Human Rights lawyers call on Prime Minister to establish separate Royal Commission into abuse, violence and neglect in the disability care sector.

September 21, 2018

Australia’s leading association of human rights lawyers has welcomed the Government’s recent announcement of a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, but is calling on the Government to go one step further and launch the long overdue Royal Commission into abuse, violence and neglect in the disability care sector.

ALHR President Kerry Weste said, “We congratulate the Prime Minister on his government’s initiative in announcing a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. This is an important first step towards addressing the very serious and disturbing issues that have recently come to light within the aged care sector.”

While the Royal Commission announced on Monday will primarily look at the quality of care provided in residential and home-based aged care to senior Australians, it is also proposed to include young Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care settings.

The Government’s preliminary position has been to oppose calls for an expansion of the scope of the Royal Commission to encompass all people with disabilities living in residential or institutional care, on the basis that the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS Commission) is sufficient.

Ms Weste said, “ALHR agrees that the accommodation of young Australians with disabilities in residential aged care facilities is an issue of serious and immediate concern. Indeed, we consider that this practice is in breach of Australia’s international legal obligations under Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

“We are heartened to hear that this group is not being forgotten in the proposed Royal Commission but, unfortunately, it appears the treatment of all other people living with disability in taxpayer-funded group homes and disability accommodation is.”

ALHR is therefore urging the Morrison Government to establish, as a matter of urgency, a Royal Commission for the disability sector as a separate initiative.

“While ALHR supports the establishment of the NDIS Commission, we do not consider that it duplicates the role of, or in any way displaces, the urgent and long overdue need for, a Royal Commission in this sector.”

A Senate inquiry released in November 2015 recommended a Royal Commission into the systemic abuse, violence and neglect of people with disabilities in Australia. A subsequent Four Corners episode, which aired in March 2017, reported on several harrowing incidents of abuse and raised very serious questions around some deaths.

Ms Weste said, “The current Government has conspicuously failed to respond to the Senate Inquiry recommendation and establish a Royal Commission – it is time for it to take responsibility for the abuse occurring on its watch.”

“Children with disabilities are three times more likely to experience abuse than children without disability. A Senate report has made it clear that there are ongoing systemic failures by government and service providers to notify families and report matters of violence and abuse to police.”

“People living with a disability have a right to feel safe and secure in their home environment and to be free from abuse, exploitation and violence. It’s clear that in many cases, this is simply not happening and their human rights are being violated repeatedly in the care and justice systems.”

“There is only one way to thoroughly investigate what is happening in group housing and that’s with an immediate royal commission as suggested by the Senate inquiry,” said Ms Weste.

Read a copy of ALHR’s letter to the Prime Minister Here

Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.

ALHR was established in 1993 and is a national association of Australian solicitors, barristers, academics, judicial officers and law students who practise and promote international human rights law in Australia. ALHR has active and engaged National, State and Territory committees and specialist thematic committees. Through advocacy, media engagement, education, networking, research and training, ALHR promotes, practices and protects universally accepted standards of human rights throughout Australia and overseas.