Greens senator Jordon Steele-John has broken down in Parliament as he listed the names and shocking ways people living with disabilities have died through abuse and neglect.
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.”
Senator Steele-John’s demands for the aged care royal commission to be expanded to investigate the disability sector have been dismissed by the federal government, concerned that an inquiry that had too broad terms of reference would not allow for probing investigation of alleged misconduct.
The federal opposition agreed with the government, but has promised to establish an inquiry into the disability sector as soon as possible if it wins the next election.
The WA Greens senator is the first person with a disability to sit in the Senate.
The ABC’s Four Corners program has detailed shocking revelations of neglect, abuse and misconduct in the aged care sector, with advocates for elderly Australians arguing they were not surprised by the harrowing stories shared in the program.
It comes a year after the South Australian government closed the scandal-plagued Oakden facility in Adelaide, after an inquiry by the state’s anti-corruption commissioner found serious examples of maladministration had led to abuse at the centre.