Australia

Disability inquiry expected to shine light on 'tragic' stories

Disability support groups said a royal commission is urgently needed to address systemic issues. Source: E+

Advocates warn many Australians will be shocked by the stories of violence and exploitation of those living with disabilities.

A royal commission will hear stories of the abuse and neglect of people with disability that is still occurring today, say advocates who hope the long-overdue inquiry will finally bring about real change.

The royal commission will hold its first public sitting in Brisbane on Monday, kicking off a three-year inquiry into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability.

People With Disability Australia Chief Executive Jeff Smith expects it will be an emotional and difficult time.

People With Disability Australia Chief Executive Jeff Smith.
People With Disability Australia Chief Executive Jeff Smith.
People With Disability Australia

"I think that Australian will be somewhat horrified when some of these stories start to emerge," Mr Smith told AAP.

Australian Federation of Disability Organisations CEO Ross Joyce said a royal commission had been urgently needed for decades to address systemic issues.

"There has been and continues to be a lot of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability," Mr Joyce told AAP.

"We need to ensure that these things are stopped and also that people with disability have the opportunity to put some of what will be horrendous stories forward, so that the wider Australian community is more aware of that."

Mr Joyce said the commission will hear tragic stories that were not confined to the past.

"We're also talking about things that are still currently happening to people with disability. They're the areas where we need to have some rapid decisions made, rapid policy formulation, improvements to laws, to ensure that these things are stopped."

The $528 million royal commission has a wide remit, covering all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in all settings.

The inquiry will cover all forms of violence, abuse and neglect of those with a disability.
The inquiry will cover all forms of violence, abuse and neglect of those with a disability.
iStockphoto

That covered homes, schools, sporting clubs, workplaces, group homes, prisons, hospitals, aged care and mental health facilities, Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith said a person with an intellectual disability was 10 times more likely to experience violence than a person without disability.

A woman with a disability was more than two times more likely to report a history of unwanted sex than a woman without disability, he said.

"Those statistics in and of themselves really speak to the need for this royal commission, the need for these stories to be told, but perhaps most importantly the need for fundamental change to follow," Mr Smith said.

"If it's just an opportunity for people to tell their stories without more, then it will be a failure.

"This royal commission really needs to produce systemic change as a result of the recommendations."

Mr Joyce also hoped the inquiry would lead to a redress scheme for people with disability, as occurred through the five-year child abuse royal commission.

"We need to ensure that we respect them and also ensure that we look after their health and welfare, in terms of compensating them for some of the tragic things that they've been through."

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