What are Royal Commissions?
A Royal Commission is a formal independent public inquiry instigated by the Commonwealth Government or by a State Government. They can be inquisitorial or investigatory in nature. Commissioners are appointed to investigate allegations of impropriety or gross administrative incompetence or provide research, advice and policy options to government on major and complex issues. Royal Commissions are established under specific legislation that confers wide-ranging coercive powers of investigation.
Victorian Royal Commissions are established under letters patent issued by the Governor in accordance with the Inquiries Act 2014, appointing one or more persons to constitute a Royal Commission to inquire into and report on the terms of reference specified in the letters patent. Recent Victorian Government Royal Commissions include the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Royal Commissions may also be established and conducted jointly by the Commonwealth and one or more States, for example the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1987-1991). To establish a joint Royal Commission, letters patent are issued by the Governor–General. Each participating State and Territory also issues letters patent or instruments of appointment.