Australia’s new Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Rosemary Kayess, said we need to reframe how Australians think about disability, and address social structures that prevent people with disability from participating equally in society.
Commissioner Kayess said there is a unique opportunity to transform the lives of people with disability following the Disability Royal Commission and the Independent Review into the NDIS. She aims to work with government, stakeholders and the disability community to address ableism and ensure the rights of people with disability in all areas of life.
Commissioner Kayess, who commenced in the role on Monday 29 January, said people with disability are too often viewed through the lens of care, treatment, protection, and service provision.
“People with disability are diverse, with a broad range of interests, dreams and lifestyles, and we should not be defined by a diagnosis or our need for care,” Commissioner Kayess said. “People with disability continue to face the community’s low expectations and it is imperative that we change this.”
Prior to becoming Commissioner, Ms Kayess was a Senior Academic with the Faculty of Law and the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. She was a member of the United Nations drafting committee for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and is currently Vice Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Disability, Law and Policy, at the University of Galway. Commissioner Kayess is a woman with disability who sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident and uses a wheelchair.
Commissioner Kayess noted the importance of recognising the social context of disability. “When social structures are able to properly accommodate a person’s impairment, you remove the disabling barriers to rights and participation.
“Society has a responsibility to dismantle the underlying drivers of ableism. As with racism, sexism and ageism, this is essential to ensuring the rights and equality of all people with disability.”
Commissioner Kayess said there is a unique opportunity to improve the lives of people with disability following the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, and the Independent Review into the NDIS.
“The present focus on improving Australia’s social structures creates an opportunity to think differently about the rights of people with disability, and the various types of change that are required to remove the disabling barriers to rights and participation.
“I look forward to working with the disability community, and with the various sectors that interact with it, to address ablism and ensure the rights of people with disability are realised in all areas of life,” Commissioner Kayess said.
The Disability Discrimination Commissioner is a statutory position within the Australian Human Rights Commission, established under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth). The position is responsible for protecting and promoting the rights of Australians with disability, and for driving the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Australia.