Senate calls for inquiry into abuse against people with disability in institutions

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The Senate has called on the Government to establish a national inquiry into the violence, neglect and abuse against people with disability in residential, institutional and home care settings.

The motion was moved by Senator Siewert, and read:

The Senate:

1. Acknowledges: 
a) That an unacceptably high number of people with disability are subjected to neglect, violence and abuse in residential, institutional and home care settings;

2. Notes:
a) The disturbing evidence shown in the Four Corners report on the 24th November 2014 in regards to abuse of people with disability, institutional and home care. 

3. Calls on the Government to:
a) take urgent action and set up a national inquiry into the violence, neglect and abuse against people with disability in residential, institutional and home care settings.

Senator SIEWERT (Western Australia-Australian Greens Whip) (17:44): By leave-I thank the Senate for supporting this motion. This is, as Senator Fifield said, a very important matter. I note that Australia has obligations under a number of conventions to address the issue of abuse against people with disability in institutional settings. Anybody that attended the disability awards last night would have heard the talk and the support for a national inquiry. I think it would be fair to say, besides obviously celebrating the winners of awards, it would have been the topic of the night. I was inundated with people who were supporting the call for a national inquiry.

I am pleased the Victorian government is undertaking an inquiry but if we think that this abuse is only limited Victoria, we are very sadly mistaken. I have had a large number of people raise this issue and raise examples of abuse from other states, including in my home state of Western Australia. Australia has an obligation to ensure that this does not happen. We have an national obligation to investigate this and put in place measures to ensure that people with disability are safe and protected and are not subjected to violence or abuse. In particular, we know that this has a gender related angle as well. It is essential that we address this issue.

I do not want the people who follow after me to be the people who have to stand up in this place and ask for a royal commission because in previous years we knew about this and did not address it. We have an obligation at a national level to address this issue. I urge the government to heed both the vote of the Senate and the call of the sector and the community to hold a national inquiry.