||Thursday 20 February 2014
The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice
to support the efforts of the international community in eradicating poverty, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all.
Today, People with Disability Australia (PWDA) celebrates World Day of Social Justice as we strive to achieve our vision for a socially just, accessible and inclusive community, in which the human rights, citizenship, contribution, potential and diversity of all people with disability are recognised, respected and celebrated.
The four principles of social justice – equity, access, participation and rights – underpin all our work and approaches to advocacy and representation of people with disability.
Disability and poverty
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon says in his message for 2014, " The gap between the poorest and the wealthiest around the world is wide and growing… Yet there is nothing inevitable about inequality."
Around 45% of people with disability in Australia
are living either near or below the poverty line, adding up to more than 600,000
people with disability. Barriers to employment, the cost of disability, adequate social support and low levels of social participation all contribute to the low economic equity in society for people with disability.
PWDA is committed to advocate for the removal of barriers to economic participation for people with disability. In our recent meetings with the Welfare Review Panel headed by Patrick McClure, we advocated for lifting as many people with disability as possible into economic participation. PWDA's plan Getting Real on Jobs
is grounded within social justice guiding principles. We call for economic participation fairness and equity, including the maintenance of a safety net for those who will continue to need it, especially those with profound and complex barriers to participation.
Real Wages for Real Work
Our social justice campaign, Real Wages for Real Work
, focuses on the plight of over 20,000 people with disability in Australia who are employed by Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) previously called "Sheltered Workshops". These employees do not receive equal pay for work of equal value, or have access to the same industrial protections as workers without disability doing the same job at statutory Award rates. Under the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT)
, the wage of these employees with intellectual disability is unfairly discounted. The right of over 75% of ADE employees to enjoy the same employment terms and conditions as employees without disability continues to be unrealised.
Thanks to a grant from the Reichstein Foundation
, PWDA will be supporting the work of AED Legal Centre in Melbourne who has been at the centre of the legal cases around the BSWAT. We will undertake systemic advocacy on issues of wage discrimination and inequality experienced by these employees and supporting this action with:
- an education, research, and policy advocacy program focused on reducing the level of inequality and economic disadvantage experienced by workers with disability;
- promoting alternatives to segregated employment; and
- advocating for policy reforms to implement genuine supported employment options.
The beginning of the court case which will finally decide whether the BSWAT is discriminatory in its use in ADEs recently started at the Federal Court in Melbourne on Monday 17 February
Justice for people with disability
People with disability in Australia experience gross inequality before the law, especially those who need communication support or have complex and multiple support needs. The Australian Human Rights Commission's report Equality Before The Law: Towards disability justice strategies
has uncovered multiple barriers that people with disability experience in accessing justice. The report calls on the Commonwealth and all states and territories to introduce a holistic, over-arching disability justice strategy which would improve the lives of people with disability.
PWDA's Access to Justice online forum
fed into the Commission's research into these issues. We hope the publication of this report is a catalyst for Governments to make critical improvements to the experience of people with disability who come into contact with the criminal justice system.
Social and Sexual Relationships
As proud supporters of Touching Base
, a joint initiative of people with disability and sex workers, PWDA has a strong history of supporting the rights of people with disability to exercise their rights in matters of sex, gender and sexuality.
This March, together with our partner organisations, Cerebral Palsy Alliance
, Touching Base
, Family Planning NSW
, we will be demonstrating our support for people with disability from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (GLBTIQ) community, at this year's Mardi Gras Parade
. People with disability are often excluded from participating in both GLBTIQ communities and straight communities. PWDA advocates for their human rights to inclusion, to relationships and to the sexual life they desire.
People with disability central to social justice solutions
PWDA is a member of the Australian Civil Society Parallel Report Group
which presented its submission to the Committee on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
, in Geneva, Switzerland in 2013. The UN CRPD Committee reviewed Australia, as a signatory to the CRPD
, for its compliance with the CRPD. The Committee's Concluding Observations
outlined principal areas of concern and recommendations for Australia in matters of social justice covering
- legislation and policies,
- women with disability,
- children with disability,
- migrants with disability,
- people with disability in institutional care,
- social participation,
- immediate end to the use of the BSWAT,
- medical interventions without free and informed consent, and
- adequate resourcing of DPOs (Disabled People's Organisations).
PWDA's Co-CEO Therese Sands said, "The voice of people with disability in Australia has been heard. I think we're just very pleased that the lived experience at that grass roots level was taken to a global level in the UN that the UN listened and then they provided these comments back to the Australian Government to benefit the people with disability who are affected every day by these issues."
Social Justice is advanced wherever barriers are removed so that everyone, regardless of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability are free to live the lives they choose as equal members of society. Today, 20 February, we acknowledge and reflect on the role of social justice as we advance a socially just, accessible and inclusive community for people with disability in Australia.
Become a member of the disability rights movement by joining PWDA
and show your support for a socially just and inclusive society!
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