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Victorian Public Advocate disability reform agenda

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2/03/2021

A report by the Victorian Public Advocate, Decision Time: Activating the rights of adults with cognitive disabilities, proposes practical changes to laws and policies to improve the human rights of all Australians, including prisoners with disability.

One of the 25 recommendations will change the justice system forever, providing support for at-risk people and reduce recidivism, the Office of the Public Advocate says.

The report recommends all prisoners entering Australian prisons be screened for cognitive disability as well as supported to understand and participate in their experience with the criminal justice system, receive support services in prison, and be provided with supported housing if found unfit to stand trial or not guilty for reasons of cognitive impairment.

Fifty per cent of people entering prison are people with disabilitiy - particularly psychosocial or cognitive disabilities - despite representing just 18 per cent of the population.

Providing adequate support for the many prisoners with a cognitive disability such as an intellectual disability, autism, acquired brain injury, dementia or mental illness means Australian prisoners with disability will have their rights better met and Australia will be better able to meet its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Other recommendations from Decision Time include:

  • carers to be legal 'decision-supporters' of their adult children with disability
  • broad powers for public advocates and public guardians to investigate abuse, neglect and exploitation
  • fines for people who abuse their legal power to make decisions for others, and compensation for those affected
  • people to be able to make advance medical decisions, including decisions about their end-of-life
  • changes to laws about decision-making for people with disability to reflect what they want - their will and preferences rather than their 'best interests' - where this is not yet available.

The report’s release comes as the Disability Royal Commission considered the experiences of people with cognitive disability in contact with the justice system, considering similar themes such as indefinite detention and people entering prison without diagnosis.

Contact information

For any enquiries, please contact Sarah Fordyce, State Manager Victoria, 03 8341 4303,