The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability will hold its third public hearing in Melbourne from Monday, 2 December to Friday, 6 December.
The hearing will investigate housing and accommodation for people with disability, with a particular focus on group homes in Victoria. Group homes refer to supported accommodation for up to six people with disability.
Since the process of deinstitutionalisation began in Australia in the late 1970s under pressure from disability advocacy groups, group homes have become the dominant option for people moving out of institutions, especially people with intellectual disabilities. One estimate is that around 17,000 people with disability live in group homes in Australia.
The Chair of the Royal Commission, the Hon Ronald Sackville AO QC, said the living arrangements experienced by people with disability are a key area of inquiry for the Royal Commission.
“The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires all signatories, including Australia, to recognise the equal rights of all people with disability to live in the community with choice equal to others. It urges countries to ensure people with disability have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and with whom they live,” Mr Sackville said.
He added that the focus on group homes acknowledges that advocacy organisations have argued that group homes provide an environment in which violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation are apt to take place. “The Commission intends to assess the force of this argument,” he said.
The Royal Commission will hear from people with disability about their personal experiences in group homes and from a number of experts and disability advocacy groups, including the Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability (VALiD), Victoria’s peak organisation representing adults with an intellectual disability and their families.
Victoria’s Disability Services Commissioner, representatives from Victoria’s Community Visitor Scheme, Department of Health and Human Services and the CEO of Yooralla, one of Victoria’s largest disability services providers, will also give evidence. The full witness list will be published on the Royal Commission website on Monday morning.
Three Commissioners will attend at the Melbourne hearing: The Hon. Ronald Sackville AO QC (Chair); The Hon. Roslyn Atkinson AO; and Alastair McEwin AM.
Senior counsel assisting the Royal Commission will be Ms Kate Eastman SC, who has a distinguished legal career working in human rights, equality and discrimination law. Ms Eastman will be appearing with Malcolm Harding SC and Andrew Fraser.
To coincide with the Melbourne hearing, the Royal Commission has released an issues paper about group homes. It is encouraging responses from individuals and organisations by 28 February.
The hearing at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre will be livestreamed on the Royal Commission website from 10:30am (AEDT).