It’s time to tackle Australia’s discrimination against migrants with disabilities

March 11, 2020

Welcoming Disability

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) and Down Syndrome Australia have launched a new national campaign, Welcoming Disability, to address the discrimination faced by people with a disability applying to migrate to Australia. People are being refused Australian visas simply because they have a disability or health issue, even though they meet all other requirements. This can happen even when they are not eligible to access any Australian health or community services. 

The Campaign will call for an immediate review of the recommendations of the Enabling Australia Inquiry. In the decade since the Australian government’s Joint Standing Committee on Migration handed down this report, few of its recommendations have been actioned by successive governments.

The Welcoming Disability campaign is being officially launched in Adelaide on 12 March 2020 by esteemed academic and leading expert in this space, Professor Mary Crock

Angus Graham OAM, Chairman of Down Syndrome Australia explains, “For too long people have been excluded from  Australia just because of their disability or having a family member with a disability. Families who are making significant contributions to our communities are being told they have to leave because they have a child with Down Syndrome or another disability. Not only is this policy unjust, but it reinforces the stigma and discrimination that people with disabilities already face.”

The Federal Government must change its migration laws so that people with disabilities or health issues are treated fairly and have their human rights respected,” said Natalie Wade, ALHR Vice President and Chair of its National Disability Rights Subcommittee. “Australian migration health requirements are exempt from the Disability Discrimination Act however a review of this situation was recommended by the United Nations in its 2019 Australia Report on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” 

Families, such as Queenslander Nicole Forbes Hood, are facing years of anguish and emotional and social pain while they battle for their rights. “We spent thousands of dollars and it was a hugely time-consuming process. But it was the emotional stress that took its toll. I felt a huge amount of anger at the Australian Government for their treatment of our son. How can they grant three out of four members of a family Australian citizenship and decline the remaining one on the disability factor?” she asked.

West Australian social worker and visa applicant, Shizleen Aishath, described the Australian Government’s approach as non-inclusive, saying, “It’s degrading and very inhumane. It is an unnecessary and heartbreaking experience where you have to prove your child’s worth as a human being and fight a fight that is unnecessary, time-consuming and, in its entirety, very cruel.”

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Media Contacts: 

Matt Mitchell ALHR Media Manager: 0431 980 365 or

Dr Jan Gothard 0414 360 022 or at the Campaign email address

Additional personal stories and information are available on at

Photo credit: SBS Nicole Forbes-Hood with her husband, Manaia, and two children, Chloe, 14, and Cameron, 16. Source: Supplied