Senate Votes on Disability Abuse Inquiry
11 February 2015 at 11:35 am
The Australian Senate has voted unanimously to hold a national inquiry into the abuse of disabled people in institutional and residential settings.
Disability advocates, including abuse victim Juliette Anderson, had spent Wednesday campaigning for Senators to support the motion for an inquiry.
At around 4pm on Wednesday every Senator present voted in favor of the national inquiry.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, who moved the motion, welcomed the outcome of the vote.
“This is an important step towards shining a light on an issue that has gone unacknowledged for too long”, Senator Siewert said.
“People with disability and organisations representing them can breathe a sigh of relief that there is finally an inquiry that will address the systemic issue of abuse of people with disability in care at a national level.
“This inquiry is just one step to ensuring that people with disability can feel safe day to day whilst accessing essential services.
“It was ridiculous to consider this solely a state issue – it is happening all over the country and needed a national approach.”
The inquiry was called for after an ABC Four Corners report last year in which Juliette Anderson told her story as a victim of abuse by Yooralla carer Vinod "Johnny" Kumar.
Kumar was eventually sentenced to 18 years in jail.
On the same day that Senators were set to vote on the inquiry it was revealed that another Yooralla worker had been charged with abusing disabled people.
Siewert said the new reports were another example of why an inquiry was needed.
“We had the full support of disability organisations at a national level, the passing of this motion is a testament to these groups who have worked so hard to bring this issue to light,” she said.
“The support of this inquiry is timely with today’s news that Yooralla – Victoria’s biggest non-government disability care provider – confirmed a former worker had recently been charged with indecently assaulting two clients.
“This issue urgently needs addressing, I am glad we are finally taking a proactive approach.”
“Make no mistake, this issue is bigger than a single service provider. It is not just a state issue, it is a Federal one, and it needs national leadership.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has also pledged to hold an inquiry into abuse in the disability sector.
Federal Assistant Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield, said at the time that while he was deeply disturbed by the reports of abuse, it was the responsibility of the State Governments to undertake any inquiries.
On the day the Four Corners was set to air, Yooralla CEO Sanjib Roy resigned.