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Get Ready! Public hearings will "investigate and expose" (Disability Royal Commission)

Updated: Jul 22, 2019


The Disability Royal Commission is coming! It has been broadly welcomed across the country and will truly shine a spotlight on the sector and have broad ranging impacts for years to come. In what is a historic moment, the Commissioners have held their first workshop, welcoming disability advocates from across Australia in Melbourne on the 18 June 2019. The Commissioners acknowledged that this Royal Commission represents a "... great privilege but also a very heavy responsibility ..." for them.


Today, the Disability Royal Commission released its first announcement for two months, flagging that the Commission will soon be inviting submissions.


A summary of the first workshop is available at the Royal Commission website. Three things caught my eye:

  • Firstly, the intent to invite submissions soon was announced. Many will recall that the deadlines to submit data in the Aged Care Royal Commission were short. Very short. If this trend continues, Disability Services Providers should be preparing now.

  • Secondly, the Commissioners advised that the terms of reference mean that the Commission has the "... authority to investigate and expose in public hearings and in other ways abuses of all kinds in a wide variety of settings". From a Disability Provider perspective, the reputational risks from this intent are significant, and CEO's and Board's of Disability Service Providers should take note.

  • Thirdly, Disability Advocates included a powerful message for the Commissioners: "People with disabilities should be able to take the ordinary risks that all people take at different stages of life to live a good life out in the community. They further clarified that fundamental to the Commission's deliberations is the understanding that freedom from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation should not require the lives of people with disabilities to be restricted and curtailed." I look forward to seeing how the Commission responds.

So where to from here?


If you are a Disability Service Provider, it is time to start preparing. Having recently prepared a submission to the Aged Care Royal Commission, I have four tips for Service Providers:

  1. Involve your Board. You will need them. Make them aware of the risks inherent in both the Commission's processes, but also in your incident and complaint recording processes and data sets.

  2. Develop a Response Framework. It’s important to plan your response. Document your organisation's understanding of the requirements, define key terms, and articulate the algorithms, filters and methodologies you will use to respond. It’s also an opportunity to define your decision making and governance arrangements for the response preparation. It will provide a record that may be useful at the hearings. If you would like support with this, please contact me.

  3. Identify your resourcing needs. Responding will take time and resource. You will need to take staff offline to implement the framework, analyse the data and prepare your response. External resources may be needed too, so line them up now.

  4. Start now! Don’t wait for an invitation. Most providers will have large volumes of data and paper to analyse and consider. Take the pressure off and pull your leadership team together and make a start.

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