Refugee Council of Australia
Young boy with hearing aid sitting with family

Barriers and exclusions: The support needs of newly arrived refugees with a disability


Refugees with a disability around the world face “compounded disadvantage”, as they face multiple barriers of discrimination and exclusion in their everyday lives.

While Australia has obligations under the Refugee Convention and the CRPD to support the full participation of refugees with a disability, there are several barriers and challenges that exist within the structure of the disability service systems, mainstream services and the NDIS in Australia that can exclude refugees with a disability from utilising services to the extent that they are entitled to, or even at all.

There is a need for a higher level of cultural responsiveness and empathy in mainstream disability services and the NDIS regarding the experiences of refugees with disability, and their families. This paper has explored a number of key barriers and challenges that limit the opportunities for humanitarian entrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Australia to use mainstream and disability service systems to their full advantage. The barriers explored must be acknowledged and considered when formulating and adjusting existing policy and the humanitarian program.

RCOA, FECCA, NEDA and SCOA are keen and willing to work collaboratively with government and the NDIA to remove barriers to access and equity experienced by refugees with disability, and to ensure we build strong, more accessible disability and mainstream service systems in order to meet the arrival needs of humanitarian entrants with disability.


Advance Diversity Services, Issues That Refugees with Disabilities Face and Recommendations on Improving Policy and Practice to Better Support This Group, 13.

Karen Soldatic, Kelly Somers, Amma Buckley, and Caroline Fleay, ‘‘Nowhere to be found’: Disabled refugees and asylum seekers within the Australian resettlement landscape’ (2015) 2 Disability and the Global South 501, 504.

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