Around one in every six Victorian students lives, and learns, with disability. Children with disability make immeasurable contributions to their schools and communities. However, across Australia these children continue to be left behind at school, experiencing poorer educational outcomes than their peers without disability. For these students, their school experiences can play a pivotal role in the success, security and independence they enjoy as adults. People with disability are less likely to participate in the workforce, and enjoy a weekly median income less than half of those without disability.
In recent years, a number of inquiries and reports have drawn attention to the disadvantage facing students in Victoria’s government schools, including a review of the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD Review). The Government of Victoria has responded to the growing chorus of concern by launching a wide-ranging inclusive education reform agenda, underpinned by a considerable boost to funding. These moves are much needed, and very welcome.
This research aims to shed light on the current situation by applying a human rights analysis to the experiences of children with disability in the Victorian mainstream government school system. It highlights areas in which progress has been achieved, and those in which children with disability continue to experience discrimination and disadvantage. The report offers recommendations which are intended to strengthen the current reform process, and to assist the Department of Education and Training (the Department) to protect and fulfil the rights of children with disability.
Our findings are based on almost 100 interviews with stakeholders, including former students, school staff (including principals, teachers and support staff), and individuals working to support and represent them. The research also draws on detailed analysis of relevant policies and laws, in particular the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) (the Charter) and state and federal anti-discrimination legislation.