International Day for Persons with Disabilities
Remarks by HE Bronte Moules
Australia's Acting High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea
Australian High Commission, Port Moresby
8 December 2015
- Development Partners (PNG Government, NGOs, Diplomatic Missions)
- Members of civil society and Disabled Peoples Organisations
- Ladies and Gentlemen
Welcome to the Australian High Commission for our reception to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities promotes a better understanding of disability issues and mobilises support for the dignity, rights and well-being of people with disabilities. This year’s theme is “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities”.
People with disabilities make up the largest and most disadvantaged minority in the world.
According to the World Health Organization, one in seven people worldwide have some form of disability.
In PNG, it is estimated up to one million people may have some form of disability.
For many, stigma, exclusion and discrimination present real barriers to full participation in community and economic life.
On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we reflect on the rights of persons with disabilities to contribute to society and participate in public life.
Australia works in partnership with government and civil society partners in PNG to tackle the stigma that surrounds disability.
This year, the PNG Government launched its new national policy on disability.
This is an important milestone for the PNG Government and signals PNG Government’s commitment to ‘remove barriers and make rights real’ for people with disability.
We are committed to assisting PNG its new policy through our aid program.
This year our Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, launched a new strategy ‘Development for All 2015-2020’ to strengthen the inclusion of people with disabilities in Australia's aid program.
The strategy recognises that everyone is affected if people with disabilities are left behind.
Through the strategy, we will continue to promote disability-inclusive education, help remove physical barriers through our infrastructure investments, and work with partner governments to enhance access to vital services.
We will also continue to support disabled people’s organisations, which play a vital role in giving people with disabilities a voice.
In PNG, our assistance takes many forms.
We promote opportunities for disabled people to participate in sport and apply for Australia Awards scholarships.
We have supported the Fred Hollows Foundation to provide scholarships in basic eye care for nurses and community health workers.
With the PNG Department of Education, we have helped to improve guidelines on making classrooms and buildings more accessible.
Through the SPSN program, we help disability organisations and service providers to advocate, build capacity, strengthen networks and improve service delivery.
A remarkable achievement is SPSN’s partnership with the National Board for Disabled Persons and the PNG Department of Health.
This has achieved a nationwide roll-out of nearly 27,000 assistive devices to persons with disabilities.
Important work continues with the Department for Community Development and Religion, to support their efforts to ratify the Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities and improve disability data.
With Deakin University, the PNG Assembly of Disabled Persons and Save the Children we have funded a research project on experiences and needs of children with disabilities in PNG. The project produced a video called the ‘Voices of Pacific children with disabilities. We will see this video this afternoon.
Disability-inclusive development is an issue of human rights and dignity.
This year, Australia launched its bid to seek membership of the Human Rights Council for the 2018-2020 terms, reflecting our commitment to the aims and purposes of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the ongoing promotion and protection of human rights, both in Australia and around the world.
We are all strong allies for the rights of disabled people. As the world works towards agreeing a post-2015 development agenda that is inclusive of people with disabilities, it is a critical time for us all to work together.
Together, we can achieve real change for the better in the daily experiences of people with disabilities in PNG.