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 Legal assistance for people engaging with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has been established to inquire and make recommendations on all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability.

To find out more about their work or to make a submission, visit the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability website. 

We administer legal assistance mechanisms for the Royal Commission. This includes:

National legal advisory service

Funded by the Australian Government, National Legal Aid (NLA) and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) are working to establish a free, national legal advisory service for people engaging with the Royal Commission. The legal advisory service will be:

  • independent
  • trauma-informed
  • culturally safe
  • delivered nationally

The full service is in development. In the interim, NLA has established a telephone helpline to provide procedural information on how to engage with the Royal Commission, including how to make a voluntary submission. Through the telephone helpline, NLA is also registering the details of people interested in accessing legal advice about engaging with the Royal Commission, so that they can be contacted as soon as the full legal advisory service is available. You can contact NLA on:

  • 1800 771 800 available between 9.15am-5.15pm AEDT, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).
  • The hours of operation have changed to AEDT due to the start of daylight savings in many parts of Australia.

NLA and NATSILS are working to ensure the legal advisory service meets the needs of people wishing to engage with the Royal Commission. This will take time. The full range of legal advice services will become available over the coming months, prior to the commencement of public hearings. The national legal advisory service will soon be able to provide legal advice, including assistance in the preparation of voluntary submissions. More specific timeframes on the availability of legal advice services will be shared as soon as they become available.

A legal advisory service website will be updated with key information as it is available.

The Australian Government is funding legal financial assistance to individuals and entities to assist with meeting the costs of legal representation and disbursements associated with engaging with the Royal Commission.

Eligibility for legal financial assistance

Legal financial assistance will be provided for an individual and may be provided to an entity, for their reasonable legal representation and disbursement costs resulting from:

  • being called, or granted leave to appear, as a witness at a hearing of the Royal Commission, or
  • being requested to attend, or attending an interview of the Royal Commission, or
  • complying with a notice to give information or a statement in writing that will be used as evidence in the Royal Commission, and/or
  • complying with a notice to produce issued by the Royal Commission, and
  • where the entity, excluding an individual, would not able to meet these costs without incurring serious financial hardship.

An 'entity' can be a person who is an employee or former employee of any 'disability service ' who is not representing their employer.

If you have been called by the Royal Commission, in your personal capacity, you will be eligible for legal financial assistance.

If your organisation has been called, you may be eligible for legal financial assistance. The organisation will be subject to an assessment of whether it can meet the cost of its legal representation without incurring serious financial difficulty.

How to apply

Applications can be submitted by downloading the application form below, and emailing a completed form to finass@ag.gov.au with the required attachments:

What financial information does the organisation need to provide?

The organisation must provide full details of the applicant's financial circumstances, including annual income from all sources, total value of assets and total balance of savings/shares. Supporting documentation, such as the last six months of bank statements, latest tax assessments, and/or annual financial statements should be attached to the application. All information provided to the department is treated in confidence.

What costs are covered?

The department will pay for reasonable legal representation and disbursement costs that you incur as a witness for the Royal Commission. These could include your solicitor's costs (such as attendance or preparation of documents) and disbursements (such as solicitor's travel, photocopying).

The Assessment of Costs provides detailed information of what is payable and at what rate.

More information about financial assistance set out below in the Commonwealth Guidelines for Legal Financial Assistance 2012: Addendum for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

Sending your application

If you cannot send your application by email, please telephone the Financial Assistance Section on 02 6141 4770 or 1800 117 995 between 8.30am – 5.00pm, Monday to Friday.

If you are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment contact us through the National Relay Service and give 02 614 4770 as the number you would like to call.

Assessment timeframes

Completed applications will be assessed within 21 days. Incomplete applications will not be assessed. You will be notified if your application is incomplete, and requested to provide missing information.

If you receive less than 21 days' notice of appearing or attending an interview at the Royal Commission, the department will try to assess your application before the date of your appearance.

How are payments made

If a grant is approved, the department will only pay after the work has been performed, and a claim has been made to the department. The Commonwealth Assessment of Costs (2012) sets the maximum amount that the department can pay under grants:

Legal framework

The Commonwealth Guidelines for Legal Financial Assistance 2012 (the Guidelines) establish the Royal Commission and Inquiries scheme:

The operation of the Guidelines are modified by the Commonwealth Guidelines for Legal Financial Assistance 2012: Addendum for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability:

Further information

For further information, please refer to the Commonwealth Guidelines for Legal Financial Assistance 2012 and the Addendum for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. The Financial Assistance Section are available on the telephone numbers 02 6141 4770 or 1800 117 995 (between 8:30am and 5:00pm, Monday to Friday) or by email at finass@ag.gov.au

If you are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment contact us through the National Relay Service and give 02 6141 4770 as the number you would like to call.

Other assistance available for people engaging with the Royal Commission

Office of the Royal Commission

Community based support services

The Attorney-General's Department acknowledges topics of the Royal Commission may cause distress to people wishing to participate. If you feel that you or someone you know is at risk of harm to themselves or others, please call:

  • Lifeline Crisis Support on 13 11 14 (24 hours/7 days),
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or
  • In an emergency, call 000. ​​​​​​​​​
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