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Forum focuses on ending mistreatment of people with disabilities in detention

speaker speaking at the forum

The University of NSW hosted the National Forum addressing the cruel, degrading, and inhumane treatment of individuals with disabilities and mental health disorders in detention facilities across Australia. Guided by Natalie Wade, Founder and Principal Lawyer Director of Equality Lawyers, along with disability and justice advocates Taylor Budin and Justen Thomas, the forum delved into these pressing concerns.

Close to 100 lived experience experts, advocates, academics and policymakers met in Sydney last week to plan the way forward for ending the mistreatment of thousands of people with disability who are detained in institutions every year across Australia.

The National Forum was supported by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

During the National Forum, participants heard the stories of just some of the thousands of young people and adults with disabilities who are detained every year in prisons, immigration detention facilities, disability group homes, hospitals, aged care facilities, mental health institutions and other places of detention.

Many are subject to trauma-inducing maltreatment, and a significant number come from Furst Nations communities.

The treatment includes solitary confinement, strip searches, physical or chemical restraints under the guide of behaviour modification, forced medical treatment and the use of spit hoods and other restrictive practices.

This kind of treatment risks contravening Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT).

Last year the UN Committee Against Torture called on the Australian government to better protect adults and children with disability from the use of psychotropic medications, physical restraints, seclusion and indefinite custody.

A chief outcome of the National Forum will be the development of a National Action Plan by civil society to ensure that these recommendations are effectively implemented.

Australian Human Rights Commissioner and Forum speaker, Lorraine Finlay, stated “Initiatives such as this National Forum shine a light on the conditions within Australia’s detention regimes and are vital to raising awareness of how the rights of vulnerable people risk being breached.”

Commissioner Finlay continued, “People with disabilities are entitled to the dignity and justice that Australia has guaranteed to provide as part of our CAT obligations. I look forward to the impact the proposed National Action Plan will have in this regard.”

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