Frequently Asked Questions

Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability

What is a Royal Commission?

A Royal Commission is a type of public inquiry. It’s started by the Government, but it’s conducted by people who are independent of Government, often former judges. Unlike many inquiries by Government, a Royal Commission is established by law that gives them special powers. They have the power to summon witnesses and authorise search warrant applications, and if witnesses don’t appear or give false evidence, there are penalties. For all of these reasons, they are known as the highest form of public inquiry.

Who will the Royal Commission apply to? Where will it apply?

The Royal Commission will apply to all people with disability, of all ages. It specifically recognises that “the specific experiences of violence against, and abuse, neglect and exploitation of, people with disability are multilayered and influenced by experiences associated with their age, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, intersex status, ethnic origin or race, including the particular situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability”.

It will apply to “all settings and contexts”. This means community, institutional and residential settings, including, but not limited to: institutions, group homes, workplaces, respite care, day programs, mental health facilities, prisons, schools, out-of-home care, transport, hospitals, aged care facilities, family homes, mainstream services and community settings.

Where will the Royal Commission be located?

The Royal Commission will be based in Brisbane, however, hearings will take place around the country.

How can I tell my story to the Royal Commission? When will it be time to talk to the Royal Commission?

You will be able to contribute to the Royal Commission in a couple of ways.

  • Submissions are now open. The Government has said the Royal Commission will be accessible, so people are able to make submissions in the way that is most appropriate for them, including in community languages and by video.
  • Hearings are where the Commissioners listen to witnesses about their knowledge and experiences. We will continue to update regarding the times and dates of Hearings.
  • Private sessions will be available for people with disability who have experienced violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

We will continue to update as more details come from the Royal Commission.

What are private sessions?

Private sessions are a way for you to tell your story to the Royal Commission without having to give formal evidence. You can decide whether you take part, and if you do, you do not have to swear an oath or affirmation. The private sessions will not be public in the way that other hearings of the Royal Commission will be, and any information you give can only be used by the Royal Commission if it removes your identifying details. They are only attended by you, your support person/s if you choose, and Royal Commission staff.

Are the States and Territories included in the Royal Commission?

The State and Territory Governments have agreed to this Royal Commission, and it covers services provided by all Australian Governments, including State and Territory Governments, for example state-run institutions, group homes and prisons.

What are the rates of violence against people with disability?

  • people with disability experience far higher rates of violence than the rest of the community;
  • women with disability experience higher rates of sexual assault than other women;
  • children with disability are three times more likely to experience abuse than other children;
  • 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.

How does this relate to the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse?

The Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse was very important because it brought the voices of many survivors to light, often for the first time. Many of these survivors are people with disability, who are more likely to be subject to abuse.

The Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse only applied to people abused as children in institutional settings. People with disability, of all ages, experience very high rates of violence across all settings. We all deserve to have our voices heard and have this opportunity to seek justice.

How has violence and abuse of people with disability been recognised in the past?

Violence against people with disability is poorly recognised and dealt with in the wider community.

In 2015, a Senate inquiry was held into violence abuse and neglect against people with disability, and it found widespread rates of abuse and recommended a Royal Commission.

The Senate inquiry, while important, did not have the powers, resources and public recognition that a Royal Commission would have. A Royal Commission has a variety of powers, for example, to summon witnesses and authorise search warrant applications, and if witnesses don’t appear or give false evidence, there are penalties. A Royal Commission will also have the resources to support people with disability to give evidence.

A Royal Commission is for all people with disability in all settings. It is not only about the NDIS or disability services. We experience higher rates of violence everywhere, for example, in our family homes.

Why do we need a standalone, separate Royal Commission?

People with disability experience higher rates of violence at all ages in all settings. While the majority of older people are people with disability (ABS 2016), the reverse is not true. It’s important not to conflate the two groups. People with disability deserve a standalone Royal Commission.

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