Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An open letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbbott and Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Manager of Government Business

Dear Tony and Mitch

On Monday, a Four Corners episode aired on ABC, where people with disability told us about being raped in care. They told us about coverups by the organisation, and failures to act on complaints. Other people with disability told us that this is a nationwide epidemic and that people living in institutional and residential care settings are being raped and abused or neglected every day.

You told us that it wasn't your responsibility, but you'd do something in 2019 when the NDIS had rolled out. It is someone else's responsibility, you say.

As of this morning, 3,417 petitioners disagree. They are calling for a national inquiry into violence, neglect and abuse against people with disability in residential and institutional settings. So are peak disability bodies, including People with Disability Australia, http://ymlp.com/z6IlfO, the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations. So is the former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes. So are thousands of people with disability and their families around the country.

It needs to stop now.

Why is it a Federal issue? There are many reasons, but the reason that people are still being raped and abused in care every day is because there has been no attention to this hidden shame from a Federal level. People with disability living in institutional settings are specifically excluded from the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women. There is no national coordinated legislation to prevent and address violence against people with disability. There is no independent, statutory national protection mechanism to protect, investigate and enforce findings related to abuse experienced by people with disability.

Even your own mechanism, the National Abuse and Neglect Hotline, stops us being heard. If we report abuse or neglect in a government funded service, we are referred back to that same government body to deal with the complaint 'locally'. And the data from that hotline is kept secret, and is not available to the public.

On Monday, a brave woman named Jules Anderson detailed how she was raped by a support worker whilst she was in care. This was not a one off occurrence by a malevolent individual - this happens every single day. Our children come home with injuries which are unexplained.

One friend has a fourteen year old daughter who does not use spoken language - she came home from her day program with a tear to her vagina so deep that it required surgery. Nobody was accountable. The daughter of another, who lives in a group home and has full time care, became mysteriously pregnant. No paternity tests were conducted. Another has a child who was raped on a school bus - another, a brother who comes home every month with bite marks, bruises, grazes caused from being dragged across a carpet. Nothing happened. There are thousands of stories every day, that we people with disability, parents and support workers hear about. Parents smother, starve or murder their children rather than put them into care, because they know what happens to people with disability living in institutional settings.

People living in boarding houses and other institutions like the Grand Western Lodge are being physically and sexually assaulted by staff and other residents, have died in appalling circumstances and have been denied basic rights. It is an aberration that we are being beaten and killed and raped - 90% of women with intellectual disability have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime, did you know?

Waiting until 2019, until more people with disability have been beaten and raped and killed in care, is not an option. This is a national emergency that affects your most marginalised citizens. The United Nations treaty monitoring bodies have made strong recommendations to Australia in relation to urgently addressing all forms for violence against people with disability. You have a responsibility to act, and to act immediately.

We tell you now that we will bring our stories forward, person by person, and follow the example of Jules and the other people who had the courage to tell their stories. We stand together as parents, support workers and people with disability to bring Australia's hidden shame into the light and to right the wrongs that have been done to us. We call upon you and other decision makers in Australia to take immediate action to ensure that people with disability will no longer be raped, abused or neglected in care settings.
'We're here and we're here to stay. And you or noone is going to change that...get off your backsides. Do something about it.' - Craig McDonald, person with a disability and whistleblower against violence and abuse

http://www.nationaldisabilityabuseinquiry.com/

Signed:

Samantha Connor, disability activist, and the 3,470 supporters of the Petition for a National Inquiry into Violence, Neglect and Abuse against People with Disability in Residential and Institutional Settings

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