Australian disability ministers push back response to bombshell royal commission

Ellen RansleyNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

The country’s disability ministers will not provide their response to the landmark royal commission report until at least next month – seven months after the commissioners handed down their findings.

The shocking report, published last September, was the culmination of 4.5 years of investigation and nearly 10,000 testimonies and exposed widespread rates of abuse and neglect being experienced by millions of Australians living with disability.

The commissioners described systemic rates of violence and discrimination facing about 4.4 million Australians, highlighted shortcomings across all levels of society and handed down 222 recommendations for governments, including for all disability ministers to respond to the report by March 31.

More than five months later, Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth, NDIS Minister Bill Shorten and state and territory disability ministers – bar Tasmania, which is in caretaker mode ahead of the next election – have released a joint statement, revealing they won’t formally respond to the royal commission’s final report until after March 31.

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Camera IconNDIS Minister Bill Shorten and Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth say ministers need more time to respond to the disability royal commission. NCA NewsWire / Kelly Barnes Credit: News Corp Australia

They noted the “scale and complexity of reform recommended and the importance of consulting widely and understanding implications” for the delay.

“The additional time will ensure responses are informed by the views of people with disability, their families, carers, representative organisations, service providers, unions and the broader community,” they said on Tuesday.

“It will also enable the development of strategic responses that drive meaningful and lasting change to make Australia safe, accessible and inclusive for all people with disability.”

The Commonwealth and the states and territories have agreed to respond to the joint recommendations by mid-2024.

Among the report’s recommendations was a call to completely end segregated schooling by 2051, while the six commissioners were split on whether or not to phase out group homes.

Defending the delay, Mr Shorten said it was “really good” the country’s governments were taking so long to form their response.

“The idea that you can just whistle up a response in a short timeframe on every matter is unrealistic and would be a disservice to a royal commission, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars and took five years to complete,” he said.

“So the fact that we’re talking about a response within eight months on matters is really good.”

Camera IconThe royal commission handed down 222 recommendations. NCA NewsWire / Kelly Barnes Credit: News Corp Australia

Last week, the peak body for people with disability, People with Disability Australia, called for the government to consider 19 policies in response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

Among them are a Disability Rights Act, a Minister for Disability Inclusion, a timeframe and transition plan to phase out segregated housing, education, and employment, and a redress scheme.

In response to the government’s new timeline, PWDA president Marayke Jonkers said the extension was an opportunity for deeper consultation and co-design with people with responsibility.

“We recognise that taking more time to release the Australian, state and territory governments’ responses to the disability royal commission can allow this co-design to

occur in a meaningful way. It also recognises more time is needed to understand how the DRC recommendations intersect with those of the NDIS review,” Ms Jonkers said.

“This is an opportunity for governments to spend more time consulting with and being led by people with disability on the next steps. Co-design where people with disabilities, and our representative organisations, are involved in the entire process from the beginning is the only way governments will get it right and deliver reform that genuinely works for people with disability.”

She said while the formal responses may be delayed, governments “must not delay” outlining to the community their plans around consultation related to specific responses to the NDIS and DRC recommendations.

Originally published as Australian disability ministers push back response to bombshell royal commission

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