Governor-General David Hurley and Ronald Sackville
Governor-General David Hurley (left) will pass the royal commission's report onto the government. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS
  • inquiry

‘Disturbing’ disability report to finally be laid bare

September 28, 2023

Disability advocates are calling for “robust” law changes to enshrine equal rights ahead of the release of the royal commission’s final report.

The report was delivered on Thursday to Governor-General David Hurley at Government House in Canberra, where it will be passed to the federal government and tabled in parliament for public release on Friday.

More than 10,000 Australians provided evidence to the inquiry through written submissions, private sessions and public hearings over four-and-a-half years.

People shared experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. 

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said she expected the report would make for “disturbing reading”.

“The important thing now is to make sure people with disabilities can live safely, can be part of our community in safety, that the institutions that are supposed to support and look after them are surely doing that,” she told Sky News on Thursday.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth has promised the government will closely examine the report recommendations.

“We will take this report seriously,” she said.

“Inclusion needs to be embedded right across community because that is how we ensure people with disability are properly included and inclusive across our whole society.”

The report should highlight the human rights breaches experienced by people living with a disability in every state and territory, People with Disability Australia president Nicole Lee says.

“Our laws must change so disabled people have equal access to human rights just like everyone else,” she said.

“We need robust laws that ensure our basic rights are upheld – like our right to be educated alongside our peers, to live independently in the community, to not be subjected to physical restraint, seclusion or forced treatment.”

David Armstrong, an education expert referred to in the royal commission, expects the report to recommend improved regulation of the sector to better support students with disabilities.

“Educational inclusion is failing, as many schools struggle to meet the basic needs of students with a disability,” he said.

Recommendations must take the changing landscape of schooling into account, Mr Armstrong said. 

“The Australian public school system is in crisis due to a perfect storm of failed education policy and underinvestment, plus the impacts of COVID-19,” he said.

Victoria’s disability worker commissioner has called for a national worker registration scheme to improve the safety of people with a disability.

“The royal commission has highlighted in shocking detail how little accountability there is in the sector,” Dan Stubbs said.

“With around only half of support workers operating under the NDIS, it’s clear we need workforce regulation beyond that.”

Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John called on the government to commit to resourcing the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

“We’ve shared our experiences, our darkest moments with the commission, all with the intention of improving the lives of millions of disabled Australians,” he said.

“With no government funding committed towards the implementation of the Disability Royal Commission recommendations, we are all holding our breath and expecting our governments to answer our calls for change.”

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