In September 2014, the Family and Development Committee tabled its report to the Victorian Parliament for the Inquiry into Social Inclusion and Victorians with Disability. The report was informed by this submission by YACVic and the YDAS, which focuses on the need to address inequalities in education and employment, to support a strong advocacy voice for young people with disabilities, and to ensure all young people can access public spaces and cultural and social activities.

Download our submission to the inquiry via the link on this page, ready the summary below or follow this link to read the Committee’s final report.

Social Inclusion and Victorians with Disability – report tabled to Parliament

On 17 September 2014, the Family and Community Development Committee tabled its 441 page report to the Victorian Parliament for the Inquiry into Social Inclusion and Victorians with Disability. This substantial report drew on 133 written submissions from organisations and individuals, and advice from 75 witnesses representing 39 organisations and government departments. The Youth Disability Advocacy Service (YDAS) and the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVic) made written and verbal submissions, and were pleased to see these drawn upon in the final report.

The big picture

The report found that despite recent improvements in policy, legislation and practice, people with disabilities continue to face exclusion and restricted opportunities across a range of areas. These include education, employment, service delivery, social connectedness, and access to public spaces. The report calls for action to address this at the levels of state and local government, as well as in schools, workplaces and the wider community. It urges Victorians to adopt an understanding of social inclusion which goes beyond simply engaging people with disabilities in discrete activities, and instead respects and values their contributions, aspirations and right to control their own lives. 

Key issues

In their final report, the Committee identified several issues of particular relevance to young people with disabilities. These included:

  • Barriers to accessing mainstream schooling;
  • Restricted access to the workforce, which begins with low community expectations about what young people with disabilities are capable of;
  • Vulnerability to abuse and neglect; and – 
  • Vulnerability to bullying, notably in schools.

Other key priorities identified by the Inquiry included: 

  • Strengthening social inclusion of people with disabilities through health promotion, housing design, and access to public spaces;
  • Designing and adopting measurable targets for social inclusion; 
  • Ensuring that the Disability Act 2006 (Vic) and the work of Victoria’s Local Area Coordinators are aligned with the National Disability Insurance Scheme; and – 
  • “Pathways for young people with disability tend to be different than for other young people in the community. This is not generally due to lower aspirations or potential, but due to low expectations in the community and as a consequence of assumptions relating to their disability.”

(Report of the Family and Community Development Committee, finding 3.5)

“Pathways for young people with disability tend to be different than for other young people in the community. This is not generally due to lower aspirations or potential, but due to low expectations in the community and as a consequence of assumptions relating to their disability.”

(Report of the Family and Community Development Committee, finding 3.5)

The report highlights the need for people with disabilities to be enabled to exercise their own choices, whether at the level of forging personal relationships, planning study or career, choosing a support service, or engaging in politics and advocacy. 

What did we say?

In our submissions, YACVic and YDAS drew attention to the need to address inequalities in education and the workforce, and to ensure all young people can take part in mainstream social life, including music, entertainment and cultural activities. We highlighted the need to strengthen opportunities for some groups of young people with disabilities who are at risk of particular isolation, such as those in rural communities and those aged 8 – 12 (the ‘middle years’). We argued for the importance of listening to young people with disabilities, recognising them as a specific group of stakeholders (different to children, parents and older adults with disabilities), and respecting and supporting them as advocates and decision-makers. 

The testimony of YDAS steering committee member Ms Ariane Garner-Williams struck a particular chord with the inquiry’s committee, and is referenced at length in their final report. 

Where to from here? 

The report makes 25 recommendations across a range of topics. Those of relevance to young people with disabilities include: 

  • That the Victorian Government develop a job shadowing program to assist young people with disability to gain experience in the workplace and to provide employers with exposure to the contributions that people with disability can provide.
  • That the Victorian Government identify a long-term strategy for improving the accessibility of pre-existing buildings, such as schools, and public spaces in the community.
  • That the Victorian Government negotiate with the National Disability Insurance Agency to ensure resourcing for flexible housing models that have proven success in promoting the social inclusion of people with disability.
  • That the Victorian Government is more specific about its intentions to encourage the building industry, councils and social housing providers to incorporate the national Livable housing design guidelines and introduces specific incentives to encourage the development of affordable housing that meets livable housing design guidelines.
  • That the Victorian Government consider the feasibility of introducing a partnership program between the school and Vocational Education and Training sectors and the Victorian and Australian governments to promote open employment within school communities with the intention of supporting a smooth transition from school to real work for students with disability.
  • That the Victorian Government incorporate a strategy into its future State Disability Plan in 2016 to change attitudes towards people with disability and how they are treated in the general community that aims to: 
    • encourage interactions and positive personal experiences between people with disability and members in the community
    • change broad community attitudes, prevent children and young people from developing negative attitudes, and target specific audiences to change negative attitudes
    • promote initiatives that aim to change the way people treat and interact with people with disability.

YACVic welcomes the release of the report and will continue to monitor the implementation of its recommendations by government. 

Read the Committee’s final report.

For more information, contact Jessie Mitchell, Manager of Policy, at [email protected] or on 9267 3722.