Accounts of Disability Abuse ‘Horrifying’ – Senator
1 September 2015 at 10:50 am
The abuse of people with disability remains seemingly invisible despite a Senate Inquiry into the issue and more must be done to expose it, writes the Chair of the Inquiry, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert.
It becomes clear just reading even a few of the submissions and listening to some of the evidence given to the inquiry into violence and abuse of people with disability in institutional and residential settings that violence and abuse is happening. It is widespread and it is occurring right across Australia. The accounts are horrifying. Such levels of misconduct and abuse should have caused uproar amongst the general public a long time ago.
The Community Affairs References Committee is holding nationwide hearings and will soon report on what we have learnt about people with disability being abused in residential and institutional care settings.
Since April we have heard evidence from people with disability, peak disability groups, experts and service providers in Canberra, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. It is harrowing and devastating to hear accounts of violence and abuse. This abuse includes violence, physical and emotional abuse, as well as bullying. This abuse is happening where people live, recreate and where they work. Where instances of violence and abuse have been reported, it has often been ignored.
Often abuse isn't reported because people fear repercussions, they fear that they won't be believed and they're dependent on the person they're reporting about.
While there are many recommendations to the inquiry there are some common themes emerging. This includes robust complaint mechanisms, and an overwhelming call for a national independent statutory watchdog with powers to investigate.
Given the level of violence and abuse many people are calling for a royal commission into the issue. People have welcomed the Senate inquiry but want a more in depth investigation of this national shame. Pre-employment checks and registration are also high on people's' agenda.
One of the key issues consistently raised is the issue of housing, congregate care and isolation of people with disability.
Access to justice and reform of the justice system is also a key issue. We received some strong evidence about the recent reforms of the justice system and the new Disability Justice Plan in South Australia. Witnesses have spoken of the need to go to the root of the problem, that we need better training for carers and better advocacy, and to ensure that people fully understand their rights. There is strong support for a national pre-employment checking and an adequate registration system for carers.
Once all evidence has been received, the Committee will table a report in the Senate with recommendations to address this nationwide issue. In the interim, it is clear we must be doing more to raise awareness of this issue, abuse of people with disability is seemingly invisible despite such urgent cases of injustices happening right around the country.
About the author: Senator Rachel Siewert is the Greens spokesperson on Ageing and Disability Services and Chair of the Senate Inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings.