Shining a light onto the abuse of people with disability

14 January 2019

“It’s time to shine a big bright light on [the abuse of people with disability] and ask why is it happening still?” Michael Sullivan recently visited his local MP, Hon Paul Fletcher. Here is what he said.

My name is Michael Sullivan, I am board member of Council for Intellectual Disability. I have lived in your electorate my whole life.

I want to talk to you today about making a difference to the problem of abuse and neglect of people with disability.

There’s no quick fix for this, it’s a hard topic to even talk about, but we have to be open about it. Admit that it has happened in the past and acknowledge it is still happening now. So we can change the future.

In the past, incidents of abuse and neglect have been swept under the carpet but we are hopeful we are past that now. It’s time to take a really different approach. Now it’s time to shine a big bright light on the issue and ask why is it happening still?

Stories of abuse and neglect

In NSW we know there have been 1400 reported cases of abuse in group homes since 2015. This is really huge and sad.

There has been a lot of media on abuse. On 4 Corners on the ABC and on 730 Report on the ABC. There are still group homes where people are being abused and some people are still in institutions.

Our friends and people in the community. They tell us their story. They are in pain and they need to be heard.

People do not believe us. They think that they can do what they like with us.

People are still suffering from the pain of abuse. They can get into trouble with the law or have mental health issues because they don’t get enough support and cannot heal by telling their story.

This is why we need a Royal Commission into the abuse of people with disability.

We need a community where we feel safe, supported and valued. One where our rights are respected and we are valued.

Their human rights are not being looked after. The UN convention in Article 16 says that people with disability should be free from abuse.

How can we keep people with disability safe?

We need to be given the chance to speak up. To say when it has happened to us. The problem is that many people can’t because they are locked away.

People with disability can find it very hard to speak up about abuse and neglect for so many reasons.

Some people with disability don’t have the confidence to speak out and at other times it’s because they have tried to speak up before and not been listened to or believed.

Often the police give up and say it is too hard or people don’t believe them. It gets swept away, hidden and pretend it never happened.

Imagine how terrible that would be. You finally get the courage up to tell someone you have been abused and they don’t believe you. Or they do but say it’s too late to do anything about it now or too difficult.

If you don’t feel safe about speaking up, then you won’t. You don’t want to make things worse for yourself, so a person with an intellectual disability needs to feel really safe, before they can speak up.

Many people who have been abused have been told that they must never tell anyone, or something bad will happen. How do we let these people know they can stay safe and they can tell their scary secret? Through a Royal Commission, that is how.

We need a Royal Commission

A Royal Commission into abuse will give people a safe and supported way to tell their story. We can learn from their pain so we can make sure it doesn’t happen to others.

The NDIS will not fix the abuse. The NDIS Commission only covers people who get the NDIS. The NDIS will only cover 460,000 people, it will not protect people who do not get the NDIS. What happens to all the other people with disability?

I would like you to be my voice in supporting a Royal Commission on abuse of people with disability in parliament as my local MP and also as the minister.

We want the government to fix this and protect people with disability. There shouldn’t be anything to hide. We just need the light to shine through to let people tell their story and to heal.

I hope you will help me to get a Royal Commission into the abuse of people with disability.

Thank you.

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