What it means to be a witness
Many different types of people are asked to give evidence at a public hearing.
Witnesses are selected by Counsel Assisting and the Solicitor Assisting the Royal Commission. Witnesses are selected based on a number of considerations, a key one being the relevance of their evidence to the issues being explored at a particular hearing. Information about witnesses can be found in the Royal Commission’s Practice Guideline about Witnesses.
The Royal Commission is unable to hear from every person who would like to participate in a public hearing. While public hearings serve an important role in highlighting and exploring specific issues into which the Royal Commission is inquiring, they are not the only way to contribute to the Royal Commission’s work. Submissions are also an essential source of information for the Royal Commission.
The Royal Commission will not usually compel people with disability who have experienced violence, abuse, exploitation or neglect to give evidence at public hearings.
If you are giving evidence at a public hearing, the Royal Commission will offer you information and support before, during and after the hearing. We can give you advice and information on:
- where the public hearing is being held
- how the Royal Commission runs a public or private hearing
- what your obligations are as a witness and what is expected of you
- the public nature of hearings and the role of the media
- any special arrangements for a hearing
- the hearing room and protocols
- witness entitlements and financial support.
We can also refer you to:
- free independent legal advice for people engaging with the Royal Commission
- the Legal Financial Assistance Scheme, which may enable you to use your own lawyer, with financial assistance from the Australian Government
- counselling and other support options, both on the day of the hearing and at other times.
Protection from retribution, including for ‘whistle-blowers’
We understand that people may be concerned about retribution, for example if they give evidence as a witness at a hearing of the Royal Commission that is critical of an employer or accommodation provider. We take this concern very seriously and encourage people to get legal advice about the protections the Royal Commission is able to offer.
Free legal support, separate from the Royal Commission, is available to help you interact with the Disability Royal Commission. Your Story Disability Legal Support can give you information and advice about being a witness or sharing your experience with the Royal Commission in other ways. Call 1800 771 800 (free call) or visit the Disability Royal Commission Legal Services website.