New disability discrimination commissioner commences

Rosemary Kayess was with the Faculty of Law at the University of NSW

New disability discrimination commissioner commences

New Disability Discrimination Commissioner Rosemary Kayess has commenced in her role as of 29 January.

As someone with a disability resulting from a spinal cord injury, Kayess expressed her commitment to bringing firsthand experience and insight to her role. She emphasised the need for a paradigm shift in how Australians perceive disability, and said that she saw a unique opportunity to make substantial changes in the lives of people with disabilities, particularly following the outcomes of the Disability Royal Commission and the Independent Review into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Kayess said that her mission is to collaborate with the government, stakeholders, and the disability community to combat ableism and ensure the rights of people with disabilities in all facets of life.

"People with disability are diverse, with a broad range of interests, dreams, and lifestyles, and we should not be defined by a diagnosis or our need for care," Kayess said. "People with disability continue to face the community's low expectations, and it is imperative that we change this."

Kayess stressed the importance of recognising the social context of disability, highlighting that accommodating a person's impairment within societal structures removes disabling barriers to rights and participation. She drew parallels to addressing ableism, urging society to dismantle these underlying drivers, akin to combating racism, sexism, and ageism.

"The present focus on improving Australia's social structures creates an opportunity to think differently about the rights of people with disability and the various types of change that are required to remove the disabling barriers to rights and participation," she added.

Kayess expressed eagerness to collaborate with the disability community and various sectors to tackle ableism comprehensively and ensure the realisation of the rights of people with disabilities across all aspects of life.  

Kayess currently holds the position of vice chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Before taking on the role of commissioner, Kayess served as a senior academic with the Faculty of Law and the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. She was part of the UN drafting committee for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The disability discrimination commissioner holds a statutory position within the Australian Human Rights Commission, established under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth), with responsibilities encompassing protecting and promoting the rights of Australians with disabilities.

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