For those unaware, the Australian Government announced earlier this year there would be a Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. This is better known as the ‘Disability Royal Commission’.
The former Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retired), made the announcement on 4 April before the first workshop was held in Melbourne in mid-June. Essentially, the Royal Commission follows a decades-long call by the disability sector for an investigation into the systematic abuse of people who require care and assistance.
At this point I’d like to give a special shout-out to Greens Senator Jordan Steele-John , who has been instrumental in making this Commission a reality. Jordan has been a significant support and public voice for the Disability Royal Commission, and you can view his latest videos on the subject here: videos
Some of the stories that have been shared since the announcement, and the many years prior, are horrifying. Thankfully, now the disability sector has a platform to be heard and the hope to end the cycle of abuse, neglect and exploitation for good.
The most recent development has seen the Australian Government appoint two Commissioners to oversee the process. Normally that would be great news – hooray, progress! But unfortunately in this circumstance I’m not filled with hope.
There are a number of reasons that I don’t agree with the appointments; the primary reason, however, is around the lack of impartiality. It is my opinion that to enact real change, the Royal Commission requires input from people who have limited to no experience within the disability sector. This allows them to come into the role with completely fresh eyes and no preconceived notions.
The two Commissioners appointed are exactly the opposite. They are individuals who not only have experience within the disability sector, but have been pivotal to establishing policy and advocacy over a long period of time. They have an innate understanding of how the disability sector works, who the big players are and, arguably, the regularity of neglect, abuse and exploitation experienced by those most vulnerable. How can they oversee a process with impartiality when they’ve been so deeply ingrained within the sector itself?
For mine, it’s like asking the banks to oversee the Hayne Royal Commission – how fair would the final outcome be if the big banks had to choose their own ‘punishments’?
The appointments create real question marks over the entire process. People with a disability and their families have been calling for this action for so long, now is not the time for inadequacy. The Australian Government has the opportunity to enact real change to end the pain and suffering of so many people – I have grave concerns these appointments will do the opposite.
Casting aside the complete waste of taxpayers money, what kind of hope does this instil in the sector itself? It pains me to even think about it...
Without the reality of re-appointment, I would call on the Commissioners to leave their prejudices at the door. View evidence presented to you with fresh eyes. Give hope to the many thousands of people the Disability Royal Commission affects. Because the future of the sector, and the many lives within it, are in your hands.
I really hope that my early concerns are unwarranted...