Research forum to spur action to better protect children with a disability

Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People, Liana Buchanan, and Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce, will today (4 June 2018) join a Melbourne forum discussing research on preventing abuse and promoting the personal safety of children and young people with a disability. The forum is being jointly presented by the Office of the Public Advocate and the Commission for Children and Young People.

'This research provides vital insights on how we can act to better protect children and young people with a disability, and has been designed and conducted with the participation of children and young people themselves. The Commission welcomes the research as an important contribution to our own work to protect children and young people through our Child Safe Standards and Reportable Conduct Scheme.

'The range of perspectives represented today reflects the urgency of the task, and the expertise from which we will need to draw to ensure that children and young people with a disability are not only protected, but have a voice in framing the necessary action,' Principal Commissioner Buchanan said today.

‘Young people with disability have the right to feel safe and to be protected from harm. Young people with disability should be encouraged and supported to express their views on matters that affect their lives. This research asked young people with disability what they think is important when it comes to their safety’.

‘We all must ensure that the needs expressed by young people with disability to be listened to, be treated with dignity, and to have their concerns heard and responded to, are reflected in practice,’ Public Advocate Colleen Pearce said today.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Sally Robinson, commented, 'This research provides an in-depth understanding of what "being safe" means to young people with disability, what helps and hinders them to feel and be safe, and how their concerns about safety are perceived and responded to by other people'.

Among the key findings of the research is the need for agencies relevant to young people 'to proactively address abuse prevention and develop evidence-informed strategies for promoting the personal safety of young people with disability'. The report also recommends that 'expectations about safety in the organisations that young people use need to be made explicit for young people, staff, managers, families and volunteers'.

Victoria's Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce will open the forum, followed by an address from Disability Discrimination Commissioner Alastair McEwin, a presentation of key findings by Associate Professor Sally Robinson and Alanna Julian, and a panel including the views of a young self-advocate and a parent.

The forum will then consider how the findings of the research can be applied in practice and policy, before a closing summary by the Principal Commissioner.

The research report, Preventing abuse and promoting personal safety in young people with a disability is available at the website of Research involving Children and Young People with Disability.

The forum is closed to the media but will be tweeted using the hashtag #MyBodyMyLifeMyChoice.

Media comment on the research is available. For further information, contact Darren Lewin-Hill on 8601 5293 or via darren.lewin-hill@ccyp.vic.gov.au