‘Alarming’ Figures of Disability Violence Reignite Calls for Royal Commission
26 July 2017 at 9:27 am
Disability advocates are calling for the urgent introduction of a Royal Commission into violence and abuse against people with a disability after new figures reveal “alarming” rates of violence and other forms of abuse.
Figures from NSW Ombudsman, released on Tuesday, revealed there were 1408 reported incidents – which include reports of physical assault, sexual assault, neglect and fraud – in NSW alone between December 2014 and March 2017.
There were also almost 400 reviewable deaths since the Ombudsman started collating statistics in January 2014.
Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO Australia) director Therese Sands told Pro Bono News the latest figures were most likely just the tip of the iceberg.
“We are certainly deeply concerned by these figures but we are not surprised,” Sands said.
“It’s not surprising because we know there are high incidences of violence and abuse against people with disabilities. We have known this for a very long time. If anything it substantiates our repeated calls for a royal commission to really integrate what is going on.
“We are alarmed that we keep raising this time and time again but no concerted effort is being made to look at a royal commission.”
In June, DPO Australia authored a civil society statement, signed by 163 civil society organisations and 383 individuals, to demand a royal commission to disability violence.
“Only a royal commission can provide a comprehensive, independent and just response to all forms of violence and abuse against people with disability,” the statement said.
“A royal commission would give space and recognition to people with disability to tell their story, and enable accountability and justice.”
The statement called on the government to establish a royal commission after a senate inquiry recommended it two years ago.
The 2015 Violence, Abuse and Neglect Against People with Disability in Institutional and Residential Settings Senate inquiry found that that violence and abuse against people with disability in Australia was “epidemic” and an issue of national significance.
According to DPO Australia’s submission to the senate inquiry 90 per cent of women with an intellectual disability have been sexually assaulted in their lives, and 60 per cent before the age of 18.
The submission also found that in many cases, people with a disability experienced violence in places where they were meant to be receiving support.
“Violence against people with disability in institutional and residential settings is Australia’s hidden shame,” the submission said.
“Violence against people with disability in institutional and residential settings is an urgent, unaddressed national crisis, of epidemic proportions.”
Speaking to Pro Bono News on Tuesday Sands said the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework, which is currently under review in the Senate, would fall short of addressing the “prolific and systemic” abuse against people with a disability.
“Of course we want a robust NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Commission so that people who are NDIS participants are protected. However there will only be 10 per cent of people with a disability who are NDIS participants so there is a whole issue of people who don’t fall under NDIS or seek redress who won’t be addressed through that commission,” Sands said.
“A royal commission will have investigative powers to be able to really integrate these issues but also to commission research to look at a whole range of factors and provide a mechanism for people with a disability to be able to tell their stories, to be believed, to give evidence in a way that is not adversarial and seek some measure of redress.”
Both Labor and the Greens have backed calls for a royal commission, as did the United Nations in latest International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee report.