Scott Avery

Dr Scott Avery is a professor of Indigenous disability health and wellbeing in the School of Public Health, University of Technology Sydney. He is an Aboriginal man descendant from the Worimi people and is profoundly deaf. Dr Scott (as he prefers to be known) is a recognised educator, researcher and policy adviser on Indigenous cultural approaches for the inclusion of people with disability. He has extensive experience in conducting community-based research and policy in Indigenous and disability organisations and is the research and education partner for the First Peoples Disability Network. He has authored the publication 'Culture is Inclusion: A narrative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability' (2018) based on his research. His community-based and intersectional approach has influenced national policy across Closing the Gap, the Australian Disability Strategy, and the Disability Royal Commission. He has been appointed as an expert advisor to numerous Government bodies including the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Disability Research Partnership, National Disability Data Asset, and the Research Advisory Committee of the Lowitja Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research. He is also a director on the board of disability service provider Achieve Australia Ltd, and was an Ambassador for the International Day of People with Disability.

Current developments in the implementation of the recommendation from the Disability Royal Commission: How can Indigenous cultural knowledge shape the future of inclusive education?

The Disability Royal Commission handed down its final report in September 2023 with recommendations that will be Australian disability policy in the coming decades. Whilst the rights to an inclusive education under the Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities were overwhelming affirmed, the Commission ended up divided on how to go about it.

This keynote address draws on Indigenous cultural knowledges of First Peoples in asking ‘how do we do inclusion in education?’ Indigenous cultural values prescribe that every person has a place and purpose on this earth, and what is described in non-Indigenous ways as ‘disability’ is an accepted contribution to the diverse ecology of the world. What matters for sustainability are relationships, community, and connection.

This Indigenous worldview of inclusion allows the source of dissent on how to go about inclusion to be removed from the education setting, and locates a future for inclusive education into the human elements of teaching and learning: what is needed to make a student with disability feel like they belong in a classroom, and what is needed to support educators in cultivating an inclusive pedagogy and teaching environment?