Disability Discrimination commissioner Alastair McEwin has called on the government to establish the Royal Commission into disability abuse “without further delay”.

“The prevalence and pervasiveness of violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability is a shocking and shameful social issue. The disability community has been waiting for a long time for the government and the broader community to act, to provide justice and protect them from violence and abuse,” he said.

Numerous reviews and inquiries recognised that violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability is serious, widespread, and much of it driven by factors that disempower people with disability, he said. These inquiries have called for independent, external oversight of institutional settings, more robust reporting and complaints mechanisms, and greater protections for people with disability to report incidents of violence.

“The Commission looks forward to working with the government, people with disability and the broader community to inform the Royal Commission, so that people with disability can have a future free from violence,” McEwin said.

The disability sector have been seeking a Royal Commission in this area for some time, and the Australian community will be shocked by the level and amount of violence and abuse which has occurred, human rights activist and former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes said. “The Commission will need to be broad-ranging, not just covering institutions and accommodation settings and participants in the NDIS, but looking at the broader disability population in education, rehabilitation, day care etc.,” he told F2L.  “Its terms of reference will not only need to focus on what has already occurred, but seek recommendations for stronger and broader safeguards into the future, and the need for community attitudes towards people with disabilities to change.”

National Disability Services (NDS) too will be an active supporter of the Commission’s important work, acting CEO, David Moody said. “We are committed to continuing what we started more than five years ago, to embed zero tolerance approaches to disability abuse in all disability service organisations. NDS and our members across Australia look forward to supporting the Royal Commission in the development of its terms of reference and subsequent inquiry.

NDS leads an initiative called ‘Zero Tolerance’ in partnership with the Australian disability sector. “We know that people with disability are 1.5 times more likely to experience abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation than people without a disability,” he said.

“We support a Royal Commission because we understand that people with disability, like everyone else in our community, have the right to live free of the fear of abuse or neglect.”

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