Privacy concerns a stumbling block for Disability Royal Commission submissions
By Nas Campanella on AM
Speaking out about abuse or exploitation isn't an easy task.
But advocates say that experience has been made harder for people wanting to share their stories with the Disability Royal Commission because their information won't necessarily be kept confidential.
Now pressure is mounting on the Federal Government to change that.
10 September 2020 Transcript:
SABRA LANE: Speaking out about abuse or exploitation isn't easy but advocates say the experience has been made harder for people wanting to share their stories with the Disability Royal Commission because their information won't necessarily be kept confidential.
And pressure is now mounting on the Federal Government to change it.
Here's our Disability Affairs Reporter, Nas Campanella.
NAS CAMPANELLA: When this person, who we'll call Erin, did a routine check on an Australian boarding house as part of their job, it was like stepping back in time.
ERIN: Residents who had had their heads shaved because of scabies and lice outbreaks, mould on sheets, rooms that smelt like faeces and vomit.
NAS CAMPANELLA: More than 20 people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities were living there, many of them sharing rooms.
ERIN: It's a lot of people to put together when they have differing needs and then when you introduce things like cigarettes, alcohol, illicit drugs and in a mixed facility. There are lots of opportunities, unfortunately, for exploitation.
NAS CAMPANELLA: Erin wants to make a written submission to the Disability Royal Commission about this.
ERIN: It is a story that the commission needs to hear because it's repeated over and over again around the nation is that disabled people are living on the margins, not getting the care that they rightly deserve.
NAS CAMPANELLA: But there's a stumbling block. Erin's submission can only be guaranteed confidentiality after the inquiry concludes if the details are given in a private session, which Erin doesn't want to do.
Now eight disability advocacy organisations have written to the Federal Attorney General, Christian Porter, calling for the legislation to be changed to provide protection no matter how information is given to the inquiry.
People with Disability Australia is one group behind the letter.
The organisation's Romola Hollywood says without the change the inquiry can't do a proper investigation.
ROMOLA HOLLYWOOD: The risk is that stories that people need to tell the royal commission around violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation may not be captured because people don't feel safe to come forward.
NAS CAMPANELLA: And Greens Senator, Jordon Steele-John, agrees.
JORDAN STEELE-JOHN: People are already withholding their stories and they have been doing so now for over a year nearly and it is urgently time that we address these issues.
NAS CAMPANELLA: The Chair of the Disability Royal Commission also wrote to the Government in February, asking for those changes.
In a statement the Attorney General, Christian Porter, says the Government is carefully considering the requests, and in the meantime the commission can protect information and witnesses by using pseudonyms and "do not publish" orders.
For Erin the day to speak freely can't come soon enough.
ERIN: If I was able to tell the story I think the royal commission would get an idea that these things happen in the 21st century and that we, as a community, need to be far more vigilant around our knowledge of the places where we think that people are okay because a lot of the time they're not being looked after. They're being exploited.
SABRA LANE: That is Erin ending Nas Campanella's report.