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Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Disability Discrimination Test Case

Disability Discrimination Test Case

PIAC’s Asylum Seeker Health Rights Project seeks to ensure that immigration detainees are provided with a standard of medical and mental health care commensur...

australia > ALL > both
18/11/2020 > 18/11/2021


  • Social inclusion & justice
  • Health/wellbeing & medical research


  • People with a disability, illness or disease
  • Asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and people from CALD backgrounds


PIAC’s Asylum Seeker Health Rights Project seeks to ensure that immigration detainees are provided with a standard of medical and mental health care commensurate with the Australian community standard. A major focus of this work relates to seeking an end to the pervasive practice of handcuffing for offsite medical appointments which dissuades detained asylum seekers from attending medical and mental health appointments.

PIAC is acting on behalf of Yasir* in a disability discrimination claim against the Department of Home Affairs and Serco Pty Ltd, to be filed in the Federal Court by 20 November 2020. Yasir lives with severe mental illness and the use of restraints is particularly retriggering and retraumatising for him. Yasir often suffers from seizures when faced with the prospect of being placed in restraints to attend medical appointments. The purpose of running this case is to seek to ensure better protections for Yasir and also to curb the widespread practice of handcuffing across the immigration detention network.

PIAC seeks funding in the event that the case loses and there is an adverse costs order, which is estimated between $250,000 – $300,000. If unpaid, the costs order would be a barrier to our client’s visa eligibility. If the case succeeds, PIAC will not need to call on the funds.

We have agreement from the Grata Fund, a public interest litigation funder, and another litigation funder, to provide an indemnity of $60,000. We are seeking further indemnity funding to protect our client from the risk of a costs order.

*Yasir is not the client’s real name.


We are seeking the following outcomes from the litigation:

• That the Commonwealth government, by its subcontractors, stops using restraints on Yasir for transfers to medical appointments;

• That the Commonwealth government ensures the decision not to handcuff Yasir is communicated effectively to all subcontractors so the practice is implemented consistently across the immigration detention network, by every officer and in every facility where Yasir is held;

• That the Commonwealth government pays Yasir compensation for the physical and mental health consequences, as well as the distress, hurt and humiliation he has experienced as a result the incidences of discrimination; and

• That the Commonwealth government agrees to take steps across the Australian immigration detention network to improve its policies and practices on the use of restraints.

Profile of Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is an independent, community legal centre that specialises in test cases and policy advocacy to achieve social justice and protect human rights. We achieve outcomes for individuals, while creating sustainable, systemic change.

Our current priority areas of work include:
• Asylum Seeker Health Rights
• Justice for People with Disability
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice
• Truth and Accountability for victims of conflict
• Reducing Homelessness
• Ensuring Police Accountability

A key priority for PIAC is our Asylum Seeker Health Rights Project (ASHRP), which is working to secure humane standards of medical and mental health care for asylum seekers detained onshore in Australia’s harsh immigration detention network. Our current focus is on addressing the overuse of handcuffing, achieving COVID-safe conditions and building the case for long-term legislative reform. Test cases will play an important role in our advocacy strategy on this issue.

PIAC has extensive experience in using test cases to achieve systemic change. For example, in 2019 PIAC a test case run by PIAC and supported by the Grata Fund and Blind Citizens Australia, achieved a commitment by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to ensure better accessibility of their touchscreen ‘Albert’ EFTPOS machine and a commitment to accessibility in future product development. Albert machines had caused those living with blindness or vision impairment to experience difficulties when entering their PINs and this test case, brought on behalf of Graeme Innes and Nadia Mattiazo, was integral to achieving the CBA’s commitment to accessibility.


TOTAL BUDGET: $250,000
Funding sourceAmount
Grata Fund and additional litigation funders$60,000
Philanthropic sources (unconfirmed)$90,000
Funding gap (unconfirmed)$100,000
Expense itemAmount
Adverse costs protection$250,000

Support Disability Discrimination Test Case

Got a question about this project or ready to contribute? Contact our Philanthropy & Impact Team.


As a broker of change, we invite social change initiatives to apply for funding. Eligible proposals are shared with our giving community via our Granting Opportunities directory.