The submission process and questionnaire for the 2020 Review of the Disability Standards for Education 2005 has now closed.

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We hosted a series of interactive publich webinars during July and August to consult with people for the 2020 Review of the Disability Standards for Education 2005. The recordings of these webinars will be made available here.

National Webinar: Schooling


[Opening visual of slide with text saying ‘Australian Government with Crest (logo)’, ‘Department of Education, Skills and Employment’, ‘Disability Standards for Education’, ‘2020 Review’, ‘National Webinar: Schooling’, ’23 July 2020’]

[The visuals during this webinar are of Kylie Crane and Warren Daley presenting from lectern on stage, Kate Bowmaker presenting whilst seated on stage, and Ben Gauntlett presenting via Zoom, with reference to the content of a PowerPoint presentation being played on a large background screen. An Auslan interpreter is doing sign language in the top left of the screen.]

Kylie Crane:

Good afternoon, and thank you for taking the time to join us today. My name is Kylie Crane, and I’m the First Assistant Secretary of the Disability Strategy Taskforce within the Federal Department of Education, Skills and Employment. On behalf of the Minister for Education, the Honourable Dan Tehan MP, and the department, welcome to the first consultation event for the 2020 Review of the Disability Standards for Education 2005.

The standards help to make sure that students with disability can access and participate in education and training on the same basis as students without disability, by making clear the rights of students and specifying the obligations of education providers. During this review, we want to find out if the standards are effective in achieving these aims, or if the law needs to be changed to make them better. To do this, we need your input. So we appreciate you taking the time to engage in the review and have your say. Following today, I would also encourage you to visit the Consultation Hub to find out about other ways you can participate in the review.

Kate Bowmaker and the Social Deck will be assisting the department to undertake the events for the review, and will facilitate this webinar. But first, please welcome Mr Warren Daley, who will welcome us to country. Thank you.

Warren Daley:

So thank you very much for that. Firstly I’d like to thank Carolina Velloso from Social Deck for asking me to give this Welcome to Country for the 2020 Review of the Disability Standards for Education 2005. We’re coming from Marcus Clarke Street Canberra. That’s on Ngunnawal land. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and those listening to this webinar, firstly I acknowledge other Ngunnawal Elders, past, present and those emerging, and I thank them for their continuing contributions they have made to life in this city and region. I’d also like to welcome other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and all nationalities listening to today’s event. For some of you, this may be your first Welcome to Country. And the Ngunnawal people, being custodians of this land for over 60,000 years, our Elders have passed down this welcome to country to us.

Before entering another person’s country, you’d always announce your arrival and not enter until asked by a traditional owner or Elder. The reason for this practice is it protects your spirit while you’re in another person’s country, but also shows respect to the First Nation’s people and culture. As in the white man’s world, you would not want your neighbour or a total stranger entering your home or yard without first asking permission to do so. For those of you that have travelled, have a safe and enjoyable journey home. Stay safe. God bless. Ngunna yerrabi yanggu. You’re all welcome to leave your footprints on the land of the Ngunnawal people whenever in Canberra. Yumalundi. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Kate Bowmaker:

Thank you Mr Warren Daley for your Welcome to Country today. I would also like to extend my acknowledgment of country for the lands in which we and our participants in today’s webinar all meet on today, and pay my respects to Elders past, present and future. I also welcome and acknowledge First Nation’s peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are joining us for today’s webinar.

My name’s Kate Bowmaker. I’m the Managing Director of the Social Deck, and as Kylie mentioned, the Social Deck is supporting the Department of Education, Skills and Employment in their consultation process for the 2020 Review of the Disability Standards for Education. So I’m here today to facilitate the webinar, and my role will be to guide you through the different sections of the webinar that we have before us over the next two hours.

I’d also like to introduce our two Auslan interpreters who are present in the studio with us today, Kathy and Mandy from Auslan Services. Thank you for being here.

I’m going to move to the next slide.

On this slide are some instructions to participate today. So what’s different in this webinar to some other webinars that you may have attended, is that it’s a consultation event. So it’s not just a presentation. This means we’re here to provide you with the context about the review and the standards, but we also want to hear from each of you. We want to hear your experiences and your views today. Your contributions will be directly included into the analysis and the reporting of the review process.

Because of COVID restrictions and the more recent uncertainties we’re currently under, it means we’ve had to move most of our consultation activity in to these sorts of online formats. However it’s important that even though we’re all meeting virtually and we’re in a webinar format, that we still provide the opportunity to be able to get your individual input to the consultation process.

And if you’re feeling any significant distress, we recommend you contact a support person or call a support helpline, such as Lifeline, which is 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue, which is 1300 224 636.

I’ll now move to the next slide, and this slide is about what we will cover today.

Today we are very fortunate to have Dr Ben Gauntlett, Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner, with us via Zoom. So Ben will be providing an introduction to today’s webinar to further explain the purpose of the Disability Standards for Education 2005, and to walk you through the 2020 Review Discussion Paper.

The webinar will run in five main sessions, and this will cover access to education, participating in school, support for students, treatment in school of students, and awareness of the Disability Standards for Education. We’ll set the scene before each topic area, and there will be one to two questions under each of those sections which we’ll be asking you to contribute to. We’ll also be featuring a number of video stories from young people throughout today’s session, and those young people have been very kind in sharing their experiences with us.

So before we get started, I would first like to hand over to Dr Ben Gauntlett who will be joining us via Zoom. Thanks Ben.

Ben Gauntlett:

Thank you very much for that kind introduction. I too would like to acknowledge the traditional owners upon the land upon which we meet, and any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the audience today, and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Today I have been asked to introduce this webinar concerning the review of the Disability Standards for Education, which are standards that are created under section 31 of the Disability Discrimination Act. It is a pleasure to be asked to speak to you today, but I thought it was appropriate too, at the least, to acknowledge the recent passing of the late Sue Salthouse from Canberra, who was a teacher by training and was a tremendous advocate for women with disability in Australia, and particularly passionate about education. Her persuasive eloquence will be missed.

I want to initially talk about the role of education in society, the educational outcomes for people with disability in Australia, and finally, to outline the role of the Disability Standards for Education in Australia and the importance of this review within a broader policy infrastructure.

Education and training play a key role in human, social and economic development, both domestically and internationally. Access to meaningful education and training is a critical human right, with its relevance being highlighted not only in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability in Article 24, but also in a number of other critical international human rights instruments, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Education is a critical aspect of government policy concerning people with disability. It is expressly considered in the National Disability Strategy, which reflects Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In doing so, we must ensure people with disability are not viewed as welfare recipients, but rather as rights holders with a right to education without discrimination, and on the basis of equal opportunity. Lack of access to education is one of the most certain ways of transmitting poverty from generation to generation. In short, lack of access to education entrenches disadvantage. An example of this is in employment, where the participation rate of people with disability is 30% lower than those without a disability, and the median level of income of people with disability is approximately half. Some of this difference can be traced to a difference in accessing education.

The prevalence of disability in Australia means our education policy needs to apply in a wide variety of circumstances and locations. In 2018, there were 4.4 million Australians with disability. The prevalence of disability increases with age. 11.6% of people between the ages of zero and 64 have a disability, but one in two people aged over 65 have a disability. Within people with disability in Australia however, almost 80% of disability is unseen, and 5.7% of Australians have a profound or severe disability. The cohort of people with disability in Australia is diverse. Some disability is episodic. At all times it needs to be remembered that people with disability may also exhibit other diversity characteristics too. Intersectionality is a critically important issue to consider when looking at disadvantage.

In terms of educational outcomes, in 2018 one third of people with disability had completed Year 12 or equivalent, and one sixth had a Bachelor degree or above. Approximately 6% of students at university identify as having a disability, and the employment outcomes for those students is amongst the worst of all diversity characteristics. It is obvious there is a need for improvement.

Support for students with disability is provided in a variety of ways in the education and training system. The Disability Standards for Education seek to regulate both processes and outcomes undertaken by education authorities and providers to ensure an equality of opportunity. Education providers covered by the standards include pre-schools, which includes kindergartens, government and private schools, technical and further education providers and other vocational and training education providers, adult education providers, and higher education institutions.

As you all are no doubt aware, complaints can be made under the Disability Standards for Education to the Australian Human Rights Commission. The highest amount of complaints made to the Australian Human Rights Commission concern disability. Data indicates that the standards are being relied upon in making complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission at an increasing rate.

In 2015 to 2016, there were 101 Disability Discrimination Act education complaints. In 2016 to 2017, there were 115 Disability Discrimination Act education complaints. In 2017 to 2018, there were 126 Disability Discrimination Act education complaints. In 2018 to 2019, there were 155 Disability Discrimination Act education complaints. And in 2019 to 2020, there were 128 Disability Discrimination Act education complaints. In those complaints, the reference to the Disability Education Standards has been increasing, however few complaints reached the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court.

It needs to therefore be asked what is the role of the Disability Standards for Education? The Disability Standards for Education are one of three sets of standards made under the Disability Discrimination Act. They include the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport and the Disability Access to Premises Building Standards. The purpose of all these standards is to clarify the operation of the Disability Discrimination Act. Compliance with the terms of the standards is a defence to a claim for discrimination. Therefore, in effect, what the Disability Standards for Education seek to do is clarify the rights and obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act.

The Disability Standards for Education cover enrolment, participation, curriculum development, accreditation and delivery, student support services, and the elimination of harassment and victimisation. At the outset, it is important to also acknowledge the objects of the Disability Standards for Education, which are (a) to eliminate as far as possible discrimination against persons on the ground of disability in the area of education and training, (b) to ensure as far as practical that persons with disability have the same rights to equality before the law in the area of education and training as the rest of the community, and (c) to promote recognition and acceptance within the community of the principle that persons with disabilities have the same fundamental rights as the rest of the community.

There are guidance notes associated with the Disability Standards for Education. These guidance notes, which are publicly available, seek to provide explanatory material, including background information and comment, to assist the reader in interpreting and complying with the standards. The notes are intended to enhance understanding of the scope and practical application of the standards in much the same way an explanatory memorandum can assist in the interpretation of an act of Parliament.

Education and training systems though are complex. They rely not only upon the presence of students of a variety of ages, they also rely upon funding, administrative bodies, education providers, education authorities and teachers. In considering the effectiveness of the Disability Standards for Education, the review will consider the following, and this is set out in the Discussion Paper that has been made publicly available. Are the rights, obligations and measures of compliance set out in the standards and its guidance notes clear and appropriate? Do students, families and carers, educators, education providers and policy makers know about, understand, apply and comply with the rights, obligations and measures of compliance in the standards? And in the 15 years since the standards were developed, have the standards contributed towards students with disability being able to access education and training opportunities on the same basis as students without disabilities?

Consultation for the review will also have a clear focus on the impacts of the standards on the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with disability.

The Disability Standards for Education Review, as with reviews undertaken in 2010 and 2015, make recommendations for government. In formulating these recommendations, the review will focus on opportunities for national collaborative action between jurisdictions and agencies, including the action to strengthen the knowledge and capabilities of teachers and educators, and whether any amendments to the standards should be made.

It should be remembered in replying to this review that not every person working in the education sector is taught law or has received specific training on issues. Knowledge about what is good practice is an important aspect of the review of the standards. In looking at the role of the Disability Standards for Education, it is also perhaps important to acknowledge that they represent an aspect of government policy towards ensuring that people with disability receive an equality of opportunity with respect to education.

There are, quite rightly, strong views held relating to the human rights of education in Australia, and in particular the segregation of students with disabilities, funding the use of restraints and gatekeeping practices, to name but a few issues. Some of these issues have and will be and have been considered by the Disability Royal Commission. But an aspect of understanding how to improve the system, is to consider the Disability Standards for Education and whether they are making a positive difference, and what changes can be made if they are not making a positive difference. For example, the application of provisions relating to reasonable adjustment, unjustifiable hardship, or the need for consultation under the Disability Standards for Education, may not in the present circumstances be fit for purpose. How can these provisions be improved?

When replying to the Discussion Paper and considering how to interact with the review, I always find the most insightful answers concerning aspects of disability policy come from people with disabilities themselves. This may be with appropriate support or assistance. I would therefore very much encourage people with disability in education and training, or recently left education or training, to comment in any way they see fit. Our views matter. The future leaders of the disability community may presently be in education and training. It is important that you feel able and supported to comment.

A helpful Discussion Paper has been released. There are questions set out to students and parents or carers. There are questions for educators and providers of education and training. And there is an issue as to the early childhood education and care and the applicability of standards in that setting that is being considered within the review, with a separate Discussion Paper being released in August seeking experiences relating to the standards and the Disability Discrimination Act in the early childhood education and care sector.

As with any problem that is presented relating to a piece of legislation, it is important to be as transparent as possible as to what the perceived issue is that you are commenting upon when replying to the Discussion Paper, and within the context of the review. It is important to remember that the need for constructive recommendations will have to be made.

I thought it was appropriate though to also raise the issue of COVID-19. In a sense, COVID-19 exacerbates disadvantage. Therefore, for people with disability, the challenges which they face in entering and participating in education and training settings may have been magnified in the last few months. It is important that these issues are articulated and they are expressly asked in the Discussion Paper, but it is also critically important to try and ensure that a review of the standards reflects the last five years of the operation of the standards and the Disability Discrimination Act.

In conclusion, in Australia approximately one in five students has received an adjustment due to disability according to the national consistent collection of data on school students with disability. When you consider that only ten percent of individuals between 5 and 19 identify as having a disability, there is obviously a divergence between people identifying as having a disability in education and training settings and the data that presently exists.

Although people choosing to reply to the Discussion Paper and engage with the review may not have data, it is important to acknowledge that your views matter.

There is an ability for people to tell their own stories of disability education. Good or bad, these stories are important. The issue of data and needing to have that data to engage in a meaningful debate is something that I’m very much aware of and looking to change. But what is critically important for the purpose of this review is that people take the time to participate. Your views as to how the education and training system has treated you matter. Please take the time to participate. Considerable effort has been undertaken to make this possible, and I’m delighted to be involved in today’s webinar. Thank you very much.

Kate Bowmaker:

Thank you Ben. We really appreciate your time and that introduction, which I think sets the context to this webinar very well. And again, thank you for your time. So Ben will be staying with us throughout the session today, and be able to see and read firsthand some of your contributions, and we’ll likely be calling on him, technology allowing, to make some comments throughout today’s session.

List three things you think are most important for the Disability Standards for Education to achieve. So we’re just looking for three things, three words that come to your mind when you think about what is important for the standards to achieve.

Shortly I’ll briefly summarise the common words that are appearing in that word cloud so that everyone knows what is coming up into that word cloud, even if you can’t see the screen.

Okay. Thank you everyone for your contributions. And it’s a good opening question for us to make sure that everyone is familiar with using the menti system. But many of you can see there that based on that word cloud and the three words that people have put in there in terms of what they think the standards should achieve, the most common words – and those are the words that appear largest in the word cloud – are things like equity, access – so there’s equity and equality – participation, inclusion, understanding, respect, fairness, accessibility, opportunity. There are also words such as safety. So people feel that the standards should make sure that we’re achieving safety in our education system as well. Inclusivity and technology adjustments, and a number of other things have come up through that exercise. So that’s going to be some really important data for us to have a look at in terms of what the standards should and could achieve.

Okay. I’m going to move to the next slide, and this is where we’ll be beginning our first session, session one of today’s webinar. This session is about access to education for people with disability. In the standards, Part 4 is about the standards for enrolment. This means how students with disability enrol in school and access education, and the obligations that education providers have to make sure that people with disability can access education. In the standards it says that education providers must take reasonable steps to ensure prospective students are able to seek administration to or apply for enrolment in an institution. And that’s on the same basis as other students, and without experiencing discrimination.

The provider must also consult with the prospective student or their family member, guardian or carer about whether their disability affects the student’s ability to enrol or access that education institution, and in light of this, make those necessary reasonable adjustments. The ways a provider might ensure this is through ensuring the information about the enrolment process, including entry requirements and the choices of courses or programs, is accessible and delivered in a range of formats so that it meets the prospective student’s needs. And also making sure that those enrolment procedures are designed so they can be completed without undue difficulty.

So before we ask you some questions about your experience with students with disability accessing education, we want to share a video with you from Mathew. These videos we’ll be showing you today from young people are not scripted. They’re people sharing their views and experiences. Young people were asked to share their experience with us about their time at school, and for some, this related to how effective the standards are. So we’ll now hear from Mathew via his video.

[START VIDEO PLAYBACK]

§ (Music Playing) §

Mathew:

From my understanding, having that standard, it’s a very good guide towards inclusive education. So that’s the important part. But another part is that they’re missing about how you regulate that behaviour, what the standard tells you, not really what to do, but guide you to what to do.

§ (Music Playing) §

I think there would be a little bit more to work around, not just about reasonable adjustments. Because reasonable adjustment is because the person had a voice, they know what you could expect. That’s pretty simple. Auslan interpreter to a captioner or a note taker, transcription to wheelchair access. It’s pretty straightforward. But when it comes up to consultation in the beginning, it reflects about what quality education you’re going to have, but also reflects the behaviour and the attitude and the culture of that institution.

Sometimes it tends to be uncomfortable, but it’s about me, should be on the same level as the other students, no matter if I have a disability or not.

[END VIDEO PLAYBACK]

Kate Bowmaker:

Thank you to Mathew for sharing their story with us. So now it is your turn, and for us to be able to hear from you again. I’m moving to the next slide. This slide is still about access to education for people with disability, and it has two questions on it. For the next five to six minutes or so, we’ll ask you to answer these two questions. Reflecting on what the standards cover in relation to access to education, and based on your own experience as a student with disability, a parent, an educator, an education provider or other, tell us how well do you think the standards currently work to help students with disability access education?

So that’s a rating. You have 1 to 5, and you can also say you’re not sure.

Question 3 is what do you think would improve access to education for people with disability?

§ (Music Playing) §

Hello again, and thank you for everyone’s contributions to those two questions. I’m going to start just by reading out what the ratings looked like for the first question in that section, and then I’m going to actually hand back over to Dr Ben Gauntlett, who’s going to talk a little bit about some of the comments that came through to question 3.

So in terms of how well do you think the standards currently work to help students with disability access education, we have nine people who have said they were unsure, 20 people not at all well, 18 people said slightly well, 42 people have said somewhat well – so that’s in the middle – 21 people fairly well, and two people very well. So we can see here that there is some work to do to make sure that the standards are achieving and helping students with disability, and that’s good data for us to know as a starting point.

But I will now hand over to Dr Ben Gauntlett to just talk a little bit about what he saw come through from some of your comments. Thank you Ben.

Ben Gauntlett:

Thanks very much Kate. I think there were a couple of key themes that could be emphasised coming through. One such theme is the importance of training, training for teachers and people being involved in the education and training system, training that included an acknowledgment that not all disability was a visible disability. The importance of understanding the impact of communication disabilities, and acknowledging the importance of culture associated with communication disabilities and being respectful of that issue, is something that’s really cropped up, and is I think again quite important.

There’s the issue of reasonable adjustment, and how reasonable adjustment is put in place and what are some of the reforms that could take place, and to simplify that particular issue is again something that’s coming through. Awareness raising is something that’s been commented on by people. And what they’re I think commenting upon is that there is a need for awareness as to a system where people transition through the education and training system, to not fall through the cracks. And that’s becoming a key theme, is that notion of having administrators and policy makers who understand that when people with disabilities are educated, they need to make sure they don’t fall between cracks when they go from say primary to secondary school or secondary school to vocation training.

And there’s also the concept of funding, and needing to have enough funding to ensure that adaptation can occur in the appropriate way necessary is also being articulated quite clearly. And what I think it’s important for people to realise in responding to the Discussion Paper is this notion of it’s important to not only acknowledge what is the problem, but also to try and think what is the best way to resolve the issue going forward. If it is training, what is the precise aspects of the training that are important for teachers or people who are working the education and training system to receive so that people with disabilities get the chance to really pursue their education goals, and to ensure that they can be educated in a way that’s both inclusive and respectful.

So I really think in terms of some of the themes that are coming forward, the three ones that are jumping out from this section Kate are the need for training, the need for appropriate awareness, and the need for funding.

Kate Bowmaker:

Thank you Ben. That’s excellent.

Okay. We’ll now move to session two, and we’ll go to our next PowerPoint slide.

So this session is about students with disability being able to fully participate in education. In the standards, Part 5 is about participation. They cover any student with a disability enrolled in an education institution, such as a school, and set out the obligations for education providers to make sure students with disability can participate on the same basis as other students. The standards say education providers must take reasonable steps to ensure a student is able to participate in the courses or programs provided, as well as use the facilities and services in the school on the same basis as a student without disability and without experiencing discrimination.

The provider must consult with the student or its family member, carer or their guardian about what adjustment is needed to make sure that they can participate at school. Things a provider may need to implement to enable the student to participate in a course or a program on the same basis as others might include that activities are sufficiently flexible and requirements are reviewed, to ensure a student is able to participate, that there are appropriate programs necessary to enable participation by the student, and that those are negotiated, agreed and implemented, that additional support is provided to the student where necessary, to assist them to be able to achieve those intended learning outcomes that course provides, and where a course or program includes an activity in which a student cannot participate, the student is offered an activity that constitutes a reasonable substitute. Then any activities that are not conducted in the classroom or extracurricular activities are also designed to include the student.

There’s another important part in ensuring a student with disability can fully participate, and that’s covered in Part 6 of the standards, which is about curriculum development, accreditation and delivery. This makes sure that when an education provider designs a course or a program, they take reasonable steps to ensure it’s designed in a way that any student with disability is able to participate in the learning experiences.

Providers need to make sure curriculum and teaching materials, assessment and certification requirements are appropriate to the needs of the student, and that they’re accessible to them. This includes making sure materials are available in a format that’s appropriate and accessible to the student, and the student’s not disadvantaged by the time that it takes to convert to those materials. It may also include providing additional support, such as bridging or enabling courses, or the development of disability specific skills. And also ensuring that any activities not conducted in the classroom, such as field trips or industry site visits or work placements, are also designed to be able to include the student.

So before we ask you some questions about your experience with students with disability participating in education, we want to share another video story with you, and this story is from Matt. So Matt is speaking about his experience participating during primary school. Thank you, and over to Matt.

[START VIDEO PLAYBACK]

§ (Music Playing) §

Matt:

When I was a young boy, I was very, very scared of going to my school again, because the way they treated me – the way they treated me at that school was not right. The first two classes were good, then when I got into Grade 3, I was popped in a big classroom. It was around with fifty kids, three teachers, and only some of them were only half-trained in education. They treated me a bit different than those other students got treated, because honestly, because I had a disability. I had an aide. Well, I only had an aide, and it was only a part-time aide, and what I really needed was a full-time aide to be with me all the time.

§ (Music Playing) §

They think they have the right to treat me different because I have a disability, and you’re not going to support my rights. It’s like discrimination. With me, I can go to school of my peers. I don’t want someone to take advantage of me because I have a disability when I have a voice. I have a voice and I have an opinion.

[END VIDEO PLAYBACK]

Kate Bowmaker:

Thank you to Matt for sharing their story with us. So now it is your turn again, and we will move to the next slide. On this slide, which is called ‘Participating in education’, there are two more questions. So again we’ll spend about five minutes on these two questions. The questions are, reflecting on what the standards cover in relation to students participating in education, and based on your own experience as a student or a parent or an educator or education provider or other, tell us do educators and education providers know how to make necessary adjustments so students with disability can participate in education? And why or why not?

The next question is question 5. What could be improved to ensure students with disability can fully participate in school? As you answer these questions, please keep in mind that as part of the 2020 Review, we also want to know your views and experiences about whether the standards effectively support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with disability, and students from other backgrounds to participate in education.

As you answer the second question – so that will be question 5 – responses will appear on the presentation screen, so you will be able to see other people’s answers. We’ll summarise some of the ideas and key themes again to those comments at the end of this session. So you have five minutes for those two questions. Thank you.

Thank you again to everyone for your contributions to those two questions, and many of you will be able to read some responses that other people have put on the screen on your presentation or video screen as well, just to question 5.

I am going to hand straight back over to Dr Ben Gauntlett, who’s going to talk a little bit about what we have seen come through again in those comments to the answers to these questions. Thank you Ben.

Ben Gauntlett:

Thanks very much Kate. In terms of the question do educators or education providers know how to make necessary adjustments so students with disability can participate in education, I think the best way to answer that question is whilst there was a diversity of views as to whether people had the necessary intentions – and the general proposition was that most teachers had good intentions in relation to making sure that necessary adjustments took place – there was a general lack of training, particularly training relating to having appropriate technology or knowing how particular equipment and/or processes would relate to individual disabilities, and that was something that needed to be looked at.

And in particular, the issue of customisation and listening to the views of the student with the disability or their parents as to what was the need relating to the disability, was something that’s really been borne out by the comments. And that need for sort of customisation and clear listening, and the importance of having a person authentically explain what is their need, was something that’s I think probably going to be an ongoing theme throughout the actual review itself, and the importance of allowing a person with disability to explain what it is they need to ensure that they can succeed to the best extent possible in education.

In terms of question 5 and what could be improved to ensure students with disability can fully participate at school, many people can obviously see some of the answers that have been given, but in terms of a summation of what has been said, specialised training is important in terms of ensuring that people can get the services they need. Understanding the need to seek specialist assistance on certain issues so that, for example, occupational therapists can give their views on issues, is also something that’s been borne out. The importance of good enrolment processes and practices is important. And finally, again, the issue of listening, and listening closely to what it is that’s being requested and engaging in a respectful process of consultation to ensure that any adjustments are appropriate is again a key theme that’s been borne out.

Kate Bowmaker:

Thank you Ben.

Okay. We are now going to move to session three, so I will go to the next slide.

So this session is about support for students to participate in education. In the standards, Part 7 is about student support services. It covers that an education provider must take reasonable steps to ensure a student with disability is able to use the support services that are used by other students in the institution, and also, if a specialised support is needed, the provider must take reasonable steps to ensure the student has access to the service. Sometimes this might mean arranging for it to be provided by another person or agency.

Students or their family, carer or guardian need to be adequately consulted about the support that they need. The ways an education provider may ensure a student is able to access support services and specialised support services, includes ensuring that staff are aware of the specialised services available for the student, and are provided with information that enables them to assist the student to access those services that they need. Specialised services should be facilitated, including through collaboration with specialised service providers. Any necessary specialised equipment needs to be provided to support the student in participating, and appropriately trained support staff, such as specialist teachers, interpreters, note takers, teacher aides, that they’re made available to students with disabilities.

In relation to supporting students to participate in education, the review will consider what barriers still exist for students to access that support, where particular circumstances, needs or major events might impact students’ participation at school – and of course we are referring there as well to COVID-19 – and whether the standards need to be improved to better support all students, particularly students with disability.

It is understood that access and participation in education for students with disability may be affected by other circumstances, such as their age, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or intersex status, their ethnic origin or race, and their culturally and linguistically diverse background.

So the review will also particularly look at whether the standards adequately support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to participate in education, how the standards could better support students who are from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, or students who are LGBTIQA+, whether the standards do enough in times of major events. So this includes wanting to know about the experiences of students and their families during COVID-19, such as the impacts of home schooling and remote schooling, and what this had on students and their ability to participate in school. This also extends to impacts from other recent events, particularly things such as the summer bushfires or other natural disasters.

So before we ask you some questions about your experience with students with disability being supported in their education, we do want to share another video story with you. This story is from Julia, who is currently in Year 11 at school. So thank you to Julia.

[START VIDEO PLAYBACK]

§ (Music Playing) §

Julia:

Support systems for disabled kids and teens is really important, because it’s about equity, which is very important to me, because it’s that no student has more rights than the other, and that that would be a misunderstanding thinking that disabled kids are getting a bunch of special treatment. It’s that we just need a little more to be on the same level. And I think that’s a really reassuring sort of model to go by for Disability Standards for Education.

§ (Music Playing) §

I’d like to be treated as not with any sort of otherness around the disability, because we see our disability representation in curriculum stops at motivational videos. And it’s a bit of a weird dynamic, sort of putting people with disabilities on a pedestal and being like ‘Look, if they can do it, you can too’. And it’s a really weird message to digest.

§ (Music Playing) §

I know a lot of disabled young people have mental health issues that stem from imposed feelings of inadequacy or not doing enough, and I think intersectionality is just a massive thing to consider, and I really appreciate the step towards that, that any sort of classroom disability support act would take.

[END VIDEO PLAYBACK]

Kate Bowmaker:

Thank you to Julia for sharing their story with us. So now it is your turn again, and I’ll go to the next PowerPoint slide.

This slide is called ‘Support to participate in education’. Again, for the next five minutes we will have two questions for you to answer. So we have one question on the slide at the moment, which I will read out, and then we’ll go to another slide with the second question. So the first question in this section, again, we would like you to reflect on your experiences as a student or a parent, an educator or other. How could the standards better support students with disability from diverse groups or with particular circumstances?

So in thinking about that question, some of the examples would be from the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with culturally diverse backgrounds who speak a language other than English at home, or who identify as LGBTIQA+, maybe who live in rural or remote areas, or have other particular circumstances or needs.

I’ll go to the next slide where we have our second question for this section. So again, this is about support to participate in education. The second question, question 7 on this slide, is how could the standards better make sure that students with disability can participate in education during disasters and major events, such as COVID-19?

As you answer the second question, your responses will appear again on the presentation screen, so you will be able to see other people’s answers. We’ll summarise some of the ideas and key themes of these comments again at the end of this session. So you’ve got about another five minutes for these two questions.

Thank you again to everyone for contributing to those two questions. And those are obviously two very big questions as part of the review, and very important. So I am going to hand over again to Dr Ben Gauntlett to be able to talk about some of the responses that we saw coming through to both of those questions. Thank you Ben.

Ben Gauntlett:

Thanks very much Kate. In terms of the question how could the standards better support students with disability from diverse groups or particular circumstances, I think that the responses that were received really do reflect Julia’s eloquent comments in her video relating to the need to understand the concept of substantive equality. That is that you can treat difference differently to get equality of opportunity. And in dealing with issues such as intersectionality or people from particular groups or particular circumstances, what the comments are clearly emphasising is first that you have to acknowledge the issue of intersectionality, acknowledge the potential disadvantage that may exist as a result of intersectionality, that you need to train people to deal with that particular issue, and then to have specific processes and policies in place to ensure that teachers have the training so that they can deal with the issue in a transparent manner, with repeated consultation occurring relating to the issue at hand.

In terms of question 7, which is particularly pressing at the moment in the issue of COVID-19, or the bushfires, a couple of the critical concerns that are coming out is one is the importance of clear communication as to what is the processes that will exist for people with disability in education, the resourcing of any policies relating to ensuring that people with disability are included in the policy response from government, and also then the following up of what is the response to ensure that teachers and parents and people with disability have the necessary resources to ensure that there is meaningful inclusion going forward.

The responses are clearly indicating that one size does not fit all, and there’s an important issue of communication and tailoring responses to ensure that people with disability are included. So I think that’s obviously a very important question at the moment, and one that will have to be repeatedly revisited by education authorities and providers in the coming months.

Kate Bowmaker:

Thank you Ben.

Okay. We will move straight on to session four of the webinar today. So we have two more sessions to go. I’ll move to the next slide. And this session is about treatment at school.

The session is about the way students are treated at school. It is particularly about eliminating harassment and victimisation, which are covered in Part 8 of the standards. The standards cover that an education provider must take reasonable steps to ensure that its staff and students are informed about the obligation not to harass or victimise students with disabilities, the appropriate action to be taken if harassment or victimisation occurs, and the complaint mechanisms that are available to a student and their family.

The measures that they take include that policies, procedures and codes of conduct must explicitly prohibit harassment and victimisation of students with disabilities, and families or carers. Procedures for handling cases or complaints of harassment and victimisation need to be fair, transparent and accountable. Students and staff are effectively informed and reminded at appropriate intervals of their rights and responsibilities in maintaining an environment free from harassment and victimisation on the basis of disability. That there are professional development programs in place and offered to staff to ensure that the policies and procedures and the codes of conduct are known, and that they’re understood by staff and the staff are trained to detect and deal with harassment. And that any cases or complaints of harassment or victimisation on the basis of disability are handled promptly and with due regard to the severity of the matter.

So we’ll go to the next slide called ‘Treatment at school’. There’s one question in this section for you to contribute if you want to. The responses to this question will not be shown on the screen. We’d like you to reflect on what the standards cover in relation to harassment and victimisation, and based on your experience as a student or a parent, a carer, an educator or an education provider, and tell us do you think education providers are doing enough to prevent harassment or victimisation of students with disability, and why or why not? What more could they be doing?

So in your response, please think about why or why not and what more they could be doing.

So we’ll go to that question now, and we’ll have another five minutes to be able to answer that question. Thank you.

Thank you again for sharing those contributions to that question. Again I’m going to hand straight over to Dr Ben Gauntlett to just talk a little bit about some of the responses we saw coming through there. Thanks Ben.

Ben Gauntlett:

Thanks very much Kate. I think, perhaps understandably, there were several strongly worded responses to this particular question, and there was some concern that not enough was being done in areas. There was also some good practices outlined by educators, but one of the concerns that was raised was that there was a need to undertake training not just of educators, but also of other students, and the importance of knowledge in the area, as to the specific types of disability and some of the needs of students with disabilities as it existed within the particular environments in which they were.

There was also raised an interesting point relating to the issue of advocacy and the importance of advocacy services in different settings to enable people with disability to participate in certain settings. And that’s something which is quite an important issue to perhaps further pursue in the context of the review. And finally, one of the things that was raised was that when staff are trained, it’s important that that training is consistent, so that people who are dealing with the education system, there’s a consistency approach to dealing with certain issues.

Kate Bowmaker:

Thank you Ben. And those comments that are coming through on a number of questions about some of that staff training I think are very relevant to our final section, so section five of today’s webinar as well, and that’s going to be about the awareness and understanding of the standards. So let’s move to session five. I’ll go to the next slide.

This session is about your awareness or understanding of the standards, and how this can be improved. There were two previous reviews of the standards, as Ben mentioned in his opening introduction, and they were undertaken in 2010 and 2015. Themes in these previous reviews showed that there were issues with awareness and understanding of the standards. So in relation to awareness, they suggested that more could be done to ensure that the standards had a user focus, were promoted widely and were accessible to all and were well understood. And in relation to how well the standards were understood, they suggested there is a varying interpretation at the moment, and back then, and application of specific terms such as reasonable adjustment and unjustifiable hardship.

The review suggests the need for greater support and guidance on the best practice for educators. During the 2020 Review, we want to consider whether awareness of the standards has improved during the past five years, so since that last review, and whether people have other ideas about ways to raise awareness of the standards and also make sure that they are better understood.

Before we ask you some questions about your views on how much awareness there is about the standards, we want to share first a video story with you. This is our final video story for today, and this is from Tim. Now Tim wrote this himself, and recorded it and supplied it to us. Tim is non-verbal and believes strongly that the standards need to be better understood.

[START VIDEO PLAYBACK]

§ (Music Playing) §

Tim:

Hi. My name is Tim Chan. Hi. My name is Tim Chan.

I am a non-speaker on the autism spectrum. The Disability Standards aims to achieve inclusion. From my experience, inclusion takes time to develop. In Years 7 and 8, my mainstream high school didn’t accept that I need to communicate using assisted typing. They blocked the use of my speech generating device, and refused training for my aide to support my typing. I felt completely isolated, and went into clinical depression.

After strenuous efforts from advocates and family in negotiation with the school, I was finally able to type in Year 9. With more inclusive practices, I managed to complete high school. But the school only recognised my complex communication needs and took appropriate action in line with the DSE after years of negotiation for reasonable adjustments.

§ (Music Playing) §

Inclusion comes from a mindset, in seeing people with disabilities as individuals like everyone else. This attitude must be embraced by school leaders as well as the school community. In my case, I was lucky to have staff and classmates, especially a terrific aide, to accept me as a person. But it took its toll. It took four years before I summonsed the necessary courage and confidence to go back to formal studies at university.

Inclusion is achievable with seeing past the disability to look at us as people, to see our strengths, rather than our differences and limitations.

§ (Music Playing) §

Inclusion provides opportunity to participate and contribute. Inclusion provides opportunity to participate and contribute.

[END VIDEO PLAYBACK]

Kate Bowmaker:

Thank you to Tim for sharing their story and taking the time to be able to record and submit that to us.

I’ll move to the next slide.

So it’s your turn again. These are our final two questions of today. And on this slide we’re talking about awareness and understanding of standards.

So the two final questions for you to consider over the next, again, five minutes are question nine, how much awareness do you think there is about the Disability Standards for Education? And that’s another ratings question. So rate from one to five. And then question 10 is are there any actions you think could be taken to raise awareness of the standards and make sure that they’re better understood?

As people answer the first question, you’ll be able to view the ratings, and I’ll read those ratings out again so that everybody knows what that’s come out with. Your responses to the second question will also be visible to others, once we move past that first rating screen. So this will help you to share with others and others to build off ideas and actions that might help to improve awareness.

So five minutes for our last two questions.

Thank you everyone again for answering those two questions. And we’ve ended up with a lot of great comments and really constructive ideas there for actions that could be taken to improve awareness of the standards, which I’ll hand over again to Ben in a minute to be able to talk about.

Just in relation to question nine and the rating, so that sat at about 2.3 out of 5. So people joining this webinar, around almost 100 people, have sort of said that it’s not quite there, over halfway yet, in terms of how they would rate awareness of the standards. So there’s obviously a little bit to do there, which is why the second question about the actions that could be taken to improve that awareness are really important.

So Ben, I’ll hand over to you again to talk about some of those actions.

Ben Gauntlett:

Thanks very much Kate. In terms of the actions that were suggested, it’s perhaps obvious that training is suggested to be very important in this area, but there was a divergence in views in relation to the regularity of that training. It was potentially training in terms of teachers when they’re being educated at university, or whether they needed to do it in a professional development setting each year. There was also the issue raised as to whether there needed to be some sort of public campaign so that everyone was aware of this issue, including the students and parents of students with a disability, just to ensure that there was this broad level of understanding of the role of the Disability Education Standards.

And I think within that there’s perhaps a broader theme developing of not just that there’s a need for awareness raising in terms of training, but also what is that training and how that training is developed to ensure that it is proliferated throughout society, but also within that, that all people with disability are considered so that they can benefit from the training that is provided. And I think one of the more pertinent statements that was provided was that we need good exemplars. That is that although we need training, we also need examples of what is good or great practice in the area. And I thought that was a particularly pertinent comment.

Kate Bowmaker:

Thank you Ben. And that’s the last time we’ll probably cross to you Ben, so I do want to thank you very much for taking part in the webinar today. And the insight and the way you’ve been able to talk about some of those comments coming through and drawing out what’s important there has been really excellent. So thanks for doing that for us throughout today’s session.

Ben Gauntlett:

Pleasure.

Kate Bowmaker:

Okay. I’m going to move to the next slide. And as you know, that was our last session, so we are now wrapping up, and this slide is about wrapping up. So we’re almost to the end of today’s webinar. Just a reminder that we will have menti.com open until 12 o’clock tomorrow. So the site is menti.com. That’s where we’ve been answering our questions. And the code is 820031.

So I also wanted to remind everyone on this webinar that there are three more public webinars available to attend. Those have a focus on educators, tertiary and vocational and education and training, and then another one on early childhood. If you’re interested in those topics, you can attend another webinar, and we’ll have a different series of questions.

So again I want to thank Dr Ben Gauntlett, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, for being able to join us today, and for his comments and guidance throughout the session. I’d also like to thank all of the participants who’ve joined the webinar today, and particularly for contributing your comments and your experiences. We encourage you to share the review with others, and encourage others, as Ben said earlier, as many people with disability in particular to be able to contribute as part of this review.

Now I will now hand back to Kylie Crane, the First Assistant Secretary of the Disability Strategy Taskforce, to be able to close out our webinar today. Thank you Kylie.

Kylie Crane:

Thank you Kate for facilitating today’s webinar, and thank you to everyone who participated in the discussion. We’ve collected lots of valuable insights, and look forward to hearing from many others in the upcoming webinars that we’ll be running. We’ll use the information that you’ve given us today to help determine if the standards are doing what they’re meant to do, and if they’re helping students with disability. If we find that the standards are not working well, and that there are parts that could be improved, we’ll make recommendations on what needs to change. This will be done in partnership with state and territory governments, who will work closely and collaboratively to develop the final report and recommendations.

And we plan to focus on opportunities where the Australian Government, states and territories and government and non‑government education providers can work together to improve the experiences of students with disability. The review report will be provided to the Federal Minister for Education in December 2020, and will be presented to all governments for their consideration in early 2021.

As has been mentioned a number of times, there are other ways to contribute. So apart from today’s webinar, you can make a submission, complete the questionnaire, express interest in participating in a focus group or online discussion board. If you’d like to receive updates on the review, you can also join our mailing list at the address shown on screen, and that is disabilitystandardsreview.education.gov.au.

Thank you again for your time today and your contributions.

[Closing visual of slide text saying ‘Australian Government with Crest (logo)’, ‘Department of Education, Skills and Employment’]

[End of Transcript]


Videos Stories Back to top

Throughout the 2020 Review of the Disability Standards for Education 2005, we want to understand the experiences of current and former students with disability and their families.

The following stories are shared by young people with disability and family members as part of the 2020 Review. They can help you to think about the different experiences students have and how the Standards should work to ensure all students can access and participate in education and training, on the same basis as other students.

Luka's story


So I'm a teacher aide of a teacher aide. Sometimes I help them with, like, problems like what happened at home. I can help you with that stuff, like I can help you with computers. Because when I was a student, I literally loved computers. I know there's new ways, new tricks, so sometimes I help them with computers a little bit. With maths or English sheets and I help them with that as well sometimes.

Helping more kids to be good, to help them to go through some tough skills to go through for life, and just help them out, and it's just a great and wonderful thing to happen to them. Being with the teachers, helping the kids and you'll learn what you have so far.

So when I was a student when I was at school, I felt really good there I had a few teachers and it felt really nice to be there so I could be with a couple of my friends and I liked it. You have a schedule, you have a time, you can go through what you have and then go through your book and, like, say 'Oh okay, I have maths, I've finished on maths, I've finished English' and it felt good, and it just relieved, and I am also happy to complete what I have done and it's nice.



Tim's story


Hi, my name is Tim Chan

I am a non-speaker on the autism spectrum. The disability standards aims to achieve inclusion.

From my experience, inclusion takes time to develop. In year 7 and 8, my mainstream high school didn't accept that I need to communicate using assisted typing. They blocked the use of my speech-generating device, and refused training for my aide to support my typing. I felt completely isolated, and went into clinical depression.

After strenuous efforts from advocates and family in negotiation with the school, I was finally able to type in Year 9. With more inclusive practices, I managed to complete high school. But the school only recognised my complex communication needs, and took appropriate action in line with the DSE after years of negotiation for reasonable adjustments.

Inclusion comes from a mindset, in seeing people with disabilities as individuals like everyone else. This attitude must be embraced by school leaders as well as the school community. In my case, I was lucky to have staff and classmates, especially a terrific aide, to accept me as a person. But it took its toll. It took 4 years before I summoned the necessary courage and confidence to go back to formal studies at university.

Inclusion is achievable with seeing past the disability to look at us as people, to see our strengths, rather than our differences and limitations.

Inclusion provides opportunity to participate and contribute.



Mathew's story


From my understanding, having that Standard, it's a very good guide to ... towards inclusive education. So that's the important part. So, but, another part is missing about how you regulate that behaviour what the Standard tells you, not really what to do but guide you to what to do.

I think there would be a little bit more to work around, not just about reasonable adjustments. Because reasonable adjustment is because the person had a voice, they know what to expect. That's pretty simple. Auslan interpreter to a captioner, or a note-taker, transcription to wheelchair access. It's pretty straightforward.

But when it comes up to consultation in the beginning it reflects about what quality education you're going to have, but also reflects what the behaviour and the attitude and the culture of that institution.

Sometimes it tends to be uncomfortable. But it's about me should be on the same level as the other students, no matter if I have a disability or not.



Mathew's university story


My first year was quite interesting because it's not just about the course you study. It's also were you going to move out of home and live in a different place. So university is a bit more a social communication kind of level because it's adults and independent. It really depends what background, where you come from. So if you're coming from a high school that have a lot of students with disability there you're more likely to learn, to know about someone else. It really depends on the demographic.

So if you have a really good culture it will reflect more enrolment. on inclusive education, because the co-design element of that is very different to the non-university models. It's a little bit lack of transparency around how that's, how they set up the system using those standards. Because every school is different. Every university is different. It's how they train in their ways. It's very mainstream because they ... they got the job, they 've done a PhD and then become an associate lecturer or something like that. They don't talk about social or communication. How you do your work ethics, are you able to communicate with people, like in leadership, do you need stuff. It's all they focus on - the course content.

I could only get very, very basic support from the student services. Which is, pretty much a note-taker. From a student of the same class, and I can't get ... it doesn't feel right, no. And because some of the notes, like half of one page for an hour lecture! That's not enough for me! But I feel like there's solutions around a way from your primary school or high school teachers get some training about, like something what happened to me, like get teacher aide. So at university, I think it should have training the same way but adjusted to academic, the aspect because they're very different strategies. So I think it's really up to universities, should invest around that area.



Matt's story


When I was a young boy, I was very ...I was very, very scared of going to my school again because the way they treated me ... The way they treated me at that school was not right. The first two classes were good, then when I got into grade three I was popped in a big classroom. It was around with fifty kids, three teachers, and ... and only some of them were only half-half-trained in ... education.

They treated me ... a bit different than those other students got treated because, honestly ... because I had a disability ... I had an aide. Well, I only had an aide and it was only a part-time aide and what I really needed was a full-time aide to be with me all the time.

They think they have the right to treat me different because I have a disability and you're not going to ... support my rights. It's like ... discrimination. With me ... I can go to school of my peers. I don't want someone to take advantage of me because I have a disability when I have a voice. I have a voice ... and I have an opinion.



Julia's story

Support systems for disabled kids and teens is really important because it's about equity, which is very important to me because it's that no student has more rights

than the other and that that would be a misunderstanding, thinking that disabled kids getting a bunch of special treatment. It's that we just need a little more

to be on the same level. And that that's, I think that's a really reassuring sort of model to go by for a Disability Standards for education.

I'd like to be treated as, not with any sort of otherness around the disability because we see, our disability representation in curriculum stops at motivational videos and it's a bit of a weird dynamic, sort of putting people with disabilities on a pedestal and being like: 'look, if they can do it, you can too!' and it's a really weird message to digest. I know a lot of disabled young people have mental health issues that stem from imposed feelings of inadequacy, or not doing enough and I think intersectionality is just a massive thing to consider and I really appreciate the step towards that, that any sort of classroom disability support act would take.


Lavendar's story

I suffer from a condition called cone dystrophy which has a bit of a ... takes a bit of a toll on my school life and education. I do want to further my education. I'm planning on studying forensic psychology, then getting a law degree. I've got ideas, and I'm going to try my best to accomplish them.

I've had two experiences, it's kind of ... I haven't found one that's in between. P.E teachers are very overly aiding, like, they kind of like baby you, in a sense. Or on the completely other side of the spectrum they just are very cold, and just don't understand and like just like treat you as if, you know, like sadly like nothing's really ... as if you don't really have a problem in that area. It definitely causes me a lot of anxiety actually because I don't know where most classes are And there's been quite a few times where I've actually gone to the wrong class because that's where I thought it was but it wasn't.

There's been lots of times where I've had homework sent to me or given to me and the colours clash a lot and I can't see them. My mum's had to like transcribe or like ... write it down more simply ... just in plain black and white. And she often has to like, make it in a much bigger font.

Just to be a bit more inclusive, it would be very, very helpful. Every time I have moved schools, Vision Australia has recommended that they go to the school and they, like, teach them about what I can and can't see and what I have troubles with. And, like ... some schools have, like, brushed that off it would be really useful if they just listened to a professional.