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  • The Disability Royal Commission has highlighted many issues that are relevant to how we as lawyers work with people with disability.
  • This article discusses how we can improve the experiences of people with disability in the justice system.
  • Your Story Disability Legal Support is a national service assisting people with disability and their supporters to safely share their story with the Disability Royal Commission. We welcome you to refer clients to our free service, or speak to our team about sharing your story.

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability began in April 2019 to investigate the mistreatment of people with disability across all settings and contexts. One area the Royal Commission has highlighted is the experience of people with disability in the justice system, from courts to prisons, mental health facilities to family homes, and more, both historical and present-day.

For the Royal Commission, ‘disability’ means any type of impairment. This includes people with mental health conditions, as well as physical, intellectual, sensory and psychosocial disabilities, whether they were born with the impairment or acquired it later in life. This can include people experiencing addiction or the effects of trauma. No matter where we practise, it’s important for lawyers to try to improve the experiences of people with disability. At Your Story Disability Legal Support, we have supported people to make submissions about their experiences with criminal justice, housing, health law, NDIS appeals, personal injury and more. If it’s an area of law, there’s likely a submission about someone’s experiences with it.

Who are we?

Your Story Disability Legal Support (‘Your Story’) is a national service that gives free and independent information and legal advice about taking part in the Disability Royal Commission. Our priority is to support and empower people with disability, as well as their family, friends, carers and advocates, to safely share their story. We are independent and separate from the Disability Royal Commission. We are funded by the Australian Government and deliver our service through Legal Aid Commissions and community-controlled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services in each state and territory.

Misconceptions about disability and the justice system

Last year, the Royal Commission called for responses to its Criminal Justice System Issues Paper. The responses highlighted many issues applicable to our experiences as lawyers. For example, the Law Council of Australia told the Commission that people with disability can be viewed as being unreliable, or incapable of actively participating in legal proceedings and the Australian Lawyers Association reported that people with intellectual disability and acquired brain injury may face negative assumptions about their credibility or reliability as a witness.

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