The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability held their second Adelaide Community Forum at Stamford Plaza Adelaide on Tuesday, which showcased the anger people with disability, their family and friends are feeling towards the Government and the systems, policies and procedures in place.
Commissioner Alistair McEwin AM opened the community forum on behalf of the Commission.
There were 13 speakers at the event, which was booked out by people with disability, their friends and family, along with industry providers and advocates.
Government don’t provide enough for people with disability
A number of speakers expressed fatigue around accessing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), as well as feeling like the Government did not care about their situations.
One speaker, a carer of children all with a variety of disabilities, expressed distress at the financial position she was in and the social isolation her family felt.
She was especially upset at the Government’s inability at providing proper funding for families with such severe disabilities.
To the point where her husband and herself had to consider their marital options and whether they needed to divorce just so they could receive a carer’s payment.
Another speaker at the forum described being angry at the Government and how they treated people with disability.
Highly critical of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, she says the NDIS has dragged people with disability back 30 years in their fight for equality.
She believes “ableist culture” is festering within “service provider land”, and the NDIS is the “king of service providers”.
She told the Commissioner that until ableism is fixed at all levels of Government and through the community, any fix will only be putting bandaids on a bigger problem.
A different speaker for the night was from a provider, who talked about the systemic issues in the disability provider industry.
He described the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) as the worst thing to happen to the NDIS. The crowd responded in agreeance to his statements.
He was critical of the Government, saying the NDIA has turned the disability sector into a for-profit industry.
Disability residential services not capable of good service
A number of speakers outlined their experiences with disability services and how they were mistreated by workers in disability residential facilities.
They all demanded some form of action or practices to be put in place to protect children and adults with disability.
First speaker for the night was a mother of a child with severe intellectual disability. She wanted to get across to the Commissioner that residential services were not providing adequate or humane services to children with disability.
She described the time she put her 13 year old son into a respite home for two days and on returning to pick him up, found him strapped into a wheelchair, 18 inches away from a television on full volume, covered in his own urine, and screaming at the top of his lungs.
Even after reporting the facility to police for child abuse, it was never investigated because her son could not give an account of what occurred.
The last speaker for the forum explained his role as a carer for his wife who is living with severe disability after a stroke in 2004.
He described disability service providers as negligent in their responsibilities and all aspects of care.
“All [she] wants is some quality of life. Disabled people are too scared to complain in case their safety is compromised,” says the last speaker.
Education is not inclusive or accessible
Even after the first hearings for the Commission, there were still many more complaints about the level of accessible and inclusive education provided to a person with disability.
One speaker described his journey accessing education and being supported by higher education facilities following a car accident resulting in aphasia and short term memory.
Even though the TAFE coordinators were fully understand he could not read well due to his disability, they continued to provide him with broken programs and hardcopy exams.
The speaker asked for universities and TAFEs to stop saying “fantastic words” about how they are inclusive for people with disability and actually take action in supporting people with disability to receive higher education.
A different speaker expressed her frustration with the education system who are refusing to provide her son, living with severe cerebral palsy, with an accessible toilet or related infrastructure and equipment.
She says her son is being forced out of the school because they will not cater for him, with the school principal putting the blame on the NDIA as their “responsibility”.
This issue was shared by another speaker, who described his struggle advocating for his cousin’s son who lives with autism, and keeping him in school.
He expressed frustration with the school for suspending his cousin’s son like “clockwork”, and lying to the Department of Education about plans they hadn’t implemented.
The speaker says there is too much “gatekeeping” going on at mainstream schools.
Medical professionals and workers need to show respect and listen
Medical professionals and disability workers were targeted by speakers for being disrespectful to people with disability.
One of the speakers was a support worker who begged for doctors and industry professionals to treat people with disability with respect.
During her working life, she described witnessing restrictive practices, poor care from staff and doctors talking down to people with disability.
While another speaker gave a speech on behalf of a person who was diagnosed as profoundly deaf.
Similar to the speaker before her, she had experienced ridicule from her own family and teachers. Especially when wanting to use her preferred language, Auslan.
The speaker wants people to stop painting people living with hearing difficulties with the “dumb brush”.
A different speaker for the night told the forum about the sexual abuse she experienced at the hand of her father hen she was a child.
She is upset at how the Government system and police system did not protect her, even when it was obvious she was being abused.
To make submissions to the Disability Royal Commission, head to their website for directions about how to provide your story.
The next round of hearings will be held in Melbourne from 2-6 December with a focus on housing and group homes for people with disability in Victoria.