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Frequently Asked Questions

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

What is a Royal Commission?

A Royal Commission is the highest form of public investigation into a matter of great importance. A Royal Commission is started by the Government but is conducted by people who are independent of Government, called Commissioners. A Royal Commission is established by law and has broad powers to hold public hearings, call witnesses and compel evidence.

Who the Royal Commission applies to and where it applies.

The Disability Royal Commission investigated and reported on the specific experiences of violence against, and abuse, neglect and exploitation of, people with disability.  It paid particular attention to experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or people with culturally and linguistically diverse people; and where there are multilayered and intersection experiences: age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic origins, gender identity, intersex status, and race.

The investigation explored experiences in all settings and contexts, including: 

  • schools,
  • workplaces,
  • jails and detention centres,
  • secure disability and mental health facilities,
  • group homes or boarding houses,
  • family homes,
  • hospitals, and
  • day programs. 

What happens now?

The Government has formed a Commonwealth DRC Taskforce in the Department of
 Social Services (DSS). This is consulting with the disability sector and coordinating the governments' responses to the Disability Royal Commission. Commonwealth ministers and their departments are responsible for considering the Disability Royal Commission recommendations. The Taskforce brings agencies together to form an integrated response. The final response is now is now expected at the end of June 2025.

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 of the Royal Commission.  A Royal Commission has powers to summon witnesses, authorise search warrants, compel the production of documents and information, and to fine and/or imprison those who do not comply.  The Royal Commission also provide emotional, legal, and advocacy support to people with disability who are engaged with the Disability Royal Commission.  

Why did we need a standalone, separate Royal Commission?

People with disability experience higher rates of violence at all ages and in many contexts.  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 and to understand the importance and differences between the Aged Care Royal Commission and the Disability Royal Commission.

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