People with disability deserve greater understanding, empathy and support if Australia is to become a more inclusive society, Chair of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability Ronald Sackville AO QC says.
On the International Day of People with Disability – 3 December – Mr Sackville, alongside Commissioners Dr Rhonda Galbally AC and Alastair McEwin AM, both of whom have a disability, say it is an appropriate time to pause and reflect how society could be improved by accepting people with disability as equal partners in Australia’s social fabric.
Dr Galbally says people with disability face challenges and hardships on a daily basis and in all walks of life – including in education, health and work settings – which the general public take for granted.
“The Royal Commission has held various public hearings and engaged with people with disability for more than 12 months, hearing about their experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation,” Dr Galbally said.
“It is timely that the Royal Commission pause and reflect on the work it has done and the work it has yet to do in order to expose injustice and forge a new path in society for people with disability.”
Mr McEwin said during the duration of the Royal Commission, people had said they felt undervalued, fearful and unsupported in a range of settings.
“This is not right in a country such as Australia, where everyone deserves to be valued and in a nation which prides itself on being an inclusive, welcoming society,” Mr McEwin said.
“It is time those sentiments were extended to all, especially people with disability who face extra barriers to a quality of life, freedom and independence that the wider community accepts as its right.”
On the International Day of People with Disability, Mr Sackville, Dr Galbally and Mr McEwin reiterated the Royal Commission’s commitment to examining cases of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, with a view to educating the wider community that all people, regardless of race, gender, age or ability, have a role to play in creating a harmonious, inclusive society.
Mr Sackville said the Royal Commission’s two recent reports – the Interim Report and its report into COVID-19 – highlighted the importance of hearing from people with disability and ensuring those voices are heeded to promote change.
“Our ultimate aim is nothing if not ambitious. We seek to transform community attitudes and bring about changes to policies and practices that have exposed people with disability to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation and that denied them full and effective participation and inclusion in society,” he said.
The Royal Commission was established in April 2019 in response to community concern about widespread reports of violence against, and the neglect, abuse and exploitation of people with disability.
It was due to end in April 2022, however, Mr Sackville wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on 30 October, asking for extra time to submit its final report to 29 September, 2023.