The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has been granted a 17-month extension by the Australian Government.
With the final report now due on 29 September 2023 there will be additional time for further hearings, which has been welcomed by disability advocacy groups.
The Royal Commission has also welcomed last Thursday’s decision, which acknowledges the breadth of the Royal Commission’s responsibilities under its Terms of Reference and the significant and prolonged disruptions to the Commission’s program as a result of COVID-19.
Disability Royal Commission (DRC) Chair, Ronald Sackville QC, requested the extension last October and says the decision will allow the Commission to settle their program of hearings.
“The delay in granting the requested extension has created some difficulties for the Royal Commission, but now we have certainty about the date for delivery of the Final Report we can settle the program of hearings for the remainder of the Commission’s life,” Mr Sackville says.
“With the granting of this extension, it is now possible for the Royal Commission to discharge its considerable responsibilities to a standard that informed observers would regard as acceptable.
“Along with arranging our public hearing schedule, we can organise private sessions with certainty, proceed with the Royal Commission’s research program and conduct a full range of engagement activities.
“We can also continue to investigate examples of violence, against and abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability that are at the heart of the Terms of Reference.”
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) has also welcomed the extension of the DRC as a “win for people with disabilities”.
Chief Executive of PWDA, Sebastien Zagarella, says “it’s essential that people with disability have the space and time to tell their stories”.
“We are very pleased that the voices of people with disability have been heard on this issue,” Mr Zagarella says.
“Violence against people with disability is still endemic in Australia, and we now have the time we need to properly engage with the DRC on the wide range of issues it still needs to investigate.”
Blue Knot Foundation, National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma, supports the Government's decision as a vital move in improving the lives of Australians living with disability.
President of Blue Knot Foundation, Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, says the Commission “is about safety, security and being heard”.
“[The Commission] is about us as a society listening to people with disability,” says Dr Kezelman.
“It is about us doing more to prevent the pervasive violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability.
“It is about the systemic change needed to enable Australians living with disability to live full participating lives.”
The Royal Commission is independent from Government and sets its own processes including how it approaches its terms of reference, informs itself for the inquiry and, importantly, hears directly from people with disability, their families and loved ones.
Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston, announced the extension on Thursday night, saying she recognises the broad issues under the inquiry's terms of reference and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — both concerns cited by the commission.
“This extension will enable the Government to receive and implement recommendations as expeditiously as possible,” Senator Rushton says.
“This will make meaningful change to the lives of people with disability, while also enabling the Royal Commission to fulfil its terms of reference.
“We remain focused on supporting people with disability, their families and supporters, advocacy groups and the disability community.”
In a statement, the commission says it will now move to finalise the program for the remainder of its hearings, which will be published on its website.