Queensland Public Guardian welcomes disability royal commission

Queensland Public Guardian welcomes news of disability Royal Commission– but warns it must look at the abuse of children and
adults with disability across all settings.

Queensland Public Guardian Natalie Siegel-Brown has welcomed news of the Australian Government’s intention to launch a Royal Commission into the abuse against people with disability.

Ms Siegel-Brown strongly supports the launch of such an inquiry, but stressed how important it is for it to have a broad focus that encompasses sectors like mental health, education, child protection, youth justice and corrections.

“My Office operates a Community Visitor program providing fundamental oversight and advocacy for people at highest risk in disability and mental health services, as well as the child protection system, and in youth detention. Community Visitors are often the only ‘eyes and ears’ that can tell us what is really happening on the ground” Ms Siegel-Brown said.

“And what we see is that this abuse isn’t just happening in disability settings – our Community Visitors are raising concerns about abuse of people with disability in systems like mental health, children in care, schools and in youth detention. It just highlights how important it is that we look beyond just strict disability-service delivery to how we treat people with disability across all settings.”

Ms Siegel-Brown also noted that any Commission demands we look at the use of restrictive practices on both adults and children with disability. These practices include the use of physical, mechanical and chemical restraint, as well as containing or secluding a person, or restricting their access to objects.

“The misuse of restrictive practices is a fundamental breach of human rights, and while there are some regulations in place surrounding their use, much more needs to be done at a national level to expose these issues, and introduce greater regulation across all sectors to reduce and eliminate these practices.” Ms Siegel-Brown said

“However one area of real concern for me is the use of restrictive practices on children and young people, as there are almost no regulations in place for this age group in several settings. As a result we are seeing children with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities exposed to abusive practices such as in appropriate use of psychotropic medication in care - and physical restraint or containment in schools.

“Additionally, research show that a disproportionally high number of children and young people in youth detention have intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. This speaks to how our systems of care may be inadvertently criminalising young people with disability – which then flows on to the adult correctional system.

“It is evident then that what we need is a strong inquiry empowered to examine issues across all sectors, so that one area is not viewed in isolation. It should take an over-arching approach and address the need for stronger protections of the rights and interests of persons with disabilities at all stages in their life.

“I applaud the important step that has been taken in recognising the need for such an inquiry. I call on state and territory governments to commit to working closely together with the federal government to ensure we can provide better safeguards for Australians of all ages with a disability.”


Office of the Public Guardian media contact: (07) 3006 2589 or commed@publicguardian.qld.gov.au