The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability released its final report this morning.
It held four and a half years of public and private hearings. The Commission made 222 recommendations across areas like housing, education and employment.
The Commission chair Ronald Sackville said the scale of the recommendations reflects “the very many settings and contexts in which violence against, and abuse, neglect and exploitation of, people with disability take place.”
Why was the Disability Royal Commission called?
A Federal Senate inquiry into institutional abuse and neglect of people with disability in 2015 recommended the Government set up a Royal Commission.
Royal Commissions are independent of the Government. They have strong powers to talk to witnesses, request information, and consult with experts.
This Commission was set up in April 2019 to broadly investigate violence against, and exploitation of, Australians with disability.
What the Commission recommended
The report’s 222 recommendations focused on how to improve laws, policies, structures, and practices specifically relating to people with disability in Australia.
At a high level, it proposed the Government should establish a Disability Rights Act. This would be an Australian law “to recognise the human rights of people with disability”. The Act would protect people with disability against discrimination, promote inclusion, and ensure equal access to services such as healthcare.
The report recommended a complete phase-out of “special/segregated” education by 2051 and accordingly called for equal access for students with disability to mainstream education.
It included measures for educators to prevent “gatekeeping” in mainstream schools. This is when schools reject the enrolments of students with disability, or otherwise discourage their attendance.
The report flagged that Commissioners had differing views about whether settings exclusively for people with disability should be phased out.
The report recommended establishing a National Inclusive Employment Roadmap, with a 2034 target to end segregated employment and similarly raise all wages to the full minimum wage.
It said the roadmap should centre on creating equal access to employment for people with disability.
Better pathways into the workforce could achieve this. For example, training for people with intellectual disability, and support for school-leavers entering the workforce.
Around 17,000 Australians with disability live in ‘group homes’. Group homes are long-term housing options that generally include on-site support services.
Disability advocates have argued segregated environments like group homes “increase the risk of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation for people with disability”.
The Commission recommended a roadmap to phase out group homes within 15 years. It called for the development of inclusive housing and transition support for people leaving group homes.
First Nations people
The report found First Nations people with disability are “uniquely marginalised” in Australia.
It recommended establishing a community-led First Nations disability forum, to “address the lack of diverse voices of First Nations people with disability across key areas,” and ensure culturally safe and appropriate reform.
The report also urged First Nations community organisations’ involvement in the rollout of these recommendations and called for better investment in the First Nations disability workforce.
National Disability Insurance Scheme Minister Bill Shorten commended the bravery of those who shared their experiences with the inquiry, calling the report “a historic moment for… all Australians”.
“The numbers and the stories in this very important Royal Commission are harrowing,” he said.
Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth said the Government won’t fully respond to the findings today, but will immediately establish a Commonwealth Disability Royal Commission taskforce.
“With a… report as extensive as this one, it would be disingenuous to suggest the Government could respond quickly. We need to make sure that we consider all recommendations thoroughly,” she said.
Rishworth said the Government would provide a progress report on the findings and recommendations “early next year”.