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Intro to the Australian Disability Royal Commission

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The release of the final report and recommendations from the Australian Disability Royal Commission is the culmination of efforts by advocates for people with disabilities that spans decades, and was officially announced on the 5th of April 2019 after repeated calls to investigate claims of discriminatory and inhumane treatment of Australians living with disability.  The Royal Commission spent three and a half years investigating the abuse, neglect, exploitation of, and violence towards people with disability with a wide remit.  After listening to the stories from 32 public hearings, hundreds of meetings with witnesses and over 4000 submissions from people with a lived experience of disability, the Royal Commission developed a 12 Volume Report containing 222 recommendations for the government to improve the lives of the 4.4 million Australians living with a disability.  The DRC report represents a critical milestone of reform in Australia, and an opportunity to listen to long silenced voices to ensure that we, as a people, uphold the dignity and respect due to people living with a disability.

Importantly, the DRC was centred around a focus on human rights rather than adopting a biomedical framework, ensuring that the commitments Australia signed up to with United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities directly inform the recommendations in the report.  The Royal Commission notes that ‘Significant change is required’ regarding the institutions and systems that engage with people living with a disability, and recommendations cover a huge range of systemic issues including First Nations people living with disability, the criminal justice system, disability services, education, housing, inclusion, and complaint mechanisms. Another key recommendation that emerged from the Royal Commission was the creation of a Disability Rights Act for Australia, to help enforce the protection of human rights for people living with disability through a legally binding piece of legislation.  A number of recommendations are intended to ensure that the autonomy of people with disability is protected, for instance the recommendations that argue that the principles of supported decision should directly inform the policies of state Guardianship arrangements and other disability service providers.

With the final report completed, the next step is to wait for the responses of the Federal, State and Territory Governments of Australia, including their responses to the recommendations issued by the Royal Commission.  CoMHWA stands firmly behind the advocates who have tirelessly fought to champion the drive to promote equitable treatment, dignity and respect for people living with a disability, and firmly encourage all responsible governments to adopt the recommendations outlined by the Royal Commission.  For too long, the human rights of people with disabilities have been disregarded on both the level of institutional policy and in the coalface of support service provision.  The Disability Royal Commission represents a critical milestone of potential reform in Australia, and an opportunity to listen to long silenced voices to ensure that we, as a people, do our part to uphold the dignity and respect that people living with a disability deserve.

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