One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson has made comments which have offended many people with disabilities and their families in Parliament during the Gonski education funding debate on 21 June suggesting that children with disabilities and autism are holding other students back and should be in a special classroom. Views promoting segregation such as those expressed by Senator Hanson have no place in a modern Australia which is progressive and inclusive in so many aspects. These comments have offended many people with disabilities and their families and it has been heartening to see the widespread condemnation of Senator Hanson’s comments by politicians on all sides, along with disability advocacy groups. There are now demands for Senator Hanson to issue an apology.
At Deaf Children Australia, we advocate that it is important that there remain options and choices in education for all students and families so they can find the best learning environment for them. We encourage an inclusive society and promote an understanding that all communities benefit from the inclusion and participation of people with disabilities. We must strive towards all Australians experiencing the compassion and support that empowers them to participate as full citizens. As school is a formative experience for all Australians, we expect that philosophy will be embedded, and inclusion will be encouraged in every respect.
As reported in The Age on 22 June, Senator Hanson stated:
“These kids have a right to an education, by all means, but, if there are a number of them, these children should go into a special classroom and be looked after and given that special attention,” she said.
“Most of the time the teacher spends so much time on them they forget about the child who is straining at the bit and wants to go ahead in leaps and bounds in their education.
“That child is held back by those others, because the teachers spend time with them.
“I am not denying them. If it were one of my children I would love all the time given to them to give them those opportunities. But it is about the loss for our other kids.
“I think that we have more autistic children, yet we are not providing the special classrooms or the schools for these autistic children.
“It is no good saying that we have to allow these kids to feel good about themselves and that we do not want to upset them and make them feel hurt.
“I understand that, but we have to be realistic at times and consider the impact this is having on other children in the classroom.”
Click to read Senator Hanson’s full statement.
As reported in ABC News online, ‘Labor MP Emma Husar, who has a 10-year-old son with autism, said Senator Hanson’s comments “call on people to be divided and to segregate those people who are different”.
“She owes an apology to every single autistic child in this country, every one of the parents who are like me because we got better things to do than to defend our kids,” Ms Husar said.
“I have got one thing to say to every single child on the autism spectrum who is going into a classroom today, whether that’s a mainstream class, whether that’s a support unit or a school with a specific purpose – that you matter.
“That you can be included and you ought to be included. And that even on the days that are hard, when you’re frustrated and your disability makes you angry, you’re still better than she is on her best day.”‘