Govt Urged to Reconsider Royal Commission for People with Disability
6 December 2017 at 4:26 pm
A motion calling on the government to “reconsider” and commit to a royal commission into the violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability in institutional and residential settings has received the support of the Senate, leaving people with a disability hopeful the issue will be revisited.
Australian Greens Senators Jordon Steele-John and Rachel Siewert moved the motion on Monday, following the 25th anniversary of International Day of People with Disability.
They noted that the Senate Community Affairs References Committee had called for a royal commission in November, 2015.
Following the government’s refusal to commit to a commission in March this year, more than 130 academics from across Australia signed an open letter urging the prime minister to act, while the Disabled People’s Organisations Australia issued a statement endorsed by 163 organisations and groups and more than 380 individuals.
The senators called on the government to “reconsider its decision”.
Siewert said if the government could change its mind on a royal commission into the banks, it could on the abuse, violence and neglect of people with disability.
“Having initiated and chaired the senate committee inquiry into the abuse, violence and neglect of people with disability in residential settings, it is clear that we had barely scratched the surface and a royal commission was needed,” Siewert said.
“Failure by the government to do so means people with disability are being left behind and continue to be exposed to abuses.”
Steele-John said the abuse of people with disability in settings where they should feel safe and at home was “prevalent and systemic”.
“And the government has no interest in truly addressing it,” Steele-John said.
“It took some 15 months after the senate report had been tabled for the government to respond, and when it did the disability community were outraged.
“When the government announced it would not initiate a royal commission into the abuse of people with disability in institutional settings, it effectively turned its back on people with disability who deserve to feel safe in institutional settings.
“The government must take heed to the will of the Senate and reverse its decision, every day that passes that this issue is not properly investigated, more abuse occurs”.
The motion was supported by the Labor’s shadow minister for disability and carers, Senator Carol Brown, who said a royal commission into the matter was “long overdue”.
“The continued abuse of Australians with disability by people who are meant to care for them, demands a Royal Commission,” Senator Brown said
“We cannot erase the pain and suffering that so many have already experience. But only a royal commission has the weight, authority and investigative powers to examine the horrific accounts of violence and abuse against people with disability.”
“Malcolm Turnbull must act to establish this royal commission now.”
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations CEO Ross Joyce told Pro Bono News it meant a lot to have the Senate on board.
“We are really pleased that there will be another opportunity for this to be raised,” Joyce said.
“We think it is a significant and important issue and we have been constant in the call for a royal commission, along with a lot of others in the sector and beyond, in terms of shedding light on the issues and the problems and also looking at what are the systemic issues and things that need to take place across the states and territories in order to stop this happening and continuing to happen.”
Joyce said across the disability sector, people had been very disappointed at the government’s previous decision to not hold a royal commission.
“They feel that the stories do need to be told and they do need to be looked at and action does need to take place and our belief at AFDO is that a royal commission is the only way that that can effectively be undertaken,” he said.
But he said they were “very hopeful” the government would now relook at the issue.
“There has been a lot of attention given to this, particularly this year and before that, so I’m confident that the government will relook at it and will take on board the input that it has had up until now, calling for this on behalf of people with disability,” he said.
“I think it has been demonstrated with a number of royal commissions, and the one into child abuse is the key example, where it is important for people to be able to outline their personal experiences and the experiences of family and friends and what has happened, and that is part of an incredible healing process, in one sense if you like, because the stories are actually put out there, you shed light on these issues and I think a lot of those, while they are quite well known throughout the disability sector they are not as well known across the Australian community .
“I think a lot of it has been hidden and it is a bit of a hidden shame, so I think it is important to shed that light on it, to bring it out into the open and then have those real serious discussions about how can we make sure this violence, abuse and neglect is stopped.”