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Plea to 'imagine more' for disabled kids

She was witness AAC - the voice of the disabled, their families and carers.

The mother of five disabled children, it was clear when she took the stand at the disability royal commission in Townsville that it was merely the next battle in her exhausting war with a school system mired in bureaucratic red tape.

For almost two decades, she has navigated five children through a primary school system unwilling to make concessions for kids who desperately needed help.

Time and time again, she told the commission how her efforts to put systems in place to help her children - and their teachers - to cope were thwarted.

She told of children paralysed by panic and gripped by fear of bullies who tormented them beyond the school gates.

One was so terrified he gripped a photo of his mum and dad in class - a symbol of their promise he would return home.

Classmates tortured his brother so relentlessly about his phobia about using the school toilet, that he took a knife to school to keep them at bay.

Their sister, so smart and talented, top of the class and a school captain, also had her demons, studying until 3am every day to make sure she was perfect.

The fourth still struggles to process conversations and can't filter what her classmates say.

The youngest refused to speak until he was three, and is still so afraid of changing his routine, he refuses to go on holiday with his family.

Their mother told the commission it had been a battle trying to get teachers to adjust to dealing with disabled children.

Even the school library, a peaceful haven where her children could escape the bullies and the hustle of the schoolyard, was cruelly denied.

"My son really needed a place to calm, you know, before going back into class," she said.

"The librarian decided that you are only going to be allowed in the library if you were actually doing work - which really defeated the purpose for him.

"He just needed to be sitting in there in that calm space.

"So I actually had to get involved and, yes, and talk about the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) and it was just so unnecessary - it could have been solved so simply, but it turns out to be a really big deal."

At times, her disgust was undeniable, her frustration evident.

"It's exhausting. It's absolutely exhausting and frustrating and unnecessary, yes."

She said while there were "amazing" teachers in the system, there were many who still do not want disabled children in the classroom.

They needed extra planning, and extra help in a system already struggling with too few teachers and resources.

Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates said there was no "silver bullet" answer.

"One of the issues that is plain in the classrooms right around Queensland is that the expectations on a single teacher are often beyond the capacity of a single human being to deliver," Mr Bates said.

"That might sound like an overstatement, but it is an acknowledgement that we are limited in our capacity as human beings to do 27 things at once."

The mum of five would have none of it.

"What do you say to that when someone says to you I've got 27 other children in the class?" she said.

"They're basically saying to you these 27 other children in the class, they're more important than your child.

"So, yes, so I'm very unimpressed with that."

Other special education teachers agreed, admitting there are teachers "resisting diversity" and at least one school in Queensland prefers their disabled students in segregated classes.

Loren Swancutt, regional head of the special education service, says reluctant teachers are failing to cater to the needs of disabled students.

"Individualised adjustments aren't necessarily fore-fronted and planned for - therefore the child cannot successfully engage in lessons," she said.

The commission was told some schools managed a greater inclusive program for disabled students.

In a plea to fellow teachers, she begged them to "to dare to imagine more", saying inclusion was a moral imperative.

"We can't possibly be happy with what we are currently doing because history has reminded us time and again that the segregation and othering of diverse groups of our own humankind results in the most horrific outcomes which linger for many decades and transcend generations.

"We have known better for an awfully long time. We must act with urgency and do better."

Counsel assisting Kerri Mellifont QC said the evidence in the Townsville hearings had been confronting.

"It has emphasised the critical importance of not devaluing a student with a disability, of not lowering the expectations of what that student can do or what that student can achieve," Dr Mellifont said.

"It has highlighted the critical importance of the opening of the eyes of the Australian people to the profound and demonstrated benefits of equitable education for all students, and a genuinely inclusive culture, not just on paper but in the hearts and minds of our governments, our educators, and our community."

The $528 million inquiry has heard that Australians with disabilities are essentially living under a system of apartheid that sentences them to exclusion, inequity, and violence.

Royal Commission chair Ronald Sackville QC has vowed to methodically examine how Australia is living up to UN conventions safeguarding the human rights of people living with a disability.

He will look at why past inquiries haven't resulted in the improvements advocates have been demanding for decades.

The first public hearings in Townsville closed on Thursday, with the commission to resume in Melbourne in December.

© AAP 2019