Graeme Innes – Australians with disability say thank you

Friday 4 July 2014

Today People with Disability Australia (PWDA) fondly farewells Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Mr Graeme Innes AM from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

There are very few people with disability in high-profile, leadership positions within Government, and people with disability looked to Mr Innes to provide a much needed ‘voice’ on our issues and concerns.  PWDA sincerely thanks Mr Innes for actively recognising the importance of ‘giving a voice’ to people with disability and for his substantial contribution to progressing the rights of people with disability.

PWDA President, Mr Craig Wallace says, “People with disability around Australia appreciate Graeme Innes’s tireless leadership as our Disability Discrimination Commissioner.  He has made a significant difference on issues including access to justice and the built environment while being refreshingly open about the frustrations we all experience in areas like air travel as well as our poor record on employment.”

Since 2005, when Graeme Innes took on the Disability Discrimination Commissioner role, he has been a proactive advocate for the rights of people with disability across Australia  and a strong champion of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  He has been outspoken about access to justice in the criminal justice system for people with disability particularly those with communication difficulties or complex support needs.  He has spoken out against violence against women and girls with disability, has called on business leaders to raise employment for people with disability, and been an active high profile advocate for the implementation of cinema captioning and audio descriptions.  He has also personally taken action in the courts to combat disability discrimination, with the aim of benefiting all people with disability.

The loss of Mr Graeme Innes is particularly difficult for people with disability, as the Disability Discrimination Commissioner role is being merged into the responsibilities of the Age Discrimination Commissioner.

PWDA has publicly voiced our opposition to the loss of the dedicated Disability Discrimination Commissioner role, particularly expertise held by a Commissioner with disability.  We hold concerns that the rights of people with disability will be significantly disadvantaged with the loss of this dedicated standalone portfolio.

“PWDA remains deeply disappointed about the failure to appoint a person with disability into a dedicated Disability Discrimination Commissioner role.  Combined with the loss of ABC Ramp Up this represents a significant downgrading of work on mainstream access which is vital if Australia is to fully implement the National Disability Strategy and realise the benefits of the National Disability Insurance Scheme”, says Mr Wallace.

Mr Graeme Innes gave some hard-hitting parting words during his last public address at the National Press Club in Canberra on 2 July, and outlined the reality of the lives of people with disability in Australia.  Many of these stories are contained in the celebrated audio-visual initiative, Twenty Years: Twenty Stories.

As a staunch proponent for the rights of people with disability to access the Internet, Mr Innes has used his extremely popular Facebook page – Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes(over 1,658 likes) to promote the message of human rights and anti-discrimination. While this will close shortly, his strong online presence and insights will continue on his personal Facebook pagehis Twitter and blog.

Mr Graeme Innes AM will be greatly missed by us all as Commissioner but we look forward to his continued work, including new projects to enhance the media profile of disability issues which he mentioned at the National Press Club.  Mr Innes is a life member of PWDA and goes with our best wishes.

MEDIA: Craig Wallace 0413 135 731
Phone: 02 9370 3100 Toll Free: 1800 422 015 Email:
People with Disability Australia Incorporated (PWDA) is a national disability rights and advocacy, non-profit, non-government organisation. We have a cross-disability focus, representing the interests of people with all kinds of disability and our membership is made up of people with disability and organisations mainly constituted by people with disability.
Our vision is of a socially just, accessible and inclusive community, in which the human rights, citizenship, contribution, potential and diversity of all people with disability are respected and celebrated.