Disability Royal Commission

In response to widespread reports of harm to people living with disability, in April 2019 the Federal Government established a National Royal Commission to listen to stories of people living with disability, their families, carers and support services.

The purpose of the Royal Commission is to listen to the stories of people living with disability and those who care for them. The Commission will then write a report and make recommendations to the Government on how to prevent harm to people living with disability, improve reporting and complaint processes when harm occurs and to create a more inclusive society that supports people with disability to be independent and live free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. The Disability Royal Commission will run until September 2023.

The Royal Commission has a particular focus on listening to the stories of First Nations people living with disability because of the additional barriers and challenges they face. One of the Commissioners is Andrea Mason OAM, a Ngaanyatjarra and Karonie Australian woman from Western Australia.

More information is available here: https://disability.royalcommission.gov.au/

Free Legal Advice and Support Available

Free legal advice and support is available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People living with disability, their families and carers who would like to share their stories with the Disability Royal Commission. The service is called ‘Your Story Disability Legal Support’.

For more information, you can find their website here: https://yourstorydisabilitylegal.org.au/Home

To contact Your Story call 1800 77 1800 and ask to speak with the Indigenous Helpline Officer. They can give you information and advice about any issues arising from engaging with the Disability Royal Commission, make referrals and link you in with any other supports such as counselling and disability advocacy.

We also have a lawyer in the VALS Civil Team who is part of Your Story Disability Legal Support, Anna Potter. Anna has experience working with Aboriginal families in Central Australia and is available to provide detailed advice and support to help you share your story with the Royal Commission and to make sure that you will be safe, protected and supported in sharing your story.

There is also free counselling available for anyone who engages with the Disability Royal Commission to have a yarn with, through the Blue Knot Foundation who can be called on 1800 421 468.

Are you or someone you know living with a Disability? Have they been mistreated? If you would like information, advice and assistance to share your story with the Disability Royal Commission, please complete the confidential online form below and we will follow up with you. Please write down your preferred contact method.

You can also call Your Story Disability Legal Support on 
1800 77 1800.

To determine eligibility VALS will:

  • enquire as to the Aboriginality of the client;
  • enquire as to perceived or actual conflict of interest;
  • enquire as to compliance with the Means Test;
  • consider the merit of the client’s matter.

The first time someone uses VALS they must provide proof of their Aboriginality using the Confirmation of Aboriginality Form. This form must be signed and sealed by the Officer Bearers of a recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation.

VALS must not decline to provide assistance to an eligible person, group or body on the grounds that the other party to the matter is an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person. In circumstances where the relationship between the parties to a case would result in a conflict of interest, that conflict must be managed in accordance with the Victorian Legal Practice requirements and Policy Direction 9 – “Managing Conflicts of Interest” – of the Attorney-General’s Department Policy Directions for the Delivery of Legal Aid Services to Indigenous Australians (2008).

VALS will not act if a conflict of interest exists. A conflict of interest may be an ‘actual’ conflict of interest or a ‘perceived’ conflict of interest. A conflict of interest can involve:

  • Clients who have different interests, such as VALS may have advised or acted for person “A” (old client) who has an interest that conflicts with person “B” (intended new client).
  • Clients and VALS, such as a VALS staff member or Board Member has an interest that conflicts with an intended new client. Conflicts involving client-provider relationships are:
    •  An owner, director, manager, employee, contractor or agent of VALS and/or;
    • An employee of the Department; and/or
    • A close relative (spouse, de facto, parent, sibling or child) of any of the above.

VALS provides assistance on a first in best dressed basis (i.e. provide direct assistance to the party who approaches VALS first). VALS will refer the other party to another legal service provider or “brief out” the client to a private lawyer (subject to the client meeting the requirements for brief outs). Where appropriate, VALS may act for one client and provide assistance by brief out to the other.

Means Test
Where a person seeks casework assistance, VALS must ensure that applicants satisfy the Means Testing provisions of the Policy Directions.

VALS must ensure that all applicants for legal casework assistance satisfy one or more of the following requirements:

  • Under 18 years of age;
  • Main source of income comes from Community Development Employment Projects; (CDEP) participant wages or Centrelink (or equivalent) benefits; or
  • Gross household income is under $52,000 per annum.

Note: Household income includes the income of your partner, spouse, relative including an adult child who you live with.

The Means Test will be administered in two parts:

Part A: Requires the completion of a small number of questions relating to the applicant’s personal circumstances and income level.

Part B: Is required where applicants do not satisfy the criteria in Part A. It requires more detail about the applicant’s income, assets, employment status and number of dependents.

Merit Test
Discretion will be used to determine if a particular case has merit.