Use of Suspensions in QLD State Schools

Boy sitting on the floor, he is wearing a hoodie.

Forum Program

There is a longstanding concern that students with disability and First Nations students are being suspended and excluded from school more frequently than their peers. In a 2022 report,  Queensland Advocacy for Inclusion (QAI) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service Ltd (ATSILS) wrote to the Queensland Human Rights Commissioner to call for an inquiry into the use of school disciplinary absences in Queensland state schools. The report included statistics from a Right to Information request that showed suspensions and exclusions were being given disproportionately to certain groups of students. First Nations students and students living in out of home care accounted for just over one quarter of school enrolments in 2020 (28%) but received almost two-thirds of short-term suspensions (62%). And more than half of short-term suspensions in 2020 were repeat suspensions for students in one of these priority equity groups.

When students receive unnecessary suspensions and exclusions, they are denied essential learning opportunities, go on to experience poorer mental health and are at an increased risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system. When suspensions and exclusions are used sparingly alongside supportive interventions, there are better outcomes for students, families, and teachers.

In this event, QAI, ATSILS, PeakCare Qld, Youth Advocacy Centre (YAC) and the Centre for Inclusive Education (C4IE) bring together researchers, experts, families with lived experience and politicians to discuss why vulnerable students are being disproportionately excluded from schools, what are the broader implications and what are the evidenced-informed solutions to discipline that will successfully reduce behaviours of concern, whilst keeping students safe and engaged at school.



Mr Gregory Egert, Ms Elly Desmarchelier and The Honourable Brittany Lauga


Professor Linda Graham, Dr Callula Killingly, Ms Sophie Wiggans, Ms Matilda Alexander (QAI)

Suspensions in QLD state schools, 2016-2020: Intersectionality and disproportionate risk

Mr Alfred Davis, Dr Natasha Reid, Professor Beth Saggers, Ms Haley Tancredi

What is going on for these kids and what do they need?

Ms Sarah Kelly, Mr Darren Humphrys (Department for Education, South Australia)

Lessons from South Australia – UNAVAILABLE


Ms Hayley Stevenson

Current strategies and outcomes in Queensland

Discussion Panel:

Senator Penny Allman-Payne, Ms Matilda Alexander (QAI), Ms Natalie Lewis (QFCC), Mr Shane Duffy (ATSILS), Mr Lindsay Wegener (Peak Care)

What more needs to happen in Queensland schools?


A headshot of the presenter Matilda Alexander, a smiling person with short hair.Matilda Alexander

Matilda Alexander has been a leader and human rights lawyer for nearly 20 years including at Queensland Advocacy for Inclusion, Prisoners’ Legal Service and LGBTI Legal Service. She teaches Prison Law at Griffith University and has previously worked at the Queensland Human Rights Commission and as a Principal Lawyer at Legal Aid Queensland.  She has won multiple awards for her work with vulnerable communities and holds an enduring passion for justice and human rights. She is currently the Patron of the LGBTI Legal Service and CEO of Queensland Advocacy for Inclusion.  She has twice been selected as a delegate to the United Nations Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in New York.

A photo of Penny Allman-Payne addressing the Senate.Penny Allman-Payne

Penny Allman-Payne has been a State Secondary School teacher and active member of the Queensland Teachers’ Union for over 25 years. After growing up in Far North Queensland, she has lived and worked right across Queensland, from Cape York and the Torres Strait to Wide Bay, Central Queensland, Redlands and Brisbane. She is a passionate advocate for public education and a staunch unionist and activist, who has spent years organising at a grassroots level. 

Alfred Davis

Alfred Davis is an Indigenous Social Worker – Cobble Cobble and Kanaka family.  He is currently Manager of Family and Health and Well Being at Institute of Urban Indigenous Health – integrated family services including Birthing Programs, Child and Youth Services and Deadly Kindies. Alfred has over 20 years’ experience from front-line to management in Child Protection, Juvenile Justice, and Mental Health for a variety of Indigenous services in South-East Qld.

A headshot of Elly.Elly Desmarchelier

Elly Desmarchelier is a sought-after speaker, writer, event facilitator and disability rights advocate. As a proud disabled woman, Elly was the national spokesperson for the Defend Our NDIS campaign during the 2022 Federal election. Appearing regularly on national TV and with her writing published in national publications, Elly shares her insights and experiences on being a disabled woman in modern society. Fuelling her advocacy, Elly is determined to create change for the 1 in 5 Australians with disability and believes that’s only possible if people with disability have a seat at the table.

A photo of Shane Duffy in front of a dot painting.Shane Duffy

Shane Duffy is a descendant of the Kalkadoon people from Mount Isa in North West Queensland. He has worked in the human services industry for nearly 30 years. Shane has been the Chief Executive Officer for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service in Queensland for the last 18 years and has also held roles including Co-Chair of the Change the Record Justice Coalition, Chair National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (NATSILS), and Chair of the Australian Legal Assistance Forum (ALAF). He is also a member of the Queensland government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Taskforce and the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health advisory body, and has represented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at United Nations forums in New York, Geneva and Alta.

Professor Linda Graham

Linda Graham is Director of QUT’s Centre for Inclusive Education (C4IE) and a Professor in the Faculty of Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice. Her research investigates the role of education policy and schooling practices in the development of disruptive student behaviour and the improvement of responses to children that teachers can find difficult to teach. Linda is co-leading the Accessible Assessment ARC Linkage project with A/Prof Jill Willis, and the Central Queensland Leading Inclusive Education Reform project with  A/Prof Terri Bourke and Ms Haley Tancredi.

Darren Humphrys

Darren Humphrys is an executive within the Department for Education in South Australia, currently working as Director, Support & Inclusion Reform. His team is responsible for delivery of the ‘One in Four’ reforms, focused on improving learning and development outcomes for children with disability, and the Student Engagement Reforms, focused on improving engagement and reduction in use of exclusionary responses. Darren has previously held senior roles in state government responsible for organisational reform, change management and corporate services.

Sarah Kelly

Sarah Kelly is Assistant Director, Behaviour Support Reform and works in the Support and Inclusion Reform team in the department. Her team is responsible for a number of the student engagement reforms including piloting a Positive Behaviour for Learning framework in 40 government schools, data improvements, and review of the department’s procedure relating to suspensions and exclusions. Sarah has worked in senior legal and policy roles in the South Australian and NSW governments.

Callula KillinglyDr Callula Killingly

Dr Callula Killingly is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in C4IE and a member of the Accessible Assessment ARC Linkage project. Her research interests include learning and memory processes, language and literacy development, and music cognition.


A headshot photo of Brittany Lauga smiling in front of a leafy background.The Honourable Brittany Lauga

The Honourable Brittany Lauga grew up in Keppel and was elected as the State Labor Member for Keppel in January 2015, November 2017, and again in October 2020. Brittany was sworn in as Assistant Minister for Education in December 2017, and again in November 2020. As the daughter of a State School teacher, Brittany was raised to understand the importance of public education. As Queensland’s Assistant Minister for Education Brittany has been leading the Trade 2 Teach Working Group which aims to increase the number of ITD teachers in Queensland’s state schools. Brittany also serves on the Outside School Hours Care Ministerial working group and is charged with delivering the Palaszczuk Government’s Local Schools Local Jobs Plan.

A headshot photo of Natalie Lewis. Natalie Lewis

Natalie Lewis is a Gamilaraay woman and the Commissioner of the Queensland Family and Child Commission. Natalie’s career spans more than 25 years across youth justice, child and family services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs. She was the CEO of the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak for 8 years and has also held numerous appointments on Boards and Councils that have driven significant reform in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child protection and family services sectors. Natalie is fiercely committed to progressing a transformational reform agenda to ensure that children’s rights are upheld in Queensland and nationally.

A headshot of Natasha Reid.Dr Natasha Reid

Dr Natasha Reid is a Senior Research Fellow & Clinical Psychologist at The University of Queensland, Child Health Research Centre. She leads the foetal alcohol spectrum disorder research collaboration. Natasha and her colleagues established the UQ Neurodevelopmental Clinic, which provides free assessment, diagnosis and support for children with FASD.

A headshot of Elizabeth Saggers.Professor Beth Saggers

Professor Beth Saggers is a C4IE member and Professor in the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education. Her research focuses on maximizing the success of schooling experiences for diverse learners, their families and school communities. Beth’s career has focused on developing knowledge and expertise in inclusive education principles and practices, specifically in autism.


A photo of Hayley Stevenson.Hayley Stevenson

Haley Stevenson is the Assistant Director-General, Disability, Inclusion and Student Services in the Queensland Department of Education.  This is the area that has students as its focus.  Hayley leads the work on student wellbeing, mental health, disability, behaviour, youth justice, culturally and linguistic diversity, school based therapists and nurses, and student protection across all Queensland state schools.  Recently she led the Student Wellbeing Workforce reform, introducing the GPs in Schools program and expanding access in schools to psychologists and social workers.

Haley TancrediHaley Tancredi

Haley Tancredi is an educational speech pathologist and is in the final year of her PhD at QUT. Her research focuses on the impact of instructional approaches to support students with language and/or attentional difficulties to access genuine inclusive education.


 Lindsay Wegener

Lindsay Wegener is the Executive Director of PeakCare Queensland, a child protection peak body. A social worker by profession, Lindsay commenced his career within the Department of Children’s Services and worked within government for around 20 years in the fields of child protection and youth justice. This was followed by working within the non-government sector and as a consultant before joining PeakCare in 2011. On Monday, Lindsay will be stepping away from his Executive Director role, but will continue to be employed by PeakCare as an extra set of hands, when needed, to assist the organisation until it is again fully staffed.

Sophie Wiggins

Sophie Wiggins is a Systems Advocate at Queensland Advocacy for Inclusion (QAI). Sophie’s passion for upholding the human rights of people with disability comes from her experience in individual disability advocacy and working alongside people with disability and their families as a social worker in the health setting. Sophie’s undergraduate degree in law complements her understanding of the systemic barriers facing vulnerable members of our community and inspires her to promote the values of social justice and equality.



Forum Program
Banner with atsils, c4ie, peak care,qai and yac logos. On the right is a photo of a boy wearing a hoodie, his head is down, arms crossed.


Forum Program


Location: E550 Education Precinct, Kelvin Grove Campus, QUT Brisbane [link to map]
Start Date: 17/03/2023 [add to calendar]
Start Time: 10:00am
End Date: 17/03/2023
End Time: 3:00pm
RSVP By: Monday 13th of March 2023
Cost: FREE, by invitation-only
Organiser: The Centre for Inclusive Education