Transcript 2

Disability Royal Commission Workshop – Natalie Wade

AFDO Next Wave Advocacy Conference.
21 October, 2019.

PATRICK McGEE: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to Natalie Wade, a friend of mine from way back. I’m proud to say that Natalie is from Australian Lawyers for Human Rights in South Australia and has been a solicitor with the South Australian government and a royal commission. AFDO have been lucky enough to secure the expertise of Natalie for the royal commission. This session is designed to take us through some perspectives from Natalie on interacting with the royal commission. Please put your hands together for Natalie Wade.
(APPLAUSE) .

NATALIE WADE: Can everybody hear me? Are the captions hearing me? Thank you, everyone, for having me today. I know after lunch is always a bit of a drag but I promise this will be wealth worth going through value to finish the last bits of lunch. Before I get started, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, past, present and future. That’s me for me! In front. Just in front, Patrick, thanks. There we go! I would also like to acknowledge people with disabilities, their families and carers, who may have faced any experience of abuse, neglect, and exploitation throughout their lives and especially those who are no longer with us. Today we are going to speak about the infamously known disability royal commission. We have a practical focus today on how advocates and people with disabilities are able to engage with the royal commission and to tell their stories. Now,

I was going to go through it a little bit, the disability royal commission and what it means, but Jordon Steele John is here and he can tell you about the reference. In fact, I think he may have authored the terms of reference. If I get it wrong, feel free to heckle me, that’s alright. The important thing that governs the disability royal commission and the work the commissioners will do is that it covers all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disabilities, whatever the setting, whatever the context.

Now, as we move through today’s presentation, that will become increasingly important as you, as advocates, and people with lived experience, start to determine what submissions you make and how you make them. So, this workshop has been really been designed with the fact in mind that there are some new advocates here today and also very senior experienced advocates, but probably for most of us, we have never gone before a royal commission. And so, we’re hoping to give you some skills to go into the first steps that are currently before us. The royal commission is offering the opportunity for us to make submissions and that will be the focus of our presentation. That is the first way in which people with disabilities and their families, carers, supporters and organisations will be able to engage the royal commission and to tell their stories. From those stories, there will be evidence base built by the commissioners and their staff that will then form a report and recommendations to the Australian government. In the fullness of time, the royal commission will hold public and private hearings, which will delve further into the stories and systemic issues.

People with their disabilities and families and others may be able to engage in those hearings by way of being required to speak or to provide a written statement. Some, mostly organisations, may be asked to produce documents to the royal commission concerning certain issues. So, as I said earlier, the terms of reference really govern what is going to happen, what the focus of the royal commission will be. But the chair of the disability royal commission has been very clear that the intention is to seek transformational change in societal attitudes towards people with disabilities. With that lofty goal, they’re armed with all of the powers under the Royal Commission Act to commence what I’m sure will be a significant and historical inquiry into the abuse, violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disabilities.

The terms of reference address two areas, probably, you could break it down into two areas. One is systemic matters, which includes where governments, institutions and community should do to prevent and better protect people with disabilities from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. What governments, institutions and the community should do to achieve best practice to encourage reporting of and effective investigations of and responses to those areas. And what should be done to promote a more inclusive society that supports the independence of people with disabilities and their right to live free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

That’s the first part of the inquiry.

And then the second part is really around the stories of lived experience. The ones that concern all of those forms of treatment and the ones which happen in all areas and context and life.

The report must be provided no later than 30 October 2020, the interim report, sorry. And then the final report will be due on 29 April, 2022.

Now, I was going to speak a bit about the staff of the royal commission. But I prepared this presentation, literally, last week, and understand that it has changed. So, Jordon, help me out here. I understand that all of the commissioners are as they are. It was done in September. They are the honourable Ronald Sackville, a former judge, Ms Barbara Bennett, PSM, a former public servant, Dr Rhonda Galbally, who most of us know. Ms Andrea Mason, who most of us know. Most definitely we all know Alastair McEwin and the Honourable John Francis Ryan and lastly Roslyn Atkinson.

We have sitting under there senior counsel assisting. I won’t name them. The lawyers who will present the evidence to the royal commission as they proceed with their process. And senior counsel assisting are helped by junior counsel assisting, who again prepare the evidence and present it to the inquiry. Sitting behind the scenes, there are a number of officers who are engaged through legal policy and research and admin. So, it’s a pretty big outfit, the whole commission itself is certainly not small. Now, I understand, again, to be corrected, that the royal commission have offices in Sydney and Brisbane. Jordon, is that your understanding too.

SENATOR STEELE JOHN: That’s my understanding.

NATALIE WADE: It changes. But that’s what they’re doing at the moment. Now we’re going to get into the guts of it. The terms of reference identify what are known as formal terms but in defining the terms have made it three definitions. So, violence and abuse, are assault, sexual assault, constraints, forced treatments, forced interventions, humiliation, harassment, financial and economic abuse as well as significant violations of privacy and dignity on a systemic or individual basis. They are those two words that have been brought together to make one definition. The second definition is around neglect. Think physical and emotional neglect, passive neglect, which is really important for people in institutions, willful deprivation. It can be just one incident or it can happen over a period of time. And the third, and last, definition that the royal commission have put out is exploitation.

So, this is, as you might expect it to be, the improper use of a another person or the improper use of or with holding another person’s assets, labour, employment, or resources taking physical, sexual, financial or economic advantage. In last one they could have written ADEs.

Now, accessibility in the disability royal commission, this time last week they had a draft Accessibility Strategy and now I understand it is not draft and is the Accessibility Strategy. But in short, it provides the principles that will guide the royal commission in the engagement with people with disabilities. So engagement being a written submission, if you go to a community forum, if you give evidence before them, any way you come into contact with them, the strategy will tell you how they anticipate to be engaging with you. However, that’s not to say that you should not, and you absolutely should, ask for any access requirements that you need when engaging with them.

Some of you have argued that including facilitating communication, supported decision making and they recognise openly people will need a variety of supports when working through engagement with them. When you engage with the royal commission, you have two ways to do it. One will be voluntary and one will be required. The voluntary ways in which you can engage is to either make a submission or attending a community forum. Or alternatively the commissioners may require you to provide a written statement, attend a hearing or provide documents.

If you receive that they are not voluntary and you must comply. Because of where the royal commission is at right now, AFDO is focussing on up skilling people on the voluntary part of the process, which is either submissions or community forums. So, submissions. Anyone can make a submission. I’ve heard a bit around people think maybe they can’t or someone else should do that or maybe it is for the organisation or them, maybe it’s not for the organisation. It is absolutely open to everyone to make a submission. At the moment, though, there’s a problem with submissions, as of today, they cannot be made confidential. If you want your submission to be made confidential, just hang on a minute and we will get further information, I’m sure, soon.

Before we get into the technique of writing a submission, it is important to consider what the submission is about. And there are three broad categories, and I understand that AFDO will provide these slides to you later so you don’t have to madly take notes. There are three broad categories which you can use as a guide. The first is a submission about an incident of violence, abuse or neglect or exploitation. There’s an incident or experience, that would be one submission. It doesn’t have to be from a person with a disability. You may have witnessed it, it may have happened at work. It could be a friend or family member.

The second area is submissions on systemic issues, what areas for change. Now, that may not specifically relate to an issue or incident but instead may focus on processes, procedures and policy concerns. The third submission that the royal commission is interested in hearing about are from First Nations people. Where a first nations person with a disability has missed out on any services, care or communication that has increased their risk of an incident and they’re especially interested in where people are living remotely and where in Australia they are. So, now you know the three broad categories: Incident, systemic or First Nations People. We’re into, really, making a submission. So, you can provide a submission in many different ways.

The commission has provided a submission form to assist people but you don’t have to use that form for it to be a valid submission. You can write a submission via e mail, post and phone. Though the submission form does provide a few questions that can help to structure your thinking and what’s going on. You can be assisted by advocate, a lawyer or supporter, to make a submission. And a free legal advice service has been funded through national legal aid and the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service and funding has been provided to advocacy organisations through the NDAP. National Disability Advocacy Program. If it is not already available then you can ask for it by giving a submission. I think it is really important because giving a submission can be quite an isolating experience and you can be at home or at work, writing it up or dictating into a submission and that can be a bit overwhelming and isolating so it is important to know access requirements are there and availability. There’s no word or page limit on your submission. You can make your story as long or short as you like. However, an effective submission is one that clearly communicates a story or message. We put together some techniques to enable you, as advocates, and people with lived experience, to craft your submission, whether you’re using a form, an e mail letter, phone or anything like that. We’re about to get into key techniques. But before I do, I just wanted to pause there and ask if there’s any questions around the terms of reference, the definitions of what we’re looking at?

ROSS JOYCE: Question there.

SENATOR STEELE JOHN: And just wanted if you wanted to take people through the phone submission process in a little more detail? Because I tried that a couple of times myself and it has been quite useful, the low barrier way to kind of making a submission or beginning that process.

NATALIE WADE: You can ring and the staff will take you through the process. It can be a really great way if you feel overwhelmed with paper or you feel unsure about what they might be looking for or to work out if have included everything you could, you can ring and speak to the royal commission and they will walk you through what your submission is. That’s really helpful, thank you, Jordon, that’s great. Ross?

CHRISTIAN: The question I would like to ask you is about the template, when you make the submission. What kind of template? Is it easy English version of it? I found in both of them, like, it’s more important for the community if it is in English because if comparing them, I can see it is not in English. The problem is the English version, it does talk about different information and language. It is very counter productive to provide a specimen. I’m not comfortable about making a submission because of the language that is used in the template.

NATALIE WADE: Thank you for sharing that comment. I think that’s a really helpful and insightful experience of the early engagement process. I think it is important to remember that if you’re not comfortable with the submission form language you are most welcome, and able, to use just a letter or an e mail or phone to provide a submission. But if you are offended or dissuaded from providing a submission to the royal commission because of language that is being used on templates and forms, then we need to raise that with them ASAP. And I would definitely encourage you and anyone else who feels this way to grab hold of one of the AFDO officers, if not me, to provide that specific feedback and we will feed that back to the royal commission, for sure. Because it’s so important. I know, at no point during this process should a person with a disability, their families or anyone, feel uncomfortable or unwelcome during this process. And if you are feeling that way, then we need to head that off at the pass and make them really aware of that.

CHRISTIAN: It is difficult. It talks about what they went through in their life. I think the language should be made more welcoming and encouraging to make a submission.

NATALIE WADE: Yes, I totally agree, Christian. We absolutely do need to be welcoming and encouraging people with disabilities to make these important submissions. Right at the start of a process, but it is a process that has been coming for a very long time. And it’s not the first time that we, as people with disabilities, have had to share really exposing stories and really share our vulnerability and it’s imperative, absolutely that we feel welcome and encouraged to do that. So, we need to feed that back, for sure. I think it’s not too late. Nothing is at the point of no return at all. And I would like to think that the royal commission should be welcome of that feedback and if not, well, they can have it any anyway. It is so important that all of you feel able and welcome to make these submissions. Because, if we don’t make these submissions, if we don’t go through this voluntary process, there is a huge risk that the royal commission won’t actually reflect our lived experience. And it won’t actually do what we want, and need, it to do. I know, this has been decades in the making and I know there’s been, you know, quasi inquiries in the past few decades and states and territories have done a few bits here and there. But this is really it. The time has arrived. We need to be empowered as a community to go to the royal commission and make submissions. So, if there are barriers in terms of not feeling welcome or encouraged or not feeling able to make these submissions, then we need to raise those in a systemic… Raise them with AFDO in the first instance and go from there. More?

SENATOR STEELE JOHN: And me.

NATALIE WADE: Yes! I was going to rope you in.

SENATOR STEELE JOHN: Bring it!

NATALIE WADE: That’s right. Harass Jordon and I. That would be right. Yes, we’ve got you. OK. So, text. We here, we know we can make submissions around incidents, systemic issues and First Nations people issues. We are now walking through key techniques. And then you are all going to break off into your groups and have a go at using those techniques to see how they stack up. So, no matter what the content, so, what area of those three systemic, incident or First Nations people you are addressing, you should always be able to provide a clear and accurate submission.

So, we will first look at making a submission of an incident or an experience of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. Now, in launching into this, everyone, I’m sort of rattling this off in a very academic, lawyer way, but I’m incredibly mindful of how sensitive this is. And so, please, if at any point we need to take a break, or we need to have a chat, let’s do so, yeah? This is very serious. But we’re going to work through it in a logical and clear way, but that’s not to say that these incidents are not very serious and worth us being careful.

So, the first question that you should ask in drafting your submission is whether the person with the disability was exposed to violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation and look at the definitions that go with that. The next thing that we need to do in submissions is to scribe what happens. And that is really broad. And I’m probably going to muck up the slides now, but when you think about describing what happened, there are four questions you can think of, or you should think of: Who was involved? What happened? Where did it happen? And, again, remember, it’s all settings, all contexts. And when did it happen? There’s no statute of limitations. There’s no time limit on these submissions. So, if it was from 30 years ago, it was 30 years go. If it was last week, it was last week. There’s no issue there.

After you have identified the type of incident and what happened, you may then want to, though you do not have to you don’t have to do any of this, but you don’t have to but it may be helpful to explain to the royal commission whether a complaint was made about the incident, and if there was a complaint, describe who made it, where was the complaint made? Was it the police? Was it the NDIS Commissioner if it was recently. Before the NDIS it may have been through a state complaints body. Was there a response to the complaint? Which would be really critical and may not always be a, “Yes, of course there was”. It may be “yes, but the person with the disability couldn’t give evidence. No, we never heard back. Yes, they acknowledged they got it but we never heard anything further”. It can be a whole spectrum. And then, when the complaint was made in relation to the incident? So, was it immediately after? Was it some time later? Was it recently?

And then the fourth, and final, sort of topic of your submission that you can opt to do is whether there was a lasting impact for the person with the disability as a result of the incident or experience? And this is really important and it is something we don’t hear enough of is, if a person with a disability has the experience of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation, what was the impact of that? Have they sought help in coping with that impact? And if they have sought help, who did they seek help from and has it been effective? And, again, we talk about reporting, sometimes seeking help can be really hard and it can go unanswered and it can be really difficult.

So, that can help inform some of the outstanding systemic issues that we have within reporting and complaints processes that the royal commission really need to pick up on and have them in the context of what the incident was. So, that, in a nutshell, is providing a submission for an incident. I have to fly through these because I want you guys to have time to go through it while I’m here. So, this implies that. The last point is how to stop it happening again. The royal commission have this whole focus on transformation of societal change and making a more inclusive society, well, I suggest to all of you that inclusive and improved society may be where abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation stops.

So, it would be helpful for the royal commission, I think, to hear about what you think, as a person who has experienced this treatment, would have done, would have liked to have done, to stop this from happening again or to someone else. In making almost your own recommendations, consider current complaint and legal mechanisms available. And if your complaint mechanism is not currently available, what would a good complaint mechanism look like? So, that’s incidents. Then the next one is systemic issues. And this is absolutely one for the advocates in the organisations. But also for people with disabilities as well. When we are making submissions on systemic issues, you will again start in the same place. You’ll start with the definitions that the royal commission have provided us, and identify which of those issues applies. So, whether it’s violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. And remember, that you can use more than one definition. Then, you should describe, or you can describe, what systemic issue has arisen, and where. In doing this, you’ll put your systemic issue into context and describe the place, system and setting where the systemic issues arises. And who responds to the issue. Then you would have an outline of what the issue was and how it came about. Then we are talking about who was involved, so, policy’s makers, operational staff, etc, and when did you observe it happening? It might be ongoing, it can stretch for a long time so just be mindful of that. It’s really important to advocates and other people making submissions to identify what the impact of the systemic issue has been. How has that systemic issue meant that people with disabilities have been victims of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation and what else has happened. And then, address resolving the issues. So, how have other models that you’ve seen interstate or other areas or even internationally been best to respond to a similar issue? What do you think should have happened? Is it possible to resolve this systemic issue at all?

Now, the last thing that I would say so they are sort of the two sets of techniques around incidents and systemic issues. One more thing about language and style. So, when you’re drafting your submission, whether you’re doing it on the phone, e mail, whatever way you want to do it, it’s really important that you don’t you don’t have to be really formal. You don’t have to be legalistic or academic. It’s critical that the submission is written in the voice of a person with a disability if that’s who is giving it. Or in the voice of the author. It is absolutely OK for it to be true to the person and to be written in every day language. So, having now gone through those two sets of techniques, I am going to hand it over to you and give you 10 minutes, if that’s OK we have 10 minutes? Yes. So, can you, please, identify whether you want to focus on systemic issues or incident issues and work through what parts of that technique that I spoke about would assist you to make a submission. And then we’ll go around a few of the tables and hear about how it went. Yes? Hand at the back.

NEW SPEAKER: What if you were denied service because staff believed you couldn’t understand because I had a cognitive impairment. What definition do I fall under?

NATALIE WADE: I would probably… Call it an abuse. I think you can have two: Violence, abuse and neglect for you. Yes. Anyone else?

PATRICK McGEE: OK, ladies and gentlemen. Perhaps if I could ask you to begin. So, Nat, I’ll get you to come back now and recommence the next bit after that little workshop.

NATALIE WADE: We can copresent. A team! So, everyone, how was that? What was the vibe? Was that good? Like, it was obviously not good, but how did that feel? Some brave people.

KATE TURNER: We found the structure was really, really good because it’s good to have a template to follow. However, it’s important for people to know who to go to, what advocate services are available, etc. and it’s also important, although there’s a good structure, it’s to actually provide information to make feel comfortable about telling their story and language, being English as second language. And lastly, we wondered how the commission would provide templates or structures to make feel people safe in telling their story, particularly around rural areas that maybe their own carer is their family member and that may be providing good care or not such appropriate care. And to get the true story, what could be happening. These things have to be faced as well.

NATALIE WADE: Yes, absolutely.

PATRICK McGEE: Anybody else? Yes, Trevor.

TREVOR CARROLL: What could the royal commissioners do to mitigate the issue of confidential, and fewer retribution and reprisal for someone with a disability who makes a submission and involves a public authority? Say a government agency like the NDIS, for example, or Centrelink or the police or whatever. How are their rights going to be protected from retribution. They are already fearful of making a submission because they fear they’ll be locked up. How do you protect that.

NATALIE WADE: That is a really good question, Trevor and that is something I’m hearing a lot as well. People are scared to come forward. Because, of course, these are systems and institutions that people with disabilities are going to have to interact with well after the royal commission ends. So, my advice to a person who is really scared about it coming back to them or retribution is to make a confidential submission, which unfortunately is not available. That is the first thing. Today what we are talking about is voluntary engagement with the royal commission. After this, we are about to get into community forums. They are probably not the best processes for a person with a disability or their family member to engage in if they’re worried about retribution. But, when those processes, or just submissions, really, become confidential then that person can absolutely be assured that if their submission is marked “confidential” then they will not have that submission go anywhere further. At the other side of the engagement, is where people go before the royal commission and give evidence and in that setting the royal commission is able to conduct private hearings. And that may be the best place for a person who feels that way to do so. So, the first step is to make a confidential submission and then where a person is called to give evidence, they should request, if the royal commission doesn’t already know, it be held privately.
SENATOR STEELE JOHN: I’ll be pushing at estimates this week to get a defined time line from the Attorney General’s department as to when those confidential submissions will be able to be made. I have had many constituents contacting me flagging issues they would like to raise and the same concerns you have.

PATRICK McGEE: One more question.

NEW SPEAKER: I would just like to know, is there any way that extra funding can be got under the NDIS to support someone like myself who is a participant to actually go through and doing submissions? I don’t find it easy doing something like that in the community with my experience. And something like this, I would like to have a say with my voice and I would like to know if I can get someone funded extra out of my plan than living my every day life and taking chair of my children? Are we doing that.

NATALIE WADE: Not that I have heard.

PATRICK McGEE: It is a good question. We are happy to take that on notice and come back to you, I think. Helen, can you just make sure we’ve got that written down. It is a question on whether the NDIS can fund people to write submissions.

NEW SPEAKER: I’m Deborah Wilson. Support me through counselling.

NATALIE WADE: There’s not much room.

NEW SPEAKER: That communication difficulty.

PATRICK McGEE: If I can ask you to make yourself known after the session. We’ll put them on our website. Back to you, I think.

NATALIE WADE: Those are really, really great questions and I’m glad you asked that and there are a number of people wondering that because the issues around rapport are really important to share the sensitive issues. Are there other questions around the process? Does anyone feel comfortable sorry to… Yes?

TREVOR CARROLL: I just wanted to add something, and some of our clients who want to make submissions have already suffered retribution because they have raised the issues in the past and they’re very fearful of going ahead with a submission because the retribution will happen all over again. But there is no guarantee that those organisations will read some of the submissions and are summarised. It is the big fear they have. Some of their circumstances are unique to them and they’ll be easily identified, reduced to stats in the royal commission, they have fear if they go ahead and make that submission that they’ll suffer retribution and victimisation all over again. I notice the definitions we talk about there, they don’t necessarily talk about retribution or victimisation for people who have been victims of violence, abuse, neglect and discrimination and as advocates it is something we want to press. People and families. It is a big issue for people, they don’t want to raise an issue because they have already suffered as a result of raising it in the first place.

NATALIE WADE: I agree.

SENATOR STEELE JOHN: I might just make a quick point here, Natalie and I were chatting about it in the break. If you have already gone through the process of making a submission to even the senate inquiry in 2014, or, indeed, the state based investigations that have taken place, or have in any other way compiled information around systemic or an individual incident that you think would be worth the Commissioner hearing, you can provide that information to the commission as you provided it to the other process. You just need to indicate clearly that you wish that submission or evidence to be passed on to the commission. So there is actually no need for you to re traumatise yourself or go back through the burden to bring the information together if you have already taken the time to do that.

PATRICK McGEE: My job is to keep everybody on track, particularly, Nat, it is 20 to.

NATALIE WADE: No worries, being that as it may, is there one star table that thought that having gone through the techniques laid out that you thought we have an absolute boomer of a submission that we would love to share, very briefly, with the rest of the group? Did anyone have something that you think it really is working well? Because it would be great to hear for everyone else who is still generating their submission ideas? There’s always one.

PATRICK McGEE: Always down the back.

NEW SPEAKER: I’m able but I also use a wheelchair at times. I’m Lauren Bates from Gippsland Traralgon, not with any actual company. I was interested in what was going on here and came along. I had an incident, like I said, I’m an able person but use a wheelchair at times and had an incident in Warrigal a couple of years ago. I was in the wheelchair and went to get on the train and the conductor said, “You have to wait here for an hour” and I smiled and I realised he meant it. The train went off and it left me stranded. And it was only the third time I had been out in the wheelchair and I was a bit scared and I thought OK, and I went into the station, and they said no worries, there’s another train coming. Then after that, I went home and I thought no, this is not right. We shouldn’t be getting treated like this. So, I didn’t go through the right stages but I rang the manager of V/Line, I was able to get on to him. I had to sit for a while and they tried to Shanghai me and I kept going no and I explained and he said no, Maureen, you have been Shanghaied, every train you can hop on. What happened is that conductor was lazy and he didn’t want to get out the ramp for me to hop on. So, he just politely asked me when it was, what time it was, and where it was, and said that he would have it addressed. Every time I hopped on the train and went anywhere along the Gippsland line, I was able to hop on and off the train. Thank you.

NATALIE WADE: Thank you for sharing that (APPLAUSE) I hope you intend to put that submission to the royal commission, it’s really important that they continue to hear that. So, the last part of today is about community forums. Now, some of you may already have been to one of the royal commission’s round tables, they held a few, mainly in the eastern states, but sort of focus groups from July, June, onwards. But apart from voluntarily engaging with the royal commission, in addition to providing a submission, is to attend a community forum.

Now, they have not released a schedule, per se. But, we understand that they’re coming. So, it is I hope helpful for us to walk you through what that process might look like. A couple of tips if you’re an advocate or a person with a disability going to a community forum, they should be held in all the major capital cities and some of the regional centres as well. You need to register your attendance to go. That’s tip number one. I’m not sure what happens if you don’t register, probably nothing much but they want you to register. You register via e mail and AFDO will provide you with the e mail address and also by phone and put that on the website too.

If you want to give a brief statement of your story at a community forum, then ideally you would advise the royal commission when you register and they will provide you with a guideline on making that statement. I haven’t seen the guideline, but I imagine it would be sort of maybe of… At community forums, people will be able to speak to the commission staff or provide feedback. And anyone can participate in a conversation on the day. A couple of little tips that I thought when you attend community forums, especially with the content that we’re talking about, is being really aware that it’s an open environment, where everybody in attendance will hear what you’re saying, unless you go off and speak to a Commissioner staff member in the corner. But remember, it is a forum. So everyone will know.

If there is confidential information that you do not wish to share with the forum, but it comes up during the day, then you should either grab one of those commission staff on the day and make yourself known to them or you can contact the commission after you leave or if you know that it’s going to happen prior to you go. Again, register to make your brief statement. And I would really recommend that you prepare your statement before you go. I recommend that more for you than for them. So, I think it’s really important that you have time, space and quiet to actually think through what you want to say. Especially remembering that it’s such an open situation. And, the openness of the format will be really great for some issues, like some issues will really benefit from having an open community conversation. You know, for example, if you say to a group of people with disabilities, actually, you couldn’t get on the train, I guarantee five other people will go, “Me neither! I couldn’t get on the train”. And it shows there are repeat incidents, no matter what state or territory that are faced by us every day. But I think for your own satisfaction and you have told your story in the way that you want it to be told, it would be helpful for you to prepare in advance, to a degree. And the other hot tip I’m not sure it’s hot, it’s a tip is that the dates and places of community forums will be listed on the disability royal commission website and AFDO will cross link to that so you don’t have to race around looking for it.

Now, before we break out for the last activity, have a minute to talk about keeping safe. We’re spoken a bit today about how intense recounting these experiences can be. And how horrifying they are for the people who have lived them. But also, for those who are assisting others to bring that story out. And whilst there is no doubt that it is incredibly warranted that now is the time to do it, it’s important that if you’re a person with a lived experience or a person who is assisting someone that you look after your own mental health. I think that’s really important, always, but especially important in this conversation. So, counselling services have been set up specifically to respond to those in the royal commission. But we don’t know a lot about what that looks like right now. But, hopefully, that will become available soon. I’m sure Jordon will go razz them up in estimates about it soon enough. But in the meantime, AFDO recommends, as does the royal commission, that anyone who feels that they need to contact Beyond Blue support services or Lifeline crisis support, and we have provided those details on the website as well. Having said all of that, I think probably five minutes from the last, if I’m judging time right, Patrick? Yes, so, five. Yes, so, now I would like all of you to break up into your groups and have a talk about if you went to a community forum, (a) what would you feel comfortable talking about? And, (b), what would you do before you went? Five to seven minutes. (Group discussion).

PATRICK McGEE: OK, everybody. Can I just ask Bree O’Dwyer, have you spoken to Mary Mallett yet? Can you get her, slap her around and talk to her because you’re up next. Give her a good hard slap, won’t you Bree. Not that I’m advocating any violence, whatsoever… If I can have the Auslan people up here, please. We’re just doing a photo opportunity, quickly. I’m going to keep talking because Natalie has got to get going, and leave at 2 o’clock. If I can ask everybody now to focus their attention and we’ll do the last five minutes of Nat’s session.

NATALIE WADE: OK, so, while Jordon is the show pony over there, I’ll do the actual work, shall I? Right…

SENATOR STEELE JOHN: Thanks.

NATALIE WADE: In my time, can I have two teams to tell me their report back from the idea of going through community forums? Five seconds, or I’ll ask someone.

PATRICK McGEE: And then I’ll be picking and it will be worse. Got anybody?

NEW SPEAKER: I actually gave feedback from our forum in Townsville. It was very relaxed. It was very informal as they could make it. We got to speak to the Commissioners before and after. There was support staff, there were counsellors. Nothing was filmed during the actual forum. So, the only stipulations we had was everything had to be desensitised and we were limited to three minutes, because there were so many people wanting to share their stories. Be prepared, we had a written submission we then gave to the Commissioners afterwards. The commission staff were very caring and made sure everybody was as comfortable as they could and make sure if they needed to de brief then they had the opportunity to do that.

NATALIE WADE: Thanks for sharing that. That’s great.

PATRICK McGEE: Got one more table? Anybody?

NATALIE WADE: I’m all alone. Alright. Well, I hope that today’s session that really given you a practical tool kit to be able to go forward and make voluntary engagement with the disability royal commission. So, remember, when you make a submission, make it in any way you like and there is help through AFDO and the disability royal commission itself or you can rock along to a community forum where further details become available. For people who want to make confidential submissions, keep in touch and AFDO will provide you information on that when we learn it. And we’ll definitely get back to people about NDIS supports and how they can be used, or if at all. So, hopefully now, you all feel most able to go forward and make submissions and I hope you can all share your stories. As I said at the outset, now is the time. It’s time, finally, at last, to make your stories heard and to really come forward and participate in the royal commission. So that it continues, we worked so hard to get a royal commission off the ground. Now it has arrived and now the hard work starts with sharing the stories and making sure our voices as a disability community are heard. Thank you so much for your time. I want three minutes for questions at the end, general questions, about advocacy, life, law, etc? But otherwise, thank you so much for having me.

(APPLAUSE)

PATRICK McGEE: This will not be the last opportunity you have to see Natalie Wade who is now the expert advisor to the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations on the royal commission and Natalie will be working with us over the course of the next couple of years, so, I’m sure that there will be contact again at some stage for you. Now, are there any key burning questions? I’m just aware that Nat’s got a plane to catch. Unless there are key burning questions, remembering that you can always, always come back to AFDO if you have questions and we will forward them on to Nat for you to have them answered. Look, once again, if you would just join me in a round of applause for Nat.