Don't leave disabled people out - expand the Royal Commission Terms of Reference!
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My name is Sam Connor. I am one of thousands of disabled Australians in this country. I am watching other disabled people die around us.
They are dying because of violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutionalised settings.
Yesterday, our Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, announced a Royal Commission into the quality of care provided in residential and home aged care to senior Australians.
He also included young disabled Australians who are living in residential aged care settings.
But this doesn't go far enough.
We urgently need the terms of reference to be expanded to include institutional settings that disabled people are abused in.
The terms of reference should include the terms outlined in the 'Violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings, including the gender and age related dimensions, and the particular situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, and culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability' Senate report. You can find it here.
Please help us by signing and sharing the petition - please help by talking about this to as many people as you can. By not doing so, we are failing disabled Australians - including disabled older Australians.
This is why.
I am the Convenor of the Disability Clothesline, a violence prevention group for disabled people. Every year, we join other cross disability groups to mourn our dead. And every year, the lists of names get longer.
Here's one of the most startling statistics you will read about disabled people this year - the life expectancy of an intellectually disabled person in this country is only FIFTY FOUR YEARS OF AGE.
That's twenty six years less than that of a non intellectually disabled person. And it is happening because of preventable conditions - violence, neglect and lack of care and support.
Here are five reasons you need to make sure disabled people are included in this inquiry, Prime Minister.
- The top recommendation by the Senate into violence, neglect and abuse against disabled people in institutionalised settings was a Royal Commission. In 2015, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee handed down a whopping 300+ page report. Disabled Australians and their families poured out their pain and related their experiences of abuse in care.
After eighteen months, the Turnbull Government said no to a Royal Commission - despite the fact that Labor, the Greens and other decision makers have committed to a Royal Commission into disability abuse in institutions. A new Morrison government should uphold the recommendations made by their own Senate.
We need the scope of this inquiry broadened - it is more cost effective to hold a single, broad Royal Commission than a series of smaller inquiries.
- Older Australians are living in disability settings, not just aged care settings. There are hundreds of boarding houses, group homes, small and large institutions where disabled people over the age of 65 are living. It will be impossible to hold a comprehensive inquiry without including the people living in that circumstance, especially for people who are unable to access nursing homes and aged care settings because of specialist support needs, poverty or circumstance.
Omitting disability residential settings means discriminating against disabled people - including the people you say this inquiry is for.
- Older people ARE disabled people. 95% of 95 year olds have an age acquired disability - this is why they require care and support. It's also why we've created institutions in the past.
There's a peculiar tension right now with the NDIS cut off at 65 years old - it's important to capture the experiences of those disabled people who live outside of aged care settings with NDIS funding rather than under an aged care system. They are also older Australians and by limiting this inquiry to only those with aged care provision (rather than disability care and support), you are discriminating against thousands of older Australians who are disabled. That includes people who are doubly or multiply marginalised, because they are aging with disabilities.
Remember, 75 per cent of reported cases of elder abuse involve older people with cognitive impairment.
- There is significant evidence that abuse against disabled people exists in epidemic proportions. The numbers of reports, state and federal, media reports, individual testimonies and exposes are the reason disabled people and families have lobbied long and hard for a disability abuse inquiry.
Every year since the Senate report was handed down in 2015, we have held a White Flower Memorial, calling the names of our dead. Disabled persons' organisations in this country have been lobbying for years over this issue. Last year over 160 civil society groups and over 100 academics joined the call for a Royal Commission into violence against people with disability.
The disability sector is united in their call for urgent action to address this epidemic. Our PM says that it is yet to be established that there is a crisis in aged care - it is firmly determined that there is a crisis for disabled people in institutionalised settings, including in family settings - a huge issue in elder abuse.
We need to establish effective safeguards for those disabled people who are not in the NDIS. When the Australian Government said no to a Royal Commission in the wake of a Senate report, they said that the recently established NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission would address the recommendations from the inquiry.
But this isn't true. The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission will only cover 10% of people with disability, people who are eligible for the NDIS. The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission - which in my State won't be rolling out until 2020 - doesn't have the powers of a Royal Commission, won’t lead to structural change and cannot bring justice for past abuses.
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I am not just asking for your help for me - nor for my children or friends and family. I am asking in the names of the disabled people who have died as a result of violence, neglect and abuse in institutionalised settings.
Read their stories. If the scope of this Royal Commission is not broadened, you will be dooming the NDIS to fail. You will be failing disabled Australians - those who have died and those who will die as a result of your inaction.
Read their names. I call for justice for our people.
- I call for justice for Shona Hookey, the 29 year old Aboriginal woman who died as a result of neglect and medical ableism in an institutionalised setting.
- I call for justice for Melanie Margaret Nean Cutmore, another Aboriginal woman at the same group home and same hospital three years later - she died in almost exactly the same circumstances.
- I call for justice for Janet Mackozdi, a 77 year old woman who died of hypothermia after experiencing family and elder abuse at her childrens' home in 2010. I call for justice for other disabled elders who have died as a result of abuse and neglect at home, including this unnamed woman, Marcia Clarke
I call for justice for Helen Dansie, Shirley Thompson, Janice and Robyn Frescura, Liam Milne, Tyrone Honeywood, Jonathan and Erin Crabtree, Levai Bonnar, Jason Shepstone, Hayley Dea Bell, Julie Betty Kuhn, Charles Dalziel, Julian, Isabelle Leiper, Janene Devine, Kate Bugmy, Shellay Ward, and others who should have been safe with the children, parents and family members who had been charged with their care.
- I call for justice for Kyla Puhle, a 27 year old woman who died at the hands of her parents in 2007 after being withdrawn from disability services. I call for justice for Peter Eitzen, Brandon le Serve, Jason Dawes, Digby Dowdle and others whose perpetrators walked free from court without charge.
- I call for justice for David Veech, a 35 year old client of Lifestyle Solutions who died after accessing a quantity of Fentanyl because he was unsupervised at his care home.
- I call for justice for 41 year old David Orton, who died in his group home agony after eighteen months of deterioration - from constipation and blood poisoning.
- I call for justice for 22 year old Sarah Hammoud, whose care agency had been reported for her abuse many months before. Nothing was done and she died of septicemia.
- I call for justice for Carney Schultz, a 28 year old woman who died a 'preventable and avoidable death' a group home in Figtree after significant failings in her care.
- I call for justice for Ms H, an autistic woman who was under medical guardianship but who died because the medical system failed to provide her with the care and support she needed to access it.
- I call for justice for LM, an Aboriginal woman who died at home in her remote location because her family could not care for her and because there were no services to support her.
- I call for justice for the unnamed 5 year old boy who died on his foster carers' couch as a result of drug toxicity. He was removed from his family because of drug issues. I call for justice for all disabled children who have died in foster care.
- I call for justice for Peta Doig, an 68 year old autistic woman who spent a lifetime in Graylands Hospital and who died after years of torture, rape and abuse. She died after screaming for days after the hospital decided not to let her access medical treatment.
I call for justice for Amanda Gilbert, who died after being raped and abused in the same institution and for all the other disabled women who are inappropriately placed in institutional mental health 'care' and who die as a result of violence, abuse and neglect.
- I call for justice for Julie Jacobson, a 51 old amputee who died of a 'preventable, avoidable death' after a private disability provider withdrew essential supports.
- I call for justice for Radwan Kanawati, a Deaf and schizophrenic man who died as a result of 'shortcomings in care', like Kevin Chuter and Stephen Ind, who asphyxiated in his bed at the Neena Care Centre after being left alone unchecked. He had recently made a sexual assault complaint.
I call for justice for Stuart Lambert, a man who died in a carers home from broken ribs. The neighbour had reported previous abuse and the carer had a police record.
- I call for justice for Miriam Merten, a mother of two who was left to wander naked and covered with faeces at a Lismore psychiatric hospital. They ignored her, she hit her head over and over as she fell more than 20 times, and she died.
- I call for justice for Sandra Deacon, who had an intellectual disability and whose access to support services was controlled by her abusive partner. He murdered her by hitting her in the head eight times, with an axe.
I call for justice for those others who have been murdered in domestic violence in their institutional settings - like Rebecca Lazarus, who was forced to live with a dangerous abuser because she was in a group home.
- I call for justice for Leah Floyd, who died when a pressure sore received at her care home became septic. The inquest heard about serious issues in the facility that breached her rights.
- I call for justice for LV and other Aboriginal disabled people who have died due to failures in care in justice settings.
- I call for justice for Edwin Singer, a dad and former social worker who was beaten to death in a boarding house. I call for justice for all the other disabled people, including older disabled people, living in boarding houses across the country.
- I call for justice for Christopher O'Brien and those who have died as a result of hate crimes. Christopher was tortured and his payments were stolen - half the victims of Snowtown were also disabled people. In Australia, we have no hate crime legislation to protect disabled people.
These are just some of our stories. There are thousands.
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