A vintage Melbourne tram passes by Victoria's Parliament Building in Melbourne, Australia, June 13, 2017.
A vintage Melbourne tram passes by Victoria's Parliament Building in Melbourne, Australia, June 13, 2017.

SYDNEY - Australia will be forced to confront decades of abuse of people with disabilities after parliament agreed to set up a Royal Commission, the nation's highest form of inquiry.

For years Australians living with physical and mental disabilities have suffered violence and abuse at workplaces, institutions and schools, including a young boy with autism who was tied up with rope and put in an enclosed space by a teacher.

All parties in Australia's federal parliament have agreed that a Royal Commission, a quasi-judicial investigation, is needed to investigate the abuses.  The leader of the opposition Bill Shorten said it would be the "king of all inquiries" and that the "abuse and mistreatment of people with disability is Australia's hidden shame."

Victims say that they have been marginalized, institutionalized and abused, and that their stories of mistreatment were too often ignored.

Craig Wallace from Disabled People's Organizations Australia, a rights group, says as a young boy he was treated viciously in hospital.

"The overwhelming feeling that I remember when I was a child and there was a nurse coming and setting fire to my hair at night is that people did not believe us.  If we can have a Royal Commission into the banks then surely we can have an inquiry into the most vulnerable people in our community that are being preyed upon by monsters who come at night".

It's not clear when the commission will start, but it follows years of campaigning by victims and their families.  

The center-right Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that the inquiry would need the support of all Australian states and territories.

The Royal Commission will attempt to uncover the true scale of the problem.  There is no exact data, and experts say that violence against women with disabilities often goes unreported and when it is highlighted it is invariably dismissed, ignored or covered up.

It is estimated that about 18 percent of Australians have a disability.