Overview of key themes raised in survey responses

The Attorney-General's Department

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Overview of key themes raised in survey responses

As part of the Disability Justice Plan consultation, the public was invited to complete a survey either online or in hard copy. We had 50 people respond to the survey in addition to the formal submissions. Below is an overview of key themes identified in the survey responses.


  • Rights awareness training needed for people with disability
  • Mandatory reporting
  • Training for people with intellectual disability in protective/preventative behaviours
  • Information available in accessible formats - easy read, Braille, Auslan
  • Access to support - at school and afterwards, more social workers
  • People with disability become invisible - in care facilities, kept at home - this needs to change
  • Penalties for those who breach Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
  • Proper screening of those working with disability - national database (prevents offenders from moving around the country)
  • Inclusion by society - cultural change
  • NSW offence generally supported - though issues around autonomy and freedom to choose to enter into relationships were highlighted. Some people noted the power imbalance between carer and the person with disability and the conflict of interest for a paid carer.
  • Preventing disempowerment


  • Cost of litigation
  • Inexperienced lawyers
  • Priority access to legal aid - specialising in disability
  • No free specific legal service for people with disability e.g. Villamanta in Victoria
  • Length/delay in proceedings

Infrastructure Issues

  • Lack of suitable access to police buildings, lawyers’ offices and the courts
  • Lack of appropriate signage
  • Transportation (shortage of access cabs)
  • Equipment to assist with physical and sensory impairment

Court Rigidity

Need to allow for:

  • Flexibility within the court - allow for extra breaks, suitable chairs, accommodate the preferred method of communication of a person with a communication disability, and understand how their disability can impact their memory, understanding questions and explaining what has happened to them
  • Relax rules of evidence - e.g. hearsay rule, flexible arrangements for giving evidence (video link or using a video recording as evidence)
  • Have an intermediary/support person/disability liaison person present - to assist with understanding/communication - specially trained (some identified speech pathologists for this role)
  • Advocates for witnesses with intellectual disability
  • Family present
  • Possibility of a communication service like Communication Rights Australia (Victoria)

Lack of understanding and awareness by those within the criminal justice system

  • Stereotypes prevail - people with disability not seen as credible or reliable witnesses, not taken seriously, prejudged, inferior, put in the too hard basket, or assumptions made about level of capacity
  • Extensive training or education needed for all involved in criminal justice system to identify support for people with disability - police, lawyers, court staff, judiciary - lack of training promotes the above stereotypes
  • Understanding that disability is highly individual
  • Complex legal language and jargon - not stopping to check whether the person with disability actually understands
  • Understanding that a person with intellectual disability may not use language in a conventional way
  • Cross-examination causes confusion
  • Will accept a guilty plea from a person with intellectual disability but won’t prosecute where the complainant is the person with intellectual disability’
  • Not providing an Auslan interpreter - writing on paper or using family members to interpret
  • Specialist support person/advocate needed to facilitate communication and help in navigating the criminal justice system
  • Court familiarisation should be conducted
  • Use of dolls, figures or pictures to elicit evidence
  • Penalties prescribed that do not take into account the person’s ability to comply - which leads to further and repeated contact with the criminal justice system
  • Statements taken without support people present or without legal representation


  • People with intellectual disability should not be sent to James Nash House, nor is prison an appropriate place for some people with cognitive impairment
  • There is a need for a specialised facility or unit (e.g. Port Phillip Prison’s Marlborough Unit (Victoria))
  • Lack of support in prison - medication, equipment, properly managed routines
  • People with intellectual disability cannot access education or other prison programs
  • Prison staff need training
  • All prisoners should have a physical and mental health assessment
  • Adequate monitoring of bullying or targeting of those with intellectual disability


Last updated: 
Sunday, 23 February 2014
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