Equality, capacity and disability in Commonwealth laws: final report

24 Nov 2014

This report makes 55 recommendations for reforms intended to better provide people with disability equal recognition before the law, particularly in relation to the right to make decisions that affect their lives and to have those decisions respected.


This Inquiry is about ensuring people with disability have an equal right to make decisions for themselves. It is about respecting people’s dignity, autonomy and independence, while supporting them to make their own decisions, where such support is needed. This reflects an important movement away from:

viewing persons with disabilities as ‘objects’ of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as ‘subjects’ with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.

The Inquiry commenced in July 2013, the same month in which a pilot of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Australia was initiated, representing ‘a new way of providing community linking and individualised support for people with permanent and significant disability, their families and carers’. The objective of the NDIS is to provide persons with disability with greater choice and control over the disability services and support they receive.

The Terms of Reference required the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to consider ‘how maximising individual autonomy and independence could be modelled in Commonwealth laws and legal frameworks’. The ALRC considers this can best be achieved by setting out principles and guidelines that can be used as a template for specific reforms. These principles and guidelines can be applied to Commonwealth and state and territory laws—in particular, guardianship and administration laws.

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