Australia to hold national inquiry into disability abuse

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Australia will hold a three-year national inquiry into the abuse of people with disabilities, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.

In recent years, the nation has been shocked by harrowing cases of abuse and assault in homes and care settings.

Disability advocates say that abuse and exploitation are systemic issues.

Mr Morrison said the royal commission – Australia’s highest form of public inquiry – aimed to “establish a culture of respect”.

“My government recognises that people with a disability are more likely to suffer abuse, violence and neglect, and exploitation,” he told reporters on Friday.

Mr Morrison dedicated the inquiry to Australians living with disabilities, including his own brother-in-law, Garry Warren, who has multiple sclerosis.

“This is so above politics, I can’t tell you,” the prime minister said, holding back tears.

Push for inquiry

The announcement follows lobbying by Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John, who has a disability and has advocated powerfully for greater action.

In one speech to parliament last year, Mr Steele-John wept as he read the names of 34 people with disabilities who he said had died due to violence or neglect in care settings.

“These are the names that don’t get spoken,” he said in his address.

A parliament investigation in 2015 found widespread rates of violence against people with disabilities. It recommended the establishment of a more powerful, in-depth inquiry.

The A$527m (£286m; $375m) royal commission will hold public hearings around the country, and is currently scheduled to hand down its findings in April 2022.

However, Mr Morrison said the inquiry would have “no limits” on its scope and it could be extended beyond three years if required.

He said the government had already received more than 3,000 responses – about a third from people with disabilities – as it sought to determine the terms of reference.



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