Summary publication

Commissioner’s foreword

Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Alastair McEwin

I was pleased to receive a request from the Attorney-General to undertake this project on violence against people with disability in institutional settings. The Commission is uniquely positioned to contribute to this important national conversation through a human rights-based lens.

This report outlines the Commission’s findings and recommendations on the ways in which quality, safeguarding and oversight mechanisms that prevent and address violence against people with disability in institutional settings can be strengthened. The findings are based on evidence drawn from national consultations undertaken by the Commission with government, disabled people’s organisations, disability advocacy organisations, industry and academia. This evidence is supplemented by extensive independent research, a comprehensive literature review, and advice from the project Expert Reference Group.

On behalf of the Commission, I thank all of the stakeholders from each state and territory who participated in the consultations. This report would not have been possible without the meaningful engagement from these key stakeholders, and I am grateful for the contribution of those who have shared their knowledge, expertise and experiences.

Many other people deserve acknowledgement for their contribution to this project. In particular, I wish to extend my sincere thanks to those in the Expert Reference Group who were involved with the project from start to finish and provided valuable guidance to the project team. I also wish to extend my deepest appreciation and thanks to the project team at the Commission. Their commitment to undertaking this work in a timely, professional and dedicated manner was second to none.

This report comes at a time when the disability sector is undergoing significant national reform with the phased implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). It sheds light on the challenges inherent to that reform process as it relates to quality, safeguarding and oversight mechanisms, and provides an independent assessment of these frameworks as they transition from the states and territories to the Commonwealth Government.

The prevalence and impact of violence against people with disability in institutional settings has received considerable attention in recent years, and the Commission’s research builds on the significant work that has taken place in relation to this issue. Inquiries that have been undertaken into this issue have called for independent, external oversight of institutional settings, more robust reporting and complaints mechanisms, and increased regulation of disability service workers.

This report has reached similar conclusions, and contains a series of recommendations to address the challenges that currently exist and may arise moving forward. The recommendations in this report, if implemented, will contribute to strengthening quality, safeguarding and oversight mechanisms that prevent and address violence against people with disability in institutional settings.

It is important to acknowledge that quality, safeguarding and oversight mechanisms are not sufficient on their own to prevent violence against people with disability in institutional settings. Building the knowledge and capacity of people with disability to recognise instances of violence, understand their rights, and effectively engage with these mechanisms is a fundamental element of achieving change and something that must happen in addition to implementing the recommendations of this report.

This report paves the way for an important conversation that focuses on achieving a quality, safeguarding and oversight framework that successfully prevents and addresses violence against people with disability in institutional settings. It is my sincere hope that this report will prompt commitment to intensify efforts to strengthen these mechanisms, so that we have a future where people with disability can live their lives free from violence.


Alastair McEwin
Disability Discrimination Commissioner

June 2018