What you need to know about the DRC

Many people in the disabled community would have already heard by now of the disability royal commission. But while it is public knowledge covered in the news media, non-disabled people still might not be as informed as they ought to be. It should be known that even if you do not have, aren’t related to someone who has, or do not have experience with disability in general, this matter should be of concern to all people. That is why, my non-disabled friends, I have devised a list of everything you need to know about the disability royal commission thus far.

  1. What is it investigating?

A royal commission is a comprehensive and independent investigation into an area of public concern. The disability royal commission will look at protecting people with disabilities from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. Achieving the best practice for reporting instances of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. And, promoting a more inclusive society that supports people with a disability to be more independent and free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

  1. What areas of disability will be covered?

The disability royal commission will investigate and report on all areas of society affecting disabled people including schools, family homes, workplaces, jails, group homes, hospitals and day programs. The royal commission will hear submissions from a wide range of people including disabled people themselves, family members, healthcare practitioners and disability workers.

  1. What hearings have been conducted so far?

At the time of this publishing, the disability royal commission has already well and truly begun. Established in April 2019, the first public sitting took place in Brisbane on 16 September 2019. No evidence was heard but statements were made by the chair and commissioners.

Education and learning – Townsville

Dates: Monday 4 November – Thursday 7 November 2019

Its purpose was to investigate:

  • “inclusiveness in education as it relates to students with disability;
  • and the implementation of existing policies and procedures relating to inclusive education of students with disability, with a focus on the Queensland government education system”.

Stories were shared by witnesses, of intense bullying, teachers refusing to make adjustments for students with special needs and schools conducting a practice of “gatekeeping” – keeping students with disabilities out of mainstream schools by telling the parents that the school doesn’t have the resources to attend to the child’s level of need or that it would not be safe if the child enrolled in this school. A practise I find familiar and not uncommon at all.

Helpful article: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/nov/08/harrowing-stories-add-to-the-tension-of-a-disability-royal-commission-dismissed-by-critics

Homes and living – Melbourne

Dates: Monday 2 December – Friday 8 December 2019

Its purpose was to investigate:

  • “the right of people with disability to choose their place of residence, including where and with whom they live
  • how the group home model emerged and its impact on the housing options and the experiences of people with disability in Victoria
  • the causes of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of residents of group homes in Victoria
  • the effectiveness of laws, policies and key government agencies to protect residents with disability from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of residents in relation to group homes
  • social inclusion options for living independently and alternatives to the group home model”.

Horrible accounts of abuse and neglect in group homes were heard at this hearing including instances of residence’s being physically restrained and strapped down, locked in rooms, and being force fed medication. What I found shocking and alarming about what was found at this hearing was the fact that due to the culture of some group homes, workers believed that it was ok to treat people with a disability badly and that somehow these residents are categorised as deserving a treatment that no one else would accept in boarder society. as if disabled residents were somehow animals. The thought alone makes me sick to my stomach.

Helpful article: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-07/disability-royal-commission-six-key-takeaways/11774816

Healthcare – Sydney

Dates: Tuesday 18 February – today (will last aprox 2 weeks)

Its purpose is to investigate:

  • “barriers faced by people with cognitive disability when accessing and receiving health care and services, including barriers to communication and health professionals’ attitudes, values and assumptions
  • training and education of health professionals with respect to patients with cognitive disability
  • delayed diagnoses and misdiagnoses of people with cognitive disability
  • life expectancy of people with cognitive disability (particularly people with intellectual disability and people with autism)
  • specific issues for First Nations people with cognitive disability with respect to health care and services”.

The results of this investigation have yet to be fully determined as this is currently still going. but we have already heard a few disturbing accounts of the experiences had by disabled persons and their families n the healthcare system. One that really stood out to me was a story I heard on ABC news the other night of woman who was immediately handed a termination referral after finding out that her unborn baby would be born with an intellectual disability, without even asking her first. She told the royal commission that the healthcare system has been against her and her disabled child from the start. The royal commission has heard and will hear many other stories of the unconscious bias that is projected by the healthcare system towards those living with intellectual disabilities.

Helpful article: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/royal-commission-to-hear-shock-concerns-from-australians-with-cognitive-disabilities

Aside from the links to articles I have provided for you, more information can be found on the disability royal commission website.

You’ll notice that I haven’t provided any commentary on who is involved in the royal commission and whether or not I think it has or will be successful. That is simply because it would take too long and it’s a bit early to tell yet. For now, I just want to give you guys a roundup of the facts and what you need to know now.

I urge people either without or with a disability, who haven’t already, to please get educated on at least some of the issues being discussed in this royal commission because I can guarantee that it is going to be one of the most important investigations of this generation. This isn’t just an investigation into how we treat disabled people. It’s an investigation into how we treat each other as human beings.

More to come…

Claudia Forsberg is a Melbourne based writer and journalist. She is currently working as a Regional Trainee with ABC Ballarat.


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