Violence against people with disabilities: maximising the use of data to inform the Royal Commission

Chief Investigator: Professor Anne Kavanagh
Melbourne School of Population and Global Health

This project informed the Royal Commission into Violence and Abuse against people with disability by providing the most up-to-date population-based estimates on the prevalence of violence among people with disability in Australia. In addition, the project will identify existing Australian data sources and make recommendations for improvements including the potential for data linkages. Co-researchers with disability will work with key stakeholders to design dissemination strategies to maximise the impact of the research.

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Research update and outcomes
For more resources and to download the factsheets, please visit:

It is known from previous analyses in Australia that adults with disability are two to three times as likely to experience all forms of violence (eg. physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse, intimate partner violence, stalking and harassment), compared to the general population.

Using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey, the only Australian population-based survey of violence and abuse which includes information on disability, we release new analyses on the prevalence of violence and abuse among people with disability. These analyses are available in a series of fact sheets that detail experiences of violence against all Australians with disability, as well as young people’s experiences of violence, and differences in how men and women (18 to 64 years) experience violence, based on recent experiences and throughout their lives.

People with disability in Australia also experience violence far more often. For example, they are twice as likely to experience physical violence in the last 12 months; and are two and half times more likely to experience violence from an intimate partner, compared to people without disability.

The results demonstrate that certain types of violence are particularly pronounced among women and among young Australians. For example, women with disability experience high levels of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and stalking. They are twice as likely than women without disability to experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Women with disability are more likely to experience intimate partner violence (36%), compared to 21% of women without disability, 15% of men with disability and 7% of men without disability.

We also examine how violence can vary by different types of impairments showing that people with cognitive and psychological disability have the highest levels of all types of violence.

The following Fact Sheets on Disability and Violence are available:

  1. Violence against people with disability in Australia
  2. Violence against young people with disability in Australia
  3. Violence against people with disability by impairment
  4. Intimate partner violence and disability in Australia

In the light of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation against People with Disability, it is vital that evidence-informed approaches to preventing violence against people with disability are developed; that limitations of current data are known and that there is a clearly identified way forward to vastly improve the situation for Australians with disability.

This research was funded by the Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health and the Melbourne Disability Institute, The University of Melbourne.