• Australia sees higher rates of disability in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population than the non-Indigenous population. (shutterstock.com)Source: shutterstock.com
Disability advocates say more investigation is needed to understand the scale of violence, abuse and exploitation facing Indigenous peoples living with disabilities.
Sarah Collard

2 Nov 2020 - 4:36 PM  UPDATED 2 Nov 2020 - 4:36 PM

Indigenous disability advocates say more investigations are needed to understand the scale of violence, abuse and exploitation facing Indigenous peoples living with disabilities.

A yearlong extension into the Disability Royal Commission has been welcomed, with Indigenous disability advocates saying the longer timeline will give more Indigenous people with disabilities a chance to share their stories.

Damian Griffis, the CEO of First Peoples Disability Network, said far more work is needed to understand the extent of abuse, violence and exploitation facing Indigenous peoples with disabilities.

"There is so much to investigate and understand about the situation facing our people with disability that the royal commission does need more time to explore that," said Mr Griffis.

Indigenous Australians are far more likely than other people to live with a disability with research revealing around a quarter of Indigenous people live with some form of disability.

The Worimi man said the experiences of remote and regional Australia also needed to be heard by the inquiry - both privately and in public hearings and forums.

“We need to see as many stories as possible being told by our own people with disabilities, and our families that support relatives with disabilities," he said.

"It doesn't have to be public if you don't want it to be. There have been some powerful advocates that have spoken about their experiences... we want to see more of that."

The Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability found First Nations peoples with disabilities are more likely to experience harm than others because of a lack of culturally appropriate services and support according to the report.

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The 560-page interim report was tabled in Federal Parliament before being made public.

On Friday, the commission chair requested a 17-month extension due to the immense workload and COVID-19 pandemic stalling commission hearings and progress. 

Over the past 15-months, the commission has heard from people with disabilities, advocates and relatives on their experiences with the disability sector and how it can better support First Nations people.

Mr Griffis said disabilities services run by and for Indigenous peoples are urgently needed to meet the needs of those living with disabilities and relatives and carers supporting them.

"We need to start over in some ways. We need to establish our own, a First Nations-owned and operated disability service - it doesn't current exist," he said.

A holistic approach was needed to ensure Indigenous peoples with disabilities are given the appropriate support to thrive in their daily lives, said Mr Griffis.

"This is about much more than health. It's about employment, it's about justice, it's about transport - but that needs a lot of thinking, experts, planning to be able to create that - but is where we desperately need to get it."

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