Disability inquiry cancels public events

Megan Neil
Disability inquiry chair Ronald Sackville QC said upcoming public hearings have been postponed

The disability royal commission has cancelled all public events including hearings and face-to-face sessions with abuse and neglect survivors due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

Chair Ronald Sackville QC on Monday said its next three public hearings have been postponed, while community forums and face-to-face private sessions have been suspended until further notice.

"The commission has decided that these measures are necessary in view of the risks to health, especially to people with disability who are often particularly vulnerable to infections," he said.

Mr Sackville said the commission is considering the implications of the situation for its timetable.

"There is a great deal of important work that can and will continue despite the postponement of some of the royal commission's activities," he said.

The postponed public hearings were to be held in Brisbane next week and in April, as well as one scheduled for Alice Springs in May.

Mr Sackville said people can continue to tell the royal commission about their experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, including by phone, in writing or an audio or video recording.

The aged care royal commission is continuing to hold its scheduled hearings and workshops but members of the public are not allowed in the hearing room.

That measure began with a two-day workshop that began in Adelaide on Monday.

Counsel assisting the inquiry Peter Rozen QC said the commissioners took the precautionary step of not permitting the public to attend its hearings and workshops due to the health risk of the virus.

"The step has not been taken lightly," Mr Rozen said.

"It is intended to protect public health and especially the health of older frail people."

Some witnesses are appearing via videolink instead of in person, if they receive aged care services, work in the sector or are in contact with any of those groups.

Commission chair Tony Pagone QC stressed that the hearings were still being webcast to the public.

The royal commission last week stopped site visits to aged care residential homes and meetings with people engaged with aged care who work with the elderly.

The aged care royal commission is due to deliver its final report in November, while the disability inquiry has until October 30 to submit its interim report.