Working towards an ideal inclusive education model for refugee background people with disabilities in New Zealand
New Zealand accepts up to 750 refugees per annum, with a category for refugees with disabilities, as part of its quota obligation under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1957) (Immigration New Zealand, 2016). Immigration New Zealand’s Refugee Resettlement Strategy states that education is one of the main priorities with helping refugees resettle in New Zealand (Immigration New Zealand, 2013) Although there is some literature available on refugee background people and education in New Zealand, there is little focus on refugee background people with disabilities in education. This research explores how inclusive education spaces for refugee background people with disabilities could be implemented, and perceptions surrounding disability and inclusion. In order to gain insights into the perceptions of people involved in policy or practice with refugee background people with disabilities, I used a feminist, qualitative methodology, and conducted semi-structured interviews with 11 participants who worked in education provision, non-government or government organisations that worked with refugee background people. These participants were interviewed in Auckland (n = 4), Wellington (n = 3) and Melbourne, Australia (n = 4). The Australian participants were interviewed in order to provide an alternative view to their New Zealand counterparts, although the primary focus was on New Zealand. My findings suggest that participant perceptions of disability and inclusion generally followed social and medical models of disability, but rarely ecological. Participants who have direct experience with disability of refugee background people had more carefully constructed ideas. Based on participant answers, I developed an ideal inclusive education model encompassing physical, relational and pedagogical spaces, which could be applicable to refugee background people with disabilities. The thesis findings informs existing theoretical models and understanding of inclusive education spaces, and encourages greater inclusion of refugee background people with disabilities in education in New Zealand.