The Disability Royal Commission (DRC) is calling for submissions from people who have experienced or witnessed instances of abuse, violence, neglect, or exploitation of people with disability.

The commission has been running for a year and has been extended until September 2023 due to complications caused by COVID-19.

After pushing ahead through the pandemic, conducting hearings via Zoom, the Commission published its Interim Report in October last year. The report summarised the Commission’s findings so far and identified gaps in services and processes that disadvantage people with disability.

The report stated that violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation experienced by people with disability is not limited to distinct circumstances. Instead, it found exploitation of people with disability “may be the result of systemic failures across multiple areas”.

Given the sensitive nature of submissions, and the inherent requirement for many to revisit traumatic experiences, support services are available to those who wish to make a submission.

One such Queensland support service is Lotus Support Services (LSS), an arm of Micah Projects, who offer counselling and support to those who need it. Their support services are available to anyone living with disability and are free and confidential. Sessions can be conducted in person, over the phone, or online.

Team Leader at Lotus Support Services, Leigh-ann Elliott, said for many people living with disability, who have experienced abuse, making the decision to come forward can be frightening.

“It is fear that holds them back,” she said.

“Fear, and also the fact that they don’t think they can change things, or that they’ll always be abused.”

Ms. Elliott said LSS welcomes anyone who has a story to tell and offers services to help make the submission process easier.

“We’ll help them put their ideas in order. A lot of people that come through have been quite severely traumatised in different ways, so we counsel and support them,” she said.

“We’re here to support that person through that journey … because often when people are telling about their abuse, they need to have that safety around them.”

Where necessary, LSS can also help connect participants with other agencies. These include Legal Aid Your Story, who offer free legal support to people who would like to share their story with the DRC, as well as advocacy agencies like Speak Up For You and Queensland Advocacy Incorporated.

Ms. Elliott said she felt the hearings thus far had been well run and provided a supportive environment for those making a submission.

“They ask questions of the participant so they can drill down into key – what they call – gems. The actual gem of change: what’s really needed? What could make the difference?” she said.

In the LSS February Newsletter, Ms. Elliott described participants as “Change Agents” whose stories are “Arrows” meeting their target as “a blaze of light”, paving the way towards a more inclusive society.

“Certainly, the people we talk to speak about a ‘dark moment’ in their own personal history, but by speaking, they are creating a light – one that opens up hope for the future,” she said.

If you would like to seek counselling and support from LSS, you can contact them via email at lotussupportservices@micahprojects.org.au or by phone on 3036 4490.

If you would like more information about the Disability Royal Commission, or to make a submission, you can contact them by phone on 1800 517 199 or visit their website.

For more information on upcoming hearings, you can view the DRC’s schedule here.

 

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