Education International
Education International

Australia: Government must do more for students with disabilities

published 11 February 2015 updated 12 February 2015

With an estimated 100,000 Australian students with a disability being denied financial support, the Abbott Government is being called upon to urgently deliver on its promise to increase funding to those who need it most.

In 2009, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that there were 292,000 students with a disability in Australia, however, figures from the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services showed that 190,887 students with a disability received funding support in Australian schools in 2013, representing 5.3 per cent of total students,” said Correna Haythorpe, President of the Australian Education Union (AEU).

According to Haythorpe, this means that at least 100,000 students with a disability are not getting any kind of funding support, and the figure is likely to be higher when population growth is taken into account.

Sticking to the Gonski plan

Haythorpe stressed that students are unable to access the education they need due to a lack of resources, such as support staff in schools. “Equal treatment for Australians with a disability must start with an education that lets them reach their potential. Anything less is a national disgrace which will have huge social costs in the future.”

She highlighted significant inequities in funding, with some wealthy schools receiving over $40,000 for every student with a disability, are further evidence of a failing system.

“These figures clearly show that if the Abbott Government does not commit to the full six-year funding of the Gonski education reforms, with their goal of bringing all schools to a minimum resource standard, we will be left with an even more inequitable system than we have now,” Haythorpe said.

State differences

Further complicating matters, huge variations in the proportion of students being funded in different States is an issue caused by a lack of common definitions of disability. The AEU is urging states and territories to take responsibility and put pressure on the Abbott Government to honour the full six years of Gonski reforms, including a disability loading that reflects the actual cost of educating students with a disability.