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Violence and abuse of people with disability at home

  • Issues papers
Publication date

This issues paper asked the public to share their views about how people with disability experience violence and abuse where they live.

Auslan video

Issues paper - Violence and abuse of people with disability at home (Auslan)


Issues paper - Violence and abuse of people with disability at home


The Disability Royal Commission has published an issues paper on its website that looks at violence and abuse of people with disability in the home.

We want people with disability to tell us what changes are needed for them to be safe at home. We also want organisations to tell us how they can better respond to and prevent violence against people with disability in their homes.

The issues paper has a list of questions about these topics. We would like your feedback.

How we look at violence in the home

Violence and abuse against people with disability may happen in all types of homes and accommodation. This includes private family homes, group homes, out-of-home care, boarding houses and shelters. It can also happen when people are experiencing homelessness.

Violence in the home is often referred to as ‘domestic and family violence’.

The focus of this paper is violence abuse by:

  • intimate partners
  • extended family
  • support workers
  • co-residents
  • parents
  • house mates
  • adult children and others against older people with disability.

Violence and abuse at home

Research shows people with disability are more than twice as likely to feel unsafe in their home as people without disability.

Women with disability experience higher rates of intimate partner violence, emotional abuse, stalking and sexual violence than women without disability.

Men with disability are also more likely to experience violence and abuse than men without disability, particularly physical violence.

All people may experience violence and abuse, but people with disability can be subjected to distinct forms of violence and abuse in the home. This includes withholding of food, water, medication or personal care such as toileting. They may be subjected to restrictive practices, reproductive control such as forced sterilisation, and seclusion.

Barriers to getting help

When people with disability seek help, or need more support to leave or end violence, they may experience barriers.

Research shows domestic violence services are not accessible.

Barriers can include support services with no physical access, inaccessible information and communication, including lack of information in community languages or Auslan.

There are domestic violence services for First Nations people, but not those who also have disability. There are domestic violence services for people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, but not those who also have disability.

Barriers can also include discrimination, attitudes and a lack of knowledge or support in assisting people with disability.

How to respond

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

You can respond to the questions at the end of the issues paper. You do not have to answer every question. You can respond in any way you like, including writing or by a video recording.

More information:

Overview of responses to Violence and abuse of people with disability at home Issues paper (Auslan)


Overview of responses to Violence and abuse of people with disability at home Issues paper


In December 2020 we asked people to tell us their views and thoughts about the experiences of violence and abuse of people with disability at home. This video highlights some of the things people told us in their responses.

What did people say?

People told us:

  • Not all domestic and family violence laws across Australia protect people with disability, as the state and territory laws differ. The laws do not include all the relationships they might have, such as with paid support workers.
  • The violence and abuse people experience at home is perpetrated by a range of people including partners, parents, carers, support workers and co-residents.
  • Women and girls with disability experience violence and abuse in their homes at very high rates.
  • When people with disability are socially isolated or segregated, they are at high risk of experiencing violence and abuse.
  • People with disability experience a range of barriers getting help for violence and abuse at home. These include:
    • inaccessible services like women’s shelters which cannot accommodate people who use a wheelchair or an assistance animal, or don’t have funding for interpreters.

Good practice and proposals for change

We heard about some examples of good practice for addressing and preventing violence and abuse against people with disability at home.

Some examples are:

  • A program in Victoria funds women and children with disability who experience violence up to $9,000 each while a family violence support worker makes a plan for the woman, her children and her family.
  • In NSW, ‘Official Community Visitors’ attend supported accommodation services and group homes. They can enter and inspect a service at any time, talk to the residents and employees, and check documents. In doing this, they can make sure people in these services are safe.

We heard about proposals for change to help people with disability experiencing violence and abuse at home.

Some of these include:

  • Changing legal and policy definitions of domestic and family violence. Ensure the definition of ‘domestic relationships’ includes support workers, unpaid carers, housemates, co-residents, prisoners and wider First Nations kinship networks.
  • The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) should establish fast, clear, open processes for prioritising requests for people who urgently need safety and support.
  • Make sure court buildings are accessible, (eg have lifts for people who use a wheelchair).
  • Bring in a mandatory system to report abuse, neglect and financial abuse of people with disability that is the same across Australia.

You can find more information on our website.

Go the ‘Publications’ section and click on ‘Issues papers’.

More information: