Western Australians with disability are being urged to share their stories with the Royal Commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability so that it can highlight and recommend changes to existing services and support in the state.
Established in April 2019, the Disability Royal Commission is due to provide an interim report this October. Despite this, Western Australian-based hearings are yet to be confirmed.
Five Western Australian-based advocacy organisations, representing different areas and population focuses, have received funding to provide free and independent advocacy support for people engaging with or affected by the Disability Royal Commission.
People with Disability WA (PWdWA), the Ethnic Disability Advocacy Centre (EDAC), MIDLAS (Midland Information Debt and Legal Advocacy Service Inc), Sussex Street Community Law Service and Advocacy WA are working together to encourage Western Australians with disability, their family members or carers acting on their behalf to put in submissions and share their stories.
With members of the Western Australian Parliament from across the political divide, they this week launched the Share Your Story, Shape Our Future campaign.
PWdWA executive director Samantha Jenkinson said it was vital that Western Australian stories were heard by the Disability Royal Commission. While the Royal Commission had announced a suspension of public hearings and events due to risks associated with coronavirus, it was important that people continued to share their experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.
"The Royal Commission's terms of reference require them to consider individual experiences," Ms Jenkinson said.
"We want the commissioners to understand why our state is unique, so that they can highlight and recommend changes to the services and support people use in our community.
"We want people with disability to know that their stories matter and that there is someone to listen who can help them tell their story."
While the Disability Royal Commission would run until 2022, it was important that WA was part of its focus in the near future to impact early recommendations.
"This is our opportunity to help shape the Royal Commission's outcomes so we need to start sharing our stories now," Ms Jenkinson said.
"We know that coming forward to share your experience is a big step and we want to make it as easy as possible."
A new website has been developed to assist Western Australians with disability access information on how to get help, and how to submit their stories shareyourstoryshapeourfuture.org.
Advocacy WA chair Jethro Hepton said they saw the Disability Royal Commission as a vital step towards future change for our citizens living in the South West of WA.
"From our day to day work as advocates for people with disabilities, we recognise the unique barriers facing people in this region, both locally and systemically," he said.
"One of those challenges is in being able to access services that are often readily available in metropolitan centres.
"For this Royal Commission to legitimately complete its objectives, we need to give every person affected by issues of abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation the opportunity to tell their story. The importance of providing that opportunity cannot be underestimated.
"Advocacy WA absolutely stands with the 'Call for Stories' campaign so that we have every opportunity reach all of our 'experts by experience' in a way that recognises and respects diversity in all of its forms."