Royal Commission

What’s next? Starting to unpack the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability

Jonathan Teh, Rebecca Olle

On 29 September 2023, the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability was published.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that 4.4 million Australians, or 18% of the population live with disability. Given its subject matter, it is difficult to understate how important this Royal Commission has been and will continue to be for all Australians, but especially people with disability and their families, carers and friends and those who provide disability services.

This Royal Commission has been one of the longest royal commissions in history, having commenced on 4 April 2019, adapted its processes to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and spanned four and a half years. The Royal Commission received 7,944 submissions and 17,824 phone enquiries. It published 14 issues papers and received 710 responses to those papers. Over 1,700 private sessions were held, with over 700 community engagement activities informing the Final Report.

The Final Report comprises 12 volumes and makes 222 recommendations. Despite differing views among the various Commissioners, these recommendations call for a number of changes to be made by the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments.

The recommendations address areas such as:

  • New legislation, government departments, statutory authorities and policy frameworks to strengthen the rights and protections of people with disability.
  • Reforms to specialist disability and mainstream services to better address the needs of people with disability, including in relation to housing, education and employment.
  • Providing culturally safe services, in particular for First Nations people, and removing barriers to accessing disability services.
  • Increasing supported decision-making for people with disability, to have choice and control over their lives.

Currently these are recommendations only. Nothing has been legislated.

The Royal Commission asked the Federal Government and State and Territory governments to respond in writing to the Final Report by 31 March 2024 on which recommendations it plans to accept, which it will not and others that were under consideration.

The Federal Government appears to be proposing a staggered approach to implementing the recommendations of the Final Report. Therefore, it is likely that reforms will be rolled out over an extended period of time. The Minister for Social Services, the Honourable Amanda Rishworth MP and Minister for the National Disability Scheme, the Honourable Bill Shorten MP have announced the establishment of a Disability Royal Commission Taskforce, with the Department of Social Services to coordinate the Federal Government’s response to the Final Report in consultation with the disability community. The Taskforce will be critical in determining how the recommendations link together and identifying key focus areas for reform as well as understanding the broader implications of the recommendations. A total of $4.2 million will be allocated to the Taskforce over the next two years to undertake this important role. The Taskforce is likely to release a progress report early next year.

How we can help?

Russell Kennedy will be reviewing the 222 recommendations and outcomes from the Royal Commission and Final Report closely and providing updates and insights as to how the disability landscape will be affected by the Royal Commission.

If you would like to stay up to date with Russell Kennedy’s Disability insights, please sign up here

If you would like to read the Final Report yourself, click here.

Please contact Jonathan Teh, Victor Harcourt or Rebecca Olle if you have any questions about how the Royal Commission and Final Report may impact your business.

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