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Public hearing 29 - The experience of violence against, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability from culturally and linguistically diverse communities - Day 5

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CHAIR:  Good morning, everybody.  This is the final day of the 29th Public hearing of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.  This hearing has been considering the position or the experiences of people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, people with disability.  We commence with an Acknowledgment of Country.  This hearing is being held on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.  And we wish to acknowledge them as the traditional owners of these lands. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.  We also pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging of other communities who may be here today or who are following the hearing via the live webcast.  Yes, Ms Eastman.

MS EASTMAN:   Thank you, Chair.  Good morning, Commissioners, and good morning to everybody following the proceeding, both in the room and also online.  Commissioners, there's one matter which Counsel for the Australian Government would like to raise with the Commissioners this morning.  It arises from the evidence of ZA yesterday. So, with the Commissioner's leave, Ms Munro would like to raise a small matter?

CHAIR:  Yes. Thank you. Yes. 

MS MUNRO:  Thank you, Chair.  Yesterday, the Commission heard evidence from ZA that she called what she understood to be the NDIS and that she did not know which organisation she had called.  We draw the attention of the Commissioners to two documents which are in the Hearing Bundle which demonstrates first that the call was made to the NDIA and, second, that a complaint form was completed and submitted to the NDIS Commission.

Although the web based complaint form names a person who is not ZA as the complainant and provides contact information for that person and not for ZA, in light of ZA's evidence, the NDIS Commission has identified this complaint form as the web based complaint form that ZA submitted.  The first document, being the NDIA's call log, is at Hearing bundle D, tab 9. And the second document, being the web based complaint form is at Hearing Bundle, D tab 8.  The NDIS Commission has also supplied the Royal Commission with a written response in relation to this matter which appears at Hearing Bundle D, tab 6.  Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:  Do you mean a response that has been generated by this hearing or a response that was made contemporaneously with the complaint or more or less contemporaneous?

MS MUNRO:  A response that has been generated in relation to this hearing.  It's a response to a notice to give information.  Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:  Thank you, Ms Munro. Yes, Ms Eastman.

MS EASTMAN:   Thank you.  Well, I'm very pleased, Commissioners, to welcome back Esther Simbi.  She's here in the hearing room and I think her daughters are here as well.  But, Esther, thank you very much for returning to the Royal Commission.  Commissioners, you have a copy of Esther’s statement, and I think she is going to take an oath.

CHAIR:  Ms Simbi, thank you for coming back to the Royal Commission to give evidence.  We are very pleased, as Ms Eastman said, to see you here.  Thank you for your written statement which we have and which we have read, and we look forward to your evidence.  If you would be good enough to follow the instructions of my associate, who is located over there, she will administer the oath to you.

MS SIMBI:  Thank you.

ASSOCIATE:  I will read you the oath.  At the end, please say yes or I do.  Do you swear by Almighty God that the evidence which you shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

MS SIMBI:  I do.


CHAIR:  Thank you, Ms Simbi.  I will now ask Ms Eastman to ask you some questions.


MS EASTMAN:   I will just confirm you are Esther Simbi.


MS EASTMAN:   And your address is known to the Royal Commission?


MS EASTMAN:   And you made a statement for the Royal Commission dated 12 October this year.


MS EASTMAN:  And you've got a copy of the statement with you?


MS EASTMAN:   I might need you to say yes rather than   for the transcript.

MS SIMBI:  Yes, yes.

MS EASTMAN:   And everything that's in this statement is true and correct to the best of your knowledge.  Is that right?


MS EASTMAN:   Commissioners have had a chance to read the statement.  I thought this morning we might start   because not everybody will remember your evidence from Public hearing 17 in March this year   but to start with your story.  How you came to Australia, and if we start with you being born in South Sudan.  You contracted Polio when you were about four years old?


MS EASTMAN:   And you have a life long disability.


MS EASTMAN:   There was times in your early life where living with disability was hard in terms of how the family and the community think about and understand about disability in South Sudanese culture.  Is that right?

MS SIMBI:  Yes. So, in the South Sudanese culture, growing up as a woman with disability, as a girl with disability, the cultural understanding of disability is that when you have a disability, that you are possessed by evil spirit, that you are an embarrassment, that you bring calamity to your family and to the community.  And that your parents might have done something wrong in their previous life and that's why they have a child with a disability. 

So, growing up, I was invisible, I was treated like evil spirit.  I was treated like embarrassment.  And so   but for me, I started to advocate for myself, speaking up from a young age that people with a disability should not be treated like that.  Even if you have a disability you can still earn a living, you can still live well with a disability.  And from being vocal from a young age has led me to where I am today because of speaking up, not only for myself, but also for other people, not only in the Sudanese community, but also in other cultural communities.

MS EASTMAN:   Right. So, that time in Sudan was very difficult.  It was a time of civil conflict, and you and your mother left Sudan and joined a refugee camp in northern Uganda.  Is that right?

MS SIMBI:  Yes. So, we left Sudan and we went to north Uganda.  We were not in a refugee camp when we arrived, but in kind of a settlement area, and then from there we went to a refugee camp where we were provided with a tent, and we stayed in the tent for some time.  And then from there   a few years from there we were transferred to resettlement camp   they call it resettlement camp in northern Uganda as well.  And so I grew up in refugee camps.  I   three refugee camps in Uganda for 19 years before I came to Australia, where I was exposed to a lot of violence, a lack of shelter, a lack of food, and also growing up as a girl with a disability in the refugee camp, it was hard.  The life in refugee camp was really very harsh.

MS EASTMAN:   Was it just you and your mother?

MS SIMBI:  So my siblings   my sisters left South Sudan.  Initially, my mother didn't want to leave because change was not something that she was used to. So, my sisters, three sisters, joined other people in our village and they left to Uganda. So, I was left in South Sudan with my mother.  And my mother didn't want to leave until the SPLA came to our house one day. So, when they came to our house, the good thing that saved me was because I   they found me with a disability.  For them, meeting a person with a disability was bad luck.

MS EASTMAN:   Can I ask you to slow down just a little. Slow down. Thank you. 

MS SIMBI:  Yes, okay.  Okay.  Thank you.  Yes. So, for them   for the SPLA, meeting somebody with a disability was considered as bad luck, and for them to go back to fight or to the frontline, they need to undergo some kind of rituals.  And that was what saved me, because they saw me.  When my mother saw them, my mother ran away and so when they got   when they came to our house, I was there playing with my friends, two of my friends, and because I have a disability they didn't do anything.

They came with their food.  They cooked in our house, ate and stayed there waiting to see my mother.  But my mother didn't come back until I think it was 4 in the afternoon.  So they left.  And they didn't torture me because I had a disability.  They already had bad luck meeting me. So, my mother came back in the evening, and that was the time my mother decided that it was time to leave.  Because we don't know, some of the SPLA might come and they might not be as kind as the others that came.

The ones that came that morning spoke in my language and so they   my mother was worried that what if another group that does not speak my language come, what's going to happen?  So my mother decided that it was time to leave.  And she carried me on her back.  She left food   because it was hard for me to walk, so she carried me on her back all the way from a place called Kajo Keji in South Sudan to Uganda.  And so we left water and food back home in South Sudan and, yes, so we drank any water we could find, maybe stagnant water, any dirty water on the way to get to Uganda.

MS EASTMAN:   They're still things that you remember?

MS SIMBI:  Yes, yes.

MS EASTMAN:   Even now.

MS SIMBI:  Yes, yes.

MS EASTMAN:   You were in a refugee camp for   together for about 19 years.  Was Australia the destination you thought you would end up in?

MS SIMBI:  The third refugee camp I went to was my choice, because I heard that refugees in that refugee camp were being resettled outside Africa and I wanted to be one of them.  And I didn't know how that was going to pan out for me, but I just want to go there. So, I went to that third refugee camp and Australia was not in my radar.  And so I just   

MS EASTMAN:   Did you know anything about Australia?

MS SIMBI:  No.  A year after I went to the refugee camp, my sister came to Australia and that was how I   I got to hear about Australia.  And so my sister came here with her family, and when I went to that third refugee camp, my aim was to go to any outside country, outside of Africa.  Whether it was Australia.  But then I had an assessment   they call it screening   the first screening to go to the UK.  It was not Australia that I did the assessment for.

And so I   I contacted my sister in Australia and I said, "I have done the interview and I'm waiting for the next lot of interviews to go to the UK."  And because at that time I was in a different refugee camp and my mother was in a different refugee camp, and my sister said, "Oh, no, you're not going, what about my mum? You are going to leave our mother in the refugee camp by herself." So my sister sent an application form for me to apply so I apply to came to Australia with my mother, and I thank God that our application was successful.

I did see a few people in the refugee camp that had disability that applied to come to Australia, but their applications were rejected.  And for me, the lady that interviewed me, she came from Australia to Uganda to interview me, and in her report she said that when I come to Australia, I would be of great help   I would contribute to the society.  Mainly because I speak English and also because she saw something in me that I am ambitious, I want to work.  And so maybe that was what brought me to Australia or maybe because the blessings that god give me that brought me to Australia and here I am.  And I'm so glad that I'm in Australia.  I don't know what life would have been like for me if I had gone to the UK.

MS EASTMAN:   So you arrived in July 2005.  And you came with your mother.  And I wanted to ask you about, when you first arrived, what support did you receive?  So there is the process of resettlement and the supports for newly arrived refugees through the resettlement services.  What's your memory like of that time of first coming to Australia and what support you received in those early weeks and months? 

MS SIMBI:  So when I came to Australia, there were two organisations that I knew in South Australia.  The Australian Migrant Resource Centre   it was called Migrant Resource Centre back then   and the Australian Refugee Association so when I   

MS EASTMAN:   Can I jump in, because you went to South Australia first?

MS SIMBI:  Yes, I went to South Australia and I   and I   I've been in South Australia all my time in Australia.  Since I came to Australia.  I live in South Australia.  And so my sister took me to the Australian Refugee Association office, and so I did my first lot of assessment arriving here, and it was the Australian Refugee Association that helped me resettle in Australia.  And so the first week, we had a lot of information from the police, from the Cancer Council, from Centrelink, from the bank, and I can't even remember the others. So, much information in just one week.

And that has been my experience, even other people's experience.  Within the first three months there is so much information that is given to people who come from refugee camps, who are struggling to resettle, they are dealing with so many things, and of course like now, I forgot some of the people that provided information back then.  And that's   so much information, people don't retain it.  People forget.

MS EASTMAN:   Was the information all in English or was it in your own language?

MS SIMBI:  It was in English.  And   

MS EASTMAN:   What was your English like when you first came to Australia?

MS SIMBI:  So when I came to Australia, my English was good.  The only issue that I struggled with was the accent.  It was the accent that I struggled.

MS EASTMAN:   Really?  That's surprising, Esther. So, the accent was a bit strong, but the English was fine?

MS SIMBI:  Yes, the English was fine.  I think the good thing for me is because I came from Uganda and I learnt to speak English in Uganda.  Uganda is also a Commonwealth country and it's just the accent. So, when I came, I had very strong Ugandan accent.  It was not even Sudanese accent, but very strong Ugandan accent.  And sometimes when I speak, people will say, what did you say?  Can you say that again?  And   but the accent I struggled with in Australia and   and   but I had to train myself to listen to the radio and also watch news, watch TV, and from doing that I slowly by slowly started to understand the Australian accent.

MS EASTMAN:   And that first few months, I think you've said those first three months there's a lot of information for a person who might be newly arrived, who might be from a situation of conflict and have trauma in their life.  And I think you describe a little bit as an information overload.


MS EASTMAN:   And it's very hard to remember all of the information.


MS EASTMAN:  And to know all about the services that might be available in those first few months.


MS EASTMAN:   Was some of the services that you received also counselling services?  Did you have support for your wellbeing and mental health?

MS SIMBI:  Yes. So, the Australian Refugee Association linked me with somebody   they are called friend.  That was the word they used.  Like they link me with somebody that they call friend.  And that lady, first of all, I was linked with a social worker that helped me register with   that helped me register with Centrelink.  My sister also helped me with that, but that social worker the one that helped me to apply for Disability Support Pension and also help me find accommodation. 

And when I came to Australia, my sister and I did have some issues, and within three weeks, I was out of her house, so I had to find a place to live in.  But that social worker helped me.  And so the social worker also helped me, referred me to the   Migrant Health Service, and it was from the Migrant Health Service that I was referred to Royal Adelaide Hospital to be assessed.  And it was from the Royal Adelaide Hospital that I was diagnosed with post polio syndrome and   and then I was also referred to see a counsellor which is part of the resettlement.

Any refugee migrant that came   I'm not sure about other states, but in South Australia, any refugee migrant that came to South Australia is referred to see   depending on how many years you have been in a refugee camp, to deal with the trauma, you have to see a psychologist.  And that was part of the resettlement.  And, for me, I   I took the service.  I was able to see a counsellor, see a psychologist on and off, on and off, until a few years ago.  I was still   any time I needed to talk to the psychologist I could ring her and talk to her.  But the problem is that a lot of the refugee migrants are not able to access that service.

MS EASTMAN:   Why is that?

MS SIMBI:  Because of language barrier and also because of a lack of understanding and also because of cultural issues where, for example, in the Sudanese culture people are not allowed to talk to non family members or professionals about personal issues or family issues.  And because of those barriers, a lot of the refugee migrants are not able to access counselling services.  And my mother   for example, my mother was referred to start, like, the trauma counselling service.

For me, I was referred to see a psychologist but my mother, because she experienced a lot of trauma, compared to what I did, she was referred to see STTARS, but my mother could not access that service because there was no interpreter that spoke my language when she was referred there.  And STTARS rang me and said, "Can you interpret for your mother?"  And I said "No, I can't.  It's   it's not appropriate.  She needs somebody so she can be able to open up."

And also I   I am the youngest in the family.  It's   it's a taboo.  It's a no no for me to go and interpret for my mother and because of that she ended up not accessing the service.  And a lot of refugee migrants do not access that service for a reason like lack of interpreters in the community, and other reasons.

MS EASTMAN:   And did you have any financial assistance when you first arrived in Australia?

MS SIMBI:  Yes. So, ARA also linked me with Families SA, it was called back then. So, Families SA helped me pay the first lot of my bills, and also they referred me to Salvation Army.  Salvation Army also did help me with a little bit of finances to pay my first set of bills, and also ARA, the Australian Refugee Association, helped me with food until I was resettled.  And also with the clothing and all of that until I was also resettled. 

So, yes, I did receive some financial support.  And after the three weeks, when I left my sister's house, the social worker also did help me with   I remember I think it was $100.  She gave me money.  I don't know if that was from her pocket or from donations.

MS EASTMAN:   What about assistance to access specific disability services? You have mentioned the social worker assisting you to have the information to apply for the DSP.


MS EASTMAN:  But what about broader disability services at that time?

MS SIMBI:  Okay.  Yes, the broader disability services.  Still the connection I got from the Australian Refugee Association, they linked me with a disability advocacy agency that   it used to be called MALSA then.  I think they   multicultural something.  But now they are called Disability Rights and Advocacy Services. So, when I was linked with them they were able to connect me with a Disability SA.  And I registered with Disability SA and I started receiving support.  In home support.  It took me a few years before I started receiving the in home support from Disability SA.  It was four hours a week of in home support.

MS EASTMAN:   And for   sorry, for you, sometimes you need support with mobility.


MS EASTMAN:  So I know that last time we met that you were using an electric scooter.


MS EASTMAN:   So what support did you have in terms of being able to have accessible housing, have transport support, have mobility support?  Was that provided to you at the beginning?

MS SIMBI:  Yes. So, that was through Disability Rights and Advocacy.  Paul was the advocate that helped me and also the social worker. So, Paul and my social worker worked together to help me apply for public housing, and the public housing was accessible.  And now I live in a community housing.  It's also accessible.  And that was through the public housing.  After I had my children   it was a small house that I lived in the public housing, and after I had my children, we didn't have enough room, so I was moved to a public housing   a three bedroom house.  And that was all that happened through Disability Rights and Advocacy.

And also transitioning to the NDIS, for me personally, it was easier to transition to the NDIS because Disability SA just forwarded my details to the NDIS, and then the NDIS called me and booked a plan meeting with me.  And it was   for me, it was easy, but not easy for some people.  It's so hard to access the NDIS and so hard to understand the NDIS.  Not only for people who speak English as their second language, but also those who speak English as their first language.  I have had conversations with others and, yes, they say they still need help to understand the NDIS.

MS EASTMAN:   So I want to ask you some questions about that in a moment in terms of the barriers.  But just still on you, can I ask about education?  And I know you have told us about this in March as well. 


MS EASTMAN:   What education did you receive while you spent that time in Uganda, that 19 years?  Did you go to school?

MS SIMBI:  Yes.  So I went to school in Uganda.  I came from South Sudan in year 2, and then I went to school in Uganda up until year 10, equivalent to Australian education, up until year 10.  And I came to year 12   year 12 education in Australia. So, I came to Australia, and then I went to Uni SA, the University of South Australia, to   I did also study at college in Uganda.  I studied social work diploma.

MS EASTMAN:   In Uganda.

MS SIMBI:  In Uganda.  I couldn't afford to do a degree but I studied a diploma in social work.  And I studied two years of that and then I came to Australia.  And I   part of the resettlement was also to attend 850 hours of English.  Even though I was speaking good English, I still had to attend those hours. So, from   it was from the English class that my teacher told me to apply   she asked me, what are you doing here?  I said this is the requirement.

And she said, I don't think you should be here.  You should be out there at the you think or doing something else. So, she give me contact details for someone at the University of South Australia.  I told her I wanted to continue with my social work degree, so I rang   Frank was the person.  I rang him.  He was the coordinator of the School of Psychology and Social Work, and so he give me appointment.  I went to speak with the Frank.

And as I was talking to him, I didn't know he was interviewing me.  I was talking to him and then at the end of the conversation   he also gave me something to write.  At the end of the conversation he told me, "You passed." And I'm like, pass what?  And he said, I was interviewing you. So   so I   that was the first interview, and then I had to apply again for   he said you need to now apply. So, I applied and I was admitted to the University of South Australia to do my social work degree.

MS EASTMAN:   And you received a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of South Australia in 2007.


MS EASTMAN:  So within about 18 months or two years of   


MS EASTMAN:  Of coming to Australia.  And you went on further to do some further study?

MS SIMBI:  Yes. So, when I went to   when I joined the social work, they recognised my two years of social work training from Uganda.  And I was given the credit for those two years.  That's why I did two years of social work at the University of South Australia.  And then I went back to study Masters in Mediation and Conflict Resolution and I finished that in 2014.

MS EASTMAN:   So once you had your Bachelor of Social Work you decided that you wanted to work as a social worker in South Australia?


MS EASTMAN:   Is that right?


MS EASTMAN:   And you ended up taking a job as a social worker service coordinator, intake coordinator and facilitator with Disability SA, and that's a job that you had between August 2009 and July 2013.


MS EASTMAN:   And when you gave some evidence to the Royal Commission in March, we asked you a lot of personal questions about your family circumstance. So, it was during this period of time that you had the two   your two daughters and   


MS EASTMAN:   One.  And also a time where there were some very difficult things in the personal life and the relationship with your ex-husband; is that right?

MS SIMBI:  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:   So for you, being able to do the study and the work was very important to have that life outside the house.


MS EASTMAN:   And to have that independence.  Is that right?  I think you told us about that last time.

MS SIMBI:  Yes, yes. So, my second child was born premature in 2015 and, yes, she was   her lungs were too fragile to survive.  So we lost her.  And my third child was born in 2016. So, yes, I did the study and working and I also had the baby.  She's turning 12 next month.  Yes.  And, yes, it was hard.  And going back a little bit, you did ask about disability services. 

So, Disability SA provided me with a wheelchair to use in the house and also to access the community, and also at the university they had a disability service within the university, and they provided me with an electric wheelchair to use at the university as well to access the university.  And I was   I happened to be the first one to receive that   that service at the university.

Because when I   when I started   when I arrived at the university, I had difficulties walking from one end of the building to the next because the lectures are somewhere else and then the tutorials are in another place.  And the walking distance were long.  I struggled.  Sometimes, like, people   when I arrived to the tutorial, like 20 minutes have already passed, and I've missed that.  And so one of the tutors referred me to the disability services within the university, and I spoke to them, and they applied to get a wheelchair, and they got the wheelchair, and I was the first one to start using that wheelchair.

From that time on, they introduce a system where people can book to use the wheelchair.  And so after I got my wheelchair from Disability SA, I could only use the wheelchair at school, at university and leave it there and then catch the bus to go back home when I was not driving yet.  But when I started driving, I go to my car and leave the wheelchair at the carpark and somebody would collect the wheelchair and put it back.  And another person would also book for the wheelchair.  But when I got my wheelchair from Disability SA, I could also take that to the university, and that made things a little bit easier.

MS EASTMAN:   So can I now turn to the work that you've done as an advocate and the support that you have provided other people with disability, particularly from CaLD communities, to connect with the NDIS.  This has been part of your work.


MS EASTMAN:  So you have spent some time with Purple Orange Disability Advocacy service.


MS EASTMAN:  What was the work that you did at Purple Orange and how did that help you see the problems for other people with disability from CaLD communities accessing services in Australia?  Be they mainstream services or disability services?

MS SIMBI:  Yes. So, I worked with Purple Orange up until September. So, I realised, working with Purple Orange, that a lot of people have not even heard of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.  And so I remember it was from the first workshop   I was the one presenting at the first workshop and when I mentioned the word NDIS and people were like, "What is that?  What is NDIS?"  And so we had to spend time explaining to them about the NDIS.

And from that I also realised that it was difficult to   for people to understand the NDIS.  Other people started to apply.  After I started working with them, they started to apply but they received a rejection.  And the rejection is mainly because they did not provide the right evidence with their application.  And also the language, the NDIS language is different to the language that the doctors use.

MS EASTMAN:   What do you mean by that, the NDIS language is different to the doctors' language?

MS SIMBI:  There was a report that the   one of the doctors wrote to   for somebody to apply. So, that   that lady used that report and she received a rejection because the doctor did not write that the person had permanent disability. So, that's what I mean by a different  yes.  They just needed that word permanent disability but the doctor wrote about the treatment. So, that was where they   the rejection came from.

And with NDIS understanding that okay the person is still receiving treatment, so the person might get better and that's where they received a rejection.  But what the doctor needed to do was to write, "This person has been treated and disability is permanent." That's it.

MS EASTMAN:  So sometimes the way the doctor might describe a person's disability from a health perspective might not necessarily meet the information about disability that NDIA needs.  Is that right?

MS SIMBI:  Yes, yes.  Yes.

MS EASTMAN:   What other barriers did you see in people's experiences trying to connect with the NDIS?

MS SIMBI:  The other barriers are cultural.  Like, some people   stigma and shame.  Some people are shamed that when you are accessing the NDIS you might be seen differently, you might be rejected by the community, and some people fear being rejected by the community and that's why they are not applying for NDIS, they are not accessing the NDIS.  And the other thing is also gatekeepers within communities, CaLD communities.

MS EASTMAN:   What do you mean by gatekeepers in CaLD communities?

MS SIMBI:  So I like to call them gatekeepers.  These are people who make decisions.  They might be community leaders or older people in the family, or younger people in the family, depending on who has a disability in the family.  If it's an older person in the family, like an older sibling that has a disability in the family, it's most likely that the younger siblings will be the one to make decisions.  And those are the people that I call gatekeepers.

And in my own case, because I'm the youngest in the family, it was my older siblings that made decisions.  And also when I got   when I became married, my husband made decisions in terms of which support worker is coming to the family, what day they are coming, what they are doing there and how long they are to be there. So, things like that and   can stop people from accessing the service that they really need.  And the gatekeepers are the ones that make decisions whether the person living with disability in that family is to apply for NDIS, is to access support services in the community or not.

It's that kind of stigma and shame and embarrassment.  I didn't know that there is stigma that comes with accessing the NDIS until I worked with these communities and I became aware of that, that there is stigmas.  And people are afraid.  Like, they don't want the neighbours   even the neighbours to know that their support workers is coming in and out of their houses.  And some people do not want to let go of their power and control.

They don't want support workers to come and touch their things and sometimes   there are great support workers out there that do good work but sometimes they are those ones that come and mess up things in the house, misplace things, and then it's hard for the person with disability to find those things in the house.  And things like that create frustrations.  And that's why I said at Public hearing 17, that support workers need proper training. Yes.

MS EASTMAN:   One story you told us at Public hearing 17 was a situation of a person who was an NDIS participant, they had a support worker coming to the home.


MS EASTMAN:   But the family thought the support worker was to cook and clean for the rest of the family.


MS EASTMAN:   And not the person who was   who needed the support.

MS SIMBI:  Yes.  And in issues like that, the support workers need proper cultural competence training so that they can understand the family dynamics and so they can also understand what their role is.  When they come to a family like that, and the family expects them to do housework instead of supporting the person with a disability, if the housework has to do   has something to do with the person with disability, no problem.

But if the support worker is there to wash everyone's clothes in the house, and then cook and serve everyone else except the person that is in the wheelchair, you know, that's   that's a no no.  And that's where the support workers need that training to get to understand, "What is my role, I'm going to the house, what am I doing there?"  And if they see like in the culture, like, okay, you   in the other cultures everyone in the family needs to be taken care of.  The support worker should be able to recognise that and call somebody, maybe the support provider, call the office and let them know, this is the situation, what am I supposed to do here?

And also the other training that I talked about for support workers is for them to be able to recognise signs of abuse in the house and signs of mental health issues.  When they go to a house they should be able to recognise, like, okay, what kind of abuse is going on here?   Is it financial abuse?   Is it physical abuse?  And how are you going to recognise physical abuse, emotional abuse or financial abuse?  If they have access to the person's credit card, to go and do shopping, maybe they could be able to know from there that there is financial abuse here.  If there is no money in the credit card.

And   or if the person is afraid to buy many things or maybe buy small things, they should able to recognise that.  And in terms of mental illness, if the person with disability is the one that has mental illness and they should be able to recognise if somebody is about to hurt themselves.  And that's the kind of training I'm talking about.

MS EASTMAN:   So one feature of the NDIS is to support people with disability to be independent, to exercise choice and control.


MS EASTMAN:   And the concept of dignity in risk.


MS EASTMAN:   Can I ask you from a cultural perspective   and I'm not talking about all cultures   but from cultural perspective, how does choice and control at that individual level work in family settings in some cultures?

MS SIMBI:  It's really hard in some cultures, like, for somebody from disability to make the choice and control.  Again, due to the gatekeepers making decisions.  If the family decide, the gatekeepers decide to make that choice and control, is that choice and control for the whole family or is it for the person with the disability?  What is that choice and control?  Who does it favour?  So it's really hard.  Like, even people who don't speak English, and in some cultures women have to talk through men, and what if the man decides that the woman should not apply for NDIS or should not access that service or should not contact that person?  It is choice and control.  It is the making that is taken away from the person with the disability. Those are the  

MS EASTMAN:   And how do you build self-advocacy, then, cultures where the elders in the culture or the men in the culture are the decision makers?  How does that work with self-advocacy?

MS SIMBI:  So with self-advocacy, I think it comes down to trust. So, if I'm working with somebody and I know that's their culture, I will include that man in the process.  If it's like   if I'm inviting the person with disability to attend information session, I will invite the man as well, whoever is making the decisions in that family, include that person in the workshop, in the information session, whether it's accessing appointment, until the gatekeeper gains trust that what you are doing with this person is not going to put their family in danger, or is not going to separate their family.

Because some of the people think that, oh, if a social worker is coming to our house, there's a problem.  And which is not. So, until they gain that trust, they will be able to let go and also the person that is working   like, for me, if I'm working with a person with disability in another family, encouraging the person to speak for themselves, to be able to   that capacity building, to be able to take up a phone call, ring a service and maybe ring the doctor, make an appointment and speak up and encourage them and educate them on how to recognise things and how to speak up.

From there, people would be able to become self-advocates.  For me, I am blessed.  I have been advocating   I said before, I have been vocal about how unfair women or people with a disability are treated in my own culture and in other cultures, and from that on, I have been vocal and advocating for myself.  I didn't even know that I was advocating for myself until I was a bit older.  Then I realised, what I'm doing here is advocacy.  I'm actually advocating for myself.

MS EASTMAN:   Some people need support  


MS EASTMAN:     to build the skills to be self-advocates.  It may not come naturally for some people.


MS EASTMAN:   Where in the system of support for people with disability who need the support to build the skills, where does that come from?  Where do we find this in support systems?

MS SIMBI:  There are people in the community.  People like me and others. So, we can train others.  Like, the work I was doing with Purple Orange, I did that before Purple Orange. In 2005, I was working with the Young Women's Christian Association, and that was before NDIS.  I wrote that project and to empower women, if you like, to educate people in the community, people with disability in the community.  The project I wrote was for all African people with a disability, but the organisation I linked with worked only with women, so we had to narrow it down to working with women with disability and also parents, mothers of children with a disability. So, things like that.

Constant education.  I think education is the key.  Educate people in the community, raise awareness about disability.  Some people don't even know   in other cultures, some people don't even know that they live with disability and those workshops I delivered with Purple Orange and even before that, we were able to educate people and people became aware, "Oh, I live with disability, I know somebody in my family or I know somebody in my community who live with disability."

The only disability they understand is physical disability.  When I sit down, people don't know I have a disability.  When I get up and start walking, people will know that I have a disability.  And when they see me walk they say, ah, she has a disability, because of my disability is physical.  But all the other types of disability that are not visible, they don't   they are not properly understood in other cultures as a disability.  Like autism or mental health issues, or hearing impairment, that's not considered as a disability.  But from educating and raising awareness people become aware and also it's from that education that people will gain skills, capacity to be able to advocate for themselves.

MS EASTMAN:   Now, Esther, I feel like we have only started our conversation in some ways, but I'm looking at the time, and I'm sure that the Commissioners may have some questions for you.  Chair.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much.  I will ask my colleagues whether they do have any questions for you, and I will start with Commissioner McEwin.

COMMISSIONER McEWIN:  No questions at this point, thank you.

CHAIR:  Commissioner Galbally?

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  No questions.  Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BENNETT:  It's nice to see you again.  Thank you.

MS SIMBI:  Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BENNETT:  One of the questions or   about the strength about advocacy, we have asked some other people that represented community and disability, where do you first turn if you want information and advice?  Do you turn to your community or do you turn to a disability advocacy group?  Or is it a community-based resource?  It's   it is complex.  We have a very diverse community, and disability is diverse, and it's good to say we need to be better at it, but there's so many players. So many organisations that can contribute a bit.  I just sort of wanted a sense of yourself, where do people first turn?

MS SIMBI:  So, from experience and from having conversations with people in the community, the first point of contact would be somebody to trust in the family or somebody to trust in the community.  That's the person they turn to.  And, yes, there are a lot of organisations, advocacy services in the community, but people connect more with a service if there is somebody from, like, culturally linguistically diverse background working in that organisation or the person has a disability or is a parent with a disability.  People that can understand.

COMMISSIONER BENNETT:  So does that mean a first reach and a first trust then sort of, like, little acorn grows to big oak tree?

MS SIMBI:  Yes, yes.   So it starts from the family.  Like, they will talk to somebody in the family, and then they connect out and, like I said, they connect more.  Even if that person in the family, the gatekeeper in this the family or the gatekeeper in the community take them to an organisation, and then they find out that there's nobody here from my culture or from, like, other cultures, from CaLD background working here.  There's nobody with disability working here.

People from CaLD backgrounds find it hard to connect.  They will access the service that's not their choice because they want the service but it works better   like, what I did with Purple Orange, it created so much impact, and from that, there's a lot of gap.  There's big gap in the community, especially around accessing the NDIS and understanding the NDIS.  And that's why I am in the process of starting a not for profit organisation.

I call it Zion Disability Services in South Australia, and that organisation is to educate people and raise awareness in the community about the NDIS and also encourage people to reach out to other organisations.  Not only to Zion, not only to Australian Refugee Association, but to any organisation that is available, like, near them, to reach out, not to be shy and, yes, encourage people to build that capacity in people.


CHAIR:  How many people in Australia would you say belong to the South Sudanese community?

MS SIMBI:  It's hard.  In Australia wide.

CHAIR:  If you don't know, that's fine.  I just thought you might have some idea of the numbers.

MS SIMBI:  Yes, it's a big number.  But I don't have the exact number.

CHAIR:  That's alright.  The official language of South Sudan is English, but I understand there's a multitude of Indigenous languages and of course including Arabic in one form or another.  What are the languages that most people from South Sudan in Australia would have as their first language?

MS SIMBI:  Arabic.  Sudanese Arabic, yes.  Except for those who grew up in Uganda like me, and those who grew up in Kenya   Kakuma in Kenya refugee camp, they will be speaking a little bit of Swahili.  And other cultures, there are more than 200 other languages in South Sudan, yes.  But the common one is Arabic.

CHAIR:  And is it Arabic that is readily understood by other Arabic speakers like Australian English is readily understandable by someone from South Sudan?

MS SIMBI:  It's   they are two different ones. There is Sudanese Arabic and the Middle Eastern Arabic.  A little bit   there's a little bit of difference there.  Yes.

CHAIR:  I suppose the reason you have to do 450 hours or whatever it was   

MS SIMBI:  850.

CHAIR:  Yes, that was so you had to understand the Australian accent?

MS SIMBI:  To understand English.  Not Australian accent, but with the accent as well.

CHAIR:  Okay.  Well, thank you very much again for coming to us to give evidence today and telling us of your experiences and the work that you have done.  And we wish you every success with your venture as you have described it. So, thank you again.

MS SIMBI:  Thank you. Thank you for having me.

MS EASTMAN:   Thank you, Commissioners.  If we could adjourn now until quarter past 11.

CHAIR:  Yes, we will do that.  We will adjourn until 11.15.




CHAIR:  Yes, Ms Eastman.

MS EASTMAN:   Thank you, Commissioners.  Our next witness is Sarah Johnson and she is the Acting Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Strategy and Service Improvement with the NDIA.  And she will take an affirmation.

CHAIR:  Ms Johnson, thank you for coming to the Royal Commission.  Thank you also for the detailed witness statement which we have received and read.  I will ask you, if you will be good enough, to follow the instructions of my associate, who is located over there, and she will administer the affirmation to you.

MS JOHNSON:  Thank you.

ASSOCIATE:  I will read you the affirmation.  At the end, please say yes or I do.  Do you solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that the evidence which you shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?



CHAIR:  I will now ask Ms Eastman to ask you some questions.


MS EASTMAN:   Just to confirm, you are Sarah Johnson?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, I am.

MS EASTMAN:  As I said a moment ago you are the Acting Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Strategy and Service Improvement at the NDIA?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, I am.

MS EASTMAN:   A fairly long title.

MS JOHNSON:  It was a long one, yes.

MS EASTMAN:  And the professional address is 300 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills, Sydney?

MS JOHNSON:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:  You provided a statement to the Royal Commission dated 7 October this year, and also a corrigendum correcting some aspects or clarifying some aspects of the statement dated 21 October this year.  Have you got both those documents with you?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, I do.  They are in front of me.

MS EASTMAN:   Are there any further changes or corrections that you wish to make to either the corrigendum or, working backwards, the statement?


MS EASTMAN:   And are the contents otherwise true and correct?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, they are.

MS EASTMAN:   Commissioners, this is an extensive statement.

CHAIR:  It is.

MS EASTMAN:  And in the hour or so that I have, I'm not proposing to go through the statement in detail, and we will tender the statement later this afternoon.  I have said to Ms Johnson I really want to get to some of the core issues that have arisen over the past few days.  But can I first start with you.  This is, I think, the first occasion that you have appeared before the Royal Commission?

MS JOHNSON:  That's correct.

MS EASTMAN:   And in the role that you currently hold, you're responsible for development of corporate strategy?

MS JOHNSON:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:  What does that mean?

MS JOHNSON:  So specifically in that role.  We develop the corporate plan for the agency that's approved by the board.  We do that every year.  We also then develop the work plan for the organisation, this   the various strategic initiatives we are going to undertake and monitor the progress against those strategic initiatives.

MS EASTMAN:   You are also responsible for enterprise project and change function.  I'm not sure I understand what that is.  What does that involve?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, that's a good question. So, for our agency as a whole, the program management offers   monitors all of the significant projects that are underway, including any significant BAU, monitors them against the various milestones, looks at the dependencies between those projects.  The change function is in place if we move from our current state to something new.  They will undertake change impact assessments to understand the extent to which different stakeholders, staff, participants, etcetera, will be impacted.  And that can assist with training, comms, etcetera 

MS EASTMAN:   You also have a policy and research function?

MS JOHNSON:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   And participant experience and service design including the business transformation and requirements for a new ICT system and all operational guidelines.  That sounds rather large but can you tell us what does that involve?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes. So, we are currently moving from a SAP platform to a Salesforce platform.  My role, I oversee all of the service requirements for that new system. So, the design of the detailed business processes to be then built within the IT system, and the operational guidelines we make public around how we make decisions.

MS EASTMAN:   And the final function is participant advocacy function which assists is ensuring the voice of the participant is embedded in every piece of work that the NDIA does.  Can you tell us a little bit about that function?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, so one of our senior executive officers is the participant advocate.  That person has a disability and a team of people.  They work with our participants.  It's called a group called Participant First who are volunteered to support us on various projects that we undertake.  And they also will provide advice to the agency around impacts on participants in terms of various projects we have got underway.

MS EASTMAN:   Is there a participant advocate for people with disability from CaLD backgrounds?

MS JOHNSON:  No, there's not a specific person with that role.

MS EASTMAN:   Is there a person in the agency who has a specialist CaLD advisory role?

MS JOHNSON:  Not at this point in time.  As part of our diversity and inclusion plan, we are going to develop a CaLD inclusion plan, and that strategy would include a CaLD champion, if you like, for the agency.

MS EASTMAN:   Alright.  And you   this position that you have held, you have held from January   the end of January this year.  Is that right?

MS JOHNSON:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:  But you have been with the NDIA since December 2013.

MS JOHNSON:  Correct 

MS EASTMAN:   As the Scheme Actuary?


MS EASTMAN:   Is that a role you still hold?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, I'm still the Scheme Actuary.

MS EASTMAN:   So is the role have you taken on in January this year, is that on top of and over and above the role as the Scheme Actuary?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, but to be clear, the Scheme Actuary, the specific functions under the legislation are to produce an annual financial sustainability report and four quarterly reports.  I still am the person who oversees and signs off on that work.  However, we have a much broader team that is run by a different actuary that looks after all of our other actuarial data and business intelligence functions.

MS EASTMAN:   So your role as the actuary is in an in house role, not as an independent actuary reviewing the NDIA's performance.  Is that right?

MS JOHNSON:  No.  I'm the legislated Scheme Actuary, which is an independent function to the agency.  But I work within the agency.

MS EASTMAN:   So you are independent for one thing and in the agency for another.  Is that right?

MS JOHNSON:  For the   for the AFSR, I can provide actuarial advice as per the code of conduct of the Institute of Actuaries.  It doesn't conflict there with my other role.

MS EASTMAN:   Okay.  One of the issues which has arisen for this hearing has been the difficulties, perceived and real, from people from CaLD backgrounds accessing and using the NDIS. So, that's at an overarching level.  But I want to start with how internally the NDIA thinks about the participation of people from CaLD backgrounds.  And can we start with whether the NDIA has a working definition of CaLD?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes. So, currently, the definition that we use to identify people from a CaLD background within our data is a participant who is born in specific countries that are not English speaking and/or their main language spoken at home is not English.

MS EASTMAN:   So how would that work in practice?   Is it the case that it, in terms of English speaking, that would eliminate any English speaking?  So we have just had Esther Simbi, for example.

MS JOHNSON:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   She is South Sudanese by birth, 19 years in Uganda.


MS EASTMAN:   And speaks English.


MS EASTMAN:   Has come to Australia.  She's an NDIS participant.


MS EASTMAN:   Because she speaks English, would that exclude her?

MS JOHNSON:  No. So, she would be counted in our data as culturally and linguistically diverse.  She's born in a country   she's born in South Sudan.

MS EASTMAN:   There are some countries that, if people are born in and they are English speaking country, would be excluded from CaLD?

MS JOHNSON:  Correct. So, as an example, New Zealand, UK.  US, Canada.

MS EASTMAN:   South Africa.

MS JOHNSON:  South Africa.

MS EASTMAN:   How is that decision made?

MS JOHNSON:  So there are data standards and things across the Commonwealth, and whilst maybe not completely consistent, those   those definitions of those English speaking countries are fairly well   fairly well used in various datasets across the Commonwealth. So, we have done the same thing 

MS EASTMAN:  So if, for example, a family immigrated from UK to Australia, an English speaking country, and the family might identify as a Pakistani origin.  They would not be treated as people from CaLD background for the purpose of the NDIA, would they?

MS JOHNSON:  Not necessarily.  It would depend where they were born and it would depend what language is spoken at home in terms of that classification.  That said, from a practical point of view, our planners would ask certain questions around interpreters and things to better understand.  But in terms of actually the data we hold to look at what proportion of our participants are culturally and linguistically diverse, we do use country of birth and main language spoken at home 

MS EASTMAN:  I'm just looking, if it helps, Commissioners, at paragraphs 27 and 28 of the statement. So, the NDIA does not apply the Australian Bureau of Statistics definition of CaLD, and the reason for that is because the NDIA does not have access to or collect the same breadth of information as the ABS.  Does that not create a dilemma that the ABS is collecting data but the NDIA is taking a different approach?

MS JOHNSON:  So the ABS does collect a large amount of data.  It has   in our recent work on a new co design strategy, it has certainly been raised that we could collect more information on our culturally and linguistically diverse people, and we will work with the sector on what better information we can collect.

MS EASTMAN:   In terms of the definition of CaLD, it does not include a person who identifies as Deaf and a member of the Deaf community.  Is that right?

MS JOHNSON:  It most likely would because of Auslan being their main language.

MS EASTMAN:   So if someone identified as using Auslan as their primary language spoken at home, then they would be identified as CaLD for the NDIA.  Is that right?

MS JOHNSON:  They would in terms of that statistical definition, yes.

MS EASTMAN:   And when you do a statistical analysis of CaLD participants, do you identify Auslan users who use Auslan as the primary language at home in the way in which you present the statistics?

MS JOHNSON:  It would be part of that broader group.  We don't present it separately. 

MS EASTMAN:   Do you think it is widely known that people whose primary language at home is Auslan are treated by the NDIA as part of a CaLD community?

MS JOHNSON:  That's a good question.  We have had some discussions with some of the stakeholders, in particular, I'm thinking of NEDA, and we would have had a discussion about them in about it in the past.  There has possibly been some discussions with some of the stakeholders in the Deaf community, but I'm not 100 per cent sure they have occurred. 

MS EASTMAN:   So am I right in understanding it, if I put it in way, if we want to understand how the NDIA defines people from a CaLD background, essentially, the key elements will be language and, in particular, not speaking English as the primary language at home?

MS JOHNSON:  And where they are born in addition to that.

MS EASTMAN:   When you say "where they are born", what happens to the children who may be born in Australia from people who have migrated from overseas?


MS EASTMAN:   I think we are doing something technical here.

MS JOHNSON:  That was very technical, the shifting of the microphone. So, from that perspective, the   if the participant has been born in Australia and the main language spoken at home is English, then, in that definition, they wouldn't be picked up.  That said, the processes that we would undertake in the access and planning processes would identify if the child representative needed interpreting support, for example, in any of the applications, regardless of the fact that the child's country of birth is Australia and the main language spoken at home may be English.  That would still be   still be picked up.

MS EASTMAN:   So let me   I can see Dominic Golding is in the room.  I just want to test this against the way he identifies. So, he's told the Royal Commission that he was born in Vietnam.  He was one of the babies evacuated from Vietnam to Australia.  He will tell you that he grew up in an Australian household with Australian parents, speaking English in   in Mount Gambier or Whyalla in South Australia. So, he's got all of those characteristics.  Nothing there would point him to be a CaLD person other than the place of birth.  Is that right?

MS JOHNSON:  That's how it would have been picked up for our   for our analysis.  We would put   he would be classified as CaLD because he's born in Vietnam.

MS EASTMAN:   Okay.  Has this definition caused the NDIA some difficulty when it comes to data collection and/or developing a CaLD strategy?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes.  And it's been recognised. So, as part of the work we are now doing on a CaLD strategy, certainly one of the key themes has come up is data, and it is recognised that we need to work to understand what additional questions we need to ask to better make sure that we include and identify CaLD participants within   within our system.

MS EASTMAN:   So when I opened this part of the hearing, I referred to the most recent ABS Census statistics in relation to people who identify from CaLD background, using the ABS definition.  I understand it that the NDIA has used a previous Census data from 2016 and done analysis to match the proportion of people who identify as CaLD for ABS purposes against the way that NDIA identified CaLD, and the result is this:  That 9.3 per cent of all active NDIS participants are considered to be CaLD.  This is your paragraph 31.


MS EASTMAN:   This is less than the expected 18.9 per cent proportion who identify as having a CaLD background derived from the 2016 census data.  Now, you're an actuary.  You understand statistics.

MS JOHNSON:  That's one of my fortes.

MS EASTMAN:   I will defer to you on this. That's a very, very significant gap, is it not, between 9.3 per cent matched against the proportion of the broader community at almost 19 per cent? 

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, it's a concern.  And as a consequence, we undertook some more analysis.  I will try and keep it nice and   nice and simple.  The Census is a great source of information.  It obviously has information on everyone, and, importantly, we can get information on different geographies in detail.  The Census collects information on country of birth and also language spoken at home, as well as information on whether a person needs assistance with core activities of daily living. So, self care, mobility and communication.

We can use those two pieces of information to understand the proportion of people in various geographies who are likely to have a disability and possibly be eligible for the NDIS.  And similarly be we can cross tabulate that with the proportion that are culturally and linguistically diverse. So, we have done that for all of the different service districts, of which there's about 80 in the country, and also had a more detailed look at some of the local government areas, of which there's about 550 odd in the country.  And understood whether the populations who have high proportions of CaLD had differences from the rates in the proportion of disability in that LGA as well. 

So, essentially what we were looking to understand was whether we had lower rates of entry into the NDIS in the government areas where we have high rates of CaLD participants, compared with those that are low.  And in simple terms, that wasn't correlated. So, on that basis, we do feel that we have a   we have an issue with how we are capturing data in our system to be able to understand who is culturally linguistically diverse, much more so than there is a large proportion of people in the country who are CaLD who could access the NDIS and have not. 

So, that has also then fed in   we have had these discussions with NEDA in particular, to talk through that analysis, and certainly through that discussion and through the themes we   we do recognise the need to better capture information across our participants on culturally and linguistically diverse.

MS EASTMAN:   So we have heard   and I don't know if you have followed the proceedings over the past few days, but  one thing we have heard is that people will readily identify from a CaLD background.  They will be refugees, they will be recent arrivals or they will have a real sense of their heritage and their ancestry.  But for some recent arrivals   and we heard this from the panel of the community health workers yesterday   they might not even recognise that they are also people with disability.

Is this an issue that has arisen for the NDIA, that it's not just the identification of people as CaLD, but it's also capturing that against people who identify with disability. So, I want to ask you that question and I'm going to follow that up by asking you if it is having an impact in the numbers of children coming into the scheme as well?

MS JOHNSON:  So in terms of the response to the   to the first question, certainly, again, as part of the work that we are undertaking at the moment on the CaLD strategy, that has come up, how different cultures and communities may identify disability or not.  So, again, that's something we need to work through with that group in understanding how we best get better communication, make that available so people can understand in more detail whether they may be eligible for the NDIS and, if they are, what supports might be best to support them.  In terms of children coming into the NDIS, we have run the same analysis that we have run across the different age groups, and in paragraph 32   


MS JOHNSON:    (b) of the statement, we have a similar difference, although it's not actually as big as the difference for all of our participants, of 13.8 per cent compared with 8.0 per cent.  Again, based on that broader analysis looking at the LGAs with higher populations of culturally and linguistically diverse, we didn't find that correlation between people coming in and not. 

So, again, I think it really is that we are not capturing enough information in our system to best identify, as opposed to it being a large-scale issue with people not coming in.  With children not coming in, I should say.

CHAIR:  Can I ask a couple of questions about this?  Paragraph 31 refers to all active NDIS participants, including children, I assume?

MS JOHNSON:  Correct.

CHAIR:  So that when we compare paragraph 31 and 32(b), we could determine that the gap for adults is even greater.

MS JOHNSON:  Correct.  Based on that analysis, that's correct.

CHAIR:  And that   those percentages don't appear in 31 or 32?  For adults only?

MS JOHNSON:  Not in this statement, no.

CHAIR:  No.  Alright.  Well, somebody might work that out for us.  And I am not entirely sure that I follow the reasoning that led you to the conclusion that the proportion of NDIS participants who are from a CaLD background may be understated.  Can you just take me through that step by step so I can follow how you reach that conclusion?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes. So, using the Census data, we can look at the different detailed geographies.  In this instance, service districts, which is about 80 across the country, the local government areas of about 500.  And the variables with the Census that we look at are   in particular are the need for assistance variable, which is a proxy for severe and profound core activity limitations. So, a limitation in mobility, self care or communication.  And we can also look at the proportion of people who identify as CaLD, based on the language of birth and the main language spoken at home.  And we can also then   

CHAIR:  So that doesn't mean they identify as CaLD.  It means somebody else look at that information identifies them as CaLD.

MS JOHNSON:  Well, they filled in the Census, correct, and we have used those two variables as the approximation.  That's correct.  And then we can also look at the proportion of the population in the NDIS in those LGAs. So, first of all, you can look at the proportion of NDIS participants and compare that with the proportion of disability, as per the Census.

CHAIR:  Yes.

MS JOHNSON:  And so we do that.  And we then   if   if we thought that the populations with really high CaLD rates, we would expect and were concerned we missed a lot of people, we would be thinking that that difference between the proportion of NDIS participants and people with a disability identified in the Census would be a big gap compared with areas where there's low CaLD populations, and there's not. So, it doesn't look like that we have missed huge amounts of people.  Rather, I don't think we are doing a good job of getting good information on our participants about culturally linguistically diverse.

CHAIR:  But if the comparison is between the number of people who can be characterised as CaLD because of the way they fill in the Census form and a proportion of people within a particular LGA who are participants in the NDIS, what's the significance of a comparison between LGAs with high CaLD communities and those with low?  It's just a question of comparing the numbers of CaLD people within any given LGA and the proportion within that LGA who are NDIS participants.

MS JOHNSON:  You are also making one further comparison, which is between the rate of NDIS participation and, based on the Census, how many in that LGA are likely to have a disability. So, if we had a low   that's the main comparison. So, maybe if I try and   I will just use round numbers.  But if you in a certain local government area thought there's about 1,000 people in the LGA who, based on that census information, have identified as   well, have a disability.

And then we look at our NDIS data and say, okay, we've got, you know, 800, say. So, comparing that 800 to the 1,000, you think that's a ratio of about 80 per cent.  And we can do that for every single LGA.  Now, for the LGAs where CaLD populations are high, that ratio isn't different.  If it was a long way from 100 per cent, you would be thinking, okay, I think   

CHAIR:  Isn't different from what?

MS JOHNSON:  LGAs where there is low proportions of CaLD.

CHAIR:  Well, I won't take up more time but I have to say I'm not entirely sure I follow that. But go on, Ms Eastman.

MS EASTMAN:   I want to just ask you about the children. So, this is paragraph 32.  And I think you have addressed paragraph (b).  But paragraph (c) suggests that the number of children who are not from a CaLD background are participating at a higher rate than their proportion in the broader community.  So, in effect, there are higher numbers of non CaLD children participants compared to the general population.  Is that right?

MS JOHNSON:  So (b) and (c) are actually saying the same thing. So, it's just cut two different ways. So, using that Census again, what proportion of our participants who we think would be CaLD   CaLD would be about the 13 per cent.  However, it's not.  It's closer to the 8 per cent. So, they are effectively the same    

MS EASTMAN:   But non-CaLD children, they are 92 per cent of child participants aged 0 to 14.  But the expected proportion of that group should be 86.2 per cent. So, there's a much higher number as a proportion. So, that's the inverse to the CaLD children?


MS EASTMAN:   In that   you have provided to the Royal Commission   and I think, as I said to you, we have only got an hour, so I just want to go to some main points.


MS EASTMAN:  But there was a review undertaken and you have provided to the Royal Commission the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Participants June 2019 review.  Have you got that with you?

MS JOHNSON:  Just to clarify, Ms Eastman, is that the progress report?

MS EASTMAN:   I think so.  Sorry, I haven't got my bundle in the same numbers.  It is.  Yes.  It's not in the tender bundle. Okay.  Can I just ask you this question?  I'm sorry about that.  The document just makes this observation:

"Upon entering the scheme the key differences in outcome for CaLD and non CaLD participants are..."

And then it deals with the children. So:

"...for children aged 0 to 14, CaLD participants generally have poorer outcomes compared to non CaLD participants.  In particular, CaLD participants are considerably less likely to be able to make friends outside the family, have a genuine say decisions about themselves and fewer attend school in mainstream classes." 

I will give you a reference to that.  It's at page 10 of the document.  And, Commissioners, the document reference is CTD.8000.0040.0379, if we need to track that reference.

But I just   I wanted to ask you about this because it's one thing in   to say that the proportion of children from CaLD backgrounds entering the NDIS scheme is smaller than expected, but this report seems to suggest that even when those children are in the scheme at 0 to 14, at this sort of critical stage of life, the outcomes are poorer.  This impact on children at that age in terms of being involved in the community, having a genuine say in decisions and fewer attending mainstream classes, do you accept that that is a matter of some concern.  Is it not?

MS JOHNSON:  It is.  Just to clarify, I have got the report in front of me.  I recognised the line.  In terms of our measurement of outcomes, we start recording the outcomes when the person enters the scheme and then we continue to track longitudinally.  The statistics that you read out are when the child enters the scheme. So, the NDIS hasn't actually had any involvement or any ability to have influenced at that point in time.

But that said   so that's the information that we have collected at baseline, and you do see some noticeable differences between CaLD and non CaLD children entering the scheme.  I just wanted to clarify when that statistics were collected.

MS EASTMAN:   Alright.  But is that the sort of review that you would undertake that would red flag particular areas in terms of identifying whether strategies and initiatives are working?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes.  So the outcomes framework and also understanding that longitudinal history. So we have got gains for CaLD participants sometimes better than non CaLD.  And then sometimes it's the other way as well.  And that's certainly a source of information that then feeds into recognising issues and looking at the solutions for any of those issues as part of that co design process.

MS EASTMAN:   Alright.  Now, the NDIA has a number of strategies, and you have set them out at paragraph 16 of the statement.  And I think the Participants Report that you   we have just been referring to is the document that you have identified at paragraph 17.  Is that right?

MS JOHNSON:  Sorry, let me just check.  16(b) refers to the CALD Participant Report and then   

MS EASTMAN:  And paragraph 17.

MS JOHNSON:  Correct, 17, yes.

MS EASTMAN:   So looking at the range of strategies described in paragraph 16, and given the time available to us this morning, I wanted to ask you about the broad overarching strategy which is referred to in 16(a).  That was developed in 2018.  Is that right?

MS JOHNSON:  Correct.  It was published in May 2018.

MS EASTMAN:   And was the strategy developed through a process of co design with CaLD communities?

MS JOHNSON:  I hesitate because it wasn't a strategy I was directly involved in.  My understanding is that the development of that strategy in particular was with   it was a group, an advisory group that had sector representation on it.

MS EASTMAN:  What does sector representation mean?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, good question.  It would include for example NEDA, so the National Ethnic Disability Alliance.  It would have included other stakeholder   CaLD stakeholder groups normally in the disability sector.  However, if it's of interest, I could get a list of people that were involved in that   in that particular consultation.

MS EASTMAN:   I'm not   I'm not so much about who was involved in the consultation, but whether the approach to developing the strategy was one based on co design. So, you accept consultation might be the NDIA saying, "Come along and have a workshop with us for a couple of days."


MS EASTMAN:  But it's another thing to say, the NDIA says, "Come and tell us what we need to do and help us design the strategy."  That's what I'm asking you.

MS JOHNSON:  Okay, no, fair point. So, no, it was not a co design strategy.  There was definitely many meetings and engagement held with that group, and there was two workshops as part of another project Participants and Pathways Review.  The strategy we are undertaking at the moment is a co design strategy.  The new strategy that we are developing.

MS EASTMAN:   But this first strategy was fairly key, was it not, in terms of then how some parts of the NDIA might roll out in the suburbs or the regions where there was a high proportion of newly arrived people or people who would meet that definition of CaLD in the NDIA framework.  Is that right?

MS JOHNSON:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   Now, there has been a review, and we asked you whether the NDIA had done any analysis to assess whether there were any barriers with respect to the strategy and for people accessing the NDIS.  And you have told us in paragraph 33 some of the barriers.  Can I suggest this to you: when you look at the description of barriers in paragraph 33, which identifies, as you say, commonly understood barriers during the development of the CaLD strategy, you identify a need for more community inclusion and engagement; a lack of access of information about the NDIS, including in other languages; the limited community capacity and consumer choice; the limitations in data collected and cultural competency of the NDIA and NDIS partners. 

So, they are the   they are identified as barriers.  Can I suggest to you they are not barriers that participants themselves would identify?  Rather, these are barriers that the NDIA sees for itself.  This is coming from the NDIA perspective, not from the individual person's perspective.  Would you agree with that?  Let me put it this way.  A participant is probably not really going to care how much data you collect.  Right.  Fair enough?

MS JOHNSON:  So as part of the CaLD strategy that we are undertaking at the moment   and I have some information about that.  I think it's at paragraph 98 of the statement.

MS EASTMAN:   True, but I just want you to focus on this because the purpose of my questions are if we understand the methodology and approach the NDIA has taken, both in terms of definition, in developing the strategy and evaluating and analysing the strategy, the perspective the NDIA brings to this will then have a bearing on what steps follow. So, that's the context in which I'm asking you the question. So, can I come back to 33?  Is   these do not look like barriers but an individual person with disability either wanting to become a participant or in the scheme would identify as barriers for them.  This is very much an organisational perspective, is it not?

MS JOHNSON:  The strategy was developed with key stakeholders from the sector, and they were the agreed   agreed areas of development. So, I can understand how a participant might not   not easily identify with them, and I think that's something we take on board for our new   new strategy.  But they   those issues were   were part of a consultation with the sector.

MS EASTMAN:   Okay. So, participants have told us   and this is some of the evidence this week   is what's missing is a lack of clear information.

MS JOHNSON:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:  That might be in language, or it might just generally be about the NDIS.  Would you accept that?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes.  And that's identified as emerging theme in the current strategy work.

MS EASTMAN:   People have talked about confusion and frustration about the application process itself.  Do you accept that?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes.  And that's come out as well in our   in our strategy work.

MS EASTMAN:   And in terms of the application process, it requires completing forms of the kind that you have included in the material.  Is that right?

MS JOHNSON:  The access request form is included as an attachment to the statement.

MS EASTMAN:   And the way in which the access request form operates takes a very, may I say, western approach to collecting information.  Name, address, age and then a range of personal descriptors that doesn't really speak to where you come from or your culture, but the type of information that the NDIA needs rather than the way in which somebody might from a cultural perspective, share information.  Do you accept that?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, good feedback.

MS EASTMAN:  And that the first port of call in looking at completing those forms is, for the most part, an online process.  You have to get the form to be able to complete the form.

MS JOHNSON:  You do have to get the form to be able to complete the form.

MS EASTMAN:   So would I be able to go to my local post office or my local community centre and see a form that I could pick up there?  Or would I have to know how to find the form?

MS JOHNSON:  It's a good question.  Definitely is part of the new strategy work, that need to have more accessible communications and educate communities on what's involved is key. So, we will have to work with the   with that group to co-design some ways in which we can do it better.

MS EASTMAN:   And for some of the information I might have to give   and Mr Golding said, "I don't really have the information about how I came deaf as a result of a war injury in Vietnam"   is how do people navigate faithfully answering the request for information but not having access to the information the NDIA needs?  This has come up as an issue raised in the course of this hearing.

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, again, it's   can you still hear me?


MS JOHNSON:  Yes, again, it's   it's good feedback and we can take it on board for the new strategy.  Our access staff can reach out to a GP, for example, to assist a participant if that's easier than them being able to provide the information themselves.  Or reach out to another supporting clinician to obtain the information, if it's been challenging for someone to be able to provide that themselves.

MS EASTMAN:   And that's a very health avenue or pathway in, isn't it?  So, we have heard that not everybody would identify that their disability is a health issue or would require a health diagnosis.  How is that dealt with in terms of responding to different cultural perceptions around disability?

MS JOHNSON:  Again, it's true.  The information we need on the access request form does often require a clinician to assist with the permanence definition and also often allied health professionals to assist with assessments of support need.  And they do tend to be obtained through the health system. So, again, something we need to take on board to make sure we have our communications clear and support people in what's required.

MS EASTMAN:   And to collect that information, a prospective participant is not provided with an interpreter by the NDIA for that collection of information, so going to the GP or going to an OT.  That has to be done first before they get in the system.  Is that right?

MS JOHNSON:  That's a good question. So, the health system should provide an interpreter, if need be, in any consultation with a clinician.  In terms of the NDIA support, I will have to specifically check the extent to which we can provide an interpreter.  We can actually provide an interpreter through the access request process.  We can have a NDIS access officer speak to a participant in their language using an interpreter to get the information. So we would do that.

MS EASTMAN:   And one of the barriers which is not in your list is the perception of wait times and prioritisation, is that people feel that there is really long waiting times and an unfairness, then, that comes out of waiting times.  Would that be something that is a consequence of not providing adequate information?  Or is it something about the NDIA helping people understand what are realistic wait times in terms of whether their applications will be approved or not approved?

MS JOHNSON:  So the recent legislation passed on the NDIS Act includes a participant service guarantee which provides information on the timelines that we take to make certain decisions.  And we do publicly report against those   those metrics. 

MS EASTMAN:   Sorry to interrupt, but if I'm a person in Cobram in the northern part of Victoria and English is not my first language and I've got a real need in my family, whether the NDIA publishing their wait times or the website is not going to make much difference me, is it?

MS JOHNSON:  Probably not.  The access officer, should, however, provide some information on all the timeframe as part of the conversation in terms of getting back, which is what those metrics set out to monitor.

MS EASTMAN:   And what about the extent to which that application process speaks to or understands the experience of people from CaLD backgrounds where families have been the predominant carers and supporters and understanding what supports are available for family members as well as for the individual participant.  We have heard that that sense of not understanding the needs of the whole family could have a bearing, then, on the success of the NDIS supports.  How is that factored into the application process or decision making?

MS JOHNSON:  Most likely factored in at the planning process of participants in the scheme.  Certainly, the   the disability related supports of that participant are taken into account.  We do look at the impact of informal care   care provided by family and friends as part of that planning process to get a good understanding of support need. So, there is   there is consideration of the family and the supports they are providing to the participant as part of that planning process.

MS EASTMAN:   So for example we had some evidence yesterday from ZA, who   and I don't know if you have read her statement or followed that.  But she raised that issue of respite, and she was unaware and she seems still to be unaware as to whether or not some form of respite is something that her daughter's package could include. So, that's an example. So, in her case, is respite part of something that could be the supports for the family?

MS JOHNSON:  So it's difficult for me to comment on the individual case.

MS EASTMAN:   I'm not asking you to comment on the individual case, but just the conception.

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, more broadly. So working with a support coordinator, the support co coordinator should assist the family with what supports are available for the NDIS.  They should assist the family and participant with how they can use their plan to access the supports that they require, in particular, some funding can be used flexibly to be able to potentially purchase things like respite.

The support coordinator should also, if there is a clear need for something like respite and believe it's not included in the plan, then that should be something that the support coordinator could support the participant to reach out to the NDIS to potentially obtain a new plan or a plan variation to include that support.

MS EASTMAN:   And she gave the other example of wanting a front fence, and if you heard her evidence yesterday, she described the purpose and the reason for that.  And she said she had never heard of a restrictive practice.  I think you have seen the records that the reason the fence was not approved was a view was taken that a fence on the front of the house would be a restrictive practice.

How do you mesh that from a cultural perspective and how would you explain to someone like ZA that a support that she feels would give quality of life to her daughter and the opportunity to have some form of community participation should be rejected as a restrictive practice?  And I'm not asking to you comment on the particular case.  But is this an example about where the communication and understanding can fall down?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes. So, in   we would expect that our planners would articulate to the family and participant the plan after it's been approved.  What's in it.  In the example of a behavioural support plan being required, and that should be articulated.  The planner can also ask the family whether they would like the support coordinator to be included in the conversation, and if the answer is yes, then including the support coordinator in the conversation is also appropriate in being able to then let that support coordinator assist with the implementation of the plan.

If the support coordinator isn't involved in the conversation, the planner can ask the participant whether they are happy with their current support coordinator and, if they are, then whether they will be happy for the request for services, what we call it, to go to the support coordinator to be able to then work with that family and, in particular, help them with obtaining a behavioural support plan, if that's what's   if that's what's required.

MS EASTMAN:   How do you translate that at a very practical level to families who are out there needing and wanting to use the supports in the right way?  That sounds very technical.

MS JOHNSON:  It's an excellent example and part of the co design process.  Again, we have got accessible communications as a big thing with the goal in which, obviously, to work out solutions to be able to better get the information across.

MS EASTMAN:   Would you accept, looking at the current strategy, that some features that are missing is a trauma-informed approach that sits through the whole of the strategy and the NDIA's engagement with participants?

MS JOHNSON:  Trauma is something that has come up as part of the more recent strategy. So, it will be something that will look to consider how we include going forward.

MS EASTMAN:   But it is not currently embedded into   

MS JOHNSON:  It is not currently embedded in the strategy 

MS EASTMAN:   And, likewise, there are a number of expresses used. It could be cultural safety or cultural responsiveness.  Would you accept, stepping back and looking overall, that the current strategy lacks those core elements of cultural safety or cultural responsiveness?

MS JOHNSON:  I probably would have to look again at more detail at the strategy itself.  I will say that the new strategy, everything is on the table.  We recognise that we have got to develop a more robust strategy in this particular co design piece.

MS EASTMAN:   Would you agree that language and the ability to actually understand is absolutely critical for people who are meeting your definition of CaLD, which is the primary language at home is not English, that that itself is almost an impenetrable barrier for some people?

MS JOHNSON:  Correct.  And in those instances, we should be definitely making sure that the meetings include an interpreter.

MS EASTMAN:   Is having an interpreter part of core supports?

MS JOHNSON:  So we   we would fund an interpreter at meetings.  We don't expect that to come out of the participant plan.

MS EASTMAN:   Is that where there's a bit of a mismatch in the sense that to be able to use the NDIS effectively, you have to know and understand   and if English is not your first language, then an interpreter by your side is absolutely critical for this to work effectively, is it not?

MS JOHNSON:  Correct. So, in the meetings that we would have with the participant, we would make sure that the interpreter, if was there that was the request and needed. 

MS EASTMAN:   But it's going to the OT.  It's meeting with the school teachers.  It's understanding what's happening at the special school.  It's being able to have a conversation about what is or isn't a restrictive practice.  If the support is just limited to meetings, how are you   how are you going to fill these gaps?  And these gaps seem to be, from the evidence that we have heard, where the real barriers exist.

MS JOHNSON:  I think it's   again, that's a good   a good question.  Certainly, support coordination, we would try our best there to   support coordinators should try to best match the support coordination and the participant in terms of in language, if they can, is one way.  Education and Health do also have a responsibility to provide an interpreter in any of those meetings in Education and Health settings. 

MS EASTMAN:   But I'm going to slip between the gaps here, aren't I.  Because I don't know on a given day I need to ring the Health people from an interpreter or the Education people for an interpreter.  And we heard this evidence yesterday, that it then turns to maybe the Good Samaritans in the community to step in.  And you then end up having the support from the community, but not the safety and the dignity that comes from the supports to engage in language in a language you understand. So, you end up in this cycle, don't you?

MS JOHNSON:  Possibly.  It will be something has we will need to better unpick in the strategy work that we are doing.

MS EASTMAN:   I'm mindful of the time.  The Chair is keeping me to a very strict time limit.  So can I just ask you this as a final question.  If   and this Royal Commission will not be around, but for the people who have given evidence to this Royal Commission over the course of the whole week, including the Deaf community, is what should they expect to see in five years’ time in relation to a revised CaLD strategy?

MS JOHNSON:  So the CaLD strategy we will   we run track to publish in April 2023, and that will include an action and implementation plan based on all of the finds, and within the five years we will be reporting and monitoring against that action plan.

MS EASTMAN:   Is that all they can expect to see?

MS JOHNSON:  Well, with the co-design process, we have identified a series of themes and goals, and we will release that report within the coming week.  But the co-design process is there to work alongside the CaLD community to develop those solutions to best meet those issues.  And once that has been developed, then we will make it   make it public, we will have an action plan, and we will monitor against it.  But I would like that co design process to run and for those solutions to be designed with the   with the sector for us to then put out.

MS EASTMAN:   You have to go, don't you, to do this beyond just the peak advocacy groups?  And you have to get right down to the grassroot communities.  Is that right?

MS JOHNSON:  Correct 

MS EASTMAN:   How do you do that?

MS JOHNSON:  So we have people with lived experience on the committee as well   sorry on the advisory group and the co design.  We have been making sure that we include participants.  And we have done that in all of our co design processes, as well as the disability representative organisations. 

MS EASTMAN:   I'm going to stop so the Chair and Commissioners have some  

CHAIR:  Well, with unaccustomed generosity of spirit, on the assumption we have 45 minutes for lunch you could have another six or seven minutes, if you wish.

MS EASTMAN:   I'm happy for the Commissioners.  The only outstanding matter was the Community Connecters program, and we have heard some evidence from FECCA earlier this week, and NEDA have provided a submission to the Royal Commission on the Community Connecters Program.  Are we right in understanding that that program was set up as a little bit of a trial for people with psychosocial disability, First Nations and some older communities? It was only intended to take a year but its primary purpose was to see how to develop connections between the NDIA and NDIS processes and community, and it had a real focus on how do you build trust as a core element of developing connection.  Is that   are we right in understanding that?  I know there's a lot more to the program.

MS JOHNSON:  Yes.  Pretty good summary.

MS EASTMAN:   Thank you.  And in terms of how that was then done was to try to engage with people on the ground   like Esther Simbi and other people who had the skills to be able to connect to community but to also give you advice on building trust and relationships.

MS JOHNSON:  So the predominant focus of the program, we did work with the peak bodies to then identify the community groups that became the connecters themselves.  And it was in particular looking at how, within those communities, we could assist people to apply to the NDIS and, if they met access, then assist with their planning meetings throughout.  The extent to which then they provided us with more information over and above on best practice, I would have to   I would have to go away and check.

MS EASTMAN:   And I think there's a valuation, some saying there was some good and positive outcomes, but others saying that it just didn't quite achieve perhaps what was expected.  What has the NDIA done in relation to reviewing and evaluating internally the Community Connecter program, first question, and then, second, will there be some element of a Community Connecter program as the new strategy is rolled out?

MS JOHNSON:  So in answer to the first question, the NDIA did enter   the NDIA did undertake an internal evaluation of the program, and it looked at the areas in which the Connecters were operating and compare them to areas that didn't have the Connecters and with similar levels of CaLD populations.  And there wasn't any evidence that the   either the rate of application was higher or, for those that did apply, the access rate wasn't any different either. So, that was one finding.

It's actually only this week that I heard that   I can't remember whether it's NEDA or FECCA have undertaken an evaluation themselves.  I haven't seen that.  I would like to.  If there's differences in information and evaluation and that should be worked through and understood.  We may have come at it from different angles or we may be assessing different parts of program. So, we should work with that group to understand their evaluation.

And then in terms of the program going forward, again, as part of that co design, we know we need much more accessible communications.  Our infrastructure needs to be   have much more improved cultural and diverse aspects to it.  So we will work with that group on how to best solve that and then look to implement it.  Whether that's a continuation of the program or not, I'm not sure at this stage.  It's how we   how we work to best solve for the issues that we have got.

MS EASTMAN:   Thank you, Commissioners.

CHAIR:  Thank you.  I will ask my colleagues if they have any questions to put to you. I will start with Commissioner McEwin 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN:  I don't have any questions for you today, but I'm very grateful for the information you have shared.  Thank you.

MS JOHNSON:  Thank you. And nice to see you.

CHAIR:  Thank you.  Commissioner Galbally? 


CHAIR:  And Commissioner Bennett?

COMMISSIONER BENNETT:  No questions and thank you. 

MS JOHNSON:  Thank you.

CHAIR:  Thank you.  In the document that Ms Eastman referred to, the one that had the 8000 number.  I will just come to the   Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Participants, the 2019 study, that I think you have got in front of you.


CHAIR:  Ms Eastman, no doubt for reasons of time, didn't take you through the detail of that document.  But if you go to page 7, for example, do you see that in the second bullet point on the left hand side, a finding that a lower proportion of CaLD participants have an intellectual disability, 19 per cent compared to 26 per cent for non CaLD.  Or autism, 20 per cent compared with 31 per cent.  And then you see figures in the next column relating to SIL arrangements being included in plans, where there's a substantial variation.  It's very useful to have a study that identifies these things.  What's been done to follow up, for example, those two findings?

MS JOHNSON:  They are good examples.  Again, the co design work will consider this report.  With the first dot point, it's based on the percentages. So, there are actually disabilities that have higher percentages for CaLD compared with non CaLD.  We could look to it, then   I haven't got them listed there, and I don't, unfortunately, know them off the top of my head. But that would be things that would need to be looked at. Yes.

CHAIR:  Well, that   that may be   that may be so, but the finding I'm asking you about is this one. I'm just asking what the NDIA has done in the face of information of that kind.  Should there not be further exploration as to why this is so?  There may be a perfectly rational explanation that does not suggest lack of opportunities or information.  On the other hand, there may be some very clear explanations that indicate remedial action should be taken to address the issue.

MS JOHNSON:  So no specific work has been undertaken to further understand that finding at the NDIA.  And it will be worth considering in the co-design process.

CHAIR:  I would have thought, if I may say so, that the point of investigations like this is precisely to identify problems that can be addressed and then do something about them.

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, that's right, and there are other parts of the report that would have been looked at.  But that particular finding wasn't any extra work undertaken.

CHAIR:  Yes.  And the same for Supported Independent Living arrangements, I suppose?

MS JOHNSON:  Yes, not at this point.

CHAIR:  Yes, alright.  Thank you.

MS JOHNSON:  Other than probably family supports differ.

CHAIR:  Well, thank you very much for your evidence today, Ms Johnson, and, as I've said before, for the detailed written report that you have provided.  Thank you for your assistance.

MS JOHNSON:  Thank you. 

CHAIR:  Ms Eastman, do we now adjourn for lunch?  Or are there things you wish to do?

MS EASTMAN:   No, if we can now adjourn for lunch.

CHAIR:  Alright.

MS EASTMAN:  And assuming our next witness is available, if it was convenient to the Commissioners, we could resume at 1 pm. 

CHAIR:  Thank you very much.  We will adjourn until 1 pm.  Thank you.




CHAIR:  Ms Eastman.

MS EASTMAN:   Thank you, Chair and Commissioners.  Our final witness for this hearing is Cheryl anne Moy, and you will see Ms Moy is in the witness box and she's going to take an oath. 

CHAIR:  Yes, thank you, Ms Moy, for coming to the Royal Commission to give evidence today in Melbourne.  And thank you also for the statement that we have that you have prepared and we have read that statement.  If you would be good enough to follow the instructions of my associate, who is in the far corner, she will administer the oath to you.

ASSOCIATE:  I will read you the oath.  At the end, please say yes or I do.  Do you swear by Almighty God that the evidence which you shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

MS MOY:  I do.


CHAIR:  Thank you, Ms Moy.  I will now ask Ms Eastman to ask you some questions.


MS EASTMAN:   Thank you.  Ms Moy, you have prepared a statement for the Royal Commission?

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:  I might need to you say   and you have told us that you are the Deputy Secretary, Department of Home Affairs?

MS MOY:  Correct 

MS EASTMAN:   And today is your last day of service in the Australian Public Service.  Is that right?

MS MOY:  That is correct.

MS EASTMAN:   Well, thank you for spending your last day with us.  Your professional address is 45 Benjamin Way, Belconnen?

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   And the statement that you have made, you have got a copy with you?

MS MOY:  I do.

MS EASTMAN:   Are there any corrections to the statement?

MS MOY:  No, there is not.

MS EASTMAN:   And the contents are true and correct?

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   In the time available, I really want to get to some of the core issues, and I want to start with what you tell us in paragraph 24.  We asked the Home Affairs to tell us about the functions of Home Affairs Immigration and Settlement Services Group. So, have you got paragraph 24 there?

MS MOY:  I do.

MS EASTMAN:   And you have identified there five parts of the Immigration Settlement and Services Group.  And I just want to ask you briefly about each of these divisions and then perhaps come in a little more detail to number 4, which is the Refugee, Humanitarian and Settlement Division. So, the Immigration and Settlement Services Group, you say, is accountable for the delivery of the immigration program, including permanent, temporary, and refugee and humanitarian visas.  That is a very large responsibility within the Commonwealth, is it not?

MS MOY:  It is.

MS EASTMAN:   And in terms of delivering the   that program, there's five component parts.  The first is described as Immigration Program Division.  And this is looking at one part of migration to Australia with a focus on long term economic and social benefits to Australia across skilled, family and resident return visas.  Is that right?

MS MOY:  That's correct.

MS EASTMAN:   Is this the division that would deal with sort of visas in the ordinary course?

MS MOY:  Correct. So, the visas   the division deals with people who wish to come to Australia for a temporary basis   that might be for temporary work, it may be as a visitor   and also for people who wish to migrate permanently.

MS EASTMAN:   Now, for the work done by this division, does disability have any particular relevance to this work?

MS MOY:  The work that disability would be looked at is in an individual's application for a visa, whether or not they are required to satisfy the public interest criteria 4005 or 4007.

MS EASTMAN:   Alright.  Let's deal with   for those who might not be familiar with public   the PIC, 4005 and 4007.  These are public interest criteria; is that right?

MS MOY:  That's correct.

MS EASTMAN:   And the source of that comes from the Migration Regulations?

MS MOY:  That's correct.

MS EASTMAN:   And, historically, Australia has had an immigration system where permanent migrants or temporary visitors have been subject, historically, to some type of health requirement as a condition of entry.

MS MOY:  That is correct.

MS EASTMAN:   If we go back to the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, we assessed whether someone coming to Australia may have an infectious or contagious disease; is that right?

MS MOY:  I have not read that particular Act but I am aware that the original Immigration Act did have health requirement. 

MS EASTMAN:   So, essentially, the health requirements historically have been about managing infectious and contagious diseases.  Do you accept that?

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   Then in 1958, the new Migration Act continued to have some health criteria, but it's a case, isn't it, that they were expanded in around 1994?

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   And in 1994, Regulations to the Migration Act introduced what are called the public interest criteria, the PIC.  Is that right?

MS MOY:  Correct 

MS EASTMAN:   And the purpose of the PIC was to identify health and public safety risks so that the Australian community would be protected from those risks by people seeking to come to Australia on a permanent basis or a temporary basis.  Is that right?

MS MOY:  It is correct for permanent.  For temporary, it's only some temporary migrants who would be subject to the PIC, and it also was in regard to protection of services, availability of services. 

MS EASTMAN:   But that's the second criteria, wasn't it, to   

MS MOY:  Yes 

MS EASTMAN:     contain public expenditure on healthcare and community services.

MS MOY:  And to enable access for the Australian community to limited resources.

MS EASTMAN:   So that's the third one, the safeguard of Australian citizens' rights to healthcare and community services that may be in short supply.

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   So all of this criteria pre dates the NDIS.  Do you agree?

MS MOY:  That is correct.

MS EASTMAN:   In terms of that criteria, it hasn't really changed very much over the last 30 years.

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   Now, you have identified two categories. So PIC4005 and PIC4007.  Can you walk us through this.  Can I set the scene.  Is   there are some visas for which, if you fail the health requirements, you will not come to Australia.  And there are some visas that you may not meet the health requirements, but there can be a waiver and you will still be able to enter on a permanent basis.

MS MOY:  That is correct.

MS EASTMAN:   Alright. So, can we work through it?  The first one, the PIC4005, that's the no waiver.

MS MOY:  That's correct.

MS EASTMAN:   Can you explain to us how that would work and specifically if I was a person with disability, be it a physical, intellectual, psycho social disability, what's going to happen to me in that process?

MS MOY:  So in an application for a visa which is subject to PIC.4005   

MS EASTMAN:   I might just get you to slow down.  Sorry, I'm going very quickly myself.  So I apologise.

MS MOY:  Yes, my apologies. So, for a visa subject to PIC.4005   and some examples of those are the business talent visa, state and territory sponsored or skilled migration, and there's   I should just premise that by saying there is 117 visa categories.  4005 and 4007 apply variously.  If somebody does not pass the immigration medical examination threshold, which dictates that a medical or disease is prevalent to the point where the costs would be in excess of $51,000, and that applies for a 10 year period for a permanent migration or for the period of a temporary migration period   so a visa that's issued for temporary   if it surpasses that, and the medical officer of the Commonwealth determines that the person does not pass the threshold and has therefore not passed the public interest criteria 4005, the Department is unable to issue a visa to that person.

MS EASTMAN:   Can I walk back a couple of steps. So, if I was a person wanting to come to Australia for the visa class that you've described, I would have to complete an application for a visa.

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   And I would also have to complete a health form, and you have included that I think in your material, form 26?

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:  The health form has a long list of different health conditions.  And the Commissioners have got a copy of it but I won't trouble you going through the various conditions.  It doesn't say "disability" at large.  It talks about what we might say is disability through a perspective of health conditions.  Is that right?

MS MOY:  That's correct.

MS EASTMAN:  So when I use that expression "disability" in the context of the visas or PIC4005 or 4007, essentially, disability means a health condition.  Is that right?

MS MOY:  In terms of the Migration Act, the Migration Act does not specify that a disability has any impact on someone's ability to gain a visa.  It's in relation to what would be the health costs in regard to that disability.

MS EASTMAN:   So in terms of having a disability, if the disability is going to have some health costs only; is that right?

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   Then the Commonwealth medical officer has to make an assessment about the person's health, the prognosis in relation to the health and what the likely cost might be, what, of treatment, rehabilitation?

MS MOY:  It can be.

MS EASTMAN:   What type of health costs?

MS MOY:  It can be costs in regard to special education, community services or costs along the Medicare expenses.

MS EASTMAN:   And where does the 51,000 come from?

MS MOY:  $51,000 is a threshold that's been   a threshold that started to be set back in the 1990s and has been obviously increased over time.  And is set with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, based on the statistics of health costs in the community.

MS EASTMAN:   But it's not   it has nothing to do with whether a person with disability might need necessary supports and become an NDIS participant and the cost of NDIS participation; is that right?

MS MOY:  It can include NDIS costs.

MS EASTMAN:   How would it do that?

MS MOY:  Through the work that's done with the Department of Health and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in regard to what would be the hypothetical person costs of a person with a similar medical condition or disability in the Australian community.

MS EASTMAN:   How do you work that out?

MS MOY:  It is worked out by medical officers of the Commonwealth who are well trained in undertaking both the examinations and the assessment of what care would be necessary for a person with that same condition and with knowledge of over many years. So, most of our medical officers of the Commonwealth stay for quite a period of time. So, knowledge of what the   the requirements are in terms of the assessment process.  And they also receive, obviously, guidance in terms of what are current costs within the community.

MS EASTMAN:   So are the Commonwealth medical officers employees or engaged by Home Affairs or elsewhere in government?

MS MOY:  So the medical officers of the Commonwealth are generally engaged through processes with a provider. So, we actually pay for medical officers of the Commonwealth.  They are technically public service employees but they sit within a   the health function with   with Bupa at the moment.

MS EASTMAN:   The medical officers report up through the reporting lines to you in Home Affairs or somewhere else?

MS MOY:  No, they report   we have a Health Services Division who manages the arrangements with Bupa and the medical officers of the Commonwealth.

MS EASTMAN:   And when you have said some of the Commonwealth medical officers have been there for a long time, do you mean by that not just that they are very experienced practitioners but they have worked in and for the Home Affairs doing these assessments?

MS MOY:  That's correct.

MS EASTMAN:   Right.  And what are   and I hadn't asked you this, but what are their skills and training and, in particular, do they have any training in trauma-informed approaches, particularly for people coming from situations of conflict or violence?

MS MOY:  So they have worked in this space for a considerable period of time.  In terms of their individual qualifications, they obviously have to be registered practising medical   medical practitioners.  They also need to be trained in terms of the work that they are undertaking with our clients versus any other type of work.  They also generally continue to do practice so that they maintain their medical registration.  In terms of their other training, I would need to take that on notice.

MS EASTMAN:   Do they have a code of conduct or anything in terms of their professional standards in relation to doing this work for Home Affairs?

MS MOY:  They would need to provide   sorry, need to abide by the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct, but they would also need to abide by their medical practitioners guide of conduct   code of conduct.

MS EASTMAN:   Can I come back to the hypothetical person and the 51,000.  And what guidelines, if any, are there for the Commonwealth medical officers to work this out?

MS MOY:  So there's considerable guidelines.  There's 22 individual documents which guide the medical officers of the Commonwealth in their decision making and their assessments.

MS EASTMAN:   And is there any review process if somebody says, "I don't think I'm going to be costing $51,000 measured against the hypothetical person." Is there a way of reviewing the Commonwealth medical officer's assessment?

MS MOY:  Yes, there is.  And so there's not only a review process, but there's also an assurance process undertaken by the Department in regard to decision making.  And that review process in terms of individuals who are able to claim   so if   so we are moving sort of to 4007 at the moment.  So PIC4007 allows for a waiver. If somebody requests a waiver for undue costs, that's able to be considered.  Under 4005, we can relook at what the costs may be and the assessment and walk through with people what the assessment would be.

MS EASTMAN:   So for PIC4005, is it right that if you do not meet the health criteria, essentially, that's it, you're not going to get a visa.  But there can be, what, an internal review of that?

MS MOY:  So we would   if somebody disagreed with the assessment, we can always review the assessment and sit down with people and talk them through what the assessment has come to.  And that would be done either through the visa process or through the medical process.

MS EASTMAN:   And for that class that PIC4005 applies, if a family was coming and one member of the family, for example, lived with an intellectual disability, would that one person in the family affect the visa requirements for the rest of the family?

MS MOY:  So not technically. So, a visa attaches to an individual.  It would then obviously in a   in any family process mean that a family would consider whether or not they were still coming as a   as a family, if one person was unable to.

MS EASTMAN:   So if your 2 year old was a young person with Down syndrome and the rest of the seven members of the family were able to come but not the 2 year old, the family would have to make a decision about whether to come.  Is that right?

MS MOY:  If   if that visa that the person was applying for was under a 4005 and not a 4007 requirement.

MS EASTMAN:   Right.  And I think we asked you this, that there is a blanket exemption in the Disability Discrimination Act in relation to the Migration Act, the Migration Regulations and decisions, and I think we asked you were you aware of any review of that provision and you've told us no.  But the department is willing to participate in consultation processes regarding any proposed changes to that part of the Disability Discrimination Act.

MS MOY:  That's correct. So, that part of the Act   section 52, as you say, excludes migration visa decisions, basically.  And should that be reviewed in terms of the Convention on the Rights of a Person with Disability, the main   the main advice to government in any change for that would be Attorney Generals and the Department of Health, and certainly the Department of Home Affairs in managing immigration would be happy to have discussions about what that impact is.

MS EASTMAN:   Alright.  Can I come back to PIC4007.  That's slightly different, isn't it, because if someone might not meet the health requirements, the Minister can waive the health requirements. Is that right?

MS MOY:  The Minister or delegate can waive   sorry, can waive the decision that the costs are undue.

MS EASTMAN:   And this would apply to a fairly limited class of visas, the limited family stream, humanitarian, refugees.  Is that right?

MS MOY:  It applies to   

MS EASTMAN:   Are there any more in that class?

MS MOY:  It applies to quite a number of visas.  It applies to also to partners, to skilled regional and temporary skills shortage.

MS EASTMAN:   And how   how does that waiver operate at a very practical level?

MS MOY:  So at a practical level, an individual's assessment may be that   perhaps if I give you an example, that might be the best option.  So we've had   this is a real case   where an individual had paraplegia. The   it was a child.  The assessment meant that the costs were, in the vicinity of the 10 year period, of about more than $3 million.  The Department looked at all of the information provided by the family, which meant that there was a capacity of family to provide and mitigate some of the health costs.

There was annual fundraising by the community to support the family.  The individual's parents were skilled migrants who had skills in demand.  They lived in a regional area.  That was waived by the delegate to mean that the visa could be granted and that the costs were waived as not undue, based on the circumstances of the case. And each case is considered in that way very individually.

MS EASTMAN:   When you say "very individually", does it ultimately come down to   and I don't mean this in any disparaging way, but a fairly subjective assessment of whether the waiver should occur?

MS MOY:  No, it's based on the evidence provided by individuals. So, it really is   in terms of, you mean, subjective about the waiver or the   

MS EASTMAN:   How   I mean, it's the Minister or the delegate. So   

MS MOY:  It's very objective based on the information provided by individuals.  Now, in terms of whether you make a decision that the fundraising for this child will continue for many years, that might be a subjective part of a decision.  But in terms of the other inputs to that decision, they are usually very quite factual.

MS EASTMAN:   Alright.  We   I think we asked the Department whether it collects and/or holds any data in relation to the disability status of any long-term visa holders.  And are we right in understanding that, notwithstanding the medical examinations that people have to complete, that the Department doesn't collect or hold data specifically in relation to the disability status of long-term visa holders?

MS MOY:  That's correct.  The   the information systems used by the Department are created and maintained in a way that collects information that is required for the grant of a visa rather than   rather than other specific categories which may apply for access into community after the person's arrived. So, in terms of specific   around disability, versus some medical information, that's correct.

MS EASTMAN:   So in terms of stepping back and looking at the number of waivers that might be granted in a given year under 4007, would it be right that the Department would not be able to say how many waivers occurred with respect to disability, rather than by reference to the evidence and the connection to the health condition?

MS MOY:  So we don't separate 4005 and 4007. Sorry, so 4007 is the only waiver   sorry, point.  We don't separate the two generally.  I can tell you that there is a   96 per cent of those who apply to have a waiver are granted.  Because more information comes forward which gives extra information into the assessment process.

MS EASTMAN:   And what guidance does the Department give to an applicant as to what type of information they need   may need to provide for a waiver?

MS MOY:  So at the time   it depends on the person's method of application.  Quite often, people use a migration agent, and the migration agent will provide that information directly to the Department and directly to the individual visa applicant.  In terms of the Department, we provide information directly at the point where people claim about providing all of the information they can.  However, some   well, on some or sometimes many occasions, you will find that individuals will provide further information once they have   once we contact them about perhaps a preliminary decision.

MS EASTMAN:   Right.  Now, can I come back to paragraph 24. So, I think in the Immigration Programs Division   I have covered the waivers and health requirements. Looking at the other elements in terms of Service Delivery and Transformation Division, you have described that as:

"...a key enabler for a cohesive technology-enabled program that considers economic and security outcomes and ensures shared values in a modern Australia."

Can you explain to me exactly what this division does?

MS MOY:  Yes. So, this division is focused on how we deliver our services, how people can have access into our services digitally, particularly as we grow in that space.  They also look at   they also manage all of our websites, our global service centres, our call centre.  They manage the global feedback unit where people provide feedback into the Department and also areas where people are seeks assistance   specific or special assistance for their particular case, and it may involve visas.  It may involve some other part of migration.

MS EASTMAN:   Does it mean, in a sense, that the way in which Home Affairs does its business is very much around an online platform and using technology to deliver its services?

MS MOY:  No. So, we   I would suggest that we are limited   so we do have quite a bit that is online and available online, but in terms of if we would be classed as a digital deliverer, no.  We still have a shop front.  We have personal interviews where people come in.  They come to our offices to do testing.  What we do is an appointment only arrangement whereby people make an appointment and come to an office for an interview or a discussion about their circumstances.

MS EASTMAN:   And in this part of the Department's work how does disability factor in?  Either in terms of making reasonable adjustments or changing the way in which you might provide those services for somebody with disability?

MS MOY:  So in terms of the work that we've got working at the moment, we've got work being done to ensure that our websites are appropriately available to people with a disability.  And that is intellectual disability, visual, any ability for them to access specific information.  We also have our   obviously, our call centres which can assist.  We provide free translation and free interpreting services through the Department, and they are all accessible through either contacting via a migration agent, via a status resolution support service or just by contacting the Department or their GP, medical provider.  Those sorts of areas.

We also have at the moment   and it's not specifically linked to disability, but we are working through translation of all of our web pages into the most used languages for the Department. So, we continue to work down that path.  I consider that we are   we have still got a little way to go in that space.

MS EASTMAN:   Next is the Immigration Integrity Assurance and Policy Division.  And it:

"...provides integrity, risk management, and assurance, and policy frameworks for immigration programs."

Can I ask you this:  Is this part of the work of Home Affairs where we may find Home Affairs contributing to the Australian Disability Strategy?

MS MOY:  Yes.  They would be the area that would   would work with other government departments in that space.

MS EASTMAN:   And so what would this division have contributed to the Australian Disability Strategy?  Do you know that?

MS MOY:  I do not.  I can take that on notice 

MS EASTMAN:   Alright.  In terms of the Australian Disability Strategy, I will work it the other way, are you aware of the ADS, the Australian Disability Strategy?

MS MOY:  I'm aware, yes 

MS EASTMAN:  And are you aware as to whether or not it's relevant to the work of this division?

MS MOY:  I'm not   I can't say that I have an in depth knowledge of it.  I haven't   I have been in this space for about a year, but I can take on notice what   what arrangements we have had in place in terms of not in our contribution, but in this particular division, the primary focus is the immigration policy in regard to   so, sorry, let me step back a minute.  The Department of Home Affairs more broadly also has a Strategy Division that actually works across government with particularly strategies that are whole of government.

Within this policy area, they look at specifically immigration policy and what that means in terms of changes to, you know, government's decisions to change Act or regulations and also, then, the assurance and integrity of what is actually happening on the ground at the moment with the grants of visas and the   and migration.

MS EASTMAN:   So would this be the division, for example, to look at section 52 of the Disability Discrimination Act or the 4005, 4007 from a policy perspective?

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   And you have mentioned earlier the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.  Would CRPD compliance sit with this division?

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   And in that context, would you accept that the Australian Disability Strategy would be part of this division's responsibilities to the extent any of its policy work touched on the rights of people with disabilities?

MS MOY:  In terms of any migration that touched on that, yes, correct.

MS EASTMAN:   Okay.  And I am about to ask you to talk about the Refugee, Humanitarian and Settlement Division.  But that division is not the policy division, the one that we are just talking about, Immigration Integrity Assurance and Policy Division.  That's where we would see the policies.

MS MOY:  No. So, the Refugee and Humanitarian has policy within its division as well.  It looks after refugee and humanitarian policy.

MS EASTMAN:   Alright. So can I ask you about that. So, this is quite a specific element of Home Affairs, and it's got three elements; is that right? Refugee, humanitarian and then settlement, when people may come to Australia.

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   So it has got policy development and advice as part of its work.  Is that right?

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   And also the administration of Australia's Refugee and Humanitarian Program?  And this is also the division that deals with offshore matters and maritime arrivals.  Is that right?

MS MOY:  That's correct.

MS EASTMAN:   I'm not going to ask you about that today.  It also talks about Australia's compliance with its international law obligations, but it's referred to the non refoulement obligations.  Is that intended to be all of the human rights obligations that might touch upon the rights of refugees and people who are humanitarian entrants?

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   And in terms of Australia meeting its international   

CHAIR:  I think, Ms Eastman, non refoulement, you might just explain that.  People might    familiar with refugee    

MS EASTMAN:   Well, in summary, if a person has a well-founded fear of persecution, the Convention on Refugees requires that person not to be sent back.  And non refoulement is the French expression for not sending people back to the place where they may be persecuted.

MS MOY:  That's correct.

MS EASTMAN:   So this division may be the division that deals with people wanting to come to Australia as a refugee or on a humanitarian basis.  It's also the division that decides, from a policy perspective, how that should work.

MS MOY:  Correct.

MS EASTMAN:   And it is also the division that delivers the settlement service as once a person arrives.

MS MOY:  That's correct.

MS EASTMAN:   Okay.  Just for the benefit of all of us, what is the distinction between somebody who may come as a refugee and somebody who may come under a humanitarian visa?  Is there a distinction?

MS MOY:  There is. So, a refugee will come who has been determined   generally, UNHCR have done the refugee assessment on behalf of Australia, referred that individual or family to Australia, and they will come as permanent residents.  In terms of a humanitarian visa, they may at a point in time determine that they wish to sponsor a family member who remains in the country or another country that they wish to sponsor to come to Australia.  They would arrive on a humanitarian visa versus a refugee visa.

MS EASTMAN:   So they may be people, for example, currently in Ukraine or   would that be right?  Or    

MS MOY:  Ukraine is probably not a good example because right at the moment there is no refugee claims, as such.  Those people have got temporary protection because of the state of war in their country.  Afghanistan is probably a good example where someone may have come as a permanent resident from Afghanistan over time and they have family who may be in Pakistan or Iran or a surrounding country and they wish to bring them to Australia, and they will sponsor them under our special humanitarian program.  And they will come on a humanitarian visa versus a refugee visa.

MS EASTMAN:   And then at paragraph 25 and following, you have set out in some detail   and, Commissioners, I won't   unless the Commissioners have specific questions, I won't take you through what you have told us in paragraphs 25 and following which is the way in which refugee and humanitarian visa applicants undergo two separate pre migration health screening processes.  But are they broadly similar to the processes that we have discussed a little earlier?

MS MOY:  Yes.  And the   somewhat of a difference is that the ones we have discussed earlier can be done onshore or offshore.  Generally, many of these before people come are done offshore.  Only those who have already arrived in Australia and then claim refugee status have to be done onshore.

MS EASTMAN:   Alright. So, can I move forward.  Assume somebody is a holder of a visa, be it refugee or humanitarian, and comes to Australia.  It's not right, is it, that the minute that they arrive and they arrive at the airport, that's the end of the support in terms of Home Affairs.  That wouldn't be a fair description?

MS MOY:  That would be   no, that would be very incorrect.

MS EASTMAN:   So when a person does arrive, what is the responsibility of Home Affairs to that person on immediate arrival and then in the weeks and, say, three months following?

MS MOY:  So when an individual arrives, their case has already been provided to what we refer to as a humanitarian service provider who is contracted by the Department, who have experience in all matters of refugee and humanitarian settlement.  The settlement process is such that the individual or   let's   or family, but if I   maybe following an individual will be easier.

An individual arrives in Australia.  They are collected at the airport, met at the airport by their provider, and taken to accommodation which has already been located for them.  That provider stays with that individual for as long as they remain in that state. So, if the person moved, then we would reconnect them to another humanitarian provider.  And, of course, once people arrive in Australia on a permanent visa they are free to live anywhere they like in Australia.

So assuming this person stays connected with that one provider, that provider will assist them to get their Medicare card.  They will take them to Medicare.  They will organise for them to be on Centrelink benefits.  They will connect them to a GP.  They will encourage them to disclose any other requirements that they need in terms of to their GP or to a specialist provider as in, like, a specialist doctor or to a specialist provider. So, in that case   sorry 

MS EASTMAN:   Can I pause you there.  Because in your statement   Commissioners, this is paragraph 40   you say that:

"...they are encouraged to self identify whether they have a disability, impairment or condition when accessing services." 

So, I just want to ask you about exactly what that means.  So you say that they are encouraged.  Are they asked or is this an issue of self disclosure?

MS MOY:  So they are encouraged in terms of a discussion with the individual about if you have a special needs, they need to be   that information needs to be provided to your doctor. So, the service provider themselves can't go to the doctor and disclose what they know.  That would be a breach of their private privacy. So, they are very much encouraged to engage with the service providers to get all of the assistance that they can with any issues that they may have or any special supports that they need.

MS EASTMAN:   So we have heard over the past few days that one thing that people experience is a great deal of fear in disclosing that there might be anything wrong and the fear that a disclosure might have an impact on whether their visa continues, whether it's cancelled, or what might happen to them if they stay.  I want to just dig in a little bit more when you say "encouraged".  Are they require to disclose?

MS MOY:  No 

MS EASTMAN:  And if they don't disclose because they might hold that fear, is there anything in the way in which these immediate settlement services are provided to give people the confidence that disclosing a health condition or supports required for disability will not result in any punishment or not result in them losing their visa?

MS MOY:  So I've heard the   I've heard the recent statements through this process, and I have spoken to my team in regard to how we can further improve that process with service providers to make sure that they are being very articulate and very proactive in that space.  At the moment, I would suggest that service providers provide that information.

Whether or not they provide that information and it is accepted   well accepted or whether or not perhaps the service providers need to ensure that information comes from community, which there might be   especially in the early days, a lot more trust with people who are from their own community, because that's part of the service provider's arrangements as well, is to connect them in not only their local community but their cultural community. 

So, I have asked for that to be looked at.  But when a person arrives on a permanent visa, they   and even a temporary visa,  their   they have already disclosed to us what the issues are.  Further disclosure to a doctor, it would appear logical to understand that that's not the case.  But in saying that, it is a difficult time, people are in a very new country, they don't understand necessarily the culture, the ways or the connectivity of information. So, we need to make sure that that is much stronger approach.

MS EASTMAN:   Foundation House told us that disclosure of disability or health condition to a medical practitioner might be very challenging for some people if their experience with medical practitioner has given rise to torture or violence in their home country.  Can I   against that background, can I ask, do the service providers who have this important responsibility have a requirement to understand trauma informed approaches and embed a trauma informed or a trauma responsive approach in the way they deliver these services?

MS MOY:  They are and they are the people who refer them to Foundation House.

MS EASTMAN:   And how do you assess that they have the requisite skills and experience in delivering trauma informed or trauma responsive services?

MS MOY:  So the requirements for a service provider in terms of   we do assurance not only directly with the individual in terms of looking at their case management, how they manage their cases, their case management files, we talk to clients, we get feedback from clients, we get feedback from community. So, whilst that feedback exists, what we also look to do is try to ensure that the connectivity that service providers have with individuals is maintained very strongly.

There can be times where individuals will disconnect, and that's the area that concerns me most, when people disconnect from it the service and we need to   we need to bring them in. So, we are doing a bit more work, especially around how we work with providers, to ensure that that connectivity is maintained, and where it isn't, we actually know about it quite early.

MS EASTMAN:   Do you have a program not just of the skilled service providers but engaging with local communities?  So let me give you an example.  The ABS statistics say, for example, in Auburn, more than 60 per cent of the population in Auburn in Sydney are people who are born overseas or come from overseas.  That would be a community, no doubt, with a fairly diverse cultural experience.  Would there be connections into the community and community leaders in a suburb or an area where there's a very high percentage of people born overseas?

MS MOY:  So there are.  Our state directors work very closely with the community in terms of engaging the community in not only issues that we engage them on, but engaging with them on the issues in the   in the community that   in the community that are related to migration or where we can assist.  The Department has a very strong cultural and client liaison network.  And equally the providers that we work with also have those connectivities. So, yes, and we work very hard on those cultural connections.

And particularly where individuals quite often come to Australia and may not have connections, so they may not have family who are already here, ensuring that we connect them into their community   their cultural community is very important.

MS EASTMAN:   And on the specific issue of access to disability services, newly arrived people, depending on their visa class, may or may not have access to the Disability Support Pension and/or to be eligible to join the NDIS.  Do the service providers actively connect people with disability services?  Or are they mostly health?

MS MOY:  So, through the Humanitarian and Refugee program anyone who arrives on a permanent visa will have access to NDIS and will be connected with NDIS if it's relevant by their service provider.  In terms of people who arrive on a temporary visa, temporary visas do not qualify for NDIS.  But equally, all of   both temporary migrants and permanent migrants are also then connected to disability services in their specific area.

MS EASTMAN:   Back to paragraph 24(iv), you also tell us the division   so this is the Refugee, Humanitarian and Settlement Division:

"...also delivers interpreting services through Translating and Interpreting Service, the TIS National, providing equitable access to key services for people with limited or no English language proficiency, as well as developing and implementing policy regarding free interpreting services   so FIS   and Free Translating Service, FTS."

Does this mean that Home Affairs has the responsibility in government for interpreters?

MS MOY:  For the interpreters that we provide to assist in migration   in migration arrangements, but also not necessarily just in migration but for people, for example, who need to work with emergency services, the free translating and interpreting services will also work with them. So, yes, correct.

MS EASTMAN:   So we have heard in the   the Royal Commission has heard in submissions but also in evidence over the past few days, both for the Deaf community and for members of the CaLD community, that language and access to interpreters is a key issue and one of the key barriers.  Does Home Affairs have the responsibility for providing interpreters to anyone from a CaLD background?

MS MOY:  Only those who are eligible in terms of have   well, it's generally through the migration program. So, we   we work to provide services to new migrants, to people who   so, for example, with the Free Translating Services we will translate 10 documents for each individual who has arrived. So, if they wish to have their birth certificates or professional qualifications, those sorts of things translated, they can get 10 free translations.

For the Interpreting Services, we provide them to   for them to contact doctors, allied health   allied health only came in October this year, in earlier October   pharmacies, those sorts of   those sorts of areas.  But in terms of overall, yes, Home Affairs would be the area where we would be responsible for providing the translating services to the most people of the CaLD background 

MS EASTMAN:   Are there other pockets within the Australian Government with particular responsibility for providing interpreter and translating services?

MS MOY:  There are other parts of government, and I'm only saying this from areas that I'm aware of. So, Services Australia also has a translating service in terms of that Department, but also a   a language line in terms of people who wish to contact for anything to do with pensions, payments, unemployment, family, that sort of thing.

MS EASTMAN:   Alright.  Now, the final area and division is the Status Resolution and Visa Cancellation Division.  It's:

"...responsible for the management of Character and Cancellation Program, the Status Resolution Program, the Criminal Justice and Human Trafficking Program and associated functions." 

What is the Status Resolution Program?  I think the others we can probably have a sense of.

MS MOY:  So the Status Resolution Program is that program that works to ensure that an individual who has arrived in Australia, whose status is not what we would call regular, so they haven't arrived   or they may have arrived but they are currently in Australia and they don't have a visa which allows them to stay and remain in Australia.

MS EASTMAN:   Can I ask you, would that be someone like Mr Rahman who gave evidence yesterday?  He's here on a Bridging visa, having come to Australia as part of Medevac from Nauru.  Is he in that category?

MS MOY:  Correct. So, individuals who have come there regional processing centres under the Act are referred to as transitory persons.  They have transited into Australia to receive medical treatment.  And the Act then determines that they are to be returned to a regional processing centre when that purpose is complete. So, exactly right.  Anyone who is on a Bridging visa. So, some people may be on a particular type of Bridging visas   there's various types   because they have a valid claim to a visa in Australia, such as a student visa, and they are awaiting grant of their student visa.

People who are on a Bridging visa E, for example, they will be on a Bridging visa while their status is resolved, and many of those are status which means that their stay is only temporary and they are meant to return to either their country of origin or to another third country.

MS EASTMAN:   Do people in that category have access to the settlement services and the support providers that we have been talking about for the previous category?

MS MOY:  They have access to services of a different type, so it's a temporary service.  The Status Resolution Support Service is meant to be temporary, which means that it is only for the purposes of resolving their status.  They can be on different bands, depending on what support services they need, and that may go all the way to receiving a Centrelink payment. So, income support.  The medical supports, so they will get Medicare.  They may also   obviously, they can get connected to a doctor, to support services, so for Disability Support Services.

But it's meant to be for a temporary period while their status is resolved and, for example, with the individuals from Nauru and Manus Island, they will be   they are able to apply for the US program or the New Zealand program and many also through a Canadian program which is supported by the Australian Government but not organised by the Australian Government.

MS EASTMAN:   So just   and I'm not asking you to comment on Mr Rahman's case at all.

MS MOY:  Sure, sure.

MS EASTMAN:  But in terms of somebody in that category who comes to Australia with disability, either acquired or life long disability, what supports are provided to them or services provided to them in relation to disability, different from health?

MS MOY:  So they would get the same services that are available to any Australian under the public health system.

MS EASTMAN:   But nothing   no disability specific supports?

MS MOY:  Well, any disability support available to any other Australian resident under the public health system. So, they don't get what we would class as a private health, but they have access to any disability support service.  They can access any medical requirements through   through a GP or through a hospital, a public hospital. So, it's basically in line with what is available through the public health system.

MS EASTMAN:   So do they have to pay for those services themselves?

MS MOY:  No 

MS EASTMAN:   So would they be covered by a Medicare arrangement?

MS MOY:  Yes. So, not all Bridging visa applicants have   sorry, Bridging visa holders have access to Medicare.  But most   most at a point do.  And the Medicare access is determined by the Department of Health, but in that particular case, yes.

MS EASTMAN:   And he told us that he became homeless, that he wasn't able to work in terms of his visa conditions.  Does Home Affairs have any responsibility in relation to a person in those circumstances who becomes homeless? Or is that the responsibility of a state government?

MS MOY:  So the Department has   in that type of case has an individual on Status Resolution Support services, which assists with accommodation.  The Status Resolution provider will maintain contact with that person and the   the outcome of homelessness, if it's known to the Status Resolution service provider, they would take action to remedy that arrangement.

MS EASTMAN:   Alright.  Can a person lose their right to remain in Australia because of something related to disability?

MS MOY:  I have not   no.  There is no legislation.  There is no   there is no policy that would mean that any issue related to a disability, if somebody was in Australia on a permanent visa, no.

MS EASTMAN:   What   why do you think there might be that fear in the community that disclosing their   a person's disability might create a fear of having to leave Australia or not be allowed to stay?  Do you have any view on that?

MS MOY:  I have asked my team to have a look at those issues, as stated a little bit earlier.  The   the issue that the person has already declared the disability, that the Australian Government is already aware, and therefore has granted either a permanent visa, the visa is not granted based on a status of disability. So, having a disability cannot preclude someone from coming to Australia, if we take out the temporary and permanent issues on the PICs.

The   the issue I think is something that we need to look at in terms of the cultural backgrounds and what it means for individuals in their previous country where some of those things might have meant an issue.  But also how we can ensure that the community engagement can assist to debunk some of those issues for people.

MS EASTMAN:   My last question is this, and the Commissioners may have some questions.  Is there any part of Australian migration process and system that actively and positively welcomes people with disability to come to Australia?

MS MOY:  I would say at this point in time, no, there is   the migration program is premised on individuals who put their hand up to come to Australia.  The point where we invite people to come to Australia in the migration system is solely related to skills. So, where we are looking at being able to employ people with a certain set of skills, and that may be anyone from   in COVID, it may have been a medical, to people in engineers where there's lots of infrastructure or growing infrastructure. So, the program is premised on the provision of skills, and it is neutral to, therefore, what the disability is, if someone has a disability.

MS EASTMAN:   Thank you, Ms Moy.  Those are my questions.  Commissioners?

CHAIR:  Thank you, Ms Moy.  I've got a couple of questions just to clarify matters.  If somebody, for example, is in a camp in Uganda after fleeing Sudan   I'm just using that, obviously, not referring to the particular facts of a case   must they satisfy the Convention requirements to establish they are a refugee to get to Australia?  Or can they receive a humanitarian visa without satisfying those requirements?

MS MOY:  It would depend on how they applied.  In that case, the general case would be that UNHCR would be aware of that individual and that UNHCR would undertake the process and refer them to Australia.

CHAIR:  I understand, but not everybody in that camp would be able to satisfy the requirements of the Refugees Convention.  I'm just wondering whether people in that situation, even though they may face great danger, could come through another path, such as the humanitarian visa.

MS MOY:  They could come through the humanitarian path if they had a strong connection to Australia. So, if they were being sponsored by a family member who was in Australia.

CHAIR:  I see.  I see.  But otherwise through the refugee part.

MS MOY:  Correct.

CHAIR:  Just to clarify something that you may have made clear and I didn't pick up, how does the requirement in PIC4005 or, for that matter, 4007 apply, if at all, to people who have received   been found to be refugees?

MS MOY:  So people who are found to be refugees are excluded from 4005 and 4007, in terms of undue costs.  Once the assessment is done, it's then   it's then   

CHAIR:  Right. So, they are not subject to that requirement?

MS MOY:  Automatic waiver.

CHAIR:  And humanitarian visas:  Are they the same?

MS MOY:  The same.

CHAIR:  They are the same. Alright.  Thank you.  There was just one other thing, I think I would ask, and then I will get to my colleagues.  The $51,000 that you have referred to is over 10 years, I take it.  It's not per annum?

MS MOY:  That's correct 

CHAIR:  It would follow, wouldn't it, that if an applicant who is subject to PIC4005 satisfies the requirements for the NDIS under the NDIS Act, they virtually automatically be excluded?

MS MOY:  If they were applying for a visa that 4005 was relevant to, that's correct.

CHAIR:  Yes, because once you are eligible for the NDIS, it is inevitable that over 10 years the costs will be more than $51,000.

MS MOY:  Correct.

CHAIR:  Alright.  Well that   that makes that clear.  Thank you. I will just ask now Commissioner McEwin if he has any questions.

COMMISSIONER McEWIN:  Thank you, Chair.  I don't have any questions for you.  Thank you for your evidence today.

CHAIR:  Commissioner Galbally?

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Thank you.  I had a question about the skills area and disability. So, Australia's, you know, experiencing a skills shortage. So, there would be many categories.  And disability isn't a criteria, so there's no view one way or the other. So, if you go as a disabled person in a wheelchair to apply to come into a teacher where there is a skills shortage, there will be no concern about your disability?

MS MOY:  No concern about the disability.  It would   demanding on the visa type that you are applying for, you would still need to satisfy the public interest criteria.  If it was 4005, it would still need to satisfy both that and 4007.

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  But if you are coming in under the skilled visa?

MS MOY:  Correct.


COMMISSIONER BENNETT:  Almost a follow up from Rhonda's question.  If you were coming in and you had skills where there was a skills shortage and you are looking at the criteria that says it's going to be a cost, is there any approach or analysis about the value that that person with disability would bring over the 10 years?   Is that balanced?

MS MOY:  There is under PIC4007.  Under PIC4005, the instrument has no ability to waiver.  But under 40007, the instrument can   provides the Minister or delegate to overrule the undue costs. So it if it's a visa that is relevant to PIC4007 then, yes, it can be considered, and it is considered. Into 

COMMISSIONER BENNETT:  So that would be really beholden on the person with disability to convince the Department that they had a value beyond their disability and that would offset the cost, in crude terms?

MS MOY:  Yes.  And it could   it could actually be not even the person with the disability.  If it's a family cohort coming, it's considered as the entirety.


CHAIR:  There was one other thing I meant to ask, which I think I have forgotten.  Yes.  If   I think we heard from either you or Ms Johnson that sometimes the waiver can be obtained if a family, for example, undertakes to meet the cost or expected cost of providing for the person with disability over a period of time.  It was Ms Johnson, I think.

MS MOY:  I made a comment that is slightly similar, but a little bit different. So, my comment was in regard to, under PIC4007, we can consider the ability of a family or a community to mitigate some of the costs. 

CHAIR:  That's what I had in mind.

MS MOY:  But we don't   

CHAIR:  I'm sorry.  It was you, not Ms Johnson.  My question is, whether that involves ordinarily or at any time, really, obtaining an undertaking from the family members who say they are going to meet part or all of the costs over a period of time.  Or is it simply an assessment based on the likelihood of what is to happen over a period of time?

MS MOY:  It is generally the latter.  There is also an undertaking that can be arranged with a the family.

CHAIR:  That's a binding undertaking which can be enforced?

MS MOY:  I will come back to you on the level of binding because it's not that regular, and I would have to   I would have to check.  I wouldn't want to give you the wrong information.

CHAIR:  Alright.

MS MOY:  I will come back on that.
CHAIR:  And a subsidiary question involves something I think Ms Eastman asked.  I was wondering whether if an undertaking was breached, whether that would be a basis for revocation of a visa.  But perhaps that's something you might take on notice as well.

MS MOY:  I will come back to that. Yes, I will come back to you on that.

CHAIR:  Alright. Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Ms Moy, from your evidence, which, if I may say so, has been very precise.  Thank you for your assistance.  I think we all understand the system much better.

MS MOY:  You are very welcome.  Thank you.

CHAIR:  Thank you. Yes, Ms Eastman.


MS EASTMAN:   Thank you, Chair.  That concludes the evidence for Public hearing 29.  The only outstanding matters are the tender of some documents, and the Office of Solicitor Assisting has prepared a document that you may have which is a list of the documents which include the statements and some of the annexures to be tendered.  And I think that's been provided to the parties with leave the parties with leave.  It hasn't? The parties with leave haven't seen the tender list. Okay.

CHAIR:  The parties with leave have not received it?


CHAIR:  What we will do is this:  I will provisionally admit all of the documents on the tender list.  If any party that is represented subsequently wishes to submit that any document should not be admitted into evidence, then they can make in submission and I will deal with it in due course.  I think that's the most convenient way to deal with it.

MS EASTMAN:   Thank you, Chair.  And that probably will be picked up in some proposed directions, which you should also have a copy of.  And we have circulated these directions to the parties with leave, and my understanding is that they are agreed.

CHAIR:  Alright.  I will initial and date the tender list that has been provided to me, and those documents are admitted on the basis that I've indicated.  Any party who wishes to contest the admission of any document into evidence has leave to inform the Office of Solicitor Assisting of their position. The proposed directions   and I will read the proposed directions, and unless there is an objection from any represented party, these are the directions that will be made.

1.  Any witness who took questions on notice during this hearing should provide his or her answers in writing to the Office of the Solicitor Assisting the Royal Commission by 9 November 2022.  The answers should be targeted and concise and not address additional or unnecessary matters.

2.  By 11 November 2022, Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission will provide a list of any additional documents she wishes to tender into evidence, including responses to questions on notice, on a confidential basis to parties with leave to appear at this hearing.

3. Parties with leave to appear should advise the Office of the Solicitor Assisting by 18 November 2022 if they wish to suggest any additional documents for tendering by Counsel Assisting.  At the same time, they should identify any parts of those documents that they consider need to be redacted before the documents are made public.

4.  Counsel Assisting will tender those documents into evidence which she considers appropriate in chambers by 25 November 2022.

5.  Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission will prepare written submissions following the hearing.  By 20 December 2022, these submissions will be provided on a confidential basis to parties with leave to appear in preparation for this hearing.

6.  Any responses to Counsel Assisting's submissions should be sent to the Office of the Solicitor Assisting by 7 February 2022.  Those responses should be concise and not include any additional evidence. 

I shall wait a moment to see if any represented party has any objection to those proposed directions.  If not, those directions are the ones that are made.  Thank you.

Ms Eastman.

MS EASTMAN:   Chair, that concludes our task as Counsel Assisting.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much.  Just before we conclude this hearing, I would like just to express some thanks.  This has been a remarkable hearing with an unprecedented amount of evidence given by witnesses in language other than English, including, of course, Auslan.  And indeed this, as far as we are aware, is the first hearing of any Royal Commission to feature opening remarks by Counsel Assisting made in Auslan or, so far as we know, any language other than English.

I referred in opening to the two segments of the hearing.  The first involving Deaf people and organisations representing Deaf people who use Auslan as their first language or their preferred means of communication.  As they explained, there are many people who identify as culturally Deaf, and who have a strong sense of shared cultural and linguistic identity.  At the conclusion of the second day of the hearing, I expressed appreciation to all the witnesses who gave evidence during that two day segment, particularly, of course, witnesses who have told us of their own experiences as Deaf or Deafblind people.

The second phase of the hearing, three days from Wednesday until today, addressed violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability from other culturally and linguistically diverse communities.  I would like to thank everybody who has given evidence during these three days, especially people with disability from CaLD communities.

As was remarked during the hearing on more than one occasion, it takes considerable courage and determination to people with disability who have experienced trauma in their home countries before coming to Australia and have experienced discrimination and disadvantage in Australia to come to the Royal Commission to tell their stories.  We had a number of people who were prepared to do just that, and they explained in compelling terms the impact of what our Terms of Reference describe as multi layered experiences of violence against and abuse, neglect, and exploitation of people with disability.

I would like specifically to thank the witnesses who gave evidence over the last three days:  Trevor; Mr Rahman; Ms Simbi, from whom we heard today; Joe Monteleone, who was part of the Deafblind panel; and ZA, who gave an account of her own experiences.

We heard also from a significant number of other people, some of whom are also, of course, people with disabilities themselves, representing organisations or providing the Royal Commission with the benefit of their expertise.  They include Mr Golding, the Policy and Projects Officer from NEDA, the National Ethnic Disability Alliance; Mr de Vera, the Senior Manager of Policy, People With disability Australia, PWDA; Ms Raphael, the Director of Policy and Advocacy from FECCA, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia; Cindy, the Founder and Co Chair of the Youth CaLD Disability Collective; Ash, a member of the Youth CaLD Disability Collective; Ms Nguyen AM, Chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission; Dr Ahmed, the Chief Executive Officer of Africause; Ms Rooble, the Treasurer and Board Director of Women With Disabilities Victoria; Mr Chin Tan, the Race Discrimination Commissioner; Ms Scoullar, the General Manager Direct Services, Foundation House; and the Wise Well Women Community Health Educators, Eman, Muzhgan and Zara.

And we had also, of course, government witnesses today, Ms Johnson and Ms Moy.  We express our appreciation to each and every witness who has given evidence at this hearing and for the insights they have provided.

I would like to thank Foundation House.  This is the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture. They helped us to support Mr Rahman to come and give evidence at this Public hearing.  Wise Well Women connected us with the community health educators Eman, Muzhgan and Zara and helped support them to give evidence.  And all organisations the witnesses represented, we thank them for their assistance over the last few months, including with the preparation of this Public hearing.

As we have commented frequently in the past, all of these hearings are very complex to organise.  They require a great deal of work.  This one was especially challenging, in particular ways, including, of course, the need to have a very large number of interpreters present, particularly over the first two days.  The organisation involved in that is very considerable.  We are indebted to all of the interpreters who translated from Auslan and into Auslan with very great skill.

Indeed, for those of us not able to follow Auslan, their speed and accuracy seems to be quite remarkable, and we are very grateful for everybody who participated as interpreters to enable us to conduct that hearing.  We had additional interpreters in the last three days, and we are grateful to them as well for their assistance.

In order to prepare for a hearing like this, it is necessary for all branches of the Royal Commission to contribute, and they do.  Hearings and logistics, for example, do the organisation, and we only see the end result of it, but there is an enormous amount of work that goes into preparation, including trying to anticipate everything that can go wrong.  That is an impossible task, because we have an unbroken record of having all sorts of interesting things go wrong that could not possibly be anticipated, but they respond with great alacrity and skill.

The Corporate Branch is involved in planning for the Commission and dealing with resources that we need.  Of course the Office of Solicitor Assisting has the enormous task of preparing for the hearing, preparing the statements, assisting counsel, assisting the Royal Commission, and they   the team responsible for this hearing has done a magnificent job and prepared a hearing that requires a great deal of skill and understanding, and they have done that exceptionally well.

Of course, we are indebted to the Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission for their contributions.  The hearing, of course, could not take place without them, and we have seen over the last five days presentation of the material done in a highly professional and extraordinarily skilled manner.  And we are particularly, without in any way diminishing the contributions of the other counsel, Ms Mahony for her contributions to this hearing.  She has made a   as I have said, a unique contribution, and I hope   I'm sure we all hope that this might provide a precedent for other Commissions, other tribunals to operate in a similar way where the circumstances justify it.

I also want to mention expressly the counsellors of the Royal Commission who do a superb job. Again, their work is done behind the scenes, but many of the witnesses would not be able to give evidence and certainly would not be able to give evidence without   free from the risk of being   of being retraumatised in a way that is comfortable for them without the contributions of the counsellors who have done throughout this Royal Commission a superb job in making sure that we do hear the voices of people with disability, that they are given the prominence that the Terms of Reference anticipate and that the community expects we will give in the evidence that we receive.

So my thanks and the thanks of all Commissioners to all of those.  Of course, we have others who have contributed:  Law In Order, and there are others who have made contributions from outside the Royal Commission.  We have our own media team who have battled heroically in the face of insuperable obstacles such as budgets and such things in order to get the message across, and that is a very important part of our work.  So, our thanks to everybody who has participated.  We are very grateful indeed, and this marks the conclusion of Public hearing number 29.  Thank you everybody.  We will now adjourn.