2020: Our Year in Review

Posted 3 years ago by Emily Erickson
Wishing you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year from the Talking Disability team! [Source: iStock]
Wishing you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year from the Talking Disability team! [Source: iStock]

2020 has been a year of change and uncertainty across Australia and the globe, especially for the disability industry and community.

But despite the challenges this year has brought, there have been positive breakthroughs and achievements in the sector.  

From the Disability Royal Commission public hearings and further advocacy for the rights of people with disability, to sector changes under COVID-19 and NDIS developments, we’ve wrapped up Talking Disability’s biggest news stories of 2020 along with our readers’ top picks.

Royal Commission

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability held hearings, running from 18-21 August, covering the impact of COVID-19 on people with disability and the response of the Australian Government to the pandemic. 

A follow-up report released in November says no Australian Government agency with responsibility for disability policy made “any significant effort” to consult with people with disability or their representative organisations from late January 2020 until the establishment of the Advisory Committee for the COVID-19 Response for People with Disability on 2 April 2020.


For many carers, the COVID-19 pandemic added another level of stress to an already challenging responsibility. Many carers juggling multiple responsibilities such as work, family and friends, while making sure their loved one is well looked after. Talking Disability published an article with Carers SA and Carers Gateway with tips and advice for looking after your mental and physical health as a carer.


A survey by Mission Australia released mid-2020 showed that young people with disability are twice as likely to be bullied and are more negative about their future. The survey included data from more than 25,000 responses to the Youth Survey, of which 1,623 young people reported having disability.

In November, researchers at the University of South Australia announced that they have developed a new virtual reality program to help children with an intellectual disability to develop essential life skills and become more independent. Funded by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation, the program aims to build capacity and self-confidence in children with an intellectual disability in a safe and controlled environment. 

A landmark report released looking at the impact of early intervention on children on the autism spectrum. The report, Interventions for children on the autism spectrum: A synthesis of research evidence, shows that early intervention can play an important part in promoting learning and participation in everyday life activities. It also gives an overview of different interventions and looks at the scientific evidence of these options.

Advocacy and awareness 

In April, the nation was rocked by the news of the death of Ann Marie Smith. Ann Marie Smith, who had cerebral palsy, died of septic shock and multiple organ failure after being admitted to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. The Disability Safeguarding Task Force, established in the wake of her tragic death, released its final report in August, flagging critical safeguarding gaps for people living with disability.

In the aftermath of Ann Marie Smith’s death, there were concerns about the vulnerability of people with disability when their voices are not heard. A report titled A South Australian woman dies from long-term abuse and neglect: A disability community response was presented to the South Australian Premier’s office.

Disability advocates including El Gibbs and Sarah Forbes also weighed in, saying the visibility of people with disability in the community is key to ensuring they are not subjected to abuse and neglect, and that when they are, somebody notices. 

Mid-year, the Black Lives Matter movement in, and outside, Australia once more highlighted the inequality faced by First Nations people in Australia, including those who live with disability. 

In the lead up to International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) on Thursday 3rd December, employment service provider atWork Australia shared tips and advice on how to reduce disability stigma in the workplace and raise awareness that ‘not all disabilities are visible’.

Readers’ choice

As COVID-19 hit Australian shores, the potential impact of coronavirus on those with a disability led peak body People With Disability Australia (PWDA) calling for people with a disability to be included in the management of the outbreak.

A month later, the Disability Royal Commission released a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” about the impact of COVID-19 on people with a disability.

Shortly after, Talking Disability published an article on how to help someone with intellectual disability during COVID-19. It includes tips on how to deal with unexpected changes, and where to find accessible and easy-to-understand information. 

In May, Australia Federal Court made the decision to allow National Disability Insurance Scheme funding of sex workers, after it ruled in favour of a woman living with multiple sclerosis who wanted to fund sex work services in her NDIS plan.

In November, the Disability Royal Commission requested a 17-month extension. The commission was originally scheduled to hand down its final report in April 2022, but if the extension is granted, the $528 million commission will run for a total of four years and five months. 

That sums up our year in 2020! A big Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from the Talking Disability team.

What are your top story picks of 2020? Let us know in the comments below!