Pauline Hanson has long viewed people with disabilities as a threat that needed institutionalisation. Her outburst yesterday against disabled kids, whom she maintains should be withdrawn from mainstream schools, is only the most recent iteration of it.

Back in 1998, Hanson’s One Nation released a policy for “the disabled” ahead of the October federal election. In it, she made clear her dislike of de-institutionalisation of people with disabilities.

“The policy of shifting the emphasis away from ‘centre based care’ of the mentally and physically disadvantaged to community based housing will be reassessed.”

Why did Hanson have a problem with community-based care for people with disabilities?

“Much of the community concern at present stems from fear that residential areas will suffer from inappropriate placement of intellectually disabled people with anti-social behaviour.”

While Hanson was pandering to bigoted stereotypes about disabled people, the tragedy is that people with intellectual disabilities are significantly more likely to be victims of crime than either people with other forms of disability or people without disabilities. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that people with an intellectual disability are around twice as likely to be the victim of a crime. This has been backed by other, older studies conducted well before Hanson vaulted to prominence in the 1990s.

And people with intellectual disabilities are massively more likely to be the victims of sexual assault — and much less likely to report it. In particular, as one study found, “it is predominantly women with a disability who continue to be the victims. The gendered pattern of sexual violence persists across diverse abilities and indeed across the lifespan.” A Senate inquiry in to violence, abuse and neglect of people with disabilities in both residential and institutional care unanimously recommended a judicial inquiry or royal commission into the whole area in 2015.

Regardless, Hanson continues to see disabled people as some sort of threat to and problem for the rest of us. Bigotry, it seems, never changes. Stupidity certainly doesn’t.

Peter Fray

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