Thursday 13 May 2010

Commissioner Innes and Commissioner Gooda have welcomed ‘Hear us’, the report of the Inquiry into Hearing Health by the Senate Community Affairs Committee, released today, for its focus on both Indigenous hearing health and employment opportunities for hearing-impaired Australians.

“This is a crucial report,” said Disability and Race Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes. “I urge government to make a prompt and comprehensive response to both it and the fundamental human rights issues it raises about prevention of hearing impairment and ensuring inclusion and equality for people who have hearing impairments.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, said the report confirmed that Indigenous people experienced hearing loss at up to 10 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians - a crisis that the World Health Organisation referred to as a ‘massive public health problem which needs urgent attention’.

“The report states that hearing impairment and inadequate responses to hearing impairment are limiting the life chances of new generations of Indigenous children, from education to employment and cultural life, and in interactions with the justice system,” Commissioner Gooda said.

“I am pleased to see recommendations that address these issues in a broad sense, while giving particular priority to the needs of Indigenous children and urging improved support for research into Indigenous hearing health,” said Commissioner Gooda.

“The Commission welcomes the Committee’s recommendation that the federal Government lead development of a strategy to improve employment outcomes for hearing-impaired Australians,” said Commissioner Innes. “We are also pleased to see the Committee’s proposals for the setting of annual performance targets and the provision of adequate resources for achieving them.”

The report noted that, in 2005, the costs of hearing loss to Australia was estimated at $11.75 billion, or 1.4 per cent of Australia's GDP. More than half of this total was lost wages and productivity among people with a hearing loss.

“It is significant that, in addition to personal costs for individuals and families, the Committee has emphasised the huge economic costs of the social exclusion of people with hearing impairments,” Commissioner Innes said. “This report makes it clear that the economic value of achieving equality and inclusion for people with a hearing impairment is not only huge, but the right thing to do for our nation.”

Media contacts:
Brinsley Marlay for Graeme Innes 02 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529
Louise McDermott for Mick Gooda 02 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597