Disability advocacy organisations are supporting the calls for a 17-month extension to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability,with a new campaignurging Attorney-General Michaelia Cash to approve the proposed extension as soon as possible.
The extension, which would move the finish line of the Disability Royal Commission (DRC) from April next year to September 2023, was first requested by the Hon. Ronald Sackville, chair of the DRC, in October last year. Opposition MPs Bill Shorten and Mark Dreyfus have also supported the call.
As the DRC found in theirInterim Report, violence and abuse against people with disability is widespread, with almost two thirds of people with disability experiencing violence in their lifetime.
“The commission has achieved a great deal in two years, but there have been significant delays due to COVID restrictions, and the sheer enormity of the task before them cannot be underestimated,” says People with Disability Australia (PWDA) chief executive officer Sebastian Zagarella.
“The welfare and safety of the disability community depends on the commission having adequate time to conduct these investigations thoroughly.”
Delays to legislation protecting the confidentiality of submissions have also created a stumbling block for the DRC.
As it stands, the confidentiality of submissions made to the DRC is only protected until the DRC ends in April 2022, after which time they may be accessed with freedom of information requests.
Legislation to provide ongoing confidentiality was raised by the government in the March sitting of parliament, and is expected to be passed in May or June, with less than a year left on the DRC’s current schedule.
“People with disability need this extension, and based on what our advocates are seeing, there will be an influx of submissions once the legislation is passed,” says Zagarella.
“People with disability want to tell their stories, but many are speaking out against abusers or organisations that still hold power over aspects of their lives. These protections are vital to peoples’ safety and security, and many have chosen to wait for the legislation to pass before making submissions.”