Enhancing student disclosure: Australia’s invisible equity students and reasons for non-disclosure in Australia’s tertiary sector

Dr Colin Clark1, Ms Rita Kusevskis-Hayes1, Mr Matthew Wilkiinson1

1University Of New South Wales, Kensington NSW

Many students in tertiary institutions who are eligible for equity consideration and accommodations decide not to disclose their equity status. Discussions of equity disclosure concern fears of stigma, questions of purpose, and the relationship between visibility of equity status and disclosure. This paper reports on the concept of self-disclosure of equity group membership at university. This study is the result of a HEPPP-commissioned project to investigate the factors that encourage domestic students from identified equity groups to self-disclose this information to higher education providers.

The project considers three key equity groups:

  • Students with disabilities
  • Indigenous students
  • Domestic students from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB)

An understanding of nondisclosure would inform future policy and program design to encourage disclosure of hidden subpopulations with specific needs. In this article, we review the literature on disclosure, considering common themes and discussions around these three equity groups. We report on preliminary findings from a survey of university equity service staff on their perceptions of reasons for nondisclosure. When the study is complete, with student surveys and interview/focus group data, the information will be used to generate guidelines to help universities plan equity support measures, allocate appropriate resources and train staff.


Dr. Colin Clark has been involved in tertiary education in academic and support roles for over 20 years. He has published research using multimethod qualitative and quantitative methods in the Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Journal of Asian Business and has a paper currently in second stage of review in Academy of Management Discoveries. His doctoral thesis won the 2012 Association of Business Communication Outstanding Dissertation award.

Ms. Rita Kusevskis-Hayes has previously been employed in a number of organisations, such as the NSW Department of Education, Vision Australia, University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and TAFE NSW. Her current position is Senior Engagement Coordinator of various support services for HEPPP-funded students offered at UNSW. Rita has been actively involved in education for more than 20 years in a range of educational contexts.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education.

For more information, please visit ANZSSA website by anzssa.com.


ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

For more information, please visit the ISANA website at www.isana.org.au.

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