Published on 22 May 2014.

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) today released the final consultation paper in its inquiry into disability and Commonwealth laws, Equality, Capacity and Disability in Commonwealth Laws (DP 81).

The Discussion Paper presents over 50 proposals for reform of Commonwealth laws and legal frameworks to better provide people with disability equal recognition before the law—in particular, in relation to the right to make decisions that affect their lives, and to have those decisions respected.

The reforms would encourage supported decision-making—where people with disability are assisted to make their own decisions—rather than being assumed as unable to make decisions or encouraged to allow other people to make decisions for them. In this regard, the inquiry is an internationally groundbreaking examination of the implications of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for laws and legal frameworks that may disempower people with disability.

ALRC President, Professor Rosalind Croucher, Commissioner-in-charge of the Inquiry said, “Our emphasis is on ensuring that it is the wishes and preferences of people with disability that drive the decisions that they make, and that others may make for them. The key principles that we have proposed should inform many areas of the law where people with disability are required to make decisions, whether these decisions are about the NDIS, social security, health matters or the myriad of other areas where we all have to make decisions that affect our lives.”

“The principles that should drive reform are that every adult has the right to make their own decisions; and to be provided with the support necessary for them to do so, and any decisions made for them are directed by their will, preferences and rights (and not by other people’s ideas about their best interests).”

The ALRC is proposing a new Commonwealth model of supported decision-making, underpinned by these principles, which will operate when people interact with Commonwealth agencies and systems. The ALRC is also proposing that this model will guide a review of state and territory laws effecting people with disability.

“The proposed Commonwealth model of supported decision-making moves the emphasis towards recognising the ability of people with disability to make decisions for themselves and to provide the necessary support so that they can do this with dignity and respect,” Professor Croucher stated.

“This represents a significant shift and would require reconfiguration of decision-making approaches across many areas of law. We are keen to hear from stakeholders about how they think this model will work and how it may affect the different decision-making regimes under state and territory laws, including guardianship.”

The ALRC invites individuals and organisations to make submissions in response to the ALRC’s proposals contained in the Discussion Paper. Submissions are due to the ALRC on Monday 30 June 2014.

The Discussion Paper is available free of charge on the ALRC website at and as an ebook. An Easy English Summary of the Discussion Paper is at

The ALRC will provide its Final Report to the Attorney-General by 31 August 2014. Subscribe to the Disability Inquiry e-news on the ALRC website.