People with disability and representative organisations are calling on the Australian Government to pass legislation to protect the confidentiality of people giving information to the Disability Royal Commission when Parliament sits this week.
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sebastian Zagarella says the next sitting of Parliament from today until 25 March is “the perfect opportunity, and well past time, to make it safe to speak to the Disability Royal Commission”.
“Time is now running out for people with disability to tell their stories, and there are many who simply will not speak out until our privacy can be guaranteed,” Mr Zagarella says.
In October last year the Government announced its plan to amend the Royal Commissions Act to better protect the confidentiality of people sharing their stories, with an aim to introduce the amendments at the Autumn sitting starting today.
The announcement followed a #MakeItSafeToSpeakCampaign by disability activists earlier that month, however advocates were, and remain, concerned the changes weren’t happening quick enough.
People need privacy to safely tell their stories
Currently, people providing written submissions to the Disability Royal Commission are only guaranteed confidentiality until the Royal Commission concludes in April 2022.
“Many children and young people with disability and their families and caregivers have a well-founded fear of retribution for speaking out about abuse they have experienced,” says Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) CEO Mary Sayers.
“These changes are urgently needed to provide increased safety and trust that people’s privacy will be protected, now and in the future.”
PWDA has been providing support to people with disability who are sharing their stories with the Royal Commission.
“Our advocates are supporting people with disability to make written submissions regarding their experiences,” says Mr Zagarella.
“Part of that support may include helping people to access legal advice around confidentiality.”
Without confidentiality people’s home or work lives could be at risk, he adds.
“In some cases, people with disability still depend upon the people or institutions they wish to report for personal care and other essential support,” he says.
“Others might wish to report on the behaviour of their employers.
“The reality is that without a guarantee of confidentiality people are being asked to risk their jobs, healthcare, finances, housing and in some cases their personal safety.
“We are unfortunately finding a lot of people who would like to make a submission are choosing not to take the risk.”
The Disability Royal Commission is expected to report its findings by 29 April 2022.
Read the Disabled People’s Organisations Australia’s open letter to the Government here.