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Disability service providers and the need for multicultural competency

By Peter Gibilisco - posted Friday, 30 January 2015

Australia has become a multicultural society and in this is also reflected in the disability support workforce. Today, the disability sector has many support workers from many different nationalities, who all need to be respected, not only for their role as disability support workers but also for the multicultural diversity that they bring to the sector. We all benefit in surprising ways from this diversity. 

I currently live in shared supported accommodation, where we have a fantastic diversity of cultures, which makes it a very interesting place to live. However, I suspect that there is an unfortunate level of racism directed at this place of multicultural glory. That needs to be eliminated if this house is to retain its true glory. The disability sector will have to move beyond such problems if it is to make its contribution and gain its due respect. 



A stereotype is where you are grouping races or individuals together and making a judgment about them without actually engaging these people, without knowing them as “others” just like ourselves. Racial remarks are the biggest stereotypes. For example, one of the biggest stereotypes between clients and support workers in this shared supported accommodation deals with racist practice referring to African people. Some stereotype examples are given below:

All white Australians are obese, lazy.

All Africans outside of the United States are poor.

All Asians are good at math.

All Asians like to eat rice and drive slow.

All Muslims are terrorists.


All disabled people are in wheelchairs.

Australian Constitution Section 18c

Now let us recall what passed into law by the Federal Parliament in 1995. Section 18c makes conduct unlawful when it is done "because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin" of a person or group of persons, and it is reasonably likely to "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate" that person or group.

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About the Author

Peter Gibilisco was diagnosed with the progressive neurological condition called Friedreich's Ataxia, at age 14. The disability has made his life painful and challenging. He rocks the boat substantially in the formation of needed attributes to succeed in life. For example, he successfully completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne, this was achieved late into the disability's progression. However, he still performs research with the university, as an honorary fellow. Please read about his new book The Politics of Disability.

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