Minister Rishworth Doorstop interview to discuss the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability


Topics: Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability; Supported Employment

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: I’m really pleased that I was able to attend, as the Minister for Social Services, the closing ceremony of the Disability Royal Commission. This closing ceremony culminates four and a half years of work done by the Commission and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the Commissioners including the Chair for the work they've done. Hearing the thousands of personal stories, the 32 major public hearings and the huge amount of evidence and research that this Commission does. Their work will contribute significantly to a better understanding of how we can do better with disability inclusion in this country. So a big thank you to all the Commissioners for the work they've done, but also of course, all those people living with disability and their advocates that provided their own testimony. I have to say as a member of Parliament, I've always said it is easier to talk about other people than to share your own lived experiences. So for those that came and shared their own lived experience, a really big thank you. Today we saw just the snippets of that evidence, and how powerful it was, that powerful message particularly around children who have been bullied at school, for example. So really powerful evidence and a really important day. I also appreciated the reflections of the Commissioners. It was very clear from the reflections that they made that they were moved by the evidence that was given and indeed learned a lot along the way of this Royal Commission. Obviously, the Government will receive the Royal Commission report after it's presented to Governor General. We have no information yet and haven't seen this report or the recommendations. So obviously I can't pre-empt the information and recommendations. But of course, the Royal Commission hasn't stopped us from proceeding with our agenda to better include people with disability and just yesterday I introduced into the House of Representatives the Disability Services and Inclusion Bill. This is a modernisation of how we provide, how the Commonwealth provides, disability services and inclusion outside of the NDIS. And we heard today the importance of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability and this Act embeds and references that UN Convention in the Act and the previous one was made before the UN Convention was signed. So as a Government we've already taken steps around ensuring services we provided are 21st century, but of course the Disability Royal Commission report will provide extensive material that the Government will be able to consider.

JOURNALIST: Minister a lot of the people who have spoken at the Royal Commission have really lost trust in the system that is supposed to be designed to protect them. What reassurance can you give them that the Government will act on the recommendations that are made?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Our Government takes very seriously the inclusion of people with a disability and ensuring that the safeguards and protections are there and that's why the Bill I introduced to the House of Representatives yesterday, actually for the first time will apply safeguarding mechanisms, as well as for example code of conduct, to services outside of the NDIS. That hasn't been occurring and we think that is a significant gap. So our Government has taken action. But I can say that for those people that did provide evidence, there's going to be clear examples where systems, services and organisations have let them down and I can reassure people that we will be looking at this Royal Commission and its recommendations very, very closely. I can't pre-empt what will be in that. But the other thing that's clear is my commitment is also to work not just at a Commonwealth level, but across states and territories as well. This is a Royal Commission that was commissioned not just by the Commonwealth Government, but by states and territory governments as well. And so I know on behalf of my state and territory ministers, there is a commitment to work together to make sure that the issues highlighted in the title of the Royal Commission, things like exploitation and neglect, are addressed going forward.

JOURNALIST: The Royal Commission heard many stories of sexual abuse, assault. How to you plan to make safer people, and particularly children who might be living in group homes with disability who are being cared for by others?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I can't make specific comments on the response by Government to recommendations of the Royal Commission as we are yet to see the final report. The Royal Commission will hand down its recommendations and we will have to consider the full context of that. I'm not able to pre-empt that. But in terms of sexual abuse, for example, particularly women with disability we're elevated as a particular at risk group in our National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children and that includes sexual violence. In our Safe and Supported child protection framework which we have launched once again we highlighted and elevated some of the unique vulnerabilities that children with disability have. So in the national framework that we have been working towards in my portfolio both of the Safe and Supported Framework and the family and sexual violence framework as well, we have made sure that some of the unique risks and the unique vulnerabilities that can exist in the systematic environments are particularly pulled out and looked at through our responses.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] what can you say to people with disability about the Government’s commitment to changing some of the practices that poor providers have been engaged in?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I would say that the Royal Commission process itself has elevated some of these poor practices that were existing and as the Commissioners have said, there's already been situations where poor practices have been acknowledged and addressed. So I would say through this process of the Royal Commission progress has already been made. The significant body of work comes of course when the report is delivered to the Government and we will have to take our time to work through that. To be really clear we don't want to be in a position where we are not taking this seriously. We will take this report seriously and work through the implications. Whether as I said that through the Commonwealth, or indeed through the process where it is the Commonwealth, states and territories. Equally, states and territories are eagerly awaiting this. This will have implications for states and territories as well. But I hope it will also have really significant impact for organisations and businesses and other whole of society communities because as we heard today, inclusion needs to be embedded right across community. And because that is how we ensure people with disability are properly included and inclusive across our whole society.

JOURNALIST: There are complications between state, territory and federal governments… 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I’m not sure what you are talking about with relation to complications?

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] with relation to the split of responsibilities…

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We haven’t seen the recommendations of the Royal Commission. This is a very wide ranging inquiry. I'm not sure the premise of your question.

JOURNALIST: The Commission heard stories of people with disability being paid $2.50 an hour for paid work. Is that something the Federal Government plans on addressing?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: In terms of supported employment when I became Minister, I brought together all Australia's disability supported employment providers to talk about a set of principles that talk about how we evolve the sector. Evolving this sector is critically important. And so I've worked with them. We, in this budget, have actually provided money to look at how we get a more dynamic or evolved disability enterprise sector. And that includes, for example, setting up a service that will inform employees and their families of their rights. It also has talked about pathways into open employment. So while I can't predict what will come out of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, this is an area as Minister that I've been bringing people together. That includes carers, that includes families, that includes people working in Australia's disability enterprises. It includes people with disability in the open employment market, as well as providers about ensuring that this sector does evolve and improve over time. Thank you.