Change for Willow

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Willow Dunn was 4 years old when her father left her to die alone in a cot, hungry and injured. As her little body lay lifeless, rats began to attack her perfect face. I don't say this to upset you. I want you to hear the bitter truth. In the days following her death a story has emerged of a little girl isolated and alone. The Australian Down Syndrome community is in mourning. Willow was one of our own. We are a community already acquainted with death, but rarely in such a shocking way. And the first question we ask eachother is "who knew her?". Usually our children are well connected. We run into eachother in waiting rooms, we attend community events, we have local playdates. So each of ask the question, how didnt we know? How didn't someone know?
Willow was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, a condition which entitles her to automatic entry to the NDIS. Prior to that she was entitled to Betterstart. In her early years she should have been engaged with a number of health professionals for growth checks, cardio consults, hearing and eyesight checks, and early intervention appointments, just to name a few. Whether she was given this care is yet to be seen. According to reports she was not NDIS registered, but the family was known to authorities. So again I ask, how did no one know?
Australia needs to change and it needs to change now. Studies show that Australian children with disabilities are at higher risk of abuse and maltreatment, and yet we have no national system to combat this. As a nation we sit back in shock as we hear stories like little Willow, or the two teens found locked in a room in their nappies, but following these incidents we see no real change to process or proceedure. And so I send out this cry for help.

Let's put in place a program to protect our most vulnerable. When a child is diagnosed with a recognised disability I propose that they be required to attend a yearly medical check with a Pediatrician, GP or commynity nurse, bulk billed by the government. If this appointment is not attended, state family and community services will be triggered to do a family welfare check to ensure the safety of those involved. It is not a perfect solution, but it's a start. Let's start making a change, for Willow.


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