People with disability face social barriers that prevent them from thriving in their lives, such as prejudice and exclusion from daily activities. The Disability Hallmark Research Initiative brought together researchers from different disciplines. They focused on changing the social, economic and physical factors that impact people with disability.


The initiative achieved change in our city, state and beyond. It supported research, policy and education using a rights-based approach and the social model. The social model recognises that people with disability face unique social barriers, including exclusion from activities in daily life and prejudice. This impacts on their ability to thrive. The social model looks for ways in which society can be organised to provide accessibility, independence and opportunity for people with disability.

The initiative:

  • Promoted an active interdisciplinary disability research community, which is now focused through the University's Melbourne Disability Institute
  • Increased support for researchers focusing on changing the social, economic and physical environments that impact disability
  • Helped coordinate interdisciplinary projects, with the involvement of community partners and those with lived experience of disability
  • The Disability Human Rights Clinic was one of the Initiative’s first projects. Using human rights law and disability studies, students acquire the skillset to become the next generation of disability rights advocates
  • Facilitated the establishment of the University partnership with the disability services provider SCOPE
  • Established two interdisciplinary networks, which bring together researchers from universities across Australia and the world. These networks foster communities of researchers who are concerned with disability rights issues.


Born out of the initiative, these networks support and encourage collaboration and research across multiple disciplines, including social sciences, law, psychology and health.

  • The Disability Access to Justice Consortium is an interdisciplinary consortium of researchers, disability provider organisations, and community groups across Australia and New Zealand. Members are committed to extending the reach and impact of research on access to justice for people with disability.
  • The International Disability Human Rights Research Network is a platform for disability researchers around the world. It links researchers with key human rights organisations, and with the voice of people with disability. It helps scholars to pursue research that relates to the exercise and realisation of the rights guaranteed in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


The Disability Hallmark Research Initiative was born out of a desire for interdisciplinary disability research at the University. It was established in 2014 with funding from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and it ran for three years. It had a focus on rights protection through research and advocacy. It was hosted by the Melbourne Law School. Professor Keith McVilly (School of Social and Political Studies) served as Chair of the Initiative and Dr Anna Arstein-Kerslake (Melbourne Law School) was Academic Convenor.

The aim of initiative was to help coordinate interdisciplinary projects with the involvement of community partners and those with lived experience of disability. In developing high-quality applied research, policy and education programs, the initiative:

  • Established ongoing networks that brought together researchers from universities across Australia and the world
  • Awarded seed funding across priority research areas, some in partnership with Melbourne Interdisciplinary Research Institutes
  • Hosted interns and volunteers who completed projects in one of its research focus areas
  • Was involved with the Doctoral Academy program at the Melbourne Social Equity Institute.

First published on 27 April 2022.

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