Today, (Monday 16th) the opening hearing of the Disability Royal Commission (DRC) signalled the commencement of an investigation into the violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability across the country.
In the first public sitting in Brisbane The Hon Ronald Sackville AO QC – Chair of the Royal Commission was joined by six other Royal Commissioners:
- The Hon Roslyn Atkinson AO
- Ms Barbara Bennett PSM
- Dr Rhonda Galbally AC
- Ms Andrea Mason OAM
- Alastair McEwin AM
- The Hon John Ryan AM
To people with disability and their advocates Alastair McEwin AM stated, “The establishment of this Royal Commission is your achievement.”
The letters patent outlines the key focus areas of the Royal Commission and what it hopes to achieve. It recognises that people with disability have multi-layered experiences in regards to Violence, Abuse, Exploitation and Neglect. The Commissioner’s discussed the inherent dignity and individual autonomy necessary for people with disability, and how they should have the same rights as other Australian’s to live and participate in safe environments within their community.
The Commission will work as expeditiously as possible with an interim report due no later than 30 October 2020 and a submission of results and recommendations due no later than 29 April 2022.
The Commissioner’s addressed the enormous task ahead to ensure that first-nation people and non-indigenous Australian’s are safe, protected and supported to tell their stories and be heard. It is critical that the procedures and practices are in place in order to minimise trauma.
“We have to reach out actively to encourage all people to take advantage of what is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Unheard voices must be heard.” – Hon Ronald Sackville AO QC
The Commission will have a rights based focus and looks to the United Convention for People with Disability for guidance in their work. They will be looking to why have the recommendations that have been made by many inquiries and reports in the past have not made a change to the lives of people with disability.
It is obvious that from this inquiry, people want and expect real change. Simply repeating the proposals made by previous inquiries will not achieve a result. Australia has proven that it is open to the opportunity for seismic and transformational change in this area.
Rebecca Treston QC, Counsel Assisting discussed troubling statistics around the prevalence of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation of people with a disability, demonstrating the dire need for investigation. She stated that the main issues arising from the submissions received thus far are housing, justice and health. It is more than likely that there will be hearings to this effect before the end of the year.
The Disability Royal Commission plans to conduct the first public hearings later this year and undertake an extensive research program. The most important part, they said, is the engagement with people with disabilities, their families and supporters. They are the heart and soul of this commission.
If you, your family member or someone you support has a disability and has experienced violence, abuse, neglect, or exploitation in any sense and you would like Youngcare to help you tell the story to the Royal Commission, please email [email protected] or call (07) 3041 3400 to put your name onto our expression of interest register.