Disability groups welcome ALP commitment to Royal Commission into violence against people with disability

Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO Australia) welcomes today’s announcement by the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, the Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Jenny Macklin, and the Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers, Carol Brown, that the Australian Labor Party (ALP) supports our campaign for a Royal Commission into violence against people with disability.

“We are pleased that the ALP has joined DPO Australia, other disability organisations, people with disability, families, academics, and other political parties from across Australia in calling for an urgent Royal Commission into the appalling rates of violence and abuse of people with disability,” said Ms Therese Sands, Director, DPO Australia.

“Only a Royal Commission has the weight, investigative powers, time and resources to expose the violence that is experienced by people with disability in such a broad range of settings and so frequently.”

“People with disability are routinely denied access to civil and criminal justice because of law, policy, and practice barriers. A Royal Commission would give space and recognition to people with disability to tell their story, and enable accountability and justice,” said Ms Sands.

The 2015 Senate Committee Inquiry into violence and abuse against people with disability in institutional and residential settings found that violence and abuse was prolific and hidden. The central recommendation of the committee was the establishment of a Royal Commission.

“The Senate inquiry showed that violence and abuse of people with disability is not limited to a few rogue individuals, is not confined to disability support settings, and is not limited by State or Territory borders. The recent Four Corners and Lateline programs again exposed the extent of this appalling violence against people with disability,” said Ms Sands.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has shown the kind of healing impact a Commission can make to a previously neglected and hidden issue.

“A Royal Commission has a critical role to play as Australia undertakes national changes to disability supports and services. It would address the scale of violence and abuse against people with disability, its many forms, and the broad range of services and settings where it occurs. It would have the resources to examine the adequacy of existing systems, processes, and accountability mechanisms which are currently failing to address the inexcusable rates of violence and abuse against people with disability,” said Ms Sands.

“We have been seeking leadership from our elected representatives on this issue for some time, and we congratulate the ALP for their commitment to a Royal Commission to address violence and abuse experienced by people with disability.”

“We again call on the Australian Government to join with the growing chorus of voices calling for justice for people with disability, and to play a leadership role in establishing a Royal Commission to end this epidemic of violence.” said Ms Sands.

Information for media

Key facts:

  • People with disability experience far higher rates of violence than the rest of the community
  • 90% of women with intellectual disability have been sexually assaulted in their lives, and 60% before the age of 18
  • Children with disability are three times more likely to experience abuse than other children
  • In many cases, people with disability experience violence in places where they are meant to be receiving support
  • People with disability can’t always rely on the police for protection against violence
  • People with disability are often treated as ‘unreliable witnesses’, or are not even permitted by law to provide testimony at all.
[Source: DPO Australia submission to the 2015 Senate Inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings, including the gender and age related dimensions, and the particular situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, and culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability.]