Advocates say royal commission must #MakeItSafeToSpeak
12 October 2020 at 5:33 pm
A new campaign aims to protect the confidentiality of people telling their stories to the disability royal commission
Disability advocates fear the most severe cases of systemic abuse will not be exposed during the royal commission unless greater privacy protections are given to people making submissions.
People with disability and their representative organisations are campaigning for legislation to protect the confidentiality of information provided to the disability royal commission, sending an open letter to Attorney General Christian Porter.
In the letter, advocates note that a person giving information can only be guaranteed confidentiality post-inquiry if this evidence was provided in a private session.
This means that written submissions will only be confidential until the end of the royal commission.
Romola Hollywood, policy and advocacy director at People with Disability Australia (PWDA), said this meant people were hesitant to speak out about abuse.
“People with disability who want to tell their stories to the royal commission are holding back, because they know there is a possibility that the perpetrators of violence may gain access to the information they give after the proceedings are done,” Hollywood said.
“People are being asked to make submissions about their carers, support workers, service providers, medical professionals and others they may still depend on for basic necessities.
“It’s a very dangerous situation for many people to be putting themselves in.”
The open letter said the issue would be rectified if the government extends the same privacy protections that were available for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse.
Advocates said the government has been aware of the need to amend legislation since February and it was well past time that changes were made.
Carolyn Frohmader, CEO of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA), said many women and girls with disability were frightened of providing evidence to the commission without a guarantee that their evidence will always remain confidential.
“We know that women and girls with disability are at heightened risk of many forms of violence, abuse and exploitation,” Frohmader said.
“They have every right to give evidence in a safe and supportive way and to know that they will not be at risk of retribution by doing so.”
The full open letter can be seen here.