The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (the Royal Commission) has released its Interim Report.
The paper is available in:
- Full report PDF and DOCX
- Summary PDF and DOCX
- Easy Read PDF and DOCX
- An Easy read guide: Outlines the structure of the report
- What have we heard so far: Summaries the key points of the report
- Auslan video summary
The Interim Report was published on 30 October 2020. It sets out what the Royal Commission has done in its first 15 months, the cut-off point being 31 July 2020. The report says people with disability experience attitudinal, environmental, institutional and communication barriers to achieving inclusion within Australian society. It shows that a great deal needs to be done to ensure that the human rights of people with disability are respected and that Australia becomes a truly inclusive society.
You can order a printed copy of the Interim Report and it will be shipped to you free of charge.
Interim Report summary (Auslan)
Interim Report summary (Auslan)
This video explains about the ‘Disability Royal Commission Interim Report’.
A Royal Commission is a group of eminent people who have been appointed by the Governor General to investigate a problem. This Royal Commission, the Disability Royal Commission, is investigating to see if people with disability have been abused, exploited, neglected, left isolated, or pushed aside. The Royal Commission is also examining what should be done to stop abuse of people with disability.
Examples of people chosen include the Hon Ronald Sackville AO QC. He is a lawyer and has been a judge in the Federal Court. Another example is Alastair McEwin. He is also a lawyer and is deaf himself. These people come together to investigate whether people with disability are going well or if they face repeated barriers. They are called ‘Commissioners’ and there are seven of them altogether:
- The Hon Ronald Sackville AO QC
- The Hon Roslyn Atkinson AO
- Ms Barbara Bennett PSM
Dr Rhonda Galbally AC
- Ms Andrea Mason OAM
- Mr Alastair McEwin AM
- The Hon John Ryan AM
The seven commissioners have a big team of staff. Many of this team have disabilities themselves.
The Royal Commission will do its work investigating for a few years. In the middle of that time it has written a report and given it to the Governor General. This video is a summary of that report. At the end of the Royal Commission, there will be a final report given to the Governor General. The aim of the Royal Commission is to help governments, organisations and the community know how to eliminate violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.
How do we investigate?
How does the Royal Commission investigate? Sometimes the Royal Commission has ‘public hearings’. Public hearings usually focus on one topic. They call up a range of different people to tell stories about the experiences of people with disability. This report outlines three of the public hearings so far:
- Inclusive education in Queensland
- Group homes for people with disabilities
- Health care services for people with cognitive disability
The Commission also accepts ‘submissions’. This is where a person who has a disability, or their friends or family or an organisation shares their experiences for the Royal Commission. They can do this in writing, over the phone, via video or audio recording or through artwork.
The Royal Commission also goes out and talks to the community, e.g. organising groups to talk about the experiences of people with disabilities. This is especially for people who use a different language or who are from First Nations communities.
Sometimes people don’t want to write down their experiences, but they also don’t want to talk about them in public. They can meet with one of the seven Commissioners one to one and tell their story. This is called a private session.
The Royal Commission also does its own research and tries to work out where the problems are and how they could be improved. This is called ‘research and policy’.
The Royal Commission knows that many people who have disability have had awful experiences such as abuse or neglect, and that it can be difficult to talk about these experiences. The Royal Commission staff know about trauma. If you go and tell your story you may have lots of thoughts of traumatic experiences from the past come back to you. If you tell your story to the Royal Commission, you can get free counselling. A counsellor can go with you to support you when you tell your story.
What have we heard so far?
The report explains what the Commission has found out so far.
The Royal Commission has listened to many stories from people with disability. The Royal Commission can see that there is abuse, neglect and exploitation in schools, at work, in the community, at home, in hospitals, police, courts, and NDIS services.
The Royal Commission has found that some people with disability try to say that they have been abused, exploited or neglected, but sometimes people ignore them or try to say it isn’t that bad.
The Royal Commission has found sometimes people need support, but there are barriers so they can’t get the support they need.
Some of the problems are:
- Choice and control. People who don’t have a disability can choose what to do, e.g. where to live, what to study, what to buy. People who have a disability sometimes can’t choose these things. This isn’t fair.
- Sometimes people have poor attitudes towards people with disability, for example, they may make assumptions that a person has a disability and therefore can’t do certain things.
- Segregation and exclusion. In the past, people with disability were put into big institutions and sometimes not allowed out. That meant that other people were unaware of them and not used to mixing with them. When they meet someone with disability, they may not know what to do, or try to avoid them. Now, most of the big institutions are closed, but some people with disability are still segregated. In a segregated setting, there is less oversight and can be a higher risk of abuse.
- The use of ‘restrictive practices’. Examples of restrictive practices are:
- tying someone up
- holding someone down
- giving them a tablet or an injection to make them quiet
- taking away a device someone uses for communication
- disconnecting the power of an electric wheelchair so that the person can’t go anywhere
- telling someone that something bad will happen if they move
- locking someone in a room.
Some of these things are sometimes allowed, sometimes not, but it is different around Australia. Sometimes restrictive practices are used when they are not allowed, and this is a problem.
- Access to services. Sometimes people with disability can’t get the services they need, or the workers don’t know how to do their job well, or there are other barriers, for example if staff can’t sign or don’t book an interpreter. Also, services sometimes don’t respect First Nations people and their culture. People who have a disability who come from a culturally and linguistically diverse background can also find it hard to get the services they need.
- Advocacy. There are not enough advocacy services so if someone needs to advocate, it is sometimes hard to find help.
- Oversight and complaints. If someone is facing abuse, it is very important that they can speak up about it and complain. It is also important to have oversight. However, sometimes people have complained and were ignored. Or, people are frightened of being punished for making a complaint. There was an example where a student wanted to make a complaint about the interpreter and had to make the complaint through the same interpreter.
- There is a problem with data. We don’t know how often people with disability face abuse, exploitation or neglect. Often it is hidden or people are silent and just put up with it. For First Nations people and people who have a different language or culture, the problem is worse. This is a problem because if we don’t know that abuse is happening, it is difficult to stop it.
- Funding. Sometimes there isn’t enough funding for the support that people need. If the funding were organised differently it could help to prevent abuse.
- First Nations people with disability often have many barriers. About one third of First Nations people have a disability. The Royal Commission has heard examples of abuse of First Nations people with disability. There is much more information in the report and the DRC plans to meet with First Nations people with disability to hear more of their stories.
If you would like more information about the Interim Report, you can contact the Royal Commission and ask to meet with someone. They can provide an interpreter and answer all your questions about the findings of the Royal Commission so far.
More information: DRCenquiries@royalcommission.gov.au