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Disability Royal Commission update

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It’s a difficult but necessary initiative – the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

Referred to as the Disability Royal Commission (DRC), it’s been running since 2019, and most recently completed a public hearing in Parramatta focused on people with disability who’ve experienced homelessness. Yesterday, the DRC opened its 27th public hearing in Perth. The five-day hearing will explore conditions in detention in the criminal justice system.

The DRC, which recently released its sixth progress report (highlighting a range of activities that occurred from January-June 2022), takes submissions from people with disability as well as from family members, friends, paid staff and advocates.

If you haven’t yet made a submission and you intend to, the deadline is fast approaching. Submissions must be received by the end of the year (31 December 2022) to be considered. Find more information about sharing your story here and here, and remember, you can access free legal support to help you.

What’s the purpose of the DRC?

The DRC aims to:

  • Prevent and better protect people with disability from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation
  • Achieve best practice in reporting, investigating and responding to the above
  • Promote a more inclusive society to support people with disability to be independent and live freely and without fear they will be a victim of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

The DRC has been gathering information through research, public hearings and people’s personal testimonies about their own lived experience.

It will write and deliver a final report to the Australian Government by 23 September 2023. The report will include recommendations on ‘how to improve laws, policies, structures and practices to ensure a more inclusive and just society’.

What is violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation?

Trigger warning: this can be confronting.

Violence and abuse towards people with disability can include assault, sexual abuse, constraints, physical and chemical restrictive practices, forced treatments, forced interventions, humiliation and harassment, financial and economic abuse, and significant violations of people’s privacy and dignity – either systemic or as an individual.

Neglect can include physical or emotional neglect, passive neglect or deliberately depriving people of physical and emotional support, food, shelter, access, mobility, clothing, education, medical care and treatment. Neglect can be a one-off incident or ongoing.

Exploitation is when a person takes advantage of another person. This could be making the other person do things, taking assets of the other person (including money, making them work etc), or using them physically, sexually or in other ways to take advantage.

What’s the latest?

So far, the DRC has:

  • Received 5312 submissions
  • Answered 14,947 phone enquiries
  • Published 14 issues papers
  • Made 707 responses to issues papers
  • Held 1247 private sessions

The most recent public hearing in Parramatta (public hearing 26) covered the issue of homelessness, including the experience of people with disability living in boarding houses, hostels and other arrangements.

In his opening address, DRC Chair, The Hon Ronald Sackville AO KC, stressed the importance of secure housing as a human rights issue. He quoted the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, saying: “Homelessness is a profound assault on dignity, social inclusion and the right to life.”.

“The experience of homelessness will not be fully captured unless the definition goes beyond the deprivation of physical shelter. Reducing the definition to merely putting a roof over someone’s head will fail to take into account the loss of social connection, a feeling of belonging nowhere and the social exclusion experienced by people living in homelessness.”

During public hearing 26, the DRC heard from people with disability about:

  • Their experiences of homelessness, including rough sleeping and couch surfing
  • Living in boarding houses or other types of insecure accommodation
  • Pathways leading to and out of homelessness
  • Barriers to finding, securing and retaining safe and accessible housing
  • Experiences with specialist homelessness services and other wrap-around support services
  • The importance of safe, secure and accessible housing and how it enables inclusion
  • Access to emergency accommodation and support services following a natural disaster.

The DRC also heard from staff of the Australian Government and the New South Wales Government about their own housing and homelessness policies and programs and how they support people with disability.

The second part of the hearing looked at Supported Residential Services (SRS) in Victoria. SRSs are privately operated businesses and many of the residents who live in them have a disability and require support for everyday activities. The DRC heard from residents, families and an SRS owner.

Thinking about making a submission?

If you’ve been thinking about making a submission – by phone, video, art project, or in writing – including in your first language (translators, including First Nations translators, are available), you have until the end of the year.

Sometimes it can be hard to know where to start. To help, you can read these questions posed by the DRC and consider some or all of them.

You can make a telephone submission by calling 1800 517 199 to make an appointment.

You can post your submission to GPO Box 1422, Brisbane, QLD 4001.

You can email DRCenquiries@royalcommission.gov.au. This is also the email to use if you need help sending audio or video files.

You can upload audio and video (up to 4gb) in the online form. Please note you can answer some of the questions on the form or all of them.

For the deaf and hard-of-hearing, call the National Relay Service on 133 677 and tell them you want to call 1800 517 199 (you’ll then likely need to make an appointment).

To call in a language other than English, call the free Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) on 131 450 and tell them you want to call 1800 517 199.

Again, find more information about sharing your story here and here.

Free legal support to help you in your submission

You can get free support from Your Story disability legal support. My Plan Manager spoke to them recently.

You can phone Your Story on 1800 77 1800 or go to www.yourstorydisabilitylegal.org.au for more information.

If you’re deaf or hard-of-hearing, you can contact Your Story through the National Relay Service 133 677 and telling them you wish to contact 1800 771 800.

Has the DRC affected you? Do you need support?

The Blue Knot Foundation has free specialist counselling and a referral service for anyone affected by the DRC. Call the national hotline (open every day) on 1800 421 468.

If you’re deaf or hard-of-hearing, you can contact the Blue Knot Foundation through the National Relay Service 133 677 and tell them you want to call 1800 421 468.

If you or someone you know needs support in another language, call the National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468 and ask for an interpreter (the counsellor will arrange this) or call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 and ask to be connected to the National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468.

Braille documents can be ordered by 1800 517 199.

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My Plan Manager acknowledges the objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

My Plan Manager acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to Elders both past and present.
© My Plan Manager 2020
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