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LISA... is a parent support and lobby group, for parents and families with a family member having an intellectual or multiple disability, and living in a supported accommodation group home in the State of Victoria, Australia.
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Open Letter re Residential Care

Open Letter to:

Committee Members of the Betrayal of Trust Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-government Organisations:

Ms Georgie Crozier, MP (Chair)                         Mr Frank McGuire, MP (Deputy Chair)

Mrs Andrea Coote, MP                                      Ms Bronwyn Halfpenny, MP

Mr David O’Brien, MP                                         Mr Nick Wakeling, MP

18 November 2014

Government Failure to Protect People with Disabilities from Abuse

Whilst the Betrayal of Trust Inquiry report is to be commended it is extremely alarming to note that neither the current nor previous government has demonstrated the same level of moral fortitude and concern and initiated a similar inquiry into the ongoing abuse of people with disabilities living in Department of Human Services  and non-government supported accommodation. 

It may well be argued there is adequate legislation and bureaucracies to protect people with disabilities from abuse however, in reality, the truck loads of legislation and the bureaucracy have too frequently failed to protect society’s most vulnerable people who have suffered, or are indeed currently suffering from sexual, physical, psychological, emotional or financial abuse.

In The Betrayal of Trust foreword the Chair stated:

 “It is significant that this Inquiry has been conducted by a Parliamentary Committee.  It is an important reminder of the special powers that our Parliament is privileged to hold. It has highlighted Parliament’s capacity to consider and expose issues that may otherwise not be revealed.”

If parliament does indeed have these special powers why has it chosen not to exercise them and initiate an inquiry into the abuse of people with disabilities living in supported accommodation?

The following are excerpts from the Betrayal of Trust Report

  • The criminal abuse of children is unacceptable in any form. It symbolises a departure from morals that are the touchstone of our humanity and our society.

  • The community rightly expects that it should be able to trust non-government organisations that take children into their care to engage in activities for learning, development, enjoyment or for treatment or other care they may require.

  • Children cannot be expected to protect themselves against the crime of abuse in organisations. We as a community must take responsibility for upholding their rights.

  • The criminal abuse of children represents a departure of the gravest kind from the standards of decency fundamental to any civilised society.

  • The experience of criminal child abuse has profound and lifelong consequences for the physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing of victims. For parents of children abused in the care of trusted organisations, it is a betrayal beyond comprehension.

  • The criminal abuse of children involves extremely serious breaches of the laws of our community. Those who engage in it, or are in positions of authority and conceal such offences, should be dealt with under the criminal law.

  • Victims should have access to appropriate avenues to pursue justice for the harm they have suffered.

In considering the above and noting each dot point is equally relevant to people with disabilities and that people with disabilities are at least equally as vulnerable as children and their vulnerability lasts a lifetime it is totally indefensible that Victoria’s two major political parties apparently refuse to support a similar inquiry into the abuse of people with disabilities. Their failure to do so can only mean they do not give a damn about the abuse of people with disabilities.

If Victorian parliamentarians truly believe in this report then it must now demonstrate the same level of commitment and concern for people with disabilities as was afforded child abuse victims.

As the mother of a 40 year old daughter who has Down Syndrome who lived in supported accommodation for 8 years then chose to return to the family home as a result of abuse

I now seek a response from each of you to the following:

  1. Do you care that the rights of people with disabilities are being ignored?
  2. Do you care that people with disabilities are being abused in care on a daily basis?
  3. Do you care enough to raise with your party the critical need to support an inquiry into the abuse of people with disabilities living in supported accommodation?  

Also, I note with great alarm that there has been no mention of the major political parties mentioning the National Disability Insurance Scheme in their upcoming election campaigns.  It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that:

          (a) People with disabilities do not rate very highly with politicians and

          (b) Politicians do not support the NDIS.

This total disregard for people with disabilities is not only unconscionable it is contemptible.

In anticipation of a response from each of you.

Yours sincerely

Mrs Barbara Dixon   

2 Alleyne Avenue

Bonbeach  Vic  3196           barbaradixon2@bigpond.com

Tel:     9772 8226

copy to:

The Hon Dr Denis Napthine MP – Premier of Victoria

The Hon Peter Ryan MP - Deputy Premier and Leader of the National Party

The Hon Dan Andrews MP - Leader of the Opposition

The Hon Mary Wooldridge MP - Minister for Disability Services and Reform

The Hon Jenny Mikakos MP - Shadow Minister for Community Services

Mr Greg Barber MP - Leader of the Greens

Ms Colleen Hartland MP – Greens Spokesperson for Health, Community and Local Government

Ms Deborah Glass - Victorian Ombudsman 

Ms Colleen Pearce - Public Advocate

Mr Laurie Harkin - Disability Services Commissioner

Ms Gill Callister - Secretary, Department of Human Services

Newspapers

Political Reporter - The Herald Sun

Political Reporter - The Age

Television Channels

ABC – 7.30 Report; Four Corners

Political Reporter – channel 7

Political Reporter - Channel 9

Political Reporter - Channel 10

Political Reporter - SBS

Political Reporter - Channel 31

Radio

Jon Faine – ABC Radio 774

Neil Mitchell – Radio 693

Tom Elliott – Radio 693

LISA Inc   ~   Phone: 03 9434 3810   ~   Email: vk3qq@optusnet.com.au   ~   Address: 73 Nepean Street Watsonia VIC 3087

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