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Royal Commission hearings begin in Sydney this week

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Posted 3 months ago by Rebecca St Clair

The Royal Commission has taken steps to make the next round of hearings more accessible to those with a disability.  (Source: Shutterstock)
The Royal Commission has taken steps to make the next round of hearings more accessible to those with a disability. (Source: Shutterstock)

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability will begin its next hearing at Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush on Tuesday 18 February.

The hearing will investigate the access to and treatment of people with a cognitive disability, including intellectual disability, autism and acquired brain injury, in the health system.

Over the two week hearing, the Royal Commission will hear directly from people with cognitive disability about their experiences in the health system. 

Chair of the Royal Commission, The Hon. Ronald Sackville AO QC (Chair), says the Commission will also hear from parents of people with intellectual disability, including some who have tragically lost loved ones,  

Medical practitioners, experts and advocacy groups, as well as government departments, will also provide evidence.

The hearing will officially begin on Tuesday 18 February. However, at the request of witnesses, the Royal Commission will be holding a closed familiarisation session on Monday 17 February.

With Mr Sackville saying “the aim of the familiarisation session is to help witnesses feel as comfortable and familiar with the hearing room as possible.”

The Royal Commission has taken steps to make the next round of hearings more accessible to those with a disability. 

“We take very seriously our responsibility to make Royal Commission hearings as accessible as possible. On advice from advocates and experts, we have taken steps to minimise the physical barriers for witnesses in the hearing room. We have also made adjustments to the layout of the room, to better meet the needs of witnesses. 

“It is critical to the success of the Royal Commission that people with disability are able to share their experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation safely and that they receive a full range of supports, before, during and after giving evidence,” says Mr Sackville.

Over the next two weeks, the hearings will explore: 

  • The extent to which people with intellectual disability disproportionately experience significant health problems

  • Barriers faced by people with cognitive disability when accessing and receiving health care and services, including barriers to communication and health professionals’ attitudes, values and assumptions

  • Training and education of health professionals with respect to patients with a cognitive disability

  • Delayed diagnoses and misdiagnoses of people with a cognitive disability

  • The diminished life expectancy of people with a cognitive disability

  • Specific issues for First Nations people with a cognitive disability concerning health care and services.

Evidence to be given at the hearing suggests that more than half a million Australians live with an intellectual disability and over 60 percent of this group experience profound or severe impairments in the core activities of daily living.

Senior Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, Ms Kate Eastman SC, will be responsible for conducting the hearing. Four Commissioners will attend including the Hon. Ronald Sackville AO QC (Chair), the Hon. Roslyn Atkinson AO, Barbara Bennett PSM and Professor Rhonda Galbally AC.

The hearing will be livestreamed on the Royal Commission website and include live captioning and Auslan-English interpreters.

Our guide to the Royal Commission in 2020 for consumers can be viewed here, and our guide for industry providers can be viewed here

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