19 February 2019

The ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service (ADACAS) has welcomed the decision of the Australian Parliament to establish a Royal Commission into abuse suffered by people with disability in the services run to support them, and beyond in the services and institutions which are provided to the community. Samantha Connor: Disability Abuse Royal Commission Motion Debate Samantha Connor: Disability Abuse Royal Commission Motion Debate

Senator Jordon Steele-John led a delegation of people with disability, representatives of Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) and advocacy groups to Parliament to witness the passing in the lower house of his Senate-sponsored motion to hold a Royal Commission. Despite being passed with no opposition, and with significant support from the Greens and Labor, there is still doubt about the timing and detail of the Royal Commission, and whether it will occur at all in the form that was promised in yesterday’s debate.

“What is needed is a firm commitment from the Government to a timetable of establishing the terms of reference, driven by engagement with people with disability, and an understanding that the Royal Commission will look at abuse as it occurs now and has in the past, its causes and what mechanisms we can put in place across the community to prevent it in the future,” said Michael Bleasdale, CEO of ADACAS, who was in the gallery with other supporters at yesterday’s announcement in Parliament.

“The Aged Care Royal Commission was called in the same week as the ABC exposed abuse in aged care settings, its terms of reference were set soon after, and four months later it is now underway. The equivalent scrutiny of abuse of people with disability has finally hit the floor of Parliament five years after it was called for, and after decades of evidence of abuse that occurs daily, with no commitment to a time line for getting it underway”.

ADACAS has provided advocacy support to people with disability for over 27 years, and the thousands of people who have been assisted have routinely experienced abuse, discrimination and disadvantage based on their disability. “Abuse occurs in a number of forms in a variety of settings. Physical and sexual violence have been reported for decades as occurring with shocking regularity in disability services. But bullying and discrimination occur in educational and workplace settings, forced sterilisations and denial of treatment are still reported in the primary health system, and in the community generally people with disability are still confronted by hostility and questions about their entitlement to participate”, said Mr Bleasdale.

ADACAS is calling for the Royal Commission to have broad terms of reference that will make explicit the extent of abuse suffered by people with disability at all levels of the community, that will consider its causes, and will make strong recommendations about how all services and institutions must change to ensure that our community is inclusive and welcoming of people with disability.

“The Aged Care Royal Commission is committed to looking at how the aged care system can be set up to meet the needs of older Australians, and how the community can change to treat its older citizens with the dignity and respect they deserve. The equivalent commission into the abuse of people with disability needs to have even bolder ambitions to address and eradicate the third-class treatment of our disabled citizens.”

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