Local disability advocate encourages speaking out in Royal Commission (media release)

28 November 2019
The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability gives people an opportunity to speak up against mistreatment and discrimination experienced by a person with disability, and will make recommendations on how to better protect people with disabilities from violence and abuse.
The Australian Federal Government established the Royal Commission on 5 April 2019 and it is expected to run for three years until 2022. Hearings are currently being conducted around the country and submissions are open.
One-quarter of all Merri-bek’s residents identify as being affected by disability.
Local resident and disability advocate for over 20 years, Christian Astourian is passionate about ensuring people are informed on the details of the Commission and how to share their stories.
Christian is a vivacious, active and connected member of the Merri-bek community living with cerebral palsy. He lives independently and works full-time as a Diversity and Disability Program Manager for the Migrant Resource Centre North West Region Inc.
Christian sits on various boards including the Victorian Government Disability Services Commissioner and Disability Worker Registration Board, and is involved in Merri-bek Council’s Disability Working Group.
He says the Royal Commission is so important for decision-makers and the public to finally understand the magnitude of the problem and build solutions for a better future.
“Violence and abuse of people with a disability has been around forever. It comes with a power imbalance and a history of obstructing the empowerment of people with disability.”
Christian suggests that solutions depend on creating positive cultural change by building understanding, awareness and opportunities.
“We need to make sure that it never happens again. Prevention is clearly about ongoing expectations, disability awareness and treating people with respect, and one way to make change is to speak out and make yourself heard,” Said Mr Astourion.
 “We want people with disability to have the same opportunity as everybody else. The problem is, some people have a very low expectation of what people with a disability can do.”
“We really need to create a society where people with a disability are human and equal. Investment in education, employment opportunities and enhancing the quality of life for people with a disability will have a positive impact for everyone in society.”
“Whatever we do to support people with a disability, supports everybody. People with a disability are not a group separate to the rest of the community, they’ve got family, friends and connections. Whatever happens to them affects everyone around them.”
Christian believes the Royal Commission is a positive step in the right direction to improve the lives of people with disability, and that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Any person or group can make a submission. Submissions can be made anonymously and can be made by filling out a form. The form is available in multiple accessible formats on the Royal Commission’s website.
There is free support available for counseling through the Blue Knot Foundation and for advocate support from the National Disability Advocacy Program. An advocate will be able to help you to understand how to tell your story, work out problems, find communication supports, or access other supports such as legal or financial services.
If you would like more information about the Royal Commission, or if you wish to make a submission, please go to:
You can also telephone to get more information, or make a submission over the phone: 1800 517 199 (9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday)
If you need assistance to make a submission, or if there is information on the website that you cannot access, you can contact the Royal Commission on 1800 517 199 (9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday), or email: DRCenquiries@royalcommission.gov.au
To find supports: Call 1800 421 468 or 02 6146 1468, 9am to 6pm weekdays or 9am to 5pm weekends AEDT. You can also find contact details for support services through the Department of Social Services website.