Australia

Disability royal commission welcomes government decision to extend inquiry into the sector

The disability royal commission has welcomed the federal government’s decision to grant its request for an extension to complete its final report into the sector. 

Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability chair Ronald Sackville QC requested a 17-month extension to the probe last October

Families Minister Anne Ruston announced the extension on Thursday night, saying it recognised the broad issues under the inquiry’s terms of reference and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – both concerns cited by the commission. 

“We remained focused on supporting people with disability, their families and supporters, advocacy groups and the disability community,” Senator Rushton said. 

The final report will now be due on 29 September, 2023.  

Announcing his request for an extension last year, Mr Sackville said the commission “is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” and that it was tasked with investigating violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of people with disability in a wide range of settings.

Mr Sackville said on Thursday the extension meant it is now possible for the commission to “discharge its considerable responsibilities to a standard that informed observers would regard as acceptable”. 

He said while the delay in granting the extension had created some difficulties, “now we have certainty”. 

“Along with arranging our public hearing schedule, we can organise private sessions with certainty, proceed with the Royal Commission’s research program and conduct of full range of engagement activities,” he said. 

“We can also continue to investigate examples of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability that are at the heart of the terms of reference.” 

Peak body People with Disability Australia also welcomed the time extension, calling it a “win for people with disability”. 

“We are very pleased that the voices of people with disability have been heard on this issue,” PWDA chief executive Sebastien Zagarella said.

“Violence against people with disability is still endemic in Australia, and we now have the time we need to properly engage with the DRC on the wide range of issues it still needs to investigate.”

PWDA launched a campaign to increase support for Mr Sackville’s request earlier this year.

Mr Zagarella said it is vital people with disability have the space, time and safety to tell their stories. 

In a statement, the commission said it will now move to finalise the program for the remainder of its hearings, which will be published on its website. 

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