As highlighted by David Roy, from the University of Newcastle, in an article for The Conversation yesterday, a Royal Commission would potentially have deep relevance for students with disabilities in schools.
"Jubilation was evident on Monday, as bilateral support was pledged for a Royal Commission into harm towards people with disabilities," Dr Ben Whitburn, a Senior Lecturer of Inclusive Education at Deakin University, said.
Whitburn added the subsequent announcement by the Shadow Minister of Education of additional funding to support students with disabilities is likewise positive, provided it is used well.
"Ongoing resourcing to this end is often called for, though routinely it is channelled into unnecessary supports including one-to-one aides and therapeutic provisions that fail to promote genuine school inclusion," he said.
"This funding would be well placed to examine how teacher knowledge can and does work to reduce exclusionary barriers from schooling."
Dr Julie McMillan, a member of the Research in Inclusive and Specialised Education (RISE) team at Flinders University, said $300 million in additional funding would be welcomed towards the resourcing of inclusive practice in schools.
"This includes school funding for specialist educators who have the professional qualifications to design and implement quality personalised programming for students with disabilities," McMillan said.
"Professional learning for teachers and principals, as a resource, is often overlooked although necessary for sustained implementation of inclusive practice and quality education for students with disabilities.
"Students with disabilities and their families need experts who are confident in adjusting the Australian Curriculum and curriculum augmentation for personalised needs, including those requiring extensive supports."
Professor Linda Graham, a researcher in inclusive education at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), agreed that any new funds for students with disabilities will need to be well-targeted if they are to improve outcomes, and that a priority spending area should be teacher training.
"Labor's pledge to increase funding for students with a disability by $300m is light on detail," she said.
"There is substantial research evidence in Australia showing that successive increases in funding – over decades – have not led to improved outcomes for students with a disability."
"This lack of impact is partly because the funding gets spent on individualised supports and more paraprofessionals to deliver them, rather than upskilling the pedagogical capacity of classroom teachers and enacting broader systemic change in line with our obligations under Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: the right to inclusive education."