1. On 23 July 2013, the then Attorney-General of Australia, the Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP, asked the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to conduct an Inquiry focused on Commonwealth laws and legal frameworks that deny or diminish the equal recognition of people with disability as persons before the law and their ability to exercise legal capacity. The ALRC was asked to consider what if any changes could be made to Commonwealth laws and legal frameworks to address these matters.
2. This Issues Paper is the first consultation document in the Inquiry. It introduces the range of areas covered by the Terms of Reference and asks questions to assist in the development of reform responses through submissions from stakeholders. The submissions and further consultation rounds will inform the next stages of the process before completion of the Final Report in August 2014.
Why the focus on disability?
3. A number of important international and domestic developments have laid the foundation for, and prompted, this Inquiry. The first was the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD represents the most significant international development for people with a disability. It is ‘intended as a human rights instrument with an explicit, social development dimension’ and reflects
the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as ‘objects’ of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as ‘subjects’ with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.
4. Secondly, in November 2009 a National Disability Strategy was initiated through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) as a central mechanism for implementation of the CRPD in Australia. The National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 which resulted, sets out a ‘national policy framework for improving life for Australians with disability, their families and carers’, reflecting ‘a unified, national approach to policy and program development’.
5. Thirdly, in July 2013 implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) began, representing ‘a new way of providing community linking and individualised support for people with permanent and significant disability, their families and carers’. The focus of the scheme is on individual support and greater choice and control over the support received by people with disability.
Getting involved in the Inquiry
6. You can get involved in the Inquiry in a number of ways, including by making a submission or by participating in a consultation.
7. This Issues Paper has been released to form a basis for consultation. It is intended to encourage informed community participation by providing some background information and highlighting the issues so far identified by the ALRC as relevant to the areas listed in the Terms of Reference. The Issues Paper may be downloaded free of charge from the ALRC website, <www.alrc.gov.au>. Hard copies may be obtained on request by contacting the ALRC on (02) 8238 6333. An Easy English version of the Issues Paper is also available online and in hardcopy on request.
8. The Issues Paper will be followed by the publication of a Discussion Paper in April 2014. The Discussion Paper will contain a more detailed treatment of the issues, and will indicate the ALRC’s current thinking in the form of specific proposals for reform. The ALRC will then seek further submissions and undertake another round of national consultations before preparing the final Report, to be submitted by the end of August 2014.
9. The ALRC invites individuals and organisations to make submissions in response to specific questions, or to any of the background material and analysis provided.
10. There is no specified format for submissions, although the questions provided in this document are intended to provide guidance for respondents. Submissions may be made in writing, by email or using the ALRC online submission form. Submissions made using the online submission form are preferred. Stakeholders are encouraged to answer as many—or as few—of the questions in the Issues Paper as they wish. Generally, submissions will be published on the ALRC website unless marked confidential. Confidential submissions may still be the subject of a request for access under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth). In the absence of a clear indication that a submission is intended to be confidential, the ALRC will treat the submission as public. The ALRC does not publish anonymous submissions.
Submissions using the ALRC’s online submission form can be made at: <www.alrc.gov.au/content/disability-ip44-make-submission>. All submissions should reach the ALRC by Monday 16 December 2013.
The full Terms of Reference are available on the ALRC website.
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, opened for signature 30 March 2007, 999 UNTS 3 (entered into force 3 May 2008).
Department of Social Services, National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 Fact Sheet (12 November 2013) <http://www.dss.gov.au/>.
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, One Big Difference to Lots of Lives: An Introduction to DisabilityCare Australia (2013) 3.