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Final Report - Volume 2, About the Royal Commission

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Volume 2 – About the Royal Commission



The Disability Royal Commission’s Final report tells the Australian Government what changes need to be made to prevent violence against, and abuse, neglect and exploitation of, people with disability.

We recommend change so people with disability can enjoy all human rights and freedoms fully and equally.

Our Final report has 12 volumes.

This video is a summary of Volume 2 – About the Royal Commission.

Volume 2 describes the background to the Royal Commission as well as the nature and scope of our work

It has three chapters:

  • Chapter 1 looks at how the Royal Commission was established, introduces the Chair and Commissioners and explains our terms of reference.

  • Chapter 2 looks at how we gathered information and evidence about violence against, and abuse, neglect and exploitation of, people with disability across all settings.

  • Chapter 3 looks at our staff and the values that guided our work.

Chapter 1 – Establishing the Royal Commission

The Royal Commission was established on 4 April 2019 after a lot of consultation with people with disability and the disability sector. It came after years of campaigning and advocacy by the disability rights movement.

The Australian Governor-General appointed six Commissioners at the beginning of the Royal Commission:

  • the Honourable Ronald Sackville AO QC (Chair)

  • Ms Barbara Bennett PSM

  • Dr Rhonda Galbally AC (a woman with disability)

  • Ms Andrea Mason OAM (a First Nations woman)

  • Alastair McEwin AM (a Deaf man)

  • the Honourable John Ryan AM.

The Chair and Commissioners have diverse backgrounds and experience.

Our terms of reference

Royal Commissions have ‘terms of reference’. These state what Royal Commissions should inquire into. Our terms of reference were very broad.

They required us to look at what governments, institutions and the community should do to prevent and better protect people with disability from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

They applied across all settings, including schools, the workplace, health care and disability services.

Our terms of reference also required us to look into what should be done to promote a more inclusive society.

Our terms of reference said we should:

  • make sure the experiences of people with disability were at the centre of our work.

  • consider the multi-layered experiences of people with disability and how it can be influenced by different factors such as age, sex, gender, sexual orientation and ethnic origin.

  • consider the situations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culturally and linguistically diverse people.

The law was amended in 2019 and 2021 so we could hold private sessions. These changes meant that when people provided information to us confidentially, it would be protected even after the Royal Commission ended.

Chapter 2 – The conduct of our inquiry

To understand violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation experienced by people with disability, we had to gather information.

We did this through:

  • Public hearings – these allowed people with disability to give evidence about their experiences in a public forum. It meant we could explore issues in great detail. We held 32 public hearings plus two ceremonial sittings.

  • Community engagement – we held over 700 activities with people with disability, their families and supporters. We partnered with disability advocacy organisations and co-designed engagements with people with disability.

  • Submissions – this was a key way for people and organisations to share their experiences, insights and recommendations with us. People made submissions by email, online, telephone, via video and in any language including Auslan and First Nations languages. People submitted poetry, song or artwork. We received 7,944 submissions.

  • Private sessions – these are confidential meetings between an individual and a Commissioner. We held 1,552 private sessions by 31 December 2022.

  • Policy, research and data analysis – this provided information and an evidence base to support our work. We released 28 research reports and published 14 issues papers seeking information and advice.

We also held three roundtables, including one on guardianship and supported decision-making.

Our counsellors and social workers supported and assisted everyone who engaged with us through a trauma-informed approach. We referred people to free independent services for counselling, advocacy and legal advice.

We established two advisory groups that included people with disability, to help guide our work.

We used various ways to make sure our information and engagements were accessible

They included:

  • accessible transcripts and captions for video and audio material

  • Auslan/English interpreters

  • alternative formats of key documents – in PDF, Word, Easy Read and Auslan

  • hearing loops in public hearings

  • live streaming of hearings with captions and Auslan/English interpreters

  • accessible website that could be accessed using assistive technology such as screen readers and voice recognition technology

Chapter 3 – Our organisation

Our work was guided by the following values:

  • equality

  • inclusion

  • respect

  • dignity

  • autonomy

  • aspiration

  • self-determination.

We created a workplace that supported diversity and inclusion. We provided reasonable adjustments for staff that were flexible and tailored.

These included screen readers, a braille printer, voice recognition software and Auslan/English interpreters.

There were around 200 staff at any one time. This included First Nations engagement officers, counsellors and policy staff who had knowledge and expertise relevant to First Nations communities.

Around 20 per cent of our staff told us they have a disability.

We had offices in Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra.

The Australian Government provided $527.9 million to the Royal Commission and government agencies over five years from 2018 to 2019 to support our work.

More information

For more information about our Final report and to access all volumes, visit our website. Go to the ‘Publications’ section and click on ‘Final report’.

Return to all volumes of the Final Report