Protecting the rights of children and young people with disability


    People with disability can experience discrimination when they are treated less favourably than people without disability in similar circumstances. It is against the law to discriminate against someone because of their disability. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 prohibits discrimination against people with disability in employment, education, publicly available premises, in the provision of goods and services, accommodation, clubs and associations, and other contexts.

    The social model of disability says  ‘disability’ is the result of the interaction between people living with impairments and an environment filled with physical, attitudinal, communication and social barriers. It therefore carries the implication that the environment must change to enable people living with impairments to participate in society on an equal basis with others.

    Segregation is discrimination

    CYDA and 41 other disability rights and advocacy organisations have endorsed a position paper asking the Disability Royal Commission to actively work toward the goal of ending the segregation of people with disability in schools, housing and workplaces. People with disability fought long and hard for a Disability Royal Commission, and now we need them to fight for real reform, to fix the discriminatory and exploitative systems that keep us from fully participating in education and employment and living independently. 
    You can find out more and join the fight by endorsing the position paper here: This webpage also has the position paper, including Easy Read and Plain English versions.
    You can also share the campaign on social media using the hashtag: #EndSegregation

    Discrimination against children and young people with disability

    Children and young people with disability often face discrimination. In the social model of disability, barriers and discrimination occur because of systems, attitudes, structures and institutions that are not inclusive or either directly or indirectly discriminate against people with disability. Children and young people with disability are often denied the right to inclusive education and to participate equally in mainstream settings as their peers without disability.

    The post-school transition to further education and employment for young people with disability is often poor and they receive little tailored information or support. This discrimination and inequality can continue throughout people’s lives, with significantly poorer outcomes for people with disability in areas including higher education, employment, health and social participation.

    Young people with disability experience significantly higher rates of unemployment than those without disability, due to a lack of reasonable adjustments and lower expectations by employers and, therefore, the need to rely on income support. Accessing and obtaining employment is typically characterised by disadvantage and exclusion.

    CYDA’s work is to advocate systemically for the human rights of children and young people with disability and the promotion of equality and non-discrimination.

    Relevant legislation

    There is international and federal legislation to protect people with disability against discrimination, including:

    More information

    For more information about discrimination and your rights, visit the Australian Human Rights Commission website.

    Visit our Get help page to find out more information about the anti-discrimination authority in your state or territory and where you can make a complaint. There are also disability legal services where you can get free legal advice about disability discrimination.


    • What is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?

      The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international human rights treaty to promote and protect the rights and freedoms of all people with disability. Australia signed this Convention in 2008.

      Article 5 of the CRPD covers equality and non-discrimination, with obligations for signatories to the Convention including:

      1. State Parties recognise that all persons are equal before and under the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law.
      2. State Parties shall prohibit all discrimination on the basis of disability and guarantee to persons with disabilities equal and effective legal protection against discrimination on all grounds.
      3. In order to promote equality and eliminate discrimination, State Parties shall take all appropriate steps to ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided.
      4. Specific measures which are necessary to accelerate or achieve de facto equality of persons with disabilities shall not be considered discrimination under the terms of the present Convention.

      Reference: United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

    • What laws are there in Australia to prevent discrimination?

      The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) is Australia’s main source of legal protection of people with disability. The legislation is based on Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

      All states and territories also have anti-discrimination legislation to prevent discrimination against people with disability:

      • Australian Capital Territory – Discrimination Act 1991
      • New South Wales – Anti-Discrimination Act 1977
      • Northern Territory – Anti-Discrimination Act 1996
      • Queensland – Anti-Discrimination Act 1991
      • South Australia – Equal Opportunity Act 1984
      • Tasmania – Anti-Discrimination Act 1998
      • Victoria – Equal Opportunity Act 2010
      • Western Australia – Equal Opportunity Act 1984.

      Reference: Australian Human Rights Commission, A quick guide to Australian discrimination laws.

    • How do I know if I have been discriminated against because of my disability?

      A person with disability may experience discrimination when they are treated less favourably than a person without disability in the same circumstances or situation.

      Direct discrimination occurs when a person is discriminated against because of their disability. For example, not allowing a child to enrol in the local school because of their disability.

      Indirect discrimination can occur if a person denies or proposes not to make reasonable adjustments for a person with disability. For example, not having reasonable adjustments at work or school to perform or learn on the same basis as peers without disability.

      Indirect discrimination can also occur when a person with disability is not able to comply with a requirement or condition, or when the requirement or condition has or is likely to have the effect of disadvantaging a person with disability. For example, when a traffic light without sound to cross disadvantages a vision-impaired pedestrian, or there is difficulty in accessing a public building that does not have a ramp for wheelchair users.

      Reference: Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Part 1, 5 and 6, direct and indirect disability discrimination.

    • In what areas am I protected from discrimination?

      The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 protects a person with disability in the following areas:

      • employment – getting a job, the terms and conditions of a job, training, promotion and dismissal
      • education – enrolling or studying in a course at a private or public school, college or university
      • accommodation and land – renting or buying a house or unit
      • getting or using services – such as banking and insurance services, services provided by government departments, transport or telecommunication services, professional services like those provided by lawyers, doctors or tradespeople, services provided by restaurants, shops or entertainment venues
      • sport – to participate in a sporting activity
      • clubs and incorporated associations – to be accepted as a member
      • accessing public places or premises – such as parks, government offices, restaurants, hotels or shopping centres.

      Reference: Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Part two, Prohibition of disability discrimination.

    • When is discrimination not against the law?

      Discrimination may not be against the law in some situations, such as when a situation imposes an unjustifiable hardship on another person. For example, declining the employment of a person with hearing impairment in a call centre responsible for taking phone calls. As taking phone calls is an inherent requirement of the job, the person cannot perform the job requirements.

      State anti-discrimination legislation also has exceptions where discrimination is not against the law in specific circumstances.

      Reference: Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Part one, 11 and Part two, 21A and 21B.


    • Where can I make a complaint about discrimination?

      You can make a complaint about disability discrimination to the Australian Human Rights Commission, no matter where you live in Australia.

      You can also get help from state and territory anti-discrimination bodies and make complaints to them.

    • How much does it cost to make a complaint about discrimination?

      It does not cost anything to make a complaint about discrimination. 


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