Hall & Wilcox leads project to change outdated terminology in social security law and policy


Hall & Wilcox has led a pro bono law reform project to change outdated and offensive terminology in legislation related to disabilities.

When Special Counsel Barbara Casado discovered that the word ‘handicapped’ was being used in the Social Security Guide published by the Department of Social Services and in the Social Security Act, she brought together a group of Hall & Wilcox lawyers to draft a brief that Economic Justice Australia could use in advocacy to change this outdated and arguably offensive language.

The report recommended that the term ‘handicapped’ should not be used in relation to disability, and that it should be expunged from legislation, policy documents, guidelines and information resources.

While the term has been replaced in most social security legislation and associated policy documents, the report noted that further changes are needed to ensure that all language relating to disability and people with disability is respectful.

Following the submission of the research report, Handicapped: use of outdated terminology in Social Security law and policy, the Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth, and the Department of Social Services have committed to implementing the report’s recommendations.

Hall & Wilcox Head of Pro Bono & Community Nathan Kennedy said, ‘Words have power, including the power to degrade a person’s dignity. The language of our law and policy must respect human dignity and therefore human rights, particularly those of people with disability. The firm is proud to have partnered with Economic Justice Australia in securing this important change.’

Barbara said, ‘Economic Justice Australia advocates on such important issues and it was a pleasure to be involved in this project. While implementing the report’s recommendations might seem like a small change, it is a vital change. Language can greatly impact the way people feel about themselves and it can shape what society considers appropriate. Our involvement in the project is aligned with our purpose of enabling people, our clients and our communities to thrive.’

Hall & Wilcox is a leading independent law firm. We have more than 950 people, including approximately 120 partners, working across eight offices. We build partnerships with and service corporate, public sector and private clients, both Australian-based and those offshore doing business in Australia.


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