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Disability Royal Commission achieves significant milestones despite COVID-19 pandemic

disabled woman with surgical mask looking out at window

The Disability Royal Commission has released its Fifth progress report, covering the period from 1 July to 31 December 2021.

Despite the challenges from COVID-19 limiting face-to-face engagement and travel, the Royal Commission continued to innovate using technology to enable Public hearings, private sessions and engagement activities to continue remotely.

Submissions to the Royal Commission increased during this period with an average of 38 submissions a week, up from 29 a week in the 12 months prior. Some of the highlights of the Royal Commission’s work during this period include:

  • The conduct of eight public hearings (including two sets of oral submissions), completion of more than 400 private sessions, while a further 878 submissions were received.
  • Community engagement activities under the guidance of Senior Advisor Dr Dinesh Palipana led to a significant increase in submissions from culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability. Close to one third of the submissions received in this period were from culturally and linguistically diverse people.
  • The Royal Commission continued to meet with First Nations people with disability and undertook virtual engagements with various community, government and stakeholders across six states and territories.
  • The Royal Commission published two Commissioners’ reports on public hearings, five research reports and four Overview of responses to issues papers.

The Royal Commission will present a Final report with findings and recommendations for change to the Governor-General by 29 September 2023.

The Royal Commission’s activities continue to prompt significant changes in legislation, policies and public attitudes. Some of these impacts include:

  • the reliance in part on Royal Commission research in the 2021-2022 Women’s Budget Statement to fund prevention and response to violence against women and girls with disability ($9.3 million over three years)
  • in October 2021, the Victorian Government announced a $5 million investment to ensure people with disability could be vaccinated before restrictions in that state were eased. This followed the release of the draft Report on Public hearing 12 which proposed the Australian Government use its best efforts to ensure that people with disability and support workers have the opportunity to be vaccinated prior to the easing of restrictions
  • the Australian Government accepted six of the seven recommendations (noting one) of the Report on Public hearing 12: The experiences of people with disability in the context of the Australian Government’s approach to the COVID-19 rollout
  • in December, the Australian Government published Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021 – 2031. The Strategy is said to be shaped by the Royal Commission’s work to date and cites the Royal Commission’s Interim report, Commissioners’ Reports on Public hearings and research published by the Commission.

The Fifth progress report also highlights the passage through the Australian Parliament of the Royal Commissions Amendment (Protection of Information) Act 2021. This legislation ensures that confidential information provided to the Royal Commission will remain confidential beyond the life of our inquiry, except in extremely limited circumstances.

 

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