Disability lawyers call on Michaelia Cash to reform discrimination laws

Disability lawyers call on Michaelia Cash to reform discrimination laws

05 July 2021 By Naomi Neilson
Disability

After a court made disability discrimination cases “near on impossible to prove”, an alliance of lawyers started working alongside disability rights and community groups to lobby Attorney-General Michaelia Cash to rewrite the relevant discrimination laws.

The group of 46 disability rights, community and legal organisations and 15 individuals – including members of the Australian Discrimination Law Experts Group (ADLEA) – has argued that a Federal Court case is undermining the protections people with disability are supposed to enjoy under anti-discrimination laws. 

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ADLEA president and disability lawyer Natalie Wade said the Sklavos case had effectively removed the onus of organisations to take positive action to accommodate a person’s disability, mirroring the group’s letter to Michaelia Cash that it had effectively created a “new and impracticable legal hurdle” for people with a disability. 

“Thanks to the Sklavos case, people with disability face the burden of proving there’s a casual connection between their disability and the organisation’s failure to provide reasonable accommodations,” Ms Wade commented. “With such an insurmountable barrier, it is near on impossible to prove disability discrimination in court and much more difficult to secure reasonable adjustments in practice.”

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The group were shut down by former attorney-general Christian Porter and told to wait until the next government commences when they wrote to him in 2018. Now, they are requesting a meeting with Ms Cash to discuss the law changes. 

Almost half of people with disability report experiencing disability discrimination from their employer and one in six have reported experiencing some form of discrimination in education settings. Before the Sklavos case set a new precedent, they were protected under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA).

People with Disability Australia chief executive officer Sebastian Zagarella said the court’s interpretation of the act had to be set right with legislative change. 

“We are calling on Senator Cash and the Morrison government to reconfirm the intentions of the Disability Discrimination Act and make it essential that organisations provide reasonable adjustments to people with disability,” Mr Zagarella said.

Disability lawyers call on Michaelia Cash to reform discrimination laws
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