Today the High Court of Australia unanimously rejected an appeal from Gaye Lyons, a Queensland women who had been turned down for jury service because she requires as Auslan interpreter to participate in proceedings.
“The decision is very disappointing”, says peak national disability group, Disabled Persons Organisations Australia (DPO Australia). “However, we won’t be deterred in our fight to ensure that people who are Deaf, or with disability, can access the justice system on an equal basis with other Australians,” said Ngila Bevan, Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia and member of DPO Australia.
“Australians who are Deaf, or have disability, have the right to participate in civic duties, including serving on juries. Denial of this right also excludes the perspective of people with disability from the administration of justice, and means that juries do not reflect the diversity within our communities,’’ said Dwayne Cranfield, CEO of National Ethnic Disability Alliance and member of DPO Australia.
DPO Australia will support actions to take this decision to the UN Committee to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Australia ratified in 2008.
“The Convention states that people with disability must be supported to exercise their rights and express their opinions ‘through all forms of communication of their choice’” said Ms Bevan.
“People who are Deaf, or who require Auslan interpretation to participate in court proceedings, are being denied equal recognition before the law and this must change. It’s a problem across both civil and criminal justice systems, and it’s time for our courts and legal process to adapt to peoples differing communication requirements.”
“This decision highlights the need for a human rights act in Queensland that will recognise and protect the human rights of people who are Deaf, and have disability, on an equal basis with other Queenslanders,” said Ms Bevan.
“DPO Australia calls on the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Attorney-General to immediately enact legislation that will enable people who are Deaf to serve as jurors’’, said Ms Bevan.
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Disabled People’s Organisations Australia is an alliance of four national Disabled People’s Organisations (organisations made up of and led by people with disability). The ACDA was founded by, and is made up of the First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN) representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) representing people with disability from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, People with Disability Australia (PWDA) a national cross disability organisation and Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA), the national organisation representing women and girls with disability.