Person with disability abused every 10 minutes
EVERY 10 minutes an Australian with a profound or severe disability is physically or sexually assaulted, a Royal Commission has heard.
Senior counsel assisting Rebecca Treston QC outlined the shocking regularity of attacks on people with a disability and the crippling impact on their lives during the first day of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People With Disability in Brisbane on Monday.
Ms Treston said nearly one in six indigenous people with a disability had been physically assaulted in the past 12 months.
And she said statistics showed the abuse was "gendered".
"Having a disability or long-term health condition increases the risk of violence, sexual harassment and stalking for women, but not for men," she said.
The violence also took a major toll on the lives of disabled people even if they had not been directly targeted with nearly 650,000 too scared to use public transport after dark and more than a million avoiding walking alone after dark, she said.
Chairman Ronald Sackville QC said the commission had been granted "extraordinarily broad" terms of reference that would allow it to expose violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in "all settings and contexts".
"We are deeply conscious of the magnitude and complexity of the task ahead of us," he said.
"It is truly formidable."
He added, "People want and expect real change".
He also moved to quash claims the commission could be compromised because commissioners John Ryan and Barbara Bennett allegedly managed systems in which people with disability were abused.
Disability advocates have threatened to boycott the hearings unless the commissioners stood down however Mr Sackville said he had submitted a lengthy statement about how potential conflicts would be managed.
"There is nothing unusual about royal commissions having to manage perceptions of conflicts of interest or apprehended bias," he said.
"Indeed, it is almost inevitable that if governments choose commissioners because of their experience and expertise in the area under investigation, perceptions of potential conflicts of interest or apprehensions of bias may arise."
Commissioner Andrea Mason said indigenous Australians were twice as likely as other Australians to have a severe or profound disability with some describing their "lived experience" as a "type of apartheid".
"They have experienced times of exclusion, invisibility and being at the edge or our society," she said.
The first witnesses are expected to give evidence later this year.