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What the four-year Disability Royal Commission found

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For over four years, a Royal Commission has been looking into the treatment of people with disability in Australia. Here's what it found.
disability royal commission found

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability released its final report today.

After four and a half years of public and private hearings, the inquiry has released a final report spanning 13 volumes.

It includes evidence and experiences from over 9,000 disability community representatives.

The Disability Royal Commission

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 of the day. They have strong powers to talk to witnesses, request information, and consult with experts.

The Morrison government set up this Royal Commission in April 2019 to broadly investigate violence against, and exploitation of, Australians with disability.

What it found

The Royal Commission found people with disability are subject to higher rates of violence, neglect, and abuse than Australians without disability.

It found the Government has failed to protect people with disability, despite Australia’s international human rights commitments.

The Commission heard people with disability experience persistent violence and abuse throughout their lives.

It found people with different styles of communication, women with intellectual disability, First Nations women, and survivors of childhood sexual abuse face a high risk of life-long mistreatment.

These impacts were not limited to one generation. Those removed from their families as young children often had their own children removed from them. This was especially true for First Nations parents with disability.

First Nations people

The Royal Commission found First Nations people with disability experience “unique marginalisation” stemming from the ongoing impacts of colonisation and racism.

It suggested a lack of culturally aware care made this marginalisation worse.

First Nations people told the Commission there is a gap between the Western medical understanding of disability and traditional cultural practices. This included “the focus on individual impairment over collective wellbeing.”

“I think being an Aboriginal person – and this can’t be understated when it’s mixed with disability – is that you are subjected to an extraordinary amount of discrimination. I think it’s tenfold. Or even more.”

‘Arielle’, a First Nations woman with disability and a child with disability.

Human rights

The Commission noted Australia has signed multiple international human rights treaties, including one specifically targeted at protecting people with disability. It found, however, that “many human rights of people with disability are not being realised in practice in Australia.”

Gi Brown, a young person with disability, told the Commission many struggle to access healthcare, food, water, housing, and income.

“We aren’t having our basic human rights and our needs met and respected, so how would you expect us to… flourish in life?”

“What I really want is to never again feel like an inconvenience, to never have to say sorry for being disabled, to never stick out like a sore thumb because the venue I’m visiting is inaccessible…

I want my little brother to hear this in 20 years and be horrified at all of the things I’ve mentioned, that the discrimination, and marginalisation and invisibilisation of disabled people just seem like… something that would never happen in contemporary Australia.”

‘Claudia’, a gay woman with physical disability

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