Call for commissioners to step down from roles
Grampians disability Advocacy has joined 60 other disability organisations across Australia in calling for key figures involved in a Royal Commission to step down based on potential conflicts of interest.
The service fears there is a danger John Ryan and Barbara Bennett have ‘real, perceived and potential’ conflicts of interest arising from their past roles.
Both are commissioners for a Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.
Grampians disability Advocacy said in a prepared statement that the ‘broad disability community and supporters believe Mr Ryan and Ms Bennett have significant conflicts of interest due to their past roles and, if unaddressed, this could threaten the integrity and participation of people with disability in the Royal Commission’.
Mr Ryan was a former senior public servant for the NSW Department of Family and Community Services and Ms Bennett was the Federal Government’s former Deputy Secretary of the Families and Communities Branch of the Department of Social Services.
Grampians disability Advocacy officials believe both had responsibility for organisations likely to come under significant scrutiny by the Royal Commission.
Grampians disability Advocacy executive officer Deborah Verdon said the involvement of both raised concerns about their conflict of interest, ‘whether potential, perceived or real’.
She said there was a need to have ‘complete’ confidence that the Royal Commission was a place where people could safely provide evidence.
“People with disability must be able to tell their stories to commissioners, knowing that they can seek and receive justice from them and the body they represent,” she said.
“They need to feel safe in telling their stories, some of which involve the public institutions and bureaucracies that have been responsible for violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.”
Grampians disability Advocacy provides free advocacy support for people in a ‘Grampians’ area that includes Wimmera and Central Highlands centres Horsham, Ararat, Stawell, Warracknabeal, Ballarat, Daylesford and Bacchus Marsh.