Call for Urgent Action on Abuse of Disabled Children
20 August 2015 at 5:17 pm
Australia’s disability sector has called for “swift” Government action after the Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People, found that 166 children had allegedly experienced sexual abuse in residential and institutional settings in Victoria.
Commissioner Bernie Gery’s report, As a Good Parent Would, found that there had been overall 189 reports of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and 42 children were subject to multiple reports.
Gery said in his report that disabled children were at particular risk of experiencing abuse.
“The present carers’ register creates additional vulnerability in the system. Offenders can move without detection across different vulnerable groups, such as caring for children in residential care, people with an intellectual disability or the elderly,” the report said.
“Anecdotal evidence provided during sector consultations raised concern that offenders can exploit these systemic weaknesses and move around the sectors freely, particularly through labour-hire agencies.”
Gery said there was an “extremely high level”, almost 20 per cent, of children with an intellectual disability in residential care.
Two cases of disabled children facing abuse detailed in the report included a 16-year-old girl with a diagnosed intellectual disability accessing an adult dating site and exchanging sex for money, alcohol and drugs and a 12-year-old boy with an intellectual disability that was absent from his placement and known to be with an older boy from the same residential unit. The two boys were believed to be visiting a 50-year-old man who was alleged to be a paedophile.
The report came as the Senate Inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings received hundreds of stories claiming abuse.
The Australian Cross Disability Alliance (ACDA), a coalition of four different peak disability groups, said that the reports and stories were the “tip of the iceberg” and were indicative of a widespread and far-reaching problem.
Carolyn Frohmader, CEO of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) and ACDA member said more action was needed.
“For more than 20 years, people with disability in Australia have been urging successive Australian Governments to act to address and prevent violence experienced by children and adults with disability in institutional and residential settings,” Frohmader said.
“We are working closely with the current Senate Inquiry and are aware the Inquiry is yet to report its findings, but we firmly believe the time has come for a Royal Commission to properly investigate and do justice to, the epidemic of violence perpetrated against people with disability.”
Therese Sands, Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia (PWDA) and ACDA commended the Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People for rightly naming the sexual abuse of children in residential care as violations of Australia’s international human rights obligations.
“All forms of violence against people with disability in institutional and residential settings violate Australia’s international human rights obligations, and in many cases, constitute torture and ill-treatment. We call on the Prime Minister and the Council of Australian Governments to act swiftly to address this issue on a national level,” Sands said.
The Commissioner recommended in his report that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse progress an interconnected national register of carers, for staff who work with vulnerable people, such as children, people with a disability and the elderly, to reduce the risk of abuse.
Yesterday a Senate committee tabled a report recommending a shake-up of the out-of-home care system, making 39 recommendations to improve poor outcomes for children.