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PM announces disability Royal Commission


Scott Morrison

The Royal Commission into abuses against people with disability will focus on the safety and quality of services across all sectors, including private operators, community organisations, government bodies and schools.

It will be headed by a diverse panel of six commissioners representing a range of experiences including Indigenous Australians and lived experience of disability, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday.

The inquiry will be based in Brisbane but will take hearings around the country. It is expected to run for three years.

It will look at violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability across a range of settings including schools, nursing homes, the workplace, jails, hospitals and “walking up and down the street”, the Prime Minister said.

Mr Morrison said people living with disability faced difficult circumstances not only because of their condition but because of a lack of a culture of respect that led to abuse and mistreatment.

“We have to establish a culture of respect for people living with disabilities and the families who support love and care for them,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“When you hear the story about abuse and neglect most good-hearted people will shake their head and fail to understand how this can occur.”

$500 million to fund the inquiry

The announcement comes after the government committed $527 million towards the royal commission in Tuesday’s budget, including $100 million for advocacy and support for people with disability to participate, and ahead of a federal election in coming weeks.

It also comes as the Royal Commission in Aged Care Quality and Safety continues its investigation and follows a campaign by people with with disability and their advocates.

The disability Royal Commission will be chaired by Ronald Sackville QC He will be supported by five other commissioners including senior public servant Barbara Bennett, NDIS board member Rhonda Galbally, Indigenous advocate Andrea Mason, Disability Discrimination Commissioner Alastair McEwen and former NSW MP John Ryan.

“We have consulted extensively across Australia with people with disability, their families and carers, states and territories, peaks representing people with disability and the disability sector, about the shape and breadth of the Royal Commission,” the Prime Minister said.

“We listened to the feedback and have now finalised the Terms of Reference, which define what the Royal Commission can investigate and make recommendations about.”

Terms of reference

The Royal Commission will look at the quality and safety of all disability services, including those provided by the government, community providers, businesses, charities and schools.

It will also consider factors preventing problems being reported, investigated and acted upon, as well as the role of disability sector workers, families and carers.

It will cover all people with a disability, whether they were born with it or acquired it through an accident or ageing, and encompass physical, sensory, intellectual and psycho-social disability.

Disability advocacy groups welcomed Friday’s announcement, describing it a real step towards justice.

“People with disability have called for this Royal Commission for many years, due to the appalling rates of violence against us, and we look forward to the opportunities for justice, healing and prevention provided by these Terms of Reference,” said co-CEO of People with Disability Australia Matthew Bowden.

“We are particularly happy to see that the Royal Commission will cover all people with disability in all settings and contexts.”

More information on the Royal Commission is available here.

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