Prime Minister Scott Morrison has officially announced a disability royal commission, having gained the necessary approvals from the Governor-General and support from the states and territories.
The three-year royal commission will be based in Brisbane and will examine violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation within the disability sector.
Former Federal Court judge Ronald Sackville AO, QC will lead the commission, supported by five commissioners.
“We have to establish a culture of respect for people living with disabilities and the families who support, love and care for them,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison became choked up as he spoke about Australians living with a disability, including his brother-in-law Gary who has multiple sclerosis.
“As my brother-in-law Gary also said to me, ‘it is not flash being disabled but the good thing is that that’s the condition you live with in Australia and that you’re an Australian’,” he said.
“That has always meant a lot to me.”
Mr Morrison’s voice then cracked, and he looked down and adjusted his papers as he paused and collected himself.
“They deserve our respect,” he continued.
“This is so above politics I can’t tell you.”
He finished his opening remarks saying “to all those Australians with a disability, their families, to Gary, this is for you”.
Interim report expected by end of next October
Mr Morrison said the draft terms of reference had attracted 3700 responses, a third of which came from people living with a disability.
Mr Sackville’s supporting commissioners will be Barbara Bennett PSM, Dr Rhonda Galbally AC, Andrea Mason OAM, Alastair McEwin and the Honourable John Ryan AM.
“Importantly the panel of six commissioners includes those with a lived experience of disability as well as judicial and policy expertise, and including Indigenous leadership,” Mr Morrison said.
“I want to thank all of those commissioners who have agreed to take on this incredibly important task.”
Earlier this week, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg included $527 million for the disability royal commission in his first budget.
The Government expects the royal commission to release an interim report by the end of October next year, with a final report due by the end of April 2022.
Mr Morrison said, if re-elected next month, a Coalition government would give the royal commission more time if it needed.
He said the cost and time for the royal commission was greater than other inquiries because it would need additional resources to allow people with disabilities right across the country to give evidence.
“It is very important that those in remote communities also have a full opportunity to be engaged here,” he said.
“But to provide the necessary supports for people with disabilities, the very practical supports that people with disabilities will require to engage with this royal commission will be greater, I suspect, than any royal commission we have held to date.”