Equality, Capacity and Disability in Commonwealth Laws: ALRC Report

The Australian Law Reform Commission’s Final Report Equality, Capacity and Disability in Commonwealth Laws (ALRC Report 124), was tabled in Parliament today. The Report makes 55 recommendations for reform that will 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.

At the heart of the reforms sit the National Decision-Making Principles, developed by the ALRC to guide reform at a national level. The Principles reflect the paradigm shift signalled in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) away from ‘best interests’ decision-making to a focus on ‘wills, preferences and rights’.

ALRC President, Professor Rosalind Croucher, Commissioner-in-charge of the Inquiry said, “It is important that when people with disability are supported to make decisions, or have decisions made for them, it is their wishes and preferences that drive those decisions—not other people’s ideas about their best interests. This is the ‘paradigm shift’ at the heart of the UN Convention. The National Decision-Making Principles should inform all areas of the law where people with disability are required to make decisions, whether they are about the NDIS, social security, health or other matters.”

The ALRC has also recommended a new Commonwealth decision-making model that will encourage the adoption of supported decision-making at a national level.  The new model introduces mechanisms for the appointment of ‘supporters’ for adults who may require decision-making support, and provisions relating to ‘representatives’ to address circumstances in which a person may desire, or require, someone else to make decisions for them.

Professor Croucher said, “The new Commonwealth decision-making model recognises the ability of people with disability to make decisions for themselves and places the emphasis upon support. It is a model based on principles of dignity, equality, autonomy, inclusion and participation—and accountability.”

Part-time Commissioner for the Inquiry, Graeme Innes AM said, “This Inquiry was an internationally groundbreaking examination of the implications of the UNCRPD for laws and legal frameworks that might disempower people with disability.  In adopting the model recommended in the Report and leading its implementation federally, the Australian Government can maintain its leadership in championing and implementing reforms for persons with disability. The ALRC also recommends that this Commonwealth model guide a review of state and territory laws affecting people with disability. In this way the ALRC Report can provide a catalyst towards further initiatives at the state and territory level.”

During the course of the Inquiry, the ALRC produced two consultation papers, received more than 150 submissions and undertook two national rounds of stakeholder consultation meetings, forums and roundtables.

The Report and Summary Report are available from the ALRC website in a range of formats, including as an ebook. All ALRC reports and publications are available free of charge at https://www.alrc.gov.au/publications.

The ALRC has also developed an Easy English version of the Summary Report for people with low English literacy.

Media contact: Marie-Claire Muir (02) 8238 6305, web@alrc.gov.au