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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9507

Mrs IRWIN (4:03 PM) —My speech this afternoon was researched and prepared by Michael Rutherford, a high school student residing in my electorate of Fowler who recently undertook work experience in my electorate office. I quote:

In 21st century Australia, we as a people should value and respect the rights of our fellow Australians, regardless of individual circumstance, including mental and physical disability.

Those sentiments are echoed around the world.

In 2006-2007 the United Nations adopted and opened for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Australia was one of the 83 countries which signed the convention on its opening day, but it took a new change of government to ratify the convention in July 2008.

I am pleased to say that last month Australia ratified the optional protocol that accompanies the convention.

This protocol allows individuals who feel their needs are not met by the government to ultimately take their case to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities if all domestic avenues of appeal are exhausted.

I congratulate the government for ratifying the protocol.

This will clarify the domestic avenues of appeal for disabled citizens who have a complaint.

We have nothing to fear of our treatment of the disabled.

I believe that this government should have a direct role in the research and development of communication technology, such as braille, mobility devices such as wheelchairs, and assistance devices such as hoists, and provide these technologies at an affordable cost.

This would align us further with the convention.

The convention requires that governments engage in consultation with the disabled, through disability organisations, when developing related policy.

I congratulate the government on its current level of consultation with these groups and hope that this continues so that high quality policies can be developed in the future.

One of these is the recent Helping Children with Autism program, which is an important step forward and will provide much needed assistance to thousands of families with autistic children.

The provision of preschools for autistic children is crucial in delivering the education that these children deserve.

It is a base from which we can build policies for children suffering from other disabilities such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and others.

While the autism policy focuses mainly on children aged 6 and under there is room to expand the policy to provide greater support for autistic children in primary and secondary schooling and into adulthood.

I believe that this government is committed to providing a greater standard of living for Australians with a disability.

I urge the Rudd government to continue to build on the United Nations convention so that disabled Australians can actively participate in all aspects of our society.

I congratulate Michael on his excellent research and speech. I give my regards to his wonderful sister and his beautiful parents.