Representative organisations from Disabled People’s Organisations of Australia are campaigning for legislation to protect the confidentiality of people telling their stories to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.
The consumer peak body is concerned the Royal Commission has now been running for over a year without full protection for the privacy of people with disability who want to make submissions.
Director Policy and Advocacy for People with Disability Australia (PWDA) Romola Hollywood says if people aren’t able to provide information to the Disability Royal Commission (DRC) in complete confidence, there is a risk that the most severe cases of systemic abuse and neglect will not be exposed.
“It is vital to the success of the Royal Commission that the appropriate changes to the legislation are made as soon as possible,” Ms Hollywood says.
"People with disability who want to tell their stories to the Royal Commission are holding back, because they know there is a possibility that the perpetrators of violence may gain access to the information they give after the proceedings are done.”
"People are being asked to make submissions about their carers, support workers, service providers, medical professionals and others they may still depend on for basic necessities. It's a very dangerous situation for many people to be putting themselves in."
Chief Executive Officer of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) Carolyn Frohmader says many women and girls with disability are frightened of providing evidence to the DRC without a guarantee their evidence will be protected and will remain confidential after the DRC finishes.
“We know that women and girls with disability are at heightened risk of many forms of violence, abuse and exploitation. They have every right to give evidence in a safe and supportive way and to know that they will not be at risk of retribution by doing so.”
CEO of Inclusion Australia Catherine Alpine agrees, adding that changes to legislation are urgently needed so people with intellectual disability feel safe to speak.
“People with intellectual disability have told us over and over again about their fear of provider retribution if they speak to the Royal Commission,” she says.
Ms Hollywood says the Government has been aware of the need to amend the Royal Commissions Act since February, and it’s “well past time these changes were made”.
Disabled People's Organisations of Australia are calling upon the Attorney-General Christian Porter and Federal MPs to pass legislation at the next sitting of Parliament (starting October 19) to #MakeItSafeToSpeak and keep submissions sealed beyond the life of the Royal Commission.
Their open letter to the Attorney-General Christian Porter can be found here.