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Safer services for people with a disability

The Victorian Government is committed to ensuring a culture of zero tolerance of abuse across the disability sector.

On 16 August 2017 the Victorian Parliament brought in new legislation called the Disability Amendment Act 2017 (the new Act). The new Act amends the Disability Act 2006 to further protect people with a disability from abuse, including a zero tolerance guiding principle for disability services and greater investigative powers for the Disability Services Commissioner (the Commissioner).

The Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing has also requested that the Commissioner investigate:

  • allegations of assault, injury and poor quality of care that are known to the Department of Health and Human Services
  • deaths of people with a disability known to the department, as well as deaths referred to the Commissioner by the Coroner.


The Minister will also request that the Commissioner investigate referrals from the Community Visitors Board.

The 2017–18 State Budget provides $8.7 million over three years to support the new legislation, including to assist the Commissioner to carry out the new functions.

Why do we need the reforms?

The Parliamentary Inquiry into abuse in disability services (the Parliamentary Inquiry) found substantial evidence of widespread abuse and neglect of people with a disability across the disability sector. The Parliamentary Inquiry also found systemic normalisation of abuse within disability services and that this normalisation presented a barrier to reporting abuse. 

As part of its response to the Parliamentary Inquiry, the Victorian Government committed to:

  • including zero tolerance of abuse as a guiding principle in the Disability Act 2006
  • making the Commissioner the key oversight body for the disability sector in Victoria, including with the responsibility for own motion powers to investigate reports of abuse and neglect
  • enabling the Commissioner to undertake review of deaths in disability services.

The reforms implement these key recommendations.

What do the reforms mean for service providers?

The new Act reinforces the importance of service providers promoting a culture of zero tolerance of abuse, and not tolerating or normalising abuse, neglect or exploitation of people with a disability.

This includes disability service providers, contracted service providers and funded service providers, as defined in the Disability Act 2006. Examples include residential services, day services, respite, advocacy, and aids and equipment services.

The new powers provided to the Commissioner do not require action by service providers, staff or people with a disability unless the Commissioner is conducting an investigation. For example, a service provider may be required to produce documents to the Commissioner or be interviewed, and may be required to implement a notice to take action following an investigation.

More information

To find out more about the Disability Amendment Act 2017 you can download the fact sheet for service providers on the Safer services for people with a disability page on the Department of Health and Human Services website <www.dhs.vic.gov.au/for-individuals/disability/your-rights/safer-services-for-people-with-a-disability> or Disability Services Commissioner website <http://www.odsc.vic.gov.au>.

The department’s website also includes fact sheets about the new legislation for people with a disability and parents and carers. It would be greatly appreciated if service providers could circulate these fact sheets through their networks.