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PWDA Alert
  Tuesday 3 September 2013
Australian Civil Society Parallel Report Group Delegation Daily Report - Monday 2 September 2013
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Geneva, Switzerland
Dear ,
Today the Australian Civil Society Parallel Report Group delegation attended the opening of the tenth Session of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

The session began with opening remarks from Chairperson of the Committee, Ms Maria Cisternas Reyes from Chile.  She updated participants about the activities of Committee members between the ninth and tenth sessions and outlined some key focus areas of the Committee, including a stronger focus on the rights of women, children and Indigenous people with disability. 

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provided information on its work in integrating the rights of people with disability within its activities.
Photograph of the meeting inside a large room packed with people in Geneva
A number of UN agencies outlined how the CRPD has been incorporated into their work.  UNICEF discussed the release of its report, State of the World’s Children 2013 and its focus on children with disability. The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) highlighted the adoption of the new international Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled  There was a round of applause from the meeting participants to welcome this new and important Treaty for people with disability.

The Committee then gave the floor to international Non-Government Organisations to make formal statements to the CRPD Committee on a number of issues. 

The Committee then began its private sessions with the NGO delegations from El Salvador, Austria and Australia.  This session allowed brief, formal statements to be made to the Committee about the situation in these countries. These statements are aimed at assisting the Committee to prepare for their reviews of these countries. 

Rosemary Kayess, Australian Centre for Disability Law and Therese Sands, People with Disability Australia delivered the formal statement on behalf of the Australian Civil Society Delegation.  The statement highlighted a number of critical issues:
  • Australia is regarded as a wealthy country where many people enjoy their human rights.  However, Australia is ranked 21 out of 29 OECD nations for employment participation and is ranked worst amongst OECD countries in terms of poverty and disability;
  • Extreme poverty and disadvantage is experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities where rates of disability are twice that of the general population;
  • Australia should be held to the highest possible standards with regard to its CRPD obligations. The bar should be set high for Australia because it is better placed than many other Member States to meet the needs of people with disability and realise their human rights; 
  • Australia has implemented a number of key reforms, including the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.  However, it is essential that there is a parallel commitment to comprehensive, whole of government legislative and policy reform and implementation;
  • This parallel commitment should include resourcing the National Disability Strategy, incorporating the CRPD into domestic law and reforming the Disability Discrimination Act;
  • This parallel commitment should also address a number of human rights violations, such as laws and policies that deny legal capacity; unregulated restrictive practices; indefinite detention in prisons without conviction; the continuation of institutional living arrangements; forced sterilisation; and the use of the discriminatory wage assessment tool in Australian Disability Enterprises.
Following the private session with the Committee, members of the Civil Society Delegation meet with individual Committee members, participated in media interviews and attended the launch of Unfinished Business.

In the evening, the Delegation attended the reception by the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Mr Graeme Innes and the viewing of Twenty Years, Twenty Stories in recognition of the 20 years of the DDA.  The reception was held at the Australian Permanent Mission. 
Unfinished Business
A highlight of the day was the formal launch of the photographic exhibition Unfinished Business.  The exhibition is made up of 30 three-dimensional portrait photographs of Aboriginal people with disability from around Australia.  The photographs were taken by well know Australian photographer Belinda Mason.  Each photograph provides a powerful, dignified image of an Aboriginal person with disability, accompanied by personal details of the subject. 
The Australian Ambassador to the Permanent Mission to the UN, Mr Peter Woolcott formally launched the exhibition.  First Peoples Disability Network (Australia) chairperson, Gayle Rankine also spoke at the launch.  The exhibition is located within the main foyer of the UN building, and will remain in place throughout September.  It is already clear that this exhibition will attract a high number of viewers.  It is a powerful and eye-catching exhibition of which the First Peoples Disability Network is immensely proud.
Damian Griffis
On behalf of the Australian Civil Society Parallel Report Group Delegation
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) (02) 9370 3100 1800 422 015