By convenor |

The final report of the Royal Commission into into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (DRC) has surprisingly little to say about Autistic Australians. The full report is a dozen volumes.

The DRC's Summary Report makes just 4 real mentions of the especially poor outcomes in Australia's autism sector.

  1. On page 50, the DRC acknowledges that 35% of NDIS participants are autistic (“had autism”). However, the significance of autism in Australia’s youth or its severely disabled populations did not interest the DRC.
  2. At page 86, the DRC focuses on “National Roadmap for Improving the Health of People with Intellectual Disability (National Roadmap)”. It says this relates to “some people with autism”. Clearly, it missed the fact that DSS is charged with developing a National Autism Strategy that will also encompass a health national roadmap for autism.
  3. Recommendation 6.25 mentions autism … but seems confused about autism as a disability.
  4. Recommendation 6.30 also mentions autism but regards it as a form of cognitive impairment. This is an inaccurate view of autism. The statement at the top of page 365 says “cognitive disability may include … some people with autism”, so the DRC does not regard autism as a distinct disability type.

This lack of recognition of the especially poor outcomes that Autistic Australians experience is alarming.

The overall count of the number of times some terms appear in the document are shown below







“Intellectual disability”


While many Autistic Australians told the DRC of their experiences, “Autism” and “Autistic” are rarely mentioned in the DRC’s reports.

On page 49,

Age and disability

The SDAC shows that the older a person the more likely they will have disability:

  • 8.2 per cent of children (aged under 18) have disability (approximately 450,000 children)
  • 13 per cent of adults aged 18 to 64 have disability (2.0 million adults)
  • almost 50 per cent of adults aged 65 and over have disability (1.9 million adults).

Among children with disability:

  • there are more boys (61 per cent) than girls (39 per cent)
  • more than half have an intellectual disability (56 per cent)
  • 56 per cent have what the Australian Bureau of Statistics calls ‘profound’ or ‘severe’ disability.

The  DRC's report misrepresents Autistic Australians and other disability types. The report says 56% of 8.2%, which is 4.6%, of Australian children have intellectual disability. Definitions of “intellectual disability” vary. One definition says IQ two or more standard deviations below the mean, which is people with IQ of 70 or lower … that is 2.2% of the population (theoretically for all ages). The DRC’s data above does not appear to be correct – it exaggerates the number of children with intellectual disability and ignores the substantial number of Autistic children.

While the ABS SDAC 2018 may suggest that 56% of children with disability “have what the Australian Bureau of Statistics calls ‘profound’ or ‘severe’ disability”, it also reports that 68.9%, a substantially higher proportion, of Autistic Australians have “‘profound’ or ‘severe’ disability”. It is disappointing that the Royal Commission ignored this important information.

The full DRC reports show many Autistic Australians revisited their trauma hoping the DRC would appreciate their plights. The result is disappointing.