Being has an exciting opportunity coming up to learn from international experiences, and bring that knowledge back to lead the way on consumers participating in mental health and human rights issues in Australia. Kirsten from the Policy team is off to New York in June to attend the United Nations Conference on the “Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities” (CRPD). We received a grant from the Department of Social Services and the Human Rights Commission, and Kirsten will be going as a member of the Australian NGO delegation.
In 2006, the United Nations met and put out a Convention outlining what the rights of people with disabilities should be. Lots of different countries then signed on to that Convention, including Australia. All of the signatories are meant to go back to their countries to change things to make sure the Convention is followed. This is the tenth year these countries have come together to talk about how they have made changes to uphold the rights of people with disabilities. As well as the official proceedings, there are also international exhibitors ― so various organisations from around the world showcase their work around promoting the rights of people with disabilities.
The day before the official Convention all of the Non-Government Organisations attending from around the world meet and hold events to discuss the agenda for the Conference, and discuss how to try and influence government action.
This year the key themes are around inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities in the implementation of the Convention. This means that people who are covered by the convention should be included in the process of changing laws and policies in their countries. The Conference will also be discussing how to address the impact of multiple discrimination against persons with disabilities.
Before going over to the conference, Kirsten will meet with all the other people attending from the Australian NGOs, the Human Rights commission, and the members of the government delegation to discuss what happens at the conference, what to expect, and to set some goals. Kirsten is keen to hear:
• How the things that are discussed at this conference might affect people with a lived experience of mental illness in the future.
• What the Australian Government is planning on doing to implement the Convention
• How Being can make sure people with a lived experience can be part of the conversation to make sure the government implements all of the CRPD.
The Convention sets out all the rights people with disabilities should have. Everyone has human rights, but because people with disabilities are a more vulnerable group, and have typically had more issues with their rights being upheld, it was important to set out really clearly what people’s rights are when they a disability. It was important also to set out things that need to be done to get those rights achieved. Some Articles (key principles) of the Convention (there are heaps):
– Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons
– Non- discrimination
– Full and effective participation and inclusion in society, including participation in political,
public and cultural life
– Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
– Equality of Opportunity
– Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
– Awareness raising
– Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and access to justice
– Living independently and being included in the community
– Personal Mobility
– Respect for privacy
– Education, Health, Work and Employment
The Convention sets out what governments should do to make sure the CRPD is followed, and then with each Article, it gives a range of things that need to happen to achieve each one. Accessibility for example includes physical accessibility like building roads, transportation, and provide accessible buildings. Plus making sure that information and communication systems, are able to be used by people with disabilities. It also highlights that legislation on all the measures should be put into place.
Even though as someone with a lived experience of mental illness you might not feel you have a disability, we are included under the Convention. People with a mental illness identify with many of the issues of discrimination that are faced by people with other disabilities. To address these, it is important that you are protected by rights that include, and go beyond basic human rights. This also puts particular pressure on governments to address issues to do with all disabilities, and mental health.The Australian Government still has a long way to reaching the standards set out by the Convention. When we write submissions or lobby the government we often use the convention to highlight what should be done to actually follow the Convention. We are currently working on submissions to the Guardianship Act Review which was influenced by people not having autonomy and the ability to make their own choices while under guardianship orders. The issue of seclusion and restraint in mental health facilities falls under this Convention, and this is something that is really important to people with a lived experience of mental illness and Being. The Convention can be a way of making sure the government understands that they have to do something or they are in breach of the Convention. Being will continue to increase the pressure on the government to recognise human rights and participation in mental health.