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Published: 08 April 2019
Author: Amy Olver

We welcome the Disability Abuse Royal Commission

Announcement: Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has just announced a $528 million Royal Commission which will examine the abuse and neglect of disabled people within Australia (‘the Disability Abuse Royal Commission’). The Inquiry will examine abuse and neglect occurring in a wide breadth of circumstances including but not limited to institutions, schools, workplaces and the community in general.

Much like the recent Child Abuse Royal Commission, this inquiry will have some of the most vulnerable people in our society as its focus and therefore, while it is predicted the Commission will need $379 million, a further $149 million has been set aside to assist in providing the relevant support services to those affected such as counselling.

Terms of reference

According to the terms of reference, the Disability Abuse Royal Commission will consider the following issues:

  • what governments, institutions and the community should do to better prevent and protect people with disability from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation experienced by people with disability in all settings and contexts;
  • what governments, institutions and the community should do to achieve best practice to encourage reporting of, and effective investigations of and responses to, violence against, and abuse, neglect and exploitation of, people with disability, including addressing failures in and impediments to, reporting, investigating and responding to such conduct; 
  • what should be done to promote a more inclusive society that supports the independence of people with disability and their right to live free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

The Commission also has scope to look at any matter reasonably incidental to the above or that the Commissioners deem reasonably relevant to the inquiry.

Much like the Child Abuse Royal Commission, the Disability Abuse Royal Commission will make recommendations for proposed changes to the current system at its conclusion.

Ryan Carlisle Thomas has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from those survivors who engaged with the Child Abuse Royal Commission. For many, it was the first time they had found a safe space to share their experiences. Survivors described having their feelings validated and being believed. We very much hope that this sentiment is felt by those who are brave enough to share their experiences with the newly announced Royal Commission.

Ryan Carlisle Thomas has represented numerous people who have disabilities in claims for compensation regarding abuse they have suffered. Their cases often bring with them unique legal and practical complexities, particularly where the disability affects the survivor’s ability to communicate.

It has been necessary in a number of cases to appoint legal guardians and engage experts to provide evidence in support of the survivor. It is hoped that the Commission will consider these barriers to accessing justice.

The powers of a Royal Commission are far-reaching and the impact of their findings can be too. Our specialist sexual abuse team will be following the progression of the Disability Abuse Royal Commission and providing comment via our legal blogs.