Inquiry into Legal Barriers for People with Disabilities

A new inquiry will consider whether Commonwealth laws and legal frameworks create barriers to people with disability exercising their rights and legal capacity.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC has formally referred the inquiry into Legal Barriers for People with Disabilities to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), and appointed the Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes AM to the ALRC to support the inquiry.

“People with disability deserve the opportunity to make decisions affecting their lives,” Dreyfus said.

In welcoming Commissioner Innes’ appointment, Minister for Disability Reform Jenny Macklin said that as Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner Innes has been a powerful advocate for people with disability.

“Mr Innes’ work in ensuring that people with disability have access to the same rights and opportunities as Australians without disability ideally positions him to lead this important Inquiry,” Macklin said.

“The inquiry follows the historic launch of DisabilityCare Australia on 1 July this year- a momentous achievement that will finally give people with disability the certainty they deserve.

“Inquiries undertaken by the Australian Law Reform Commission provide a unique opportunity for in depth consideration of issues of law.”

President of the Australian Law Reform Commission, Rosalind Croucher says the inquiry has two parts: equal recognition before the law’ and ‘ability to exercise legal capacity’ and, with respect to both, to consider where laws and legal frameworks within the Commonwealth jurisdiction deny or diminish these things.

“As it is just over two decades since the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), it is appropriate to review aspects of the lived experiences of people with disability where laws and legal frameworks impede equality in some way,” Croucher told a recent NGO Forum on Human Rights.

“Overall the feedback on the draft terms of reference was very positive,” the Attorney General said.

“We have made changes to the terms of reference based on the consultation and I’m looking forward to the ALRC’s final report on this topic, which is due in August 2014.”

Graeme Innes has been Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner since December 2005.

During that time, he has also served as Australia's Human Rights Commissioner for three and a half years and as Race Discrimination Commissioner for two years.

He was Chair of the Disability Advisory Council of Australia, and the first Chair of Australia's national blindness agency, Vision Australia. In 1995 Graeme was made a Member of the Order of Australia.

Innes is a lawyer, mediator and company director. He has been a human rights practitioner for 30 years in NSW, WA and nationally, and a Member of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal, the NSW Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, and the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.

He has also been a Hearing Commissioner with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

The terms of Reference can be found here.

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