The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) today joined calls from across the disability sector for a Royal Commission into the violence, abuse and neglect experienced by Australians with disability.
Last night’s Four Corners investigative report exposed harrowing tales of the abuse and assault of people with disability living in specialist disability accommodation. The episode highlighted not only individual cases of violence and assault but also the woefully inadequate system responses when incidents came to light.
The Chief Executive Officer of AFDO, Mr Ross Joyce, said that while last night’s stories were heartbreaking, they were sadly not shocking for anyone familiar with the disability system.
“Sadly, stories like the ones that featured on Four Corners last night have been told over and over for many years. People with disability, their families and carers, advocates, organisations like AFDO and its members, have all spoken out many times about the abuse, neglect and violence commonly experienced by people with disability,” Mr Joyce said.
“There have been countless inquiries and reports. But, up to now, what has been missing is action. That must change. We can’t wait any longer – we must act now to protect people with disability.”
A 2015 Senate Committee Inquiry heard detailed evidence of violence and abuse of people with disability, particularly in institutional and residential settings. The inquiry recommended a Royal Commission conduct a more thorough investigation.
Mr Joyce said action was needed at multiple levels across the system.
“We need justice for victims. We need change at all levels – policy, legislation, practices and procedures. We need to make sure that when abuse occurs, independent advocacy is provided to the person so that the voice of victims is heard loud and clear and perpetrators are bought to justice. We need providers to be held accountable for what happens on their watch.
“But we also need to do much more to prevent abuse in the first place. And that begins with a change in attitude towards people with disability.
“We hope a Royal Commission will bring the extent of the problem to light. That is an important first step. But – more importantly – national action needs to be taken by government, by providers and by the community. Systemic changes need to be made now so that Australians with disability are safe from violence, abuse and neglect.”