Report for Disability Royal Commission

A report commissioned by the Disability Royal Commission and authored by La Trobe University researchers, has revealed people with a disability experience higher rates of violence and abuse due to their gender or sexual orientation.

Drawing on La Trobe research undertaken in 2019, the report showed 90.9 per cent of young people with a disability reported high or very high levels of psychological distress in the four weeks before the survey – compared to 70.6 per cent of those without a disability.

More than half of the young people with a disability reported experiencing verbal harassment due to their sexuality or gender identity in the past 12 months, compared to 34.7 per cent of young people without a disability.

Private Lives 3 and Writing Themselves In 4 were the largest ever surveys of LGBTQA+ adults and young people in Australia respectively.

There were 2,500 young people aged 14-21 who reported a disability in Writing Themselves In 4, and 2,629 adults who reported a disability in Private Lives 3.

Report co-author, Associate Professor Adam Bourne, Acting Director of La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, said the report reveals that LGBTQA+ people with a disability are having it tough.

“They are more likely than most in the LGBTQA+ community to feel excluded, more likely to be subject to harassment or abuse and more likely to experience poor mental health,” said Associate Professor Bourne.

“There is so much diversity among LGBTQA+ people – they are more than just their sexuality. Similarly, people with a disability are more than just that disability.

“There is a great deal of strength and expertise among our sectors of work that we can harness as we seek to create genuinely more inclusive and safe environments for LGBTQA+ people with disability in Australia,” Associate Professor Bourne said.

Other key findings included:

  • 15 per cent, of the young people with disability reported attempting suicide in the past 12 months and 39.8 per cent reported attempting suicide at some stage during their lives. This compared to 6 per cent of those without disability who reported attempting suicide in the past 12 months and 15.7 per cent at some stage in their lives.
  • Of the adults with disability, 5.0% of those categorised by the Disability Flag with mild disability, 7.0% of those categorised with moderate disability and 12.4% of those categorised with severe disability reported attempting suicide in the past 12 months. This compared to 2.6% of those without disability.
  • Of the young people with disability who were involved in education, 56.7% reported feeling unsafe or uncomfortable in their educational setting (secondary school, TAFE or university) due to their sexuality or gender identity. This compared to 45.1% of those without disability. Young people who reported autism/neurodiversity with intellectual disability felt the least safe or comfortable, with 67.9% feeling this way.
  • Nearly three quarters of young people with disability (72.8%) felt like the voices of LGBTQA+ people are not heard or understood.
  • 89.8 per cent of young people with disability felt support by their friends when they disclosed to them their sexuality or gender identity
  • 59.5 per cent felt accepted at an LGBTQ event or venue

Co-author Professor Christine Bigby, from La Trobe University’s Living with Disability Research Centre, said the report highlighted that skills need to be shared across the disability and LGBTQA+ sectors to ensure the needs of this population are met.

“There needs to be meaningful involvement of people with disability at every level as we reform health services to be more LGBTIQ safe and inclusive,” Professor Bigby said.

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability funded the report to inform their proceedings. Public hearings are still underway.

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.