October 23, 2019 08:33:31
The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability says it is anticipating “thousands and thousands” of submissions and has defended its preparedness to begin hearings next month.
- The public hearings begin on November 4, despite concerns the royal commission had not prepared well enough to support those making submissions
- The commission says it has received 177 submissions since being established in July
- Senior barristers Michael Fordham and Chris Ronalds have resigned from the commission
Secretary Toni Pirani has told Senate Estimates she is “very confident” the royal commission will be ready to hold its first public hearing in November despite concerns within the disability sector about access to support services for witnesses.
“The commission is confident that the issues that have been raised are ones that can be resolved in time for the first hearing,” Ms Pirani said.
Greens senator Jordon Steele-John said peak organisations had written to the commission’s chair, Ronald Sackville, in September expressing “concern regarding the opening of public consultations and hearings of the royal commission prior to adequate supports and safeguards being put in place for people with a disability”.
Ms Priani said there had been “significant” progress made since the letter was sent, with a legal advice service and a counselling hotline now operational.
The commission says it has received 177 submissions since being established in July, while 600 calls have been made to its information phone line and 900 inquiries sent via email.
“We expect thousands and thousands of submissions over the three years,” Ms Pirani said.
The commission this week announced it will hold its first four-day public hearing in Townsville from 4-7 November with a focus on “inclusive education”.
The Attorney-General’s Department said it is still in the process of hiring additional staff and “scaling up” a dedicated national legal advice service for witnesses.
“We are hoping that within the next six to eight weeks that service will be at full scale,” senior official Samantha Byng said.
“At the moment it’s what we would call limited while they recruit. They’re undertaking a triage model at the moment.”
Ms Pirani also confirmed two senior barristers appointed to the commission have resigned.
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- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Mens Line 1300 789 978
- Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
- 1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732
- National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline 1800 880 052
- Aboriginal Family Domestic Violence Hotline 1800 019 123
- Find a disability advocate near you
She said Michael Fordham and Chris Ronalds have both “returned their briefs”.
Children and Young People With a Disability Australia chief executive officer Mary Sayers said it was crucial those families giving evidence were fully prepared.
“Given that the first hearing is about education, there’s a whole lot of awareness-raising that needs to go on, and what actually constituents neglect, abuse and violence,” Ms Sayes said.
“So having it in a couple of weeks’ time means that that process, unfortunately, is going to be incredibly rushed.
“Ideally, we’d have more time but the royal commission is pressing ahead so we’re just going to have to do the best we can.”
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October 23, 2019 02:41:44
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