The Australian Coalition for Inclusive Education (ACIE) has developed a set of FAQs to support the community in understanding various aspects of the Disability Royal Commission. The responses included in this document are from publicly available information included on the Royal Commission website. We will update this document from time to time as more information becomes available.
Why set up a Royal Commission?
In Australia, Royal Commissions are the highest form of inquiry on matters of public importance. Recent inquiries and reports have shown that people with disability are more likely to experience violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation than people without disability. What we learn from the Royal Commission will help to inform Australian governments, institutions and the wider community on how to prevent, and better protect, people with disability from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in the future.
What is the scope of the Royal Commission?
The Commissioners have been directed to inquire into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability in light of their human rights and Australia’s obligations to ensure those rights. The Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference cover what should be done to:
- prevent, and better protect, people with disability from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation
- achieve best practice in reporting and investigating of, and responding to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation
- promote a more inclusive society that supports the independence of people with disability and their right to live free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.
The inquiry will cover all forms of violence against, and abuse, neglect and exploitation of, people with disability, in all settings and contexts.
What is violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation?
The Royal Commission have provided the following definitions to guide people with disability, stakeholders and other interested parties in their interactions with the Commission;
Violence and abuse
Violence and abuse include assault, sexual assault, constraints, restrictive practices (physical and chemical), forced treatments, forced interventions, humiliation and harassment, financial and economic abuse and significant violations of privacy and dignity on a systemic or individual basis.
Neglect includes physical and emotional neglect, passive neglect and wilful deprivation. Neglect can be a single significant incident or a systemic issue that involves depriving a person with disability of the basic necessities of life such as food, drink, shelter, access, mobility, clothing, education, medical care and treatment.
The improper use of another person or the improper use of or withholding of another person’s assets, labour, employment or resources including taking physical, sexual, financial or economic advantage.
Who does the Royal Commission want to hear from?
The Disability Royal Commission wants to hear from all Australians about their experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability.
What topics is the Royal Commission interested in hearing about?
The Terms of Reference of the Royal Commission outline all the areas for investigation by the Royal Commission. There are a large range of topics they are interested in learning about including the experiences of education, housing, health, mental health, community participation and employment for people living with disability.
How do I have my say?
You can share your experiences with the Disability Royal Commission in a number of ways.
Making a submission
A submission is the main way people and organisations can tell their story and provide information to the Royal Commission about their experiences of violence, neglect, abuse or exploitation of people with disability. Anybody can make a submission. A submission can be submitted in any way you feel comfortable – by telephone, email or through our website.
Details on how to make a submission are included on the Disability Royal Commission website. The website includes a submission form that can be used to guide your submission. However, you do not need to use that form and can provide information in other ways.
In your submission you may choose tell the Royal Commission what you believe needs to happen in the future by making recommendations. You can make recommendations on how to address the failures and weaknesses you see in your experience and provide reasons why these changes are necessary.
The Royal Commission is holding community forums in a number of locations around the country. At community forums, people can hear about the work of the Royal Commission and share their stories.
Anyone can attend a community forum but you will need to pre-register to attend. It may not be possible for everyone at the forum to make a statement. However there will be an opportunity for a number of people to make a brief statement at each forum. When you register you will be asked if this is something you would like to do. Anybody who attends a community forum should be able, if they wish, to talk with Commission staff on the day. You can find out about upcoming community forums on this website and through the mailing list.
At hearings, the Royal Commission will hear from people identified by the Royal Commission’s legal team, Counsel Assisting, to appear as a witness and give evidence. People who are asked to appear as witnesses will be contacted by the Royal Commission in advance of the relevant hearing.
You can also ask to appear at a public hearing by applying to the Royal Commission in writing for “leave to appear”. The Royal Commission will decide on who will appear at the hearings.
The Disability Royal Commission will publish details of hearings here to inform parties, witnesses and members of the public.
If you would like to share your experience (relevant to any of the matters contained in the terms of reference) with the Royal Commission in a private session, you should contact the Royal Commission. A private session will be less formal than a public hearing.
The Royal Commission will issue a further practice guideline about how private sessions will be conducted.
Can I make more than one submission?
Yes, you can make as many submissions as you want to.
What is the closing date for submissions?
There is currently no closing date for submissions. Information about the closing date will be provided in the future.
What is the difference between a submission, a community forum, a hearing and a private session?
A submission is where a person can provide information that they think is relevant to the Royal Commission. This may be either in a written format, it may be by telephone or email, or by providing an electronic submission e.g. making a video.
A community forum is generally a more informal session where the Royal Commission wants to hear from the general public about key issues of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation of people with disability. While some people may choose to make a short statement, others can come along and listen. Anybody who attends a community forum will be able, if they wish, to talk with Commission staff on the day. A transcript of the community forum is not made publicly available.
A hearing is a more formal session where people who are asked to appear as witnesses are asked questions in a more formal setting. There are generally legal counsel present to assist with the questioning. The Royal Commission Guidelines on Hearings say that cross-examination of witnesses will be limited. The transcripts from the hearings are made public and hearings are often filmed and made available live on the Commission’s website.
A private session is less formal than a hearing and allows people to give evidence in a non-public setting. The Royal Commission will provide more information about private hearings in the near future.
What if I am not called to give evidence at a public hearing, will my voice still be heard?
A Royal Commission considers evidence from a range of perspectives, not just from public and private hearings. They review the information provided through submissions, community forums and independent research it conducts. It is important the Royal Commission receives a wide range of perspectives.
How will my privacy be protected?
The Disability Royal Commission will not make individual submissions public on their website, at hearings or the other activities of the Commission unless the consent is provided by the person making the submission.
Can I make a confidential submission?
Yes, however if you would like to make a confidential submission, you should contact the Royal Commission so you can be referred to the legal advisory service. Further information around confidentiality can be found in Part E of Practice Guideline 1.
What support is available?
Australian Government-funded services are available to assist those requiring support during the Royal Commission. These services are provided through agencies external to the Royal Commission.
Emotional Support Service
Free counselling and referral services will be delivered by the Blue Knot Foundation. This is available for people with disability, their families and carers, and anyone affected by the Disability Royal Commission. Details on how to access these services can be found on the Royal Commission website and on the Department of Social Services website.
Free legal advisory service
Free legal advisory services are available to assist people with their interactions with the Disability Royal Commission. Details around accessing these services can be found here. An interim Legal Aid website is available.
The full range of legal advice services will soon be rolled out and available prior to the commencement of public hearings. We will continue to provide updates on all support services as they become available.
Legal financial assistance scheme
The legal financial assistance scheme will help individuals and entities to assist with meeting the costs of legal representation and disbursements associated with formal engagement with the Royal Commission.
The National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP) has been expanded to include individual advocacy support for people to engage with the Disability Royal Commission.
Advocacy support is for people with disability (or family members or carers acting on their behalf) who may have difficulty in communicating or understanding how to engage with the Commission.
These advocates will:
- help people who want to participate in the Royal Commission plan the best way to tell their story
- help people communicate with the Royal Commission about required communication supports (e.g. interpreters, accessible interview techniques, recordings)
- refer people to other agencies for ongoing counselling and/or psychological support as needed, and
- deal with other related issues faced by people engaging with the Royal Commission e.g. accessing services, finding housing, addressing discrimination or making complaints
Locate a service provider near you with the Disability Advocacy Finder.
Questions and Answers
The Disability Royal Commission have provided some Questions and Answers on their website. The Commission proposes to update and supplement the Questions and Answers from time to time.
The Disability Royal Commission Action Group have developed a website to provide accessible information about the Royal Commission. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of information on this website.
If you have additional questions that you would like an answer to, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This FAQ provides information that is general in nature and is based on information provided by the Disability Royal Commission.
This fact sheet was developed by the Australian Coalition for Inclusive Education (ACIE) www.acie.org.au.
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