The National Disability Strategy (NDS) is the national policy framework to guide Australian governments to meet their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which entered into force in Australia in 2008. The NDS is a ten-year Strategy that was formally endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2011. Under the NDS, a high-level Progress Report will be submitted to the COAG every two years. The first of these is due in late 2014. This Submission from WWDA to the COAG, assesses whether, if and how the NDS is promoting, protecting, respecting and fulfilling the human rights of women and girls with disabilities in Australia. Importantly, this assessment from WWDA includes the provision of a critical analysis of where the NDS appears to be failing women and girls with disabilities.

This Submission from WWDA is critically important given that to date, despite Australia’s international human rights obligations in relation to gender equality – all aspects of the NDS are un-gendered. WWDA’s Submission sends a strong and urgent message to all Governments that public policy which treats people with disabilities as a homogenous group only serves to perpetuate the stereotype of people with disabilities as asexual, genderless human beings, and gives rise to a policy, program and service vacuum whereby the human rights of women and girls with disabilities remain violated, denied, ignored and trivialized.

WWDA’s Submission demonstrates the vital importance of gender as a central consideration in the development of legislation, policy and programs to advance gender equality and to promote the human the rights of women and girls with disabilities. It also includes, for the consideration of COAG, key areas for future directions in order to strengthen the NDS as a mechanism to advance the human rights of women and girls with disabilities.

This includes ensuring the NDS provides gender specific measures and women-specific initiatives, programs and projects in order to address the undisputed gender inequalities and ultimately, to achieve the NDS vision of ‘an inclusive Australian society that enables people with disability to fulfil their potential as equal citizens’.

Copyright WWDA April 2014.