SUBJECTS: Royal Commission into Violence and Abuse against People with Disability

RICHARD PERNO: I can’t my head around someone who is disabled Linda being trapped in either a bed or not being able to get away from an abuser. It’s a horrible thing to picture isn’t it Linda?
LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR PREVENTING FAMILY VIOLENCE, MEMBER FOR BARTON: Oh it’s horrendous and the problem or one of the realities Richard is that it’s not an unusual situation. Many women that are disabled are the women most prone to sexual assault. And of course the really shocking statistic is also that children with a disability are much more likely to be abused than children that don’t have a disability.
PERNO: Yes. Is it also hard to get your ahead around that it could be happening in the family home, in the kitchen, in the lounge room, in the bedroom?
BURNEY: Well, it’s where it mostly happens. You know, we know that every three months in Australia someone with a disability dies at the hands of their carer. And the carer is generally somebody that they’re related to or someone that’s well known to the family. So the Labor Party announced some time ago well before I was the minister – Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services – a Royal Commission into people with disability and we think it’s a very important Royal Commission that will take place if we are afforded government
PERNO: Jordon Steele-John, the Greens Senator for Western Australia, you know him, broke down last September. He listed the names of those with a disability who died while they were in care. Yet another alarm bell.
BURNEY: Well that was a very poignant moment in the Senate. Of course Jordon Steele-John is wheelchair bound himself and knows firsthand what it means to have a disability. I have met numerous numerous hundreds of people now across this country with disability, from really profound disability Richard, and that’s where the person is non-verbal, and is often fed through a [inaudible] tube which is directly into their tummy because they don’t have the capacity to swallow, the absolutely vulnerable people in our society. But I also think we should make it very clear that most carers do an amazing role, often without pay, particularly if you’re parents of a child with a disability, and I’ve met many of those people as well.
PERNO: Why is it that we have to go to a federal election to get this done?
BURNEY: Well, we would like the Coalition to join with us in calling for a Royal Commission. To give them some credit, they announced a Royal Commission into aged care which of course has enormous issues. As well we saw that writ large this year. And one of the groups will be considered in this aged care Royal Commission will be young people and people with a disability in nursing homes, and I think that’s another huge issue. You have to ask the questions, are nursing homes the best place for young people with a disability and the answer is probably no.
PERNO: No, absolutely. How are you going to though monitor that abuse that occurs in the family home?
BURNEY: Well the Royal – well the thing that I think is very important about a Royal Commission is that it doesn’t become a vehicle where nothing is done in the interim while the Royal Commission is taking place. So it’s really about people that are on an NDIS package, having proper monitoring, it’s making sure that we are in good contact with carers and the carers networks. There are some very fine peak carer organisations and also many young carers – many carers are children as well, some of them going to school, so you need to make you’ve got good connections and support systems in place for carers as well.

PERNO: And I suppose if someone is under the NDIS, there’s a paper trail isn’t there Linda?
BURNEY: Where there is a paper trail. People on the NDIS have a plan and, they are the buyers of the services, so for example if you need speech therapy or physiotherapy, or mobility devices then there are people that you would hope that would be keeping an eye on them. I think that needs to be strengthened. I think there needs to be an element of case management introduced, and they’re the sorts of things we’ll be thinking about. But the job for the moment is to work out and refine the terms of reference for a Royal Commission, think about who you would appointment as a commissioner. And of course, win an election .
PERNO: That’s it too. But as I said Linda Burney, why hasn’t this been taken on a non-partisan basis? And a Royal Commission you can’t say no to question, you can’t dodge a question, and you have to face the fray. If you’re’ asked questions you have to answer them
BURNEY: That’s right. Only a Royal Commission has the weight and authority and investigative powers to examine the accounts of people with disability. And that is really important. You can have very many other commissions, or special inquiries, and there have been inquiries of course in the past. But a Royal Commission as you’ve pointed out Richard does give you the weight and the authority and investigative powers.
PERNO: What are they going to say on the other side of the house?
BURNEY: I think it would be very hard to say no, we won’t support this. Obviously, the aged care Royal Commission will need to run its course, and I’m not sure – I think it’s a 12 month inquiry. I would like to see this as a 12 month inquiry as well which I think that many of facts are already known. But it’s having the capacity to investigate and recommend for sanctions and that’s what’s really important about a Royal Commission .
PERNO: Yeah and if it comes out like it did with the other Royal Commission into child sex abuse and also on to a lesser extent – and I don’t mean lesser extent by the impact but where we’re dealing with money with the Royal Commission  into the banking industry, we’re going to hear some pretty gruesome tales aren’t we Linda?
BURNEY: Well we’re going to hear some very very gruesome tales, and the important thing for government is not just to you know getting the Royal Commission started and going through the process, but the really critical party is looking at the recommendations that come out of a Royal Commission, not cherry pick them, and make sure that it’s implemented in a way that is going to have structural and real change for people with disability.
PERNO: That’s it. And the end result has to be that doesn’t it? There has to be some conclusions. We can’t just say yes it exists and then good bye.
BURNEY: No, abolsutely, and you may as well not do it if that’s how the outcomes are going to be treated.
PERNO: Yeah, it’s just a shame you have to go to a federal election to just get what you feel , which is a very moral stance Linda Burney, across the wire.
BURNEY: Well, I couldn’t agree with you more, that that is a situation is, and as I said, Labor will definitely pursue this Royal Commission if we are afforded government.
PERNO: Linda Burney, Shadow Minister for Families, Social Services and Shadow for Preventing Family Violence, alongside Senator Carol Brown, Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers, Senator for Tasmania.