All people have a right to fair and equitable access to services. While many people with disability successfully navigate services without impact, others experience exclusion, discrimination and marginalisation. This evidence is visible in processes such as Australia’s disability strategy 2021–2031 (Disability Strategy) and submissions to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (Disability Royal Commission).

Under Australia’s Disability Strategy, in early 2022, ACOLA was engaged by the Australian Government Department of Social Services to determine how to enhance the training outcomes of occupations across the education, health, justice and social services workforce, to better respond to the needs of people with disability.

The project, Ensuring occupations are responsive to people with disability, explored the context and adequacy of training about disability in Australia and, through this work, ACOLA developed a Good Practice Guide and Action Plan that identified areas for action by all stakeholders, including all levels of government, professional bodies, employers, training bodies (i.e. VET and universities), and individuals.

These areas for action also apply to ACOLA and the Learned Academies and ACOLA has developed a statement in response to the final report.

The Good Practice Guide outlines objectives and principles for good practice in training development, delivery and evaluation. It also provides a practical Education and Training Analysis Tool to ensure education and training align with the knowledge and practice associated with better responsiveness towards people with disability.

Six key principles to enhance the training for all occupations were identified. These principles are associated with more positive interactions with people with disability:

  1. ‘Nothing about us without us’: Education and training about disability must be developed and delivered with, or by, people with disability
  2. Capability areas: Training must develop skills, knowledge and attitudes
  3. Experiential learning: Training must include 'on the job' learning
  4. Addressing bias: Training should enhance a learner’s ability to critically reflect on their attitudes and behaviours towards people with disability
  5. Fit for purpose: Training must enhance a learner’s ability to critically reflect on their personal attitudes towards and perceptions of people with disability
  6. Quantum: Disability responsiveness will not be achieved through a single training event or course. Ultimately, outcomes will require an ongoing commitment.

The Action Plan identifies actions for all stakeholders to adopt and implement the Guide and move the training system forward for a more equitable Australia. The plan includes broad and sector-specific opportunities for governments, training providers, professional and industry bodies.

There are five key areas for action to drive improvements in the training occupations receive to improve outcomes for people with disability.

  1. Active participation: People with disability play a clear, visible and valued role in the leadership of the training
  2. Sector planning and actions: The training of occupations is tailored, timely and focused on the needs of workers and the community they serve, especially people with disability
  3. Training packages: People with disability have confidence in the skills and capabilities of all professionals to support them
  4. Knowledge collection: Australia has the knowledge to better include people with disability, monitor developments and progress to address disability responsiveness
  5. Government leadership: Australian governments share a collaborative approach to progressing an inclusive society.
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