Public hearing to examine the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out for people with disability
The Royal Commission will hold a one day hearing on 17 May 2021 to examine the approach of the Australian Government and its agencies to the vaccination of people with disability and disability support workers.
On 26 November 2020, the Royal Commission presented a report to the Governor-General on Public hearing 5: Experiences of people with disability during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. That report identified failings in the Australian Government in addressing the needs of people with disability during the early stages of the pandemic.
The report made 22 recommendations. These included recommendations that guidelines be drafted, in consultation with bodies including people with disability, explicitly addressing access by people with disability and disability support workers to a COVID-19 vaccine “if and when one becomes available”.
A vaccine is now available.
On 9 February 2021 the Royal Commission issued a statement to welcome the release of Australia’s ‘COVID-19 vaccine strategy’ and the Australian Government’s decision to give priority to disability care residents and disability care staff (Phase 1a) and to younger adults with a disability (Phase 1b). At the time, the Chair of the Royal Commission, Ronald Sackville AO QC, noted that the COVID-19 vaccine strategy was consistent with its recommendations.
This week the Australian Government announced that it supports, or supports in principle, 21 of the recommendations from the report on Public hearing 5 and notes one recommendation. This included recommendations in the report addressing access to a COVID-19 vaccine by people with disability and disability support workers when one becomes available.
While this response is welcome, the Royal Commission also notes that during the early stages of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout disability advocacy groups, people with disability and service providers have expressed deep concern about the extremely low numbers and proportion of people with disability and disability support workers who have been vaccinated and the lack of information about implementation of the rollout.
Those concerns have been widely reported in the media and have been expressed directly to the Royal Commission.
The concerns suggest that the rollout may not have implemented the priorities announced in the COVID 19 vaccine strategy or met the expectations of people with disability. These are matters that the hearing will investigate.
Mr Sackville will preside at the hearing alongside Commissioner Atkinson, Commissioner Bennett and Commissioner Galbally.
Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, Kate Eastman SC, will appear at the hearing.
The Royal Commission was established in April 2019 in response to community concern about widespread reports of violence against, and the neglect, abuse and exploitation of, people with disability. The Commission is bound by its terms of reference to investigate the treatment of these at-risk members of the community.
The public will not be able to attend the hearing room, but the hearing will be live-streamed on the Royal Commission website.
Public Hearing 12 Announcement (Auslan)
Public hearing 12 - The experience of people with disability in the context of the Australian Government’s approach to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout
Public hearing 12 will be held on Monday 17 May over one day.
This hearing will be closed to the public, but you can watch it online via our website. There will be captions and Auslan interpreters.
This hearing will examine the Australian Government’s approach to vaccinating people with disability and disability support workers against COVID-19.
The hearing will look at:
- the number of people with disability and disability support workers who have received the vaccine
- the availability of the vaccine to these groups
- the information available to these groups about the rollout of the vaccine.
The hearing will also examine whether the government rollout plan has prioritised the vaccination of people with disability and disability support workers.
More information is available on our website in the ‘Public hearings’ section.