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Image artwork copyright Helen Cooke, an artist supported by Sunshine's Community Access Program Art Studio.

A better life for people with disabilities in Australia and around the world

Our centre aims to change the disadvantage that occurs for people with disabilities. We do this through addressing their social and economic participation in society, and their health and wellbeing. By focusing on data that demonstrates disadvantage, we can develop models of policy and practice to better enable support and opportunity for people with disabilities.


On 11 November 2014, the Centre for Disability Research and Policy at the University of Sydney held a one-day event featuring two seminars by Dr Tom Shakespeare, a leading disability advocate and researcher who was visiting from the United Kingdom. The seminars were inaccessible to Mr Bruce Maguire as a person with a hearing impairment, because the Centre did not make provision for a hearing loop or provide another form of reasonable adjustment for his disability.

As the Director of the Centre for Disability Research and Policy, I apologise unreservedly for any humiliation, indignity, inconvenience or suffering that Mr Maguire experienced as a result of the Centre's failure to accommodate his needs. Our Centre aims to address the disadvantage that occurs for people with disabilities, by enhancing their social and economic participation in society, and improving their health and wellbeing. Although we took steps to ensure that the seminars were accessible to people with physical and visual disabilities, we recognise that our failure to make reasonable adjustments for Mr Maguire's disability is inconsistent with the Centre's aim, and we are committed to ensuring that all future seminars are accessible to Mr Maguire and to other people who have a hearing impairment.

Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn

Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Technical Reports

Indonesia Map

Our three latest Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Technical Reports for 2015 have now been published:

  • Mapping of organisations in Indonesia in disaster risk reduction (MOIDRR)
  • Capacity Building for Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction in Indonesia
  • Practitioner Guidelines for Capacity Building for Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction in Indonesia


Latest Publications

Madden, R.H.; Glozier, N.; Fortune, N.; Dyson, M.; Gilroy, J.; Bundy, A.; Llewellyn, G.; Salvador-Carulla, L.; Lukersmith, S.; Mpofu, E.; Madden, R. In Search of an Integrative Measure of Functioning. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12, 5815-5832.

Barton, R. Robinson, T. Lllewellyn, G. Thorncraft, K and Smidt, A. 2015. Rural and remote perspectives on disability and mental health research in Australia: 2000–2013. Advances in Mental Health: Promotion, Prevention and Early Intervention. This paper reports on studies identified in the Audit of Disability Research in Australia that address disability and mental illness in the rural and remote context.

Honey, A, Chesterman, S. Hancock, N. Llewellyn, G. Hazell, P. and Clarke S. Knowing What to Do and Being Able to Do It: Influences on Parent Choice and Use of Practices to Support Young People Living with Mental Illness. Community Mental Health Journal (Early online.) A parent’s response to a young person’s mental illness can influence their recovery and wellbeing. Many parents devote considerable time and energy to supporting a young person experiencing mental illness and engage in numerous different practices to do so. Yet little is known about why parents use particular practices. This article explores this question through qualitative analysis of parent perspectives.

Curryer, B., Stancliffe, R. J., & Dew A. 2015. Self-determination: Adults with intellectual disability and their family. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability. Advance online publication.

Wiese, M., Stancliffe, R. J., Read, S., Jeltes, G. & Clayton, J. 2015. Learning about dying, death and end-of-life planning: Current issues informing future actions. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability. Advance online publication.

Hindmarsh, G. Llwellyn, G. Emerson, E. Mothers with intellectual impairment and their 9-month-old infants. Few studies have utilised population-based data to examine the lives of families headed by parents with intellectual impairment. This study examined the health and social context of mothers with intellectual impairment compared with their peers without intellectual impairment, and the 9-month developmental outcomes of their infants. Read more here.

Fraser, G. Llewellyn, G. Good, Bad or Absent: Discourses of Parents with Disabilities in Australian News Media Public representation of people with disabilities is often controversial. All too often the message is that disability is a burden or in stark contrast people with disabilities are heroic and extraordinary. Parenting with a disability continues to confront public perceptions of who parents are and their parenting abilities. In this recently released early online paper, Dr Vikki Fraser and Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn critically analyse major Australian newspapers critiquing the construction of parenting and disability, finding negative constructions of parenting and disability that undermine possibilities and opportunities for people with disabilities to fulfill this valued social role. Read this paper early online here.

During natural disasters, specific needs of people with disability are often unmet, leaving them vulnerable and unprotected.
Villeneuve, M. 'People with disability should be included as equal partners in disaster planning' - an article in The Conversation by Dr Michelle Villeneuve. During natural disasters, specific needs of people with disability are often unmet, leaving them vulnerable and unprotected. (Image from Florin C/www.shutterstock.com)

Llewellyn, G. Hindmarsh, G. Parents with intellectual disability in a population context by Gwynnyth Llewellyn and Gabrielle Hindmarsh. This paper reviews the current state of knowledge about parents and parenting with intellectual disability in a broader population context, taking the field forward from primarily reporting on parents already identified in clinical or service groups. Check out two other recent publications on population studies of parents with intellectual disability in Australia.

Man, N., Llewellyn, G., & Wade, C.Estimated prevalence and living circumstances of parents with intellectual disability in Australia from selected national surveys. This technical report details the processes undertaken to estimate the prevalence of parents with intellectual disability in the Australian population, their characteristics and living circumstance based on analysis of data available from Australian national surveys conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Man, N., Llewellyn, G., & Wade, C. The number and characteristics of parents with intellectual disability from Centrelink income support administrative data. This technical report details the processes undertaken to estimate the number of parents with intellectual disability on social security payments in Australia and their characteristics at a given time period.

The Integrated Mental Health Atlas of Western Sydney Launch, May

In May, Professor Luis Salvador-Carulla helped to launch the Integrated Mental Health Atlas of Western Sydney (funded by Western Sydney Partners in Recovery). The project aims at a comprehensive mapping of mental health services, programmes and supports available in regional, rural & remote areas through Commonwealth, state and territory and local governments, private and not-for-profit sectors. This research takes steps towards understanding how inequalities cluster in geographic areas, and how these relate to poorer mental health. READ MORE.

Development for All 2015 – 2020 Launch, 25 May

Development for All Launch

From left to right: Sophie Plumridge, Jhalak Sharma Sapkota, Hon Julie Bishop, MP, Ewen McDonald, Deputy Secretary, DFAT

Hon Julie Bishop, MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs launched Development for All 2015 – 2020: Strategy for Strengthening Disability-inclusive Development in Australia’s Aid Program at Parliament House on Monday 25 May. Stakeholders, parliamentarians, and members of the Australia Disability and Development Consortium (ADDC), who were instrumental in supporting the development of this strategy, attended the launch.

Ewen McDonald, Deputy Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) hosted the event. The Hon Julie Bishop launched the strategy, Jhalak Sharma Sapkota, an Australia Award Scholarship Recipient, spoke about his experiences in Nepal and studying in Australia and Sophie Plumridge, Executive Office of ADDC, spoke, representing the disability and development sector.

The launch of this new Strategy represents a key milestone towards implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified in 2008 by Australia.

Development for All 2015 – 2020 provides guidance for strategic decision making by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade by articulating four key areas for strengthening disability-inclusive development:

  1. supporting governance for equality;
  2. enabling infrastructure;
  3. ensuring inclusive education and skills development; and
  4. building resilience through inclusive humanitarian assistance, disaster risk reduction, and social protection.

The strategy draws on existing strengths and expertise in Australia to contribute to enhance the participation and empowerment of people with disabilities as contributors, leaders, and decision makers in community, government, and the private sector across the Indo-Pacific region.

Dr. Michelle Villeneuve, Co-Lead of the Disability and Development Stream at the Centre for Disability Research and Policy (CDRP), University of Sydney, attended the launch. Dr. Villeneuve said,

The Hon Julie Bishop recognizes the important roles of researchers, implementing partners, and advocacy organisations as key to promoting disability rights in the region. This strategy provides opportunity for CDRP, with research expertise in building resilience through disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction programs, inclusive education and employment, and sustainable governance at home and across the Indo-Pacific region to continue to be the driving force in the process of change in the region.

The CDRP aims to change the disadvantage that occurs for people with disability through addressing their social and economic participation in society, and their health and wellbeing.

Australian Human Rights Commission, Disability Researchers Workshop, 11 March


On 11 March, Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn presented to the Australian Human Rights Commission in a Disability Researchers Workshop. The event was entitled, ‘Critical Issues in Disability Policy Research: Towards a Policy-relevant National Disability Research Agenda’ and was co-sponsored by the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis. The workshop also served as an important opportunity for the Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, The Hon Susan Ryan AO, to get a snapshot of the Disability Research Sector.

The first part of the day comprised of discussion with a range of disability organisations, service providers, government departments, and individuals concerning the gaps in disability policy research in Australia. The second session brought in academics and researchers in the area to consider these gaps. The workshop was facilitated by Mr Paul Porteous who drew together the different threads of conversation and comment.


Professor Llewellyn’s presentation emphasised the need for evidence based research and the ability to inform policy by balancing understanding and tested solutions. See the slides here.

One important point that arose in workshop discussion was the idea of framing disability through the language and terminology of human rights. A recurring theme was the issue of including people with disabilities in research design, implementation, and dissemination: “do nothing about us without us”. A major problem identified was the matter of ‘who is leading the conversation’ around disability policy research. Shifting government funding priorities, university demands on researchers, and developing the capacity for research by engaging and fostering young researchers in the sector all featured prominently in the workshop debate. Another issue that also came up throughout the day was the need for research collaboration (both among academics and with community organisations and stakeholders). It was put that research is often carried out in an opportunistic way when funds are available to particular researchers or organisation, rather than tailored to research need and a coherent national research strategy. This is despite the publication of the National Disability Research and Development Agenda (2010).


There was agreement that the focus of research on disability should not simply be around the NDIS important though this is but across the broad spectrum of experiences, obstacles, and issues pertaining to disability policy in Australia. Disability is a whole of government issue rather than only about social welfare and medical interventions. Rather than be seen as an impediment and societal problem, disability should be seen as part of human diversity.

At the end of the workshop, participants agreed to plan a further event – a Research into Policy Roundtable – to further the discussion on 1 October at the University of New South Wales –following the Australian Social Policy Conference. The priority should be focused on impact: allowing people with disabilities to participate fully and meaningfully in community and society. Although the AHRC does not have a mandate to provide substantial funding to the research sector, the body can provide a powerful voice for advocating change through the discourse of human rights.

Developmental Disability Graduation, 9 April, 2015

Developmental Disability Graduation

Course Director, Professor Roger Stancliffe with some of the graduates, standing in front of the sandstone of the University’s famous Quadrangle.

Twelve Masters / Graduate Certificate of Health Science (Developmental Disability) students graduated on 9 April. In addition, there were other DD students who were unable to be present in person, and who graduated in absentia. Students present travelled from as far afield as Hobart to receive their testamur. Warmest congratulations to all the graduates on their fine achievements.

As always, the graduation was held in the University of Sydney's magnificent Great Hall.

The ceremony was presided over by Faculty of Health Sciences Dean, Professor Kathryn Refshauge and Pro-Chancellor Mr Peter Fitzsimons AM who is a Fellow of the University of Sydney Senate.

The occasional speaker was Mr Jordan O’Reilly, Chair and Operations Director of Fighting Chance, a non-profit organisation which enriches the lives of young adults with significant disabilities.