Senator Jordon Steele-John said people had been waiting decades for action, and this was an opportunity not to be missed for a comprehensive Royal Commission into the maltreatment of disabled people and older people, in institutional and residential settings.
“The disability community have been pushing for action on this issue for years, as have the aged care sector and other care industries. We have a real opportunity here to investigate all of these concerns in one go,” Steele-John said today.
“I don’t want to see this government cave in and just tack a reference to the disability community, my community, onto the side of a Royal Commission into the aged care sector and similarly I don’t want to see the investigation of the aged care sector diminished.
The West Australian senator has been campaigning for a royal commission into the sector, and has recently argued the federal government’s inquiry into aged care should be expanded to include the disability sector as well.
The Upper House fell silent as Senator Steele-John listed name after name of people who had died while in care, many of neglect or serious violence.
“Tonight I seek to speak their names,” he told the Senate.
“And though the sun does not shine in this place, I hope that their stories will move the hearts of those who have it within their power to see justice done.”
Among the victims, Senator Steele-John spoke of a seven-year-old girl with severe autism who was found dead of starvation and surrounded by faeces.
He detailed the deaths of people from severe neglect by their carers, others who had been killed by loved ones in ‘mercy killings’ to end their suffering, and people who had died in group care homes after sexual assaults and other forms of serious physical violence.
“These are the names that don’t get spoken,” he told the Senate.
“These are the reasons. These are the human beings, the loved ones, the mothers, the fathers, the sons, the partners who need justice, who demand justice, whose lives were worth living.”