After harrowing evidence provided to the Senate inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability in institutional and residential settings, the Community Affairs References Committee has tabled a report with urgent recommendations that include a Royal Commission investigation into the issue.
“A year ago the confronting report on Four Corners helped put this issue on the national agenda promoting a Senate inquiry because the Government wouldn’t take action.
“Today we have tabled a report from this inquiry that we hope will begin to address this appalling issue.
“There were so many accounts of violence, abuse and neglect that it is clear that abuse is widespread and occurring all over Australia, it is clear a Royal Commission is needed”, said Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, who secured and chaired the Community Affairs Committee inquiry.
“You don’t call for a Royal Commission lightly, but it is absolutely necessary in this instance.
“The Royal Commission would use its investigative powers and visit institutions, so that we as a nation can dig deeper and pry open the cases of abuse that have occurred for so long at such a large scale.
“Over 150 submissions presented to the inquiry show widespread abuse that touches every Australian community, every day, yet we have no definitive national data on people with disability and their experience with violence, abuse and neglect.
“That is why the Committee has recommended the Australian Bureau of Statistics includes people with disability in its surveys when it comes to violence, abuse and neglect being reported to an authority.
“Evidence presented also showed barriers people with disability face accessing police and the judicial system when attempting to report and prosecute cases of violence and abuse.
“The committee has recommended we need to improve access to justice by removing systemic barriers including access to supported decision making and legal capacity.
“Overwhelmingly, internal reporting of abuse is failing. People with disability and their families trying to report abuse often aren’t believed.
“Many are too terrified to report abuse because managers put the victims back into the very intimate care of their abusers. We learnt that institutions may be reluctant to speak out through fear of bad publicity.
“In response to this, the committee recommended the consideration of an independent, national disability complaints mechanism that can protect people with disability in institutional and residential settings.
“The committee has also called for national workforce and workplace regulation, with a focus on training and working with the national watchdog to end prevalence of abuse.
“Advocates have long spoken out on this issue that is systemic and wide-spread but for years their words have fallen on the deaf ears of our Governments.
“I hope this inquiry offers some ways forward for those that bravely gave evidence, wrote submissions, and those that still remain voiceless in the face of this neglect.
“The committee has made 30 recommendations, I urge the Government to implement the recommendations in this report so we can begin to end this national shame”.