Indigenous perspectives on disability and inclusion, and implications of these for supporting people with intellectual disabilities

Scott Avery

Background:
‘Culture is Inclusion’ (Avery, 2018) is a remarkable and compelling narrative study on the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.

Presenting personal testimonies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability alongside disaggregated statistical data on comparative social and wellbeing outcomes, this presentation demonstrates social inequalities that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability experience compared to other groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people without disability, and people with disability who are not Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

Method:
The sole categorical exception to the social inequality that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability experience compared to other groups is their participation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural and community events, which is on par with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Despite facing overwhelming disadvantage, these proud and resilient people continue to defy their experience of inequality and exclusion by embracing their traditional culture of an inclusive society. This finding of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture of inclusion of people acts as a moderating force to the detrimental effects of social isolation, inequality and discrimination that they otherwise experience.

Inspired by an overarching aim to elevate and promote the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability in research and social policy, this study was led by a profoundly deaf Aboriginal researcher based at the First Peoples Disability Network (Australia), a non-government Disabled Peoples Organisation wholly governed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and privileged the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability through their personal testimony. The community-directed research methodology and protocols utilised in this study advance the promotion of ethical and empowering research that involves population groups who have experienced trauma, social isolation and sustained discrimination.

Reference: Avery, S. (2018). Culture is Inclusion: A narrative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait IsIander people with disability. First Peoples Disability Network (Australia), Sydney, Australia. ISBN: 978-0-646-99092-7.


Biography:

Scott Avery is descendant from the Worimi people and is the Research and Policy Director at the First Peoples Disability Network (Australia), a non-Government Organisation constituted by and for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples with disability. He has eight years experience of advocacy and applied policy research in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations which has informed national policies including the National Disability Strategy and Closing the GAp.  He is currently undertaking a PhD at UTS on social inclusion and disability in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities which is nearing completion, and has recently published the book ‘Culture is Inclusion: A narrative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability’ based on this research. He has been awarded a research scholarship by the Lowitja Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research, and is an Ambassador for the Mayi Kuwayu study on the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait IsIander cultures to health and wellbeing.

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