Minister Rishworth interview on ABC Radio National Breakfast with Patricia Karvelas


Topics: The Disability Royal Commission Report, family, domestic and sexual violence, the Voice

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Amanda Rishworth is the Minister for Social Services who will table that report today. She is my guest this morning. Minister, welcome.


PATRICIA KARVELAS: This will be a very big report with lots of findings, many recommendations. Federal and state governments have no obligation to adopt the recommendations of Royal Commissions, but will you adopt all of the recommendations of this important report?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, what I can commit to, Patricia, is that we take seriously this report. We will work through this report in a diligent way and make a commitment to work with states and territories. Ultimately, I think we all acknowledge, and I've seen comments by the Commissioner today, that we need a more inclusive society that does support the independence of people with disability and their right to live free from violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation. We will work through, what will no doubt be a significant body of work with many recommendations and we will take it seriously.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: You will have listened to the hearings and read the submissions. You'll know already what many of the issues are. What are you looking at reforming in the immediate term?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I think we have been watching the evidence and it was clear that there is not enough safeguards, for example, in place for people with disability in the service provision they get. Of course, one of the actions we've already taken is there was no real Federal or Commonwealth legislation that supported people getting services outside the NDIS that had appropriate safeguards in place. So we've already introduced legislation to have a focus on those supports outside the NDIS to make sure that there's appropriate safeguarding that can be put in place. We didn't technically have the constitutional power directly and so we're putting already legislative frameworks in place already to ensure that we can put the best safeguarding and protections in place.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: One of the big issues people with disability face is being separated from childhood from the broader community, in childcare centres, then in school as well. And it's my understanding, based on a story in the nine papers, that the Disability Royal Commission has split over the future of special schools, some commissioners think they need to go. What's your thinking on this?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I'm not going to comment on any specific recommendations, but I think one of the key tenets that's been discussed is how we make all aspects of society more inclusive. And that goes right across healthcare settings and education settings. Obviously we need to also make sure people with disability have choice and control. And so these are some of the themes that came out of the Disability Royal Commission. But certainly how we build a more inclusive society so that people with disability don't constantly have barriers to their participation in wider society is really important. And that involves, as the Commissioner or the Chair has already said, breaking down some of the very strongly held in some places, community attitudes.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Minister, I want to move on to another issue in your portfolio and that's violence against women. The Action Plan on violence against First Nations women and children has a target of - it's target 13 - of Closing the Gap to halve violence against women and children by 2031. Is the plan on track to do that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We've launched our new action plan very recently. This was led by First Nations people headed up by Professor Sandra Creamer. We have adopted, all levels of government, have adopted that Action Plan. But we've acknowledged that we need to make sure we're doing better. The data isn't clear. That is one of the problems we've got is we don't have clear mechanisms for data collection and there has been a commitment between states, territories and the Commonwealth to better look at that data. But I think it's fair to say, even without that data, we need to do better in terms of eliminating violence against Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander women and children. Our Action Plan that has recently been launched has been informed by the voices, in fact led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that work in this area, that are committed to this area and will continue to work towards that target.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: You'll soon set up a steering committee to move from the Action Plan to a more long term national plan on violence against First Nations women and children. Can you confirm whether external consultants will be used as part of the process?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Our focus when it comes to our Action Plan was to get action on the ground immediately. When it comes to our standalone National Plan, which was an election commitment, we will have people with lived experience, we will have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that are experts in this area guiding that work. And it will be First Nations led, because as we've been talking about, whether it is the Voice to Parliament, to the Government, we need to work with First Nations people. To ensure we get the outcomes and the shift in all the Closing the Gap targets, including target 13, which is family and domestic violence against First Nations people.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: The peak body, National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, representing frontline services for women and children experiencing violence, they say they haven't been brought into the consultation process and they haven't received significant new funding to help them service communities. Why haven't you been bringing those people in?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We had a very extensive consultation of First Nations people by our Advisory Committee. Our Advisory Committee that led the work on the Action Plan was made up of First Nations people. They received submissions, over a thousand submissions. The Advisory Committee visited communities and we brought in special advisors as well to strengthen that work. Marcia Langton and June Oscar were part of that strengthening work. So, that work is underway. But of course, what our election commitment was, was to not only make sure action was taken now, but to develop our First Nations standalone Action Plan. And we will do that with very broad consultation.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Including the group I've just mentioned?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Across the board. And that group was, of course, able to participate with the Advisory Committee. But they are an important group, one that has particular expertise and certainly will be part of the process going forward.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Just finally on the Voice to Parliament. Earlier this week, prominent no campaigner Warren Mundine said Indigenous bodies can give bad advice, like the Coalition of the Peaks who advocated against cashless welfare cards. There were other groups and First Nations people who were against that scrapping. What do you make of the point he makes that actually that was bad advice and others didn't agree with it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Of course issues around things like the Cashless Debit Card are obviously guided by the views of First Nations people and of course, also guided by the evidence. The evidence presented to us, was that it was not making a difference in the communities. We wanted to see improvements and people on the ground felt very disempowered by it. But I think it goes to why a representative Voice to Parliament, a voice to the executive, is so important. It formalises the advice to government on issues that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. That body, of course, is accountable for that advice. And so I would suggest that a Voice to Parliament is exactly what we need when we tackle issues that disproportionately affect First Nations people. A body that's representative, a body that is independent of government. And so I actually think this adds to the strong case about why we need to listen and actually have a formalised Voice to Parliament in the Constitution in recognition of First Nations people.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Minister, thank you.