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A new report has revealed that Indigenous people with disabilities are more likely to experience discrimination and are likely to avoid accessing essential services because of racism.
Mikele Syron

28 Aug 2020 - 8:56 AM  UPDATED 1 Sep 2020 - 12:18 PM

The report found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with a disability are 1.6 times more likely to report racism than those without a disability and are almost twice as likely to avoid certain situations because of past experiences of discrimination.

The report published by the Australian Social Policy Association reveals that between 2014 and 2015, 42 percent of Indigenous people with a disability experienced racism compared to 32 percent of those without a disability.

It found that 20 percent of Indigenous people with disability avoided settings such as healthcare or education because of instances of racism, compared with 11% of Indigenous people without a disability. 

Wonnarua and Kamilaroi man Jake Briggs, who is the founder of ‘Culture Connex’ and a quadriplegic said that avoiding these essential services is affecting the entire life trajectory of Indigenous people with a disability.  

“They’re not accessing services because the service providers are not culturally engaged which leads to missed opportunities to elevate mental and physical health and as an effect, contributes to the life expectancy gap, over-representation in incarceration rates and high prevalence of deaths in custody,” Mr Briggs told NITV News.

One of the report authors Dr Scott Avery, said that every indicator across health, education, employment, justice, and exposure to violence highlights that Indigenous people with a disability face greater social inequality which transpires into fear and expectation of being discriminated against, which evolves into apprehension.

“The one exception is within the Aboriginal communities themselves, disabled Indigenous individuals are much more included, and participate in community and cultural events at the same rate as Indigenous people without a disability.”

The report suggests that encounters with racism tend to reduce with an increase in age and are less prevalent in remote parts of Australia.

The Australian Human Rights Commission told NITV News that in 2019-2020, it received 1006 complaints under the Disability Discrimination Act and that 3 per cent of those complainants identified as Aboriginal.

A spokesperson told NITV News that “over a third of First Nations Australians have some form of disability. First Nations Australians with disability face intersecting layers of disadvantage which impacts on their ability to access health care, education and other services”.

Mr Briggs, who said he has personally experienced discrimination in the healthcare sector, is calling for change.

“Having Indigenous people employed from the local areas who have been through the fire and flames of being racially vilified, in decision making roles is the only way to ensure cultural competency and counteract the unconscious bias that non-Indigenous health professionals and teachers are susceptible to” Mr Briggs said.

For improved outcomes and a shift in statistics, the report concludes that policies need to be implemented to address discrimination and provide greater support to Indigenous people with disabilities.

Dr Avery supports the recommendation for policy to be reviewed and said exposing social inequality as an issue and disability as a factor needs to be on the agenda for government programs.

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