Graeme Innes says 'appalling' cage practice not one-off, calls for
inquiry on education of children with disabilities
From the Brisbane Times
In the wake of revelations an autistic Canberra student was confined in a cage-like structure, former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes says such abuses are widespread and has called for a broad inquiry into the treatment of children with disabilities in the nation's schools.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten immediately backed Mr Innes' call, declaring: "we cannot assume this is a one off case".
Mr Innes, who served as the nation's disability discrimination commissioner from 2005 until last year, said such "appalling" incidents were not confined to the ACT. Mr Innes believes that incidents like the one recently reported about in the ACT are not isolated.
Mr Innes believes that an inquiry needs to be held into the treatment of disabled children. He said he had no strong view on who should conduct an inquiry. While school systems are state-based, much of the funding to support students with disabilities is provided by the Commonwealth.
Mr Shorten said he strongly supported an inquiry, which could be conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
"We need to hear the voice of parents of children with disabilities as well as schools and teachers in such an inquiry," Mr Shorten said. "Schools and teachers are stretched and often without the knowledge or resources they need. Our schools and teachers need greater support when it comes to understanding children with challenging behaviours."
"Parents of children with disabilities are often made to feel like trouble-makers because they demand support for their child at school and that's just not right," he said.
The Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield, who has responsibility for disabilities, said the ACT case was "deeply disturbing." He said in March the government had supported the establishment of a senate inquiry into the mistreatment of people with disability which would include both schools and restrictive practices.
"There will no doubt be lessons from the inquiry for state government arrangements to protect students with disability in their schools. The federal government will also closely consider the work of the inquiry as we development a national safeguards and quality framework for the full NDIS."
Minister Pyne hides behind his states rights mantra. His spokesperson said predictably: "The Commonwealth doesn't employ any teachers or have any role in managing students," the spokesman said.The spokesman said the Commonwealth was providing record funding to the states and territories for students with a disability, delivering $1.2 billion in 2015 alone and $5.2 billion over the period 2014 - 2017."States and Territories can spend this funding on additional teacher training or other support services for students with a disability, it is a matter for them."