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Research program

‘A Flourishing Future’: The Disability Royal Commission Research Agenda

Research is one way the Disability Royal Commission learns about violence against, and abuse, neglect and exploitation of, people with disability. Our research is also informed by what we learn in public hearings and private sessions, as well as submissions and responses to issues papers.

The findings from Royal Commission research informs the scope and direction of public hearings and policy work, and will ensure that recommendations in the final Royal Commission report are based on the best available research evidence.

They will also will contribute to a research legacy to stimulate future work, beyond the life of the Royal Commission.

To centre the voices of people of disability, we require researchers to use inclusive research methodologies. This includes engaging with people with disability as research experts, to help inform research design, collect data, and analyse and report findings. We also centre the voices of people with disability by drawing on what we are hearing in submissions, issues papers, and hearings as vital research data.

Final research reports are published in accessible formats, including Auslan and Easy Read summaries.

Our research agenda has been developed to correspond closely with our terms of reference. Projects are grouped under one of four themes:

  1. Nature, extent and prevention
  2. Reporting, responding and investigating
  3. Creating an inclusive society
  4. Context and history.

The agenda is informed by:

  • What we have heard in public hearings
  • Submissions and responses to issues papers
  • Engagement with prominent disability academics, some of whom have disability
  • Evidence gaps that we have identified through our policy work.

We apply four theoretical approaches to our research work. This means our research:

  • Is informed by human rights principles, especially as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
  • Is informed by disability theory (in particular, the social model), and understands disability as a complex, dynamic interaction between the functioning of people’s bodies and the physical and social environments in which they live
  • Examines the multi-layered experiences of discrimination felt by people with disability associated with their age, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, intersex status, ethnic origin or race. Our terms of reference direct us to have regard to the particular situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability and culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability.
  • Adopts a life course approach, which recognises the importance of looking at a person’s life in its entirety in Australian society, rather than thinking about their experiences in the context of systems or services.

Chapter 16 of our Interim Report provides more detail on these theoretical approaches and how they inform the work of the Royal Commission. 

The Royal Commission’s research agenda has been developed following an extensive consultation process. This process has included people with disability. We have consulted with:

  • Commissioners
  • The First Nations Peoples Strategic Advisory Group
  • The Royal Commission’s Senior Advisors
  • Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission
  • Prominent academics
  • Staff within the Royal Commission.

All research proposals are evaluated against a set of criteria to ensure high quality work. Each project must fulfil all of the following criteria. They must:

  • materially contribute to the terms of reference
  • conform to accepted standards of high quality research, including methodological rigour, thoroughness, clarity of presentation and, to the maximum extent practicable, objectivity
  • not duplicate existing research
  • be conducted by researchers with appropriate expertise and experience
  • represent good value for money
  • be completed in time to contribute to the Royal Commission’s work, including specifically the Final Report.

Projects that do not meet all of the criteria are not approved.

The quality of our research is maintained through:

  • Systematic scoping, where we conduct a rapid review of the existing literature to confirm an evidence gap and identify qualified researchers
  • Ethical and transparent procurement
  • Ongoing project management
  • A double-blind peer review process, where external experts review and provide feedback on the draft report. ‘Double-blind’ means that the researchers do not know who is reviewing their work, and the reviewer does not know who conducted the research.

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