The Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children's Services, Bill Shorten, has said there is an urgent need for research in the disability area, while announcing the establishment of the Disability Studies and Research Centre at UNSW.

Mr Shorten said that knowledge is "diffuse" and labelling the amount of money currently spent in the area as "pathetic".

"In terms of the area of disability, I'm impressed and depressed in equal measures," said Mr Shorten. "I'm impressed by the people in the disability community and I'm depressed by the public policy."

The Centre aims to bring together researchers and those in the disability community to bring a unique perspective to the research and contribute to policy.

Researchers from a range of backgrounds are involved in the work - from lawyers and social scientists through to town planners and medical practitioners.

The Acting Director of the Centre, Ms Rosemary Kayess, is a legal academic and disability advocate who helped draft the text of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which Australia has recently ratified.

"Disability studies is a fledgling area," said Ms Kayess."There are pockets of researchers, but no central research centre like this one.

"What this group will do is promote disability studies and research that is informed by people with a disability.

"People with disabilities are involved in the governance of the Centre and are also involved in conducting the research," she said.

The Centre is an initiative of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Law.

Media Contact: Susi Hamilton | 0422 934 024 |