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'Asking for the moon'? a critical assessment of Australian disability discrimination laws in promoting inclusion for students with disabilities

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The aim of this paper is to critique the dichotomy between the legal regulation of disability discrimination in Australia, particularly in the State of New South Wales, and inclusion policy as espoused by public education authorities. It is argued that the law and inclusion policy are aiming at different outcomes. As a result, through legal regulation, New South Wales undermines the human rights of individuals with disabilities by restricting their access to 'mainstream' education. Extracts from a variety of sources are used to enable the voices of students, parents, carers, advocates, teachers and members of the judiciary to be heard, a novel approach in a paper which is essentially concerned with the law. The paper begins with a consideration of the context in which disability discrimination in education laws operate, and the distinctions between policies and practice in that context. The paper then asks to what extent disability discrimination law is capable of expressing inclusive ideals. Finally, the paper suggests means by which international law norms could be incorporated into New South Wales law and policy, so as to achieve effective human rights protection. The paper concludes with Carla's story, which serves to demonstrate that inclusive ideals have not yet been appropriately incorporated into law or practice in New South Wales.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2004

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