Senator MOORE (Queensland) (20:11): This week I met with representatives from CBM Australia, which is a wonderful organisation. It is an international Christian development organisation committed to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in poor communities around the world, whether it is in one of our cities in Australia or-their special focus-in the Pacific. This extraordinary group of people have worked in partnership with people with disabilities, non-government organisations, government and international agencies to genuinely empower people with disabilities to achieve their human rights and participate fully in society. They regularly come to Canberra and they often have forums which allow parliamentarians to meet with them and focus particularly on how we can have a genuinely inclusive international development program. This week they were particularly focusing on the fact that this is the time when we look at the impact of poverty across our world and it is also the same week-because there is a limit to how many weeks there are in the calendar-when we look at issues around deafness in our community. And that was important, because what they came to see me about was how we could combine our consideration of these two very important elements in this place and in our work.
We all know that, in 2015, world leaders gathered at the United Nations to address some of the most complex issues faced by the global community-absolutely centrally, how the world was going to address poverty, inequality, discrimination and environmental degradation amongst other things-and to propose together a new pathway towards a more sustainable, equitable and prosperous future. The end result, after years of consultation, was the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has set out the 17 goals which we've talked about in this place and 169 targets to measure progress and to ensure absolutely-and this is the key message of the 2030 agenda-that we leave no-one behind.
Through this whole process, people with disabilities assembled in our communities in Australia and also internationally to make their presence known and to ensure that they were not left out of the SDG agenda. During the preceding period of time, in the MDGs, the Millennium Development Goals, which drove the global development efforts from 2000 until 2015, disability was not mentioned at all and the people across the world who were interested and engaged in issues around disability identified this. They kept their voices in the conversations to ensure that, when the world was looking at evaluating what had happened through the MDG process-and there were advances; the issues around poverty were addressed-they would not go unheard in whatever the world came to agree to in the future.
As a result, in 2015, UN members and observers alike agreed together that people with disabilities were disproportionately represented among those who had been left behind and registered grave concern that:
… people with disabilities … continue to be subject to multiple, aggravated and intersecting forms of discrimination.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development does contain 11 specific references to people with disabilities across five goals and features an overarching commitment, as I have said, to ensure that those 17 mainstream goals are implemented for all. This is the commitment; this is what Australia signed up to.
This year, we made our first voluntary report to the UN-which is publicised across Australia and internationally-about what we have been doing across the 17 goals, and, within that, there has been a focus on people with disabilities. In fact, through the international development process, we are actually working on our commitment, through DFAT, to the Development for All 2015-2020: Strategy for strengthening disability-inclusive development in Australia's aid program. We are now moving towards the evaluation of that strategy for what is going to happen next. That strategy builds on our experience in implementing the Australian government's first strategy for disability-inclusive development, which helped to establish Australia as a strong voice globally in this area.
At this time, as always, I want to acknowledge the extraordinary work done in this area by Bob McMullan, who was the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance in the Rudd government and was the person whose commitment, strength and energy ensured that the international development program was developed at that time, through the Rudd-Gillard governments, and was the basis of formulating where we were going when we had the large review of our aid program. The government acknowledged that there was an opportunity and, in fact, an absolute responsibility to have an inclusive international development policy. That was developed early on under that government, from 2009 and throughout that period. When this current strategy was launched by then Minister Bishop, she acknowledged the work that had been done in that period with organisations such as CBM Australia and assured us that we were going to absolutely have that as one of the processes in our international development program.
So, having gone through that, in moving towards 2030 with our international development agenda we have the tools to guide all of us on that collective journey-and the 2030 agenda provides a road map. That's the kind of language that's used; we are on a 'journey' and we have a 'road map' for where we are hoping to get to, which is a world that leaves no-one behind. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the CRPD, provides the instruction manual to ensure that the world we create along the way is genuinely inclusive of all people. Using those frameworks in Australia and in the international arena gives us the opportunity to ensure that all those at risk or experiencing existing disadvantage, such as the deaf community-as we were talking about this evening-are part of the process and, most particularly, will not be left behind.
One of the joys of working in this area is meeting people who have real-life experience. I know that term can be overused. But being involved in international development means you hear people's stories that remind you why international development is so important. Tonight I want to mention just one of the stories from CBM. They have a wonderful publication called Leave no one behind. The story is about Kwemal, who is 55, and Maina, who is 24, a mother and daughter living in Vanuatu. Both are deaf. Like most countries in the Pacific, Vanuatu has no formal or shared sign language. That creates a real communication problem for people. They actually have their own way as family members, but how do such people genuinely become part of the wider society? Maina says she feels happiest when she's with family and friends and playing football. She really wants to go back to school-because education, as we all know, is the real basis for providing people with genuine opportunities in their lives and development in their communities. CBM are working in Vanuatu to see if they can establish networks so there can be an acknowledgement of this and an education program around communication.
We have such strength in Australia in terms of our professionalism and skills in this space, and still people feel isolated. But just imagine the level of disadvantage and isolation when it is compounded by living in a country in the Pacific that has no strategy or system in place to ensure that people can communicate and have access to wider social networks. This is an integral part of the international development program that we are part of now in our government program through until 2020 and also part of our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals through to 2030.
This week we need to think about these opportunities and think about the people. These are not statistics; they are people. I genuinely believe that, as we evaluate the program that we are involved in now until 2020, we need to plan for the next round of development for all so that the issues that have been identified in countries like Vanuatu for people like Kwemal and Maina, and their needs, can be addressed. The fact that we can share knowledge and professionalism and we can open the door to greater opportunities in communication fulfils what I think the expectations of all of us must be-that is, a world where no-one is left behind.