People with disability call for Commissioners to step down

People with disability, their organisations and supporters have today called for two Commissioners to step down from their roles with the newly announced Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, and for stronger provisions for all Commissioners about real, perceived and potential conflicts of interest.

“We want to make sure that our Royal Commission is trusted by people with disability from across Australia, as a safe place we can tell our stories,” said Matthew Bowden, Co-CEO People with Disability Australia, a member of Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO Australia).

“Our concern is that two of the proposed Commissioners have very recent, extensive and significant backgrounds working for the very institutions that will be examined by the Royal Commission – state and federal public services, which is a direct, and strong conflict of interest.”

“Today we are releasing a joint statement, asking for the Hon. John Ryan and Ms Barbara Bennett to step down for the good of people with disability and the Royal Commission,” said Mary Mallett, CEO, Disability Advocacy Network of Australia.

“People with disability have to have confidence that this Royal Commission, that we have fought for over many years, can be trusted. We are worried that with Mr Ryan and Ms Bennett as Commissioners, many will not feel they can come forward and participate in this Royal Commission. This would be a tragedy,” said Ms Mallett.

“Our organisations put forward dozens of names, including many eminently qualified and skilled people with disability, to the Federal Government as potential Commissioners who did not have a conflict of interest, and who could act in the best interests of people with disability,” said Ross Joyce, CEO of Australian Federation of Disability Organisations.

“We know Mr Ryan and Ms Bennett are respected public servants who sought to make a positive contribution to ending abuse and violence through this Royal Commission. But we believe that their real, potential and perceived conflict of interest is a barrier for people with disability to engage with the Royal Commission. We are also calling for strong provisions to be included for all Commissioners to manage any other conflicts of interest,” said Mr Joyce.

“Our joint statement, signed by a wide range of organisations and individuals, shows the breadth and depth of concern about these two Commissioners across the disability community. We call on Mr Ryan and Ms Bennett to step aside today in the best interests of our Royal Commission,” said Mr Bowden.

Read the full joint statement and see the list of signatories.