The much-needed and anticipated Royal Commission into the violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation has been officially announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison today, alongside some finer details.
The inquiry will now begin following the official signing of the Letters Patent by the Governor-General.
Mr Morrison says the Government has consulted extensively with people with disability, their families and carers, States and Territories, peak bodies and the disability sector to ensure the Royal Commission has the shape and breadth needed.
More than 3,700 submissions were received during the public consultation process on the draft Terms of Reference.
“We listened to the feedback and have now finalised the Terms of Reference, which define what the Royal Commission can investigate and make recommendations about,” Mr Morrison says.
“Importantly, over 96 percent of people responding to the survey agreed the Royal Commission should cover all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, in all settings where they occur - and that’s just what it will do.”
The Commissioners overseeing the inquiry were also announced.
Hon Ronald Sackville AO QC will be the Chair of the Royal Commission and will be supported by five other Commissioners Barbara Bennett PSM, Dr Rhonda Galbally AC, Andrea Mason OAM, Alastair McEwin and the Hon John Ryan AM.
“The panel of six Commissioners is a representative of a diverse range of backgrounds which includes lived experience of disability, judicial and policy experience and Indigenous leadership,” Mr Morrison says.
During the inquiry, West Australian barrister Ben Gauntlett will take over Mr McEwin’s role for a five-year term as Disability Discrimination Commissioner, commencing May 7 2019.
Minister of Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher says the Government funding commitment of $527.9 million will support people with disability to participate in the Royal Commission.
“The funding anticipates the Royal Commission will run for three years and includes establishment costs and residual costs after the inquiry has finished.”
Disability peak bodies have responded positively, welcoming today’s announcements.
Matthew Bowden, Co-Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of People with Disability Australia says they are particularly happy to see that the inquiry will cover all people with disability in all settings and contexts.
“People with disability have called for this Royal Commission for many years, due to the appalling rates of violence against us, and we look forward to the opportunities for justice, healing and prevention provided by these Terms of Reference.
“This Royal Commission is a real step towards justice.”
Executive Director of Women With Disabilities Australia Carolyn Frohmader says “we are glad to hear that there will be $100 million for advocacy and supports, and we are looking forward to seeing the Terms of Reference in full.”
CEO of First Peoples Disability Network Damian Griffis is happy hearings will be taking place around the country.
“Our people have much higher rates of disability than the general population, and we’re particularly keen to be able to tell our stories and see some healing.
“The Royal Commission will start to provide that.”
Executive Director at People with Disability Western Australia Samantha Jenkinson applauded the inquiry into the mistreatment of people with disability and says it’s a problem rife across Australia.
“Finally the Federal Government has heard the voices of people with disability, especially those who are amongst the most marginalised.
“In 2015 our Western Australian report ‘Behind Closed Doors’ exposed horrific stories of people with disability having been subjected to sexual, domestic or other violence – it is Australia’s hidden shame.”
The investigation uncovered violence, neglect and abuse in Western Australian schools, mental health facilities, boarding houses, segregate employment settings, day centres, group homes and supported accommodation.
“People with disability need to have their experiences heard and acknowledged.
“They also need support from advocacy and the opportunity for counselling for the trauma that has been experienced.
“This is so much broader than the NDIS or disability services, it is about how Australian Society and systems value and treat all people.
“We will be here to inform people of the details as they arise, and we hope to be able to assist the people in WA to be part of sharing their experiences in whatever way they need,” Ms Jenkinson says.
You can find more information on the Royal Commission here.