Disability Groups Call For Royal Commission Into Violence Against People With Disability

Tonight’s ABC Four Corners report, ‘Fighting the System’ exposed more evidence of the appalling levels of violence and abuse against people with disability in Australia.  This is only the tip of the iceberg. In light of the graphic and disturbing cases revealed this evening, Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO Australia), calls on the Federal Government to reconsider its recent refusal to conduct a Royal Commission into violence and abuse of people with disability.

“Tonight, more evidence has come to light that supports the case for a Royal Commission. It is only a Royal Commission that has the weight, the investigative powers, the time and resources to open the doors to the many ‘closed’ institutions and residential environments, and expose Australia’s shameful secret,” said Therese Sands, Director, DPO Australia. 

“People with disability are routinely denied access to justice, both at a civil and criminal level because of law, policy and practice barriers. A Royal Commission would give space and recognition to people with disability to tell their story, to be believed, and would enable some measure of accountability and justice,” said Ms Sands.

The 2015 Senate Committee Inquiry into violence and abuse against people with disability in institutional and residential settings found that violence and abuse was prolific and hidden. The central recommendation of the committee was the establishment of a Royal Commission.  

The Federal Government ruled out a Royal Commission in its response to the Senate Inquiry earlier this month. The Government noted that it was addressing violence and abuse against people with disability by establishing the Quality and Safeguarding Framework for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). 

Dr Jessica Cadwallader, Violence Prevention Manager at People with Disability Australia (PWDA), member of DPO Australia said, “While the Quality and Safeguarding Framework is welcome and very important, it will not protect all people with disability, only those who are NDIS eligible. It appears to be largely based on systems and responses that the Senate Inquiry found to be inadequate.”

“A Royal Commission has a critical role to play as Australia undertakes national changes to disability supports and services. It would also address the scale of violence and abuse against people with disability, its many forms and the broad range of services and settings where it occurs. It would have the resources to examine the adequacy of systems, processes and accountability mechanisms designed to put an end to the appalling rates of violence and abuse against people with disability,” said Dr Cadwallader.

“We call on the Federal Government to take a leadership role to stop the epidemic of violence and provide a measure of justice for people with disability by urgently establishing a Royal Commission,” said Ms Sands. 

Information for media

Key facts:

  • people with disability experience far higher rates of violence than the rest of the community;
  • 90% of women with intellectual disability have been sexually assaulted in their lives, and 60% before the age of 18;
  • children with disability are three times more likely to experience abuse than other children
  • in many cases, people with disability experience violence in places where they are meant to be receiving support;
  • people with disability can’t always rely on the police for protection against violence;
  • people with disability are often treated as ‘unreliable witnesses’, or are not even permitted by law to provide testimony at all.

[Source: DPO Australia submission to the 2015 Senate Inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings, including the gender and age related dimensions, and the particular situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, and culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability.]

Media contacts:  

Sara Irvine 0402 982 002 / sarai@fpdn.org.au

El Gibbs 0408 682 867 / elg@pwd.org.au