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It's time to listen

The Disability Royal Commission has made history. To honour this moment and the people who shared their stories, we're slowing down our pace (which is hard for us!) to make sure we get the analysis right. But for those of you who don't know where to start on a 5,000 page Report (i.e. everyone), we've put together a reading guide for you.

By Evie Naufal and Jessica Quilty

Updated 15 Apr 20244 Oct 2023

As we all know, the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (DRC) handed down their final report last Friday. The DRC heard from nearly 10,000 people who shared harrowing experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. These testimonies were tremendous acts of generosity, shared in many cases with the knowledge that justice may never be served, but with the hope that change is possible.

The report stretches over 2.5 million words. If you had spent every waking hour reading the report since it was released you would still not be finished. Yet the press coverage over the weekend and early this week has been filled with people in positions of power giving their reactions to the DRC’s recommendations, based presumably on their pre-existing beliefs, or at best, a selective reading of the report.

And it’s not just the powerful who have been quick to react. Like many others in the sector, we ourselves tried to analyse the key information with a quick turn around. But we realised we just couldn’t do the scale and depth of the report justice. It’s an easy trap to fall into the belief that we already know about the issues raised and have enough information to know what should come next. But something this comprehensive and deeply personal for so many Australians really requires some deep understanding, reflection and sensitivity.

In her DRC closing address, Commissioner Rhonda Galbally said her hope is “that the voices of disabled people and their allies will go on to act as the catalyst for the transformative actions that are needed for governments and the community to build a truly inclusive Australia”. 

This hope will never be realised if we remain locked in our own opinions. The DRC was a once in a generation opportunity to listen deeply to the experiences of disabled people. If we want to truly honour the stories told, we need to remember that the listening is not over. We owe it to the people who contributed to the DRC to engage with the depth of suffering and courage shared through the process.

We know that many of you are waiting for a DSC summary, but in exploring how we want to cover the report, we’ve decided to slow right down. We are making our way through it and will publish more on the recommendations in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we encourage you to set aside some time to engage with the report. We’ve provided a brief table of contents, below:

Executive Summary and Recommendations - This provides a “brief” 356 page overview of the final report and recommendations. Head to page 193 if you want to go straight to recommendations.

Volume 1 - Voice of people with disability - More than 9,000 people with disability, their family, friends, supporters, advocates and others shared their experiences and recommendations with the Royal Commission. Many gave consent for their accounts to be published as short de-identified narratives that capture the authentic voices of people with disability and provide an insight into their daily lives. This volume contains a selection of these narratives. 

Volume 2 - About the Royal Commission - This volume describes the background, nature and scope of the DRC. It introduces the Commissioners and other key people involved in the DRC, as well the various public hearings, submissions, advisory groups, research, data, policy and community engagement that informed the report.

Volume 3 - Nature and extent of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation - This volume describes the nature and extent of the violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation people with disability experience in different settings and contexts and across their life stages.

Volume 4 - Realising the human rights of people with disability - This volume addresses the need for a stronger and more comprehensive legal framework to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of people with disability consistent with the CRPD. It makes the case for amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act, a new Disability Rights Act and a National Disability Commission.

Volume 5 - Governing for inclusion - This volume considers what governments can do, at a strategic level, to prevent people with disability from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, and to achieve a more inclusive society. 

Volume 6 - Enabling autonomy and access - This volume examines what governments, public authorities, organisations and the community can do to better enable the autonomy of and access for people with disability. It includes key areas like supported decision making, advocacy, restrictive practices and healthcare.

Volume 7 - Inclusive education, employment and housing - This volume is made up of several parts and examines barriers to inclusion across a range of settings including education, employment and housing. The Commissioners are divided in their views on the pathway to reducing and ending segregation across these settings. 

Volume 8 - Criminal justice and people with disability - This volume describes the treatment of people with disability in the criminal justice system in Australia including that people with disability are significantly overrepresented at all stages of the criminal justice system.

Volume 9 - First Nations People with disability - This volume sets out the issues and themes identified by First Nations people with disability and their communities. It highlights the challenges they face and proposes changes to prevent violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of First Nations people with disability.

Volume 10 - Disability Services - This volume is delivered in 2 parts - part 1 is directed to disability service providers and part 2 to the NDIS Commission.  It examines how both service providers and the Commission can do more to prevent, identify and respond to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in disability services.

Volume 11 - Independent oversight and complaints mechanisms - In this volume the DRC suggests additional independent oversight and complaint pathways that should be available to Australians with disability, not just those on the NDIS. 

Volume 12 - Beyond the Royal Commission - This volume discusses the implementation of the recommendations, the need to improve data and research to build the evidence base for disability policy and services and the impact of the DRC during its inquiry.

With this unique opportunity to make change, there is understandably a sense of urgency now to act on the recommendations of the DRC before it loses its moment in the spotlight. But the work is far from over. When the media cycle moves on, it will be all of our responsibility to ensure that stories shared in the DRC, and those not shared, are honoured in a way that creates lasting change.

If you need support, Blue Knot can provide free specialist counseling and referrals for people affected by the Royal Commission. You can contact them on 1800 421 468, 9am - 6pm AEDT Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm AEDT Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays. Alternatively, you can contact:

  • Lifeline- 13 11 14
  • 1800Respect – phone 1800 737 732
  • Beyond Blue- 1300 224 636
  • QLife- 1800 184 527
  • 13Yarn- 13 9276


Evie Naufal
Jessica Quilty

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