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Morrison Government must keep its promise to deliver Disability Royal Commission privacy legislation

People with disability and our representative organisations are calling on the Morrison Government and Acting Attorney-General Michaelia Cash to keep the government’s promise to pass legislation in the next sitting of Parliament to protect the confidentiality of people giving information to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

People with Disability Australia (PWDA) chief executive officer Sebastian Zagarella urged the Acting Attorney-General and the government to take an easy win and pass its welcome legislation to ensure people’s privacy in telling their stories.

“Time is now running out for people with disability to tell their stories, and there are many who simply will not speak out until our privacy can be guaranteed,” Mr. Zagarella said.

“Now is the time to deliver legislation the government promised on October 20 last year that it would introduce this autumn.”

PWDA first asked for the legislation more than a year ago and the Disability Royal Commission is now two-thirds of the way through.

People need privacy to safely tell their stories

People providing written submissions to the Disability Royal Commission are currently only guaranteed confidentiality until the Royal Commission concludes in April 2022.

“Many children and young people with disability and their families and caregivers have a well-founded fear of retribution for speaking out about the abuse they have experienced," says Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) chief executive officer Mary Sayers.

"These changes are urgently needed to provide increased safety and trust that people’s privacy will be protected, now and in the future.”

PWDA has been providing support to people with disabilities who are sharing their stories with the Royal Commission.

“Our advocates are supporting people with disability to make written submissions regarding their experiences,” Mr. Zagarella said.

“Part of that support may include helping people to access legal advice around confidentiality.”

Without confidentiality, people's home or work lives could be at risk.

“In some cases, people with disability still depend upon the people or institutions they wish to report for personal care and other essential support,” Zagarella said.

"Others might wish to report on the behavior of their employers.

“The reality is that without a guarantee of confidentiality people are being asked to risk their jobs, healthcare, finances, housing, and in some cases their personal safety.

“We are unfortunately finding a lot of people who would like to make a submission are choosing not to take the risk.”

An autumn time window

The next sitting of the Federal Parliament takes place from 15 to 25 March 2021.

It is the perfect opportunity, and well past time, to make it safe to speak to the Disability Royal Commission.

The Disability Royal Commission is expected to report its findings by 29 April 2022.

You can read our open letter to the Hon. Michaelia Cash, the Morrison Government, and all Members of the Australian Federal Parliament here.

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