Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 August 2021


Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability

8:05 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

[by video link] Thousands of disabled people have already had the opportunity to share their experience with our disability royal commission. This is a vital step in the act and process of achieving the policy changes that we need to ensure that disabled people are safe to live their lives and no longer experience violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation.

Many people have shared their powerful experiences already. But, for some, they have not been able to give the vital information which they hold to the commission because confidentiality provisions are currently not strong enough. At the moment, information given confidentially to the royal commission will not be confidential when the commission comes to an end in 2023, and there are limited protections for people who bravely blow the whistle on their workplace.

I've been strongly lobbying the government to listen to the demands of our community, our demands that we need a strong, secure confidentiality provisions framework built into the legislation. The Liberal government, I am sorry to say, over the past two years have dragged their feet on this question. They've known about this problem since 2019 and have promised changes over the years. Unfortunately, through all of that process, the answer to when this will be achieved has always been 'soon'. Well, a vague 'soon' is not good enough. With the parliament sitting in August, the government must put this legislation on the legislative agenda and give disabled people and our allies certainty that they will be able to share their experience without fear of retribution.

I have, in the course of my role here, had the opportunity to hear from multiple people who, right now, would like to share their stories, share their experiences, with the royal commission but currently are not able to. These people are educators, these people have worked alongside disabled people in support organisations, these people have been in charge of safeguarding frameworks and mechanisms that have gone wrong and failed people when they have needed them most, and they have been employed and engaged by state governments to do inquiries into what has gone wrong, only to be silenced. All these people and more want to give their evidence, share their experience, with their royal commission and currently are not able to because of the absence of this strong protections framework.

To achieve this together, we as a community will need to join together, as we have done so successfully in recent months in the disability community, to ensure that these protections are passed through the parliament this August and, subsequently, to make sure that they pass through the Senate with the support of the Labor Party and members of the crossbench. To this end, myself and my office have put together a team of people ready to call at a moment's notice to contact their decision-makers, their representatives in parliament, to advocate for the support of this legislation to get it done so that these safeguards exist so that people can share their experiences, give their evidence, to their royal commission.

I say again, the government must put this legislation on the agenda for this August sitting period. We cannot rise and go home in September without having finally got this done. Together with the disability community, I look forward to pursuing this issue through the course of the next couple of weeks. If people wish to join in the campaign that we are running, please reach out to my office or click any of the links in the video currently being streamed to my page to be part of that campaign. But get involved to get this done so that people can have the protections that they need to share their experience with this vital investigation into abuse and neglect.


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