Disability ripe for royal commission

Senator calls for aged care royal commission to include disability sector

Greens senator Jordon Steele-John (Flickr)

The abuse and pain handed to Australians with disabilities isn't buried deep in history - it's still happening right now.

The multi-billion dollar disability sector is also about to be put on "economic steroids" as the National Disability Insurance Scheme ramps up.

That's why advocacy groups say a disability royal commission is so necessary, to change the culture before even more taxpayer money floods in.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is tipped to announce the royal commission next week, with broad terms of reference to investigate abuse across the sector.

Greens senator Jordon Steele-John expects the commission hearings to be "a moment of profound societal reckoning" about the abuse of people with disabilities.

"People have no idea the extent to which we experience these things every single day," he told AAP on Friday.

"Not in the past, not in some far off corner of our history, but right now in 2019, in Australia."

A Senate inquiry in 2015 heard shocking allegations of violence, abuse and neglect in the disability sector, and it recommended a royal commission.

It found private residential care operators had moved physically and sexually abusive staff to other locations, rather than report them to police.

The inquiry also heard stories like that of a 22-year-old woman with the mental capacity of an infant, who was found to be pregnant in residential care.

Senator Steele-John said he "absolutely" expected to see criminal charges arise out of the disability royal commission.

"People must be held accountable, for not only systemic failure but actual abuse," he said.

"We are looking at something which could potentially dwarf the child abuse royal commission in terms of its finding of systemic failure and criminality."

People With Disability Australia co-chief executive Matthew Bowden was encouraged by what he saw from the federal government in talks about the commission's terms of reference.

"It's clear the government has been listening to people with disability and what we're asking for in terms of the terms of reference being all-encompassing so that they cover all settings," he told ABC radio.

"All people with disability are going to be covered by this royal commission and all terms of forms of violence."

Mr Bowden wants the disability royal commission to have a similar model to the child abuse royal commission, where the survivors had private hearings.

"That information went into what became the public hearings, where they were able to interrogate the themes of that particular violence, or interrogate what was happening in particular institutions," he said.

He warned the public to expect to hear some awful stories.

"You have people with disability being killed by their parents, tortured and abused by family members," Mr Bowden said.

"It is absolutely going to be harrowing, what we hear and what is uncovered. But it has been going on for such a long time that it's really important these things are brought to light."

Senator Steele-John and Mr Bowden said it was important that the commissioners chosen included someone with a disability, who could use their lived experience to inform the recommendations.

Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher stopped short of saying the royal commission will be announced on Monday, but he said negotiations were ongoing.

"Consultations on a royal commission into the disability sector are ongoing and I understand we're yet to hear back formally from all states and territories after the prime minister wrote to them," he said in a statement.

"If it goes ahead we'll do it properly with full involvement from people with disabilities, the states and territories and all relevant stakeholders."

The NDIS is expected to cost about $22 billion a year and drive a quarter of Australia's jobs growth over the next 25 years.

Senator Steele-John says that's why the sector needs a cultural reset, before the money starts flooding in.

"In that context, where we have that level of economic and employment growth in the sector, it is absolutely vital that we get to the bottom of cultural problems that we are seeing and the abuse those problems are leading to," he said.

© AAP 2019