Physical Disability Australia (PDA) is delighted here that the Australian Federal Government has officially announced and established a Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. We are also delighted to see that 2 of the appointed commissioners – Alastair McEwin and Rhonda Galbally – have disabilities themselves and that the Terms of Reference are broad.
Rhonda Galbally has an extensive history working in health development, disability, social and health policy in Australia. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1991; awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001; and awarded honorary degrees in health and social science from La Trobe University in 1999 and RMIT in 2005. In January 2019 Ms Galbally was a Companion in the Order of Australia. Rhonda is also a current member of the NDIA Board of Directors.
Alastair McEwin, as well as being a former Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner and guest columnist on this blog, has a background is in arts, law and business administration. He also brings to his role as a commissioner a wealth of personal and professional experience with disability. He has been the Executive Director of Community Legal Centres NSW, CEO of People with Disability Australia and Manager of the Australian Centre for Disability Law.
The Terms of Reference direct the panel of 6 commissioners to look into:
What governments, institutions and the community should do to prevent, and better protect, people with disability from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, having regard to the extent of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation experienced by people with disability in all settings and contexts;
What governments, institutions and the community should do to achieve best practice to encourage reporting of, and effective investigations of and responses to, violence against, and abuse, neglect and exploitation of, people with disability, including addressing failures in, and impediments to, reporting, investigating and responding to such conduct;
What should be done to 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; and
Any matter reasonably incidental to a matter referred to [the above paragraphs]
Importantly, the commissioners are directed “to have regard to … all forms of violence against, and abuse, neglect and exploitation of, people with disability, whatever the setting or context…”
We are less pleased to see no directions for the commissioners to consider what a compensation or redress scheme might look like.
The Government’s official press release notes that the inquiry is funded to the tune of $527.9 million and is expected to produce an interim report by October 2020 with the full investigation expected to take 3 years.