People with a disability now have their confidentiality protected by law for their entire lifetime once they submit to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.
Advocates in the sector have been calling for the law to strengthen protection of people with disability as previously the confidentiality of a person who submitted only applied during the Commission, and not after the Commission ended.
The Royal Commissions Amendment (Protection of Information) Bill 2021 passed Federal Parliament this week to extend the confidentiality of people who make submissions to last for almost 100 years beyond the end of the Commission.
Chair of the Royal Commission the Honourable Ronald Sackville AO QC requested Prime Minister Scott Morrision make the changes to protect people with disability in February and September last year, but says the recent decision to pass the law in parliament is still timely.
It coincides with the release of the Commission’s Fourth progress report which covers the six months from January to June this year, Mr Sackville says.
“As the Commission’s Fourth progress report demonstrates, people with disability or people on their behalf, have increasingly been sharing their story with the Royal Commission and the number of submissions received every six months has continued to grow, reaching 2,639 as at 30 June 2021,” he says.
In the six month period covered by the progress report the Commission held 282 private sessions to hear people’s stories - more than tripling the number of private sessions held before January this year - and received 851 submissions, up by almost 200 more than in the previous six months.
Three of the five public hearings during that time were held remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions but many of the private sessions were able to go ahead in person.
With the new law protecting anyone concerned about submitting their story to the Commission, it is hoped the number of people with disability speaking up about abuse and neglect will continue to grow.
“We now encourage anyone who has had concerns about telling their story of violence against, and abuse, neglect or exploitation of, people with disability to contact the Royal Commission,” Mr Sackville says.
“This includes accounts of a person’s, or another person’s, experiences of systemic violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation.”
A submission can be made in any way - including a written piece, a video or even a piece of artwork - and can be done in any language, including Indigenous Australian languages and Auslan.
Interpreting services, videos, infographics and other resources are available on the website to explain how to make a submission.
After you make a submission the Royal Commission will contact you to let you know they have received it.
The final report by the Royal Commission is due in September 2023, following an extension made earlier this year to allow time for more hearings, and the next public hearing will be a virtual event held on September 10.