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Media Releases
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Enabling Australia NOW, no ifs or buts – Migration Report offers opportunity for the Rudd Government to effectively change outmoded legislation

22 June 2010

Today, a myriad of organisations representing large sections of the Australian public and electorate have welcomed the understanding and knowledge reflected in the report Enabling Australia, Inquiry into the Migration Treatment of Disability released by the Joint Standing Committee on Migration last night.

However, the recommendations are not going far enough and the disability sector calls on the Rudd Government to use the opportunity now to end the archaic and absurd situation of excluding people with disability from Australia.

Graham Douglas-Meyer, spokesperson for the organisations states that ‘The report is a welcomed assessment of the discriminatory migration practices in Australia. We appreciate the words of the Inquiry Chair Michael Danby in stating that, the Inquiry has found that the current Health Requirement reflects old-fashioned approaches to disability in particular and so unfairly discriminates against those who have disability.’

‘While we support the intentions of the report’s recommendations we believe that they are not reflective of the findings of the Inquiry and it is questionable and disappointing that the recommendations have been limited to administrative changes.’

Mr Douglas-Meyer notes, ‘Improved consistency, transparency and administrative fairness for migrants and refugees with disability applying for an Australian visa is very important and it is the strength of the report’s recommendations. Yet, the recommendations fall short in involving Disabled Peoples Organisation in any reviews as mandated by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).’

‘The discriminatory nature of the current legislation and practices demand a full application of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to the Migration Act 1958. Nothing less. We therefore commend and endorse Senators Sue Boyce and Sarah Hanson-Young on their additional recommendation to such effect.’

Sibylle Kaczorek, further spokesperson for the organisations states, ‘the fact that the report has not removed the cost assessments of visa applicants with disability is in direct conflict with the UNCRPD and the social model of disability.’

Ms Kaczorek questions the effectiveness of the Report’s recommendations, ‘as it stands people such as Mrs Simran Kaur will have no more confidence in Australia’s migration practices even if all recommendations were to be accepted by the Government.’

Mrs Kaur has lived in Australia since May 2007 and has successfully completed a Diploma in Community Development since then. Her application for permanent residency has been rejected on the grounds of not meeting the health requirements due to her vision impairment. Mrs Kaur is financially supported by her husband.

Ms Kaczorek highlights another case of 25 year old New Zealand woman Milly Burrows who has a hearing impairment. Ms Burrows has lived in Australia for nine years, she owns a home in Australia, completed her Victorian Certificate of Education and a Diploma of Auslan, the Australian sign language, she is currently studying a science degree at an Australian University. All her social networks are in Australia.

Ms Burrows states, ‘determining desirability of an individual to be a member of society purely by monetary measures the Government is putting a price tag on human worth. I don't think it’s that simple or superficial, people with disabilities have a role and contribution to our society that can be given by no one else, the value of this is not determined by a price.’

Kaczorek notes, ‘the Government now has an opportunity to embrace the social model of disability and act in the spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Not to do so will go down as a failure of the Rudd Government and expose as rhetoric its statements on fairness and social inclusion.’

The organisations referred to in this press release will develop a joint statement with a more detailed response to the Enabling Australia Report, the statement will be available on request.

Sibylle Kaczorek is the Executive Officer at NEDA. The National Ethnic Disability Alliance is the national peak organisation representing the rights and interests of people from non-English speaking background (NESB) with disability, their families and carers throughout Australia.

Graham Douglas-Meyer is the Chairperson of AFDO. The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations has been established as the primary national voice to Government that fully represents the interests of all people with disability across Australia. Its mission is to champion the rights of people with disability in Australia and help them participate fully in Australian life.

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Let’s end the absurdity of excluding people with disability from Australia

7 June 2010

Today, a myriad of organisations representing large sections of the Australian public and electorate have called on the Australian Government and opposition parties to finally end the discriminatory health requirement as part of the migration process.

The Joint Standing Committee on Migration (JSCM) which has been reviewing the treatment of disability as part of the migration regulations is expected to table its report to Parliament this month.

Lesley Hall, spokesperson for the organisations states that ‘Australia’s practice of subjecting potential migrants and refugees to Australia to a health assessment in order to determine their eligibility is discriminatory in our view. The health test means that migrants and refugees with disability are routinely refused entry to Australia as a result of an assessment of the potential health costs associated with their illness or disability.’

‘Such an approach to disability, a fact of life that may affect anyone in the community at any stage in life, is archaic and contrary to human rights principles. It completely ignores the varied and valuable contributions made by people with disability whether this is in employment, education or in family, social and cultural life. ’

‘We also believe that the migration regulations are in conflict with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which Australia bypassed with an interpretative declaration’ Hall notes.

Sibylle Kaczorek, further spokesperson for the organisations states that ‘Mrs Simran Kaur current situation highlights the absurdity of the health requirement.’

Mrs Kaur has lived in Australia since May 2007 and has successfully completed a Diploma in Community Development since then. Her application for permanent residency has been rejected on the grounds of not meeting the health requirements due to her vision impairment. Mrs Kaur is financially supported by her husband. Her appeal to the Migration Review Tribunal was unsuccessful. Mrs Kaur is in the process of requesting a waiver from the Minister of Immigration.

Ms Kaczorek highlights that ‘Australia workforce needs in the area of community services are growing. Here we have a qualified person who can contribute to our society through employment and bring valuable experiences but the migration regulations reject such a person on the basis of her vision impairment.’

Mrs Kaur herself states that ‘I am compassionate and capable of not only living an independent and successful life but also helping others in need. For this I just need a fair chance and an opportunity. I would be contributing a lot more to the Australian community than what I would need in terms of assistance. Being a person with disability was never my choice but my abilities are!’

The organisations are calling on the Government and the opposition parties to support key changes:

  1. Full application of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to the Migration Act 1958 health assessment.
  2. Improved consistency, transparency and administrative fairness for migrants and refugees with disability applying for an Australian visa.
  3. Withdrawal of the Australian interpretive declaration made upon ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities pertaining to the health requirements for non nationals.

Sibylle Kaczorek is the Executive Officer at NEDA. The National Ethnic Disability Alliance is the national peak organisation representing the rights and interests of people from non-English speaking background (NESB) with disability, their families and carers throughout Australia.

Lesley Hall is the Chief Executive Officer at AFDO. The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations has been established as the primary national voice to Government that fully represents the interests of all people with disability across Australia. Its mission is to champion the rights of people with disability in Australia and help them participate fully in Australian life.

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The Hon Bill Shorten launches groundbreaking report on Ethnic Disability

24/3/2010

On Thursday March 18, 2010 at Parliament House, the Hon Bill Shorten launched the report:

People from Non English Speaking Background with disability in Australia: What does the data say?

The report was commissioned by the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA).

Sibylle Kaczorek, Executive Officer on behalf of the NEDA Council states that, ‘Australia is an increasingly diverse country, with a robust history of migration which has a strong impact upon Australian values, culture and composition, particularly with respect to the contribution that has been made by of a growing proportion of Australians with non English speaking background (NESB) ancestry.’

‘People from diverse backgrounds also include people with impairment and illness, with an increasingly large number of Australians from non English speaking backgrounds with disability.’

Despite evidence of a strong impact of cultural and linguistic diversity on the ‘face’ of Australia, there remains very little data on the role of non English speaking migration in shaping contemporary Australia and Australians.

Kaczorek highlights the following findings of the report:

  • More than 1 million people with disability are from non English speaking backgrounds.
  • Some form of recent migration heritage is a characteristic for over 40% of people with disability.
  • There is a higher prevalence of impairment for people born in a non English speaking country aged over 45 years of age, especially for ‘first wave’ non English speaking migrants, up to 3 times that of the Australian born population.

Michele Castagna, President of NEDA states, ‘the report evidences the need for key improvements in Australia’s data collection if we are to understand and meet the needs of people from NESB with disability. In the absence of improved data collection and analysis which must involve consistency and improved sampling, our people will miss out when it comes to service delivery.’ ‘At the end of the day, unless people’s needs are verifiable the necessary dollars for translations and interpreters, cultural competent service delivery and support will not be provided.’

‘The report is a timely contribution to Government planning, setting of targets and outcomes and budget allocation’, Castagna notes.

The National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) is the national peak organisation representing the rights and interests of people from non-English speaking background (NESB) with disability, their families and carers throughout Australia. The report launch preceded NEDA’s governing Council meeting and a stakeholder input meeting towards the development of NEDA’s operational plan. A copy of the report can be found on the NEDA website www.neda.org.au.