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FEATURED AUSTRALIA DISABILITY ROYAL COMMISSION REPORT: It’s Over & here are the main recommendations.

AceNewsDesk – The disability royal commission is over and the recommendations are in. Here are the main takeaways


Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Sept.29: 2023: ABC News: TELEGRAM Ace Daily News Link

Education and schools

Three commissioners recommended phasing out segregated education or “special schools”, by 2051. They also want no new enrolments from 2032.

In special schools, students with disability are educated separately from other students, although they may be located within a mainstream school.

“We heard that once a student is placed in a special or segregated school or class, they will rarely transition to a mainstream school or classroom,” the report said.

“This can contribute to them remaining in other segregated environments throughout their lives.”

The remaining three commissioners want the transition to happen, but without a deadline. Instead they suggest stronger relationships be formed between mainstream and special schools, including for the mixing of classes where practical.

However all commissioners agreed the status quo cannot remain and that segregation in the schooling of students with disability should end.

Employment and jobs

Four commissioners recommended phasing out segregated employment, including Australian Disability Enterprises (also known as ADEs) — a type of workplace which can legally pay people with disability as little as $2.50 per hour — by 2034.

They said “different views” had been expressed on whether ADEs were a type of segregation that infringed on people’s human rights.

Commissioners said steps should be taken to move away from paying people with disability below minimum wage.

“It is an affront to dignity to pay someone, who is as committed to their job as any other person (with or without disability), a sub-minimum wage,” the report said.

Targets for disability employment in the public sector were also recommended.

About 53 per cent of people with disability are in the workforce, compared to about 84 per cent of people without disability, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows.

Group homes

Commissioners recommended phasing out group homes and making “major improvements” to disability accommodation.

Group homes are a type of specialist accommodation where several people with disability might live together and receive support from carers.

About 17,000 people with disability, mainly people with intellectual disability, live in group homes in Australia. They do not always get to choose who they live with.

The inquiry was told abuse and neglect was “pervasive” in group homes, with stories ranging from the use of chemical and physical restraints to financial exploitation by staff members.

Four commissioners want group homes phased out entirely over 15 years, arguing the model will “never realise the rights of people with disability”.

Another agreed they should be phased out, but “carefully within a generational time frame”.

“Current practices in group homes can fail to keep people with disability safe and empowered to exercise choice and control, with opportunities to develop and build capacity,” the report said.

“We all strongly support the expansion of alternative housing options for people with disability to provide greater choice.”

Autonomy and accessibility

Commissioners recommended improving the accessibility of information and communication, boosting the number of Auslan interpreters and making sure people with disability have access to skilled interpreters when needed.

It has also made dozens of recommendations around empowering people with disability to participate in decisions that affect their lives.

Part of that is nationwide reforms of guardianship laws.

Guardianship refers to when another person – sometimes the state – is given authority to make decisions on behalf of a person with disability. They exist to protect society’s most vulnerable, but advocates say it strips people with disability of their independence.

There are an estimated 50,000 Australians whose affairs are under state control through guardianship and administration.

Every state and territory has restrictions on publishing information about people with disability who are subject to guardianship, which the royal commission says shields disability service providers and public guardians “from transparency”.

“We recommend states and territories amend legislation to allow publication of material related to tribunal proceedings, unless the tribunal makes an order preventing public identification, taking into account the will and preferences of the party in the proceedings,” the report said.

First Nations people

First Nations people living with disability can face additional barriers to non-Indigenous people, from finding it harder to get accessible information to receiving support in a culturally sensitive way, the report said.

It said the legacy of the Stolen Generations — which caused “a rupture of connection with family, culture and country” — had also contributed to “complex feelings of shame and guilt around disability”.

First Nations communities, particularly in remote and regional areas, also had difficulties accessing the NDIS and other supports, the report said.

Commissioners recommended governments help develop a First Nations Disability Forum to lead the implementation of a scheme called the Disability Sector Strengthening Plan.

They also recommended that the government body that runs the National Disability Insurance Scheme must include at least one First Nations person on its board at all times.

The report also includes recommendations around improving cultural safety in the justice system and making it easier for Indigenous people to access support.

Kelly Treloar from the First Peoples Disability Network welcomed the recommendation to set up a First Nations Disability Forum.

“We look forward to working in solidarity with our colleagues and to keep prioritising the voices of First Nations people with disability in all the work that we do moving forward,” she said.

Laws and human rights

Commissioners recommended new laws and statutory bodies to protect the human rights of people with disability.

These include:

  • Creating a new disability rights act “as soon as possible” to translate the international human rights of people with disability into Australian law
  • Establishing a new national disability commission, and independent statutory authority with powers to address breaches of the disability rights act
  • Setting up a new complaints mechanism that has been co-designed with people with disability
  • Creating a new government portfolio for disability (currently, disability affairs sits within the Social Services and NDIS portfolios)
  • Creating a new national disability agreement between the federal, state and territory governments, to strengthen collaboration

“Clearly, governments need to do things differently to advance equality, inclusion and the rights of people with disability,” the report said.

The justice system

The report recommended prohibiting solitary confinement in youth detention, as well as improving police responses to people with disability.

People with disability are “significantly over-represented” at all stages of the justice system, and are also more likely to be victims of crime.

“The disproportionate rate of imprisonment of people with disability is not the result of any inherent causal relationship between disability and crime,” the report said.

“Rather, it reflects the disadvantages experienced by many people with disability, such as poverty, disrupted family backgrounds, family violence and other forms of abuse, unstable housing and homelessness.”

People with cognitive disability were the most affected, the report found, adding that was “especially the case” for First Nations people.

Indigenous people with cognitive disability are more likely to be charged and arrested than Indigenous people without disability, the report said.

The royal commission made other recommendations to improve the conditions of custody for people with disability.

Issues affecting women

Women living with disability are far more likely to be victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and emotional abuse than women without disability, the report found.

Women with psychological or intellectual disability were even more likely to face abuse.

The inquiry heard multiple stories of women facing alleged sexual violence by everyone from support workers to employers.

The inquiry also examined the forced sterilisation of women with disability without their knowledge or consent, a practice which has been occurring in Australia for decades.

Some women with disability have been given contraceptive injections for decades while being told it was the flu shot, the commission was told.

Commissioners recommended banning the sterilisation of women with disability without consent, except when the procedure is needed to prevent a “threat to the life of the person with disability”.

It has also recommended improving data collection around women with disability.

“The taskforce will be critical in assessing how the individual recommendations are linked together, understanding the broader implications of these recommendations and sequencing the government’s response,” Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said.

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