The Disability Royal Commission (DRC) was established in April 2019 in response to community concern about widespread reports of violence against, and the neglect, abuse and exploitation of, people with disability.
The Commissioners want to hear from people about their experiences or observations of violence, neglect, abuse or exploitation. People can make a submission, or apply for a private session with a Commissioner. But it can be an exceedingly difficult for someone who is being asked to revisit a trauma. That is why the Commission has established counselling and support options for people wishing to make a submission, but needing support to do so.
In Queensland, counselling and support services are provided by Lotus Support Services (LSS), an arm of Micah Projects.
LSS is funded by the Federal Department of Social Services to support people who wish to engage with the DRC. Their services are available to any individual who lives with a disability, as well as to family members, guardians, carers and service staff. LSS is also able to offer support to people identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or who are from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, or who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, or Queer.
LSS is part of a network of services, and partnership arrangements will provide state-wide counselling and support.
Leigh-ann Elliott, Manager at Lotus says that often when people talk about trauma, they can become re-traumatised and Lotus is able to offer people the space they need to get their thoughts in order.
“And then if they need to be linked up to other services, we can help them with that.”
Lotus also has access to the legal assistance if needed.
Leigh herself supports a son with a disability.
“My son’s now 38, so over his life we’ve had lots of different times when things could have been done better. Telling our experiences to the DRC is all about transformative change. So, when we do get somebody in to tell us about their experience, we also want them to come from a solution perspective, for example, ‘this happened to me, but it would have been so much better if they did this …’.”
Telling your experiences can be an enormously powerful and personally affirming experience, Leigh says.
There are many ways that people can present their account to the DRC Leigh says. Lotus can assist with referrals to Disability Advocacy Services funded to assist in submission preparation, including transcribing an oral statement into written text, or they can make a video recording, or some individuals may wish to set out their experiences using art, others may wish to seek a private hearing with a Commissioner.
Services are free and confidential and can be offered face-to-face, by telephone, or on-line.
If you are a person with a disability, or a parent, carer, teacher, staff member, friend, brother, sister…… and you would like support to share your experiences with the Royal Commission, you can contact LSS on Phone 3036 4490 or by email: email@example.com for Queensland-wide counselling and support.
“If you’ve had a bad experience, and you want things to change, please come forward because they’re ready to listen,” Leigh said.
For information about the work of the Disability Royal Commission, including attending public hearings or making a submission call 1800 517 199 or visit www.disability.royalcommission.gov.au
Cover image based on artwork by Laura Lewis