Media Release: 163 Civil Society Organisations call on Prime Minister to announce a Royal Commission into Disability Violence

Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO Australia) along with 163 civil society organisations, and 383 individuals wrote to Prime Minister Turnbull yesterday calling for a Royal Commission into violence and abuse against people with disability, as was recommended by the Senate Inquiry two years ago.

A diverse group of organisations from across Australia signed the statement, including peak bodies, disability and human rights groups, and advocacy and violence prevention organisations. Collectively, the signatories have substantial and direct knowledge of the violence and abuse experienced by people with disability in Australia. The issue is systemic. The evidence is extensive and compelling. The violence can no longer be ignored.

Ms Carolyn Frohmader, Executive Director, Women With Disabilities Australia said: “Only a Royal Commission has the weight, investigative powers, time and resources to expose the violence that is experienced by people with disability in such a broad range of settings and so frequently.”

“People with disability are routinely denied access to civil and criminal justice because of law, policy, and practice barriers. A Royal Commission would give space and recognition to people with disability to tell their story, and enable accountability and justice,” said Ms Frohmader.

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 Senate Inquiry showed that violence and abuse against people with disability is not limited to a few rogue individuals, is not confined to disability support settings, and is not limited by State or Territory borders. The recent Four Corners and Lateline programs again exposed the extent of this appalling violence against people with disability,” said Ms Frohmader.

Mr Matthew Bowden, Co-Chief Executive Officer of People with Disability Australia said: “A Royal Commission has a critical role to play as Australia undertakes national changes to disability supports and services. It would 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 existing systems, processes, and accountability mechanisms which are currently failing to address the inexcusable rates of violence and abuse against people with disability.”

“Labor and the Greens have publicly expressed their commitment to a Royal Commission to address violence and abuse experienced by people with disability.”

“We commend the Government for its ongoing commitment to disability, through the National Disability Strategy and the NDIS. However we now call on the Australian Government to listen to the voices of people with disability and their supporters and establish a Royal Commission to end this epidemic of violence,” said Mr Bowden.

Information for media

A copy of the civil society statement is available here:

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 Contact:

Sara Irvine
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