International participation in disability issues

The Department of Social Services (DSS) works with disabled peoples organisations, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Australian Human Rights Commissioner and international organisations, including the United Nations (UN), on policy development and research for Australian and international disability issues.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) provides a framework for all nations, describing the rights of persons with disabilities and setting out processes and expectations to maintain and secure these rights. Although the CRPD does not create new rights, it specifically prohibits discrimination against people with disability in all areas of life.

On 30 March 2007, Australia was one of the original state signatories to the CRPD. On 17 July 2008 and 30 July 2009 sequentially, Australia ratified the CRPD and the Optional Protocol. The Optional Protocol makes Australia more accountable, ensuring CRPD obligations are achieved and promotes Australia as an international leader in disability rights.

Australia implements the CRPD through legislation, policy and programs. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 aims to ensure people with disability have the same rights to equality before the law as the rest of the community. In line with Australia’s commitments under the CRPD, Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-2031 (The Strategy) will play an important role in protecting, promoting and realising the human rights of people with disability. The Strategy sets out a plan agreed to by all levels of government (Australian, state, territory and local) to improve the lives of people with disability. The 50 articles contained in the CRPD flow through to the policy priorities of the Strategy and, in addition, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Commonwealth commitments, including funding for the Disability Representative Organisations and other state and territories’ commitments, are all mechanisms in meeting CRPD requirements.

Australia participated in the inaugural election of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Committee). Australia first appeared before the Committee in 2013 and its second appearance was in 2019, where it presented the combined second and third periodic report. Australia is scheduled to submit its combined fourth and fifth periodic report in 2026. States Parties’ key documents relating to the Committee’s reporting cycle are on the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner website.

Australian Government, disabled peoples organisations and disability advocacy organisation representatives attend the annual Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the CRPD. The COSP provides an opportunity for Australia to engage in dialogue with other nations, and connect individuals and organisations with best practice ideas around mechanisms to secure and advance the rights of persons with disabilities. The 17th session of the COSP is scheduled to take place between 11 - 13 June 2024. Information about Australian Government assistance for disability peak organisations and disability advocacy representatives to attend key international forums on human rights can be found on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.

Australian legislation to support the rights of people with disability includes:

DSS is preparing the Disability Services and Inclusion Bill 2023 (the Bill) for introduction into Parliament. The Bill is drafted to repeal and replace the Disability Services Act 1986 (the current Act).

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