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Emergency planning and response

  • Issues papers
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Australia is currently in the midst of an unprecedented emergency with the COVID-19 pandemic, following the summer bushfire crisis. People with disability can be severely affected by emergencies and may be at a higher risk of experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation at these times. The purpose of this Issues Paper is to invite information from the public on emergency planning and response.

The issues paper asks 11 questions to help people and organisations to provide responses. 

Auslan video

Issues paper - Emergency planning and response (Auslan)


Emergency planning and response Issues paper

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has released an Issues Paper.

We invite you to respond. Your response will help us in our work.

We are interested in understanding how emergency planning and response can include and support people with disability.

We want to know what should be done to prevent people with disability from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation during emergencies.

Key issues

We are concerned about people with disability being left behind during emergencies. This includes the current COVID-19 pandemic.

We are also concerned about how people with disability are treated during bushfires, droughts and floods.

This Issues Paper includes 10 key issues.

One issue is about accessible information.

Sometimes information and news in emergencies is not accessible to people with disability. For example it is not in plain English, or not captioned.

We want to know how governments and other agencies share information with people with disability and how this can be improved.

Another issue is about access to essential services.

Many people with disability need help with meals, toileting, showering and getting dressed.

People providing these supports should be properly trained in things like infection control. We want to know how services can be delivered safely during an emergency.

Another issue is about access to health care.

We have heard people with disability face barriers accessing medications, ambulances, and health supplies.

This includes personal protective equipment and sterilising equipment. We are interested in hearing about these experiences.

We have included other topics in this issues paper. These are food and nutrition, housing, education, income, domestic violence, safeguards in closed facilities and community participation.

Including people with disability in emergency planning

The United Nations says that including people with disabilities in all stages of emergency planning and response can help save lives.

We want to hear how people with disability are included, or should be included, in emergency planning and response.

Your response

At the end of our Issues Paper, there is a list of questions about these topics.

We invite you to respond. You do not have to answer every question.

You can respond in any way you like. This might be in writing or by a video recording.

To read the full Issues Paper, and for more details on how to respond, go to the Publications section on our website.

Overview of responses to the Emergency planning and response Issues paper (Auslan)


Overview of responses to the Emergency planning and response Issues paper


The Disability Royal Commission published an issues paper on Emergency planning and response in April 2020. 

The issues paper asked for feedback about the experiences of people with disability in planning for and responding to emergencies. It also asked what can be done to make people with disability safer during emergencies, like bushfires and the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

We received a total of 69 responses to the issues paper. We have published a summary document of what we were told in these responses. The responses will help inform our work and our recommendations to make a better, safer society for people with disability, including in emergencies.

What did the responses say?

People told us that Australia is not prepared for emergencies. This has a big impact on people with disability who may already be disadvantaged. Their situation may get worse during emergencies.

We also heard about the different needs of people with disability across all stages of emergencies. And we heard about how strong people with disability are during crises.

We were told about the things that contribute to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability during emergencies like:

  • government responses – people with disability being left behind and overlooked across government emergency planning responses
  • access to services – people being unable to access disability support workers to provide support for daily living
  • supports and other essentials people with disability being unable to access financial support from the government, making it hard to buy important things like personal protective equipment during the pandemic
  • access to information – throughout emergencies there not being enough accessible information, it was late, or it was confusing, especially for people living in places like group homes. Some deaf organisations said there needs to be regular information through Auslan, captioning and tactile communication methods.
  • safeguards and oversight – people with disability in segregated settings, such as group homes and segregated work places, face particular risks during emergencies because there is a lack of natural safeguards from families or visitors.
  • social isolation – many people with disability had no face-to-face connection with other people during the pandemic, or no access to the internet. People said that being isolated like this may increase risk of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation and it had a negative impact on their mental wellbeing
  • barriers across service systems – accessing services, like education, during the pandemic was even harder for people with disability. For example, young autistic people struggled to move to home learning because of lack of the right support and loss of accommodation provided by mainstream schools.

People proposed changes across a range of areas, such as:

  • including people with disability across all levels of emergency planning and response
  • making information more accessible
  • keeping community connections alive
  • having systems in place that keep people with disability safe, including proper oversight and ways to complain.

More information

For more information about the summary document, and to read people’s responses to the issues paper, visit the Publications section on our website.