The motion for a Royal Commission into the violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability in institutional and residential settings has been passed, however disability advocates are calling for a clear timeline.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten expressed their support for the Royal Commission before it was subsequently passed through the House of Representatives this afternoon.
Mr Morrison thanked Senator Jordon Steele-John for the draft Terms of Reference and says he will work in partnership with states and territories to establish the Royal Commission.
“We take it seriously because abuse and neglect of our most vulnerable is abhorrent,” Mr Morrison says.
Mr Shorten congratulated Scott Morrison on his support before acknowledging the tireless efforts of advocates in the room, including those who had travelled from all around the country to witness the vote.
“The abuse and mistreatment of people with disability is Australia’s hidden shame.
“We need to address what is the core reason why people with disability suffer disproportionate abuse, neglect and violence.
“...Despite progress we might have made with the National Disability Insurance Scheme and other things we still as a nation, devalue people with disability.”
Mr Shorten says the Royal Commission must address that problem and change Australia’s attitudes towards people with disability.
“We can’t be talking about people with disability we must be talking to people with disability.
“We want to hear the voices of the voiceless in this debate.”
Disability peak bodies also welcomed the vote on a Royal Commission but say an immediate and clear timeframe is required.
“We welcome today's vote on a Royal Commission into the violence, abuse and neglect that is a devastating reality in many of our lives,” Co-Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of People with Disability Australia Therese Sands says.
"However, we are concerned that there was not a definite announcement or timeframe to establish a Royal Commission, nor a commitment to look at the breadth of issues we have raised with the Federal Government over many years.
“This Royal Commission must cover all the places where people with disability live, work and play, including schools, prisons, homes, hospitals, mental health facilities as well as all disability support institutions and organisations, not just in the disability sector.
“We need a Royal Commission because it has the power to compel witnesses and representatives of service systems to appear and be cross-examined under oath and thoroughly examine forms of violence that are specific to people with disability, which have been ignored in most other inquiries,” Ms Sands says.
“We have fought for a standalone Royal Commission on this issue for decades and we are ready to work with the Federal Government to make the Royal Commission happen as soon as possible.”
Executive Director of Women With Disabilities Australia Carolyn Frohmader says a Royal Commission is essential due to the violence that has impacted many lives, causing trauma, harm and even death.
“Women with disability experience higher rates of violence, including sexual violence than non-disabled women.
“We need to make sure that the Royal Commission takes an intersectional approach to the examination of violence, including gender, age, sexual orientation, intersex status and race.
“We look forward to a thorough and in-depth consultation with people with disability on the Terms of Reference for the Commission, which must prioritise our voices and experiences, and grant powers to look into all forms of violence against people with disability in all settings, all contexts, all circumstances and across all age groups,” Ms Frohmader says.
CEO of First Peoples Disability Network Australia Damian Griffis highlights the need for the Royal Commission to also focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.
“The specific issues that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability must also be addressed by this Royal Commission, including extensive consultation with Aboriginal controlled organisations of people with disability, particularly given the over-representation of Aboriginal people in care, in prison and living in institutions,” he says.
CEO of National Ethnic Disability Alliance Dwayne Cranfield says the Royal Commission must include all Australians.
“People with disability from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds must have equal access to the Royal Commission, with appropriate supports, translations to make sure our voices are heard.”
The Royal Commission has been a long time coming after a 2015 Senate inquiry found widespread rates of violence and abuse against people with disability.
In 2017, over 160 civil society groups and over 100 academics joined the call for a Royal Commission into violence against people with disability.