Violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability, including children with disability, is endemic. The evidence is extensive, compelling and irrefutable. The next Australian Government must continue to fully support our Royal Commission into the appalling rates of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation we experience. The Royal Commission must hear our voices and deliver support, justice and a path forward.
People with disability are over-represented in the justice system, but multiple systemic barriers mean that we do not experience the dignity, autonomy and rights protection afforded to others. We need fair access to justice. Too many of us are going to prison, and once there, we are subject to violence, torture and abuse.
What does the Australian Government need to do?
- Provide sufficient ongoing funding for the Royal Commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability to ensure we get justice. Ensure full accessibility of all aspects of the Royal Commission for all people with disability, and that we are at the centre of the inquiry from the start.
- Implement a national Disability Justice Strategy to improve access to justice for people with disability.
- Establish a disability inclusive National Preventive Mechanism for the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), to prevent disability-based detention, torture and ill-treatment perpetrated against us in places of detention.
Why do people with disability want these changes?
Our Royal Commission into violence must deliver justice
People with disability and our allies have been calling for a Royal Commission into violence and abuse against people with disability for many years, and it is finally happening. In 2015, a Senate inquiry found widespread rates of violence and abuse against us, and strongly recommended holding a Royal Commission that could more fully investigate the issues identified.
The Royal Commission must be fully funded, and provide the supports we require to fully and safely participate and give evidence. We must be at the centre, starting with in-depth consultation on the Terms of Reference, and the appointment of Commissioners with disability. We finally have the opportunity to hold the systems and perpetrators to account after decades of injustice and we have outlined a Roadmap to deliver the Royal Commission we deserve. It is essential that we can fully access our Royal Commission with material available in all accessible formats; that Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) are funded to support and engage people with disability; that funding and resources are available to support us to give evidence and/or make submissions; and that research gaps are addressed.
People with disability have the right to a Royal Commission that has powers to investigate and address the full scope of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation against us. Critically, our Royal Commission must also bear witness to our experiences and give us a chance to gain justice for violence and abuse that has happened in the past.
Delivering access to justice
People with disability are significantly over-represented in the justice system, but systemic barriers mean that we do not enjoy equality before the law. We deserve fair access to our legal system with the supports we need.
While some progress has been made in different jurisdictions, we need a National Disability Justice Strategy, developed in partnership with people with disability, as recommended by the Equal Before the Law report, to deliver:
- safety and freedom from violence
- effective access to justice
- respect for our inherent dignity and individual autonomy including the freedom to make our own decisions
- full and effective participation and inclusion in the community.
OPCAT – Establishing a National Preventive Mechanism
Too many of us are detained in prison and forensic units, where we are subject to violence, torture and abuse.
Australia’s ratification of the OPCAT in 2017, requires the establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM).
An NPM is an independent oversight mechanism focused on preventing torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (ill-treatment) primarily by monitoring and inspecting places of detention. Australia must establish an NPM as a matter of urgency. This NPM must be disability inclusive to prevent disability-based detention and to prevent torture and ill-treatment perpetrated against us in places of detention.