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Study finds students with cognitive disability at higher risk of abuse


Brigid Veale
24 February 2015
The results of a Southern Cross University research project into the safety and harm of students with cognitive disability will be discussed at a seminar in Lismore on Thursday (February 26).

The seminar, aimed at teachers, disability support, child protection and legal practitioners, and families of children and young people with disability, will be led by Dr Sally Robinson, from the University’s Centre for Children and Young People.

Dr Robinson has completed a research project, funded by the NSW Law and Justice Foundation, which involved interviews with students, their families, and professionals working in education, disability support and child protection. It also included a comprehensive policy and legal review.

“We know that students with cognitive disability experience higher rates of abuse, neglect and exploitation than students without disability.” Dr Robinson said.

“In this study, we took a particular focus on finding out what students with disability themselves thought about safety and harm in and around school, as there is no Australian research which has done this.

“We will be sharing the results of our recent research and discussing how we can make things better. We have developed recommendations for change to better support students, families and teachers, along with short user-friendly resources for students, families and professional stakeholders.”

The seminar will provide insights into students’ experiences, the responses of education providers, and the system structures and processes available to support resolution of abuse. Discussion will focus on addressing barriers, strengths and possibilities for change in education, legal and policy arenas.

A panel of young people with cognitive disability will provide a valuable personal perspective on what helps promote safety in schools. Invited speakers will provide legal, education and family perspectives on the research findings.

Dr Robinson said the research had implications for improving education to all children, for large scale inquiries such as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responds to Child Sexual Abuse, and for law reform.

A further seminar is being planned for Sydney.

The seminar will be held at the Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre, Carrington Street, Lismore from 9.30am to noon, Thursday, February 26. RSVP to [email protected] or phone 66203393.

Photo: Dr Sally Robinson.