be addressed, with clearer, easier pathways and more options for people to explore open and self-employment.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Disability Employment Services providers all have a role to play in making sure more people with an intellectual disability can work in open and self-employment. 

Inclusion Australia’s Our Voice Committee, who are all people with an intellectual disability from across Australia are clear “People with disabilities have the right to work in the open market like anyone else and get the training and support they need; this means no more sheltered workshops.”

We call on the government to start this transition process now by addressing the wage gap of ADE workers and ending discriminatory wages for people with an intellectual disability.


Inclusion Australia Disability Royal Commission ADE media statement in full – 11 April 2022

Inclusion Australia DRC ADE media statement – 11 April 2022 – Easy Read

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.
Disability Sector Representative Organisations logos

Australian Disability Strategy 2021–2031

Australian Disability Strategy 2021-2031: Creating an inclusive community together

Alongside Australia’s other peak disability representative organisations, Inclusion Australia has lent our support to the new Australian Disability Strategy 2021–2031.

The new strategy was released on Friday 3 December in Canberra by the Australian Government to coincide with the International Day Of People With Disability.

Inclusion Australia supports the new strategy as a dynamic document for ensuring the people and communities we serve have every opportunity to thrive in their own ways and on their own terms.

We also support the provision of a clearer focus on the monitoring and evaluation of the goals that the strategy sets out.

To read more about Australia’s Disability Strategy visit the Disability Gateway website: https://www.disabilitygateway.gov.au/ads

You can also watch this short film https://youtu.be/Xc2Q9r25vhE

Read or download our joint media statement with Australian disability representative organisations:

People with disability need urgent action on vaccines to stay safe from COVID

People with intellectual disability, including those who live in group homes, are being left behind by the vaccine rollout and this needs to be fixed now.

“Yesterday’s Senate Estimates revealed that fewer than 2 per cent of people with disability living in group homes had been fully vaccinated. This is unacceptable,” said Catherine McAlpine, CEO of Inclusion Australia.

“People with intellectual disability were promised access to COVID vaccines in the first stage of the rollout, but that hasn’t happened, leaving them exposed to any potential outbreak.”

People with intellectual disability who live in group homes are part of Phase 1A of the vaccine rollout due to their heightened risk of COVID. There are over 20,000 people with disability living in group homes, and most are people with intellectual disability.

“People with intellectual disability and their families are sick of the blame game about what’s gone wrong with the vaccine rollout – we want to see action, and we want to see it now,” said Ms McAlpine.

“I’m calling on the Australian Government to urgently review all aspects of the vaccine rollout for people with intellectual disability, and to get serious about getting it on track.”

“Inclusion Australia, and our state member organisations, have been increasingly hearing from people with intellectual disability and their families, that they are feeling forgotten and ignored in the vaccine rollout,” said Ms McAlpine.

“People with intellectual disability who live in group homes have been on lockdown for much of the last year – they need to be vaccinated now so they can see their family and friends, and get back to living their lives.”

“The best way for people with intellectual disability to be safe from COVID is to be vaccinated, and for their families and those who support them to also be vaccinated,” said Ms McAlpine.

“We welcome Minister Reynolds’ announcement of some targeted action in Victoria, however we need urgent measures now right across Australia to get the vaccination rollout on track for people with intellectual disability and their families.”

Media contact
Catherine McAlpine
Chief Executive Officer
0419 530 524
[email protected]