Disability royal commission report outlines significant changes needed for those living with disabilities

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“Transformational change” is needed if Australians want to build an inclusive society where those with disabilities are to be respected.

After more than four years of public hearings, private sessions and written submissions, the federal disability royal commission’s final 12-volume report and its 222 recommendations were released to the public on Friday.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: The federal disability royal commission’s final report says there’s a lot of work to do to make our society more inclusive.

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The proposed reforms aim to address a range of areas including human rights law, disability advocacy, guardianship, schooling, employment, the justice system and housing.

Commissioners generated their findings after hearing from roughly 10,000 Australians who shared stories of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

“Our vision for an inclusive Australia envisages people with disability living free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in a more inclusive society in which human rights are protected and respected,” they wrote.

“For people with disability in Australia today, this remains a vision rather than a reality.”

Chair of the Royal Commission Ronald Sackville (right) delivers the disability royal commission’s final report to Governor-General David Hurley. Credit: 7NEWS

About one in five Australians, or 4.4 million people across the country, identify as having a disability, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

However they face increased systemic barriers to education, employment and housing, excluding them from many aspects of Australian life.

Many live in homes that do not accommodate their disabilities, others experience chronic homelessness, and those who work are often paid far below minimum wage.

Children with disabilities also face multifaceted issues such as exclusion from schooling environments where they can be discouraged from attending, socially shut out, overlooked by teachers and deprived of necessary educational resources.

Those placed in youth detention are more likely to become enmeshed in the justice system, especially if they live with a cognitive disability.

All of this can mean people with disabilities are more prone to violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect than in the wider community.

The federal disability royal commission’s final report is made of 12 volumes containing 222 recommendations. Credit: 7NEWS

Australian Network on Disability CEO Corene Strauss said the report was “distressing” but a watershed moment for Australians with disabilities.

“The report’s 222 recommendations represent an acknowledgement that the thousands of people with disability who have shared their stories over the past four years have been heard,” she said.

“It demonstrates that we have a long way to go to change attitudes towards people with a disability, including the bigotry of low expectations.”

The report calls on the government to enact a Disability Rights Act to enshrine the international human rights of those with disabilities in domestic law and proactively prevent violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992, as it currently stands, creates little incentive for institutions such as schools and service providers to prevent discrimination and must also be amended to promote equality.

Commissioners also recommended all states and territories establish legal frameworks to reduce restrictive practices and called for a ban on non-therapeutic and non-consensual sterilisation of those with disabilities.

The disability royal commission held public hearings across the country for four years. Credit: 7NEWS

However, the report’s authors disagreed on whether governments should phase out settings for people with disabilities.

While commissioners Rhonda Galbally and Alastair McEwin — who both live with disabilities — alongside Barbara Bennett, argued that such environments separated Australians with disabilities from the wider community, and called some settings a form of “segregation” incompatible with international human rights law.

Chair Ronald Sackville and commissioner John Ryan claim the criticisms create a false binary between wholly separated and inclusive settings, and the reality of those spaces are more nuanced.

Commissioners also recommended raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and establishing laws so people with disabilities who work in Australian Disability Enterprises were paid at least minimum wage by 2034.

First Nations people are uniquely marginalised, with many reluctant to even identify with disability.

This led the commissioners to recommend forums and plans for Indigenous Australians.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth vowed the federal government would take the findings of the commission seriously.

“We will work through this report in a diligent way and make a commitment to work with states and territories,” she told ABC Radio on Friday.

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