Greater privacy protections promised for disability royal commission
21 October 2020 at 6:01 pm
New protections were announced following a campaign from disability activists
The federal government has pledged to introduce legislation ensuring the confidentiality of disability royal commission submissions beyond the life of the inquiry.
Attorney-General Christian Porter announced on Tuesday that the government will amend the Royal Commissions Act 1902 to guarantee that written submissions will remain confidential even after the royal commission concludes.
Currently a person giving information can only be guaranteed confidentiality post-inquiry if this evidence was provided in a private session.
Porter said he wanted people in the community to engage fully with the royal commission.
“The amendments will ensure that the work of this royal commission is guided by people’s experiences and that its outcomes are based on a true reflection of those experiences,” Porter said.
“I have instructed my department to work swiftly on the amendments, with the aim of introducing [them] in the Autumn sittings of 2021.”
The move comes on the back of a recent campaign from disability activists to protect the confidentiality of people telling their stories to the inquiry.
In an open letter to Porter, advocates said people with disability were hesitant to speak out about abuse, because they feared their perpetrators could gain access to their evidence after the inquiry finished.
This announcement from the government was applauded by advocates, but there are concerns the legislation will not come into effect soon enough.
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) CEO Ross Joyce said on Twitter: “We welcome this news from Attorney-General [Christian Porter] to amend the Royal Commissions Act 1902 to protect the confidentiality of [royal commission] witnesses’ beyond the life of the inquiry, but it needs to be introduced urgently, not in Autumn 2021.”
Disability royal commission chair Ronald Sackville AO QC in February asked for these amendments to be introduced, and said he welcomed the government’s decision to take action on the issue.
“I have been aware for some time of concerns among people with disability and the wider community about the long-term confidentiality of information of those making a submission to the royal commission,” Sackville said.
“I believe the federal government’s acknowledgement of the importance of these protections will encourage further participation in the royal commission from people with disability whose stories are at the heart of our work.”