Assaults against people with disabilities underreported
People living with disabilities often face sexual abuse, assault and discrimination, which creates barriers to vital support access, a federal inquiry has been told.
Thousands with lived experience, including First Nations people and migrants, have shared shocking accounts of verbal and physical assault, harassment and intimidation in public places as part of the Disability Royal Commission.
Its seventh and final progress report published on Tuesday, cited evidence that violence and abuse in public places is underreported and under-recognised across the country.
Not knowing where to report, feelings of shame, trauma and lack of trust were nominated as reasons why.
Almost 10,000 people and organisations shared heartbreaking experiences as part of the inquiry.
Some accounts were so extreme, they raised concerns about human rights violations.
One included people with disability in youth detention and adult prisons describing lengthy stints in isolation, difficulties accessing necessary medication and a lack of access to mental health support.
Another featured people with disabilities sharing their struggles with homelessness or living in insecure accommodation.
One witness who resided in a private boarding house for 15 years likened the experience to being in a prison because residents were "treated poorly" by staff, had "no control" over their lives and no privacy.
A young woman who uses mobility aids shared her struggle to find affordable and accessible private rental accommodation.
Some First Nations people with disabilities said living in remote areas made it difficult to access support and services through the National Disability Insurance Scheme due to limited availability.
Those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities testified that attitudes and language barriers affected their ability to access support.
Giancarlo de Vera from People with Disability Australia urged government to expand beyond just supplying translators.
"(There's) a strong tendency in Australia for government services to think their obligation to information provision to multicultural communities begins and ends with translations, which is absolutely not the case," she said.
Commission chair Ronald Sackville KC said the past six months had been some of the busiest ever, with almost 8000 submissions received by December 31 deadline.
"People's stories and ideas for change have already enriched the royal commission's work and they will inform recommendations in the final report," he said.
"This reflects the terms of reference which required us to establish accessible arrangements for people with disability, their families and carers to engage with the inquiry and share their experiences.
"We are most grateful to all those who have made submissions or participated in private sessions."
The commission's last formal public hearing is slated for May.
It was last month told placing Australians living with disability in positions of influence over service delivery could address sustained and invisible forms of negligence.
Findings and recommendations from the inquiry are due to be handed to Governor-General David Hurley by September 29.
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