Directions for South Australia – Preventing and Punishing Abuse

“We need knowledge, and tools to recognise and speak out against abuse.  This is essential to preventing it.” – Kelly Vincent MLC

Introduction:

Whilst anyone can be abused, and all abuse is wrong, we must recognise that particular groups face increased risk. This includes people with disabilities.

Article 16 of The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which Australia is a signatory, states that:

‘Every person with disabilities has a right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity on an equal basis with all others.’

As such, disability rights are in fact human rights, which people with disabilities should be able to enjoy to their fullest extent.

However, it is a shocking statistic that people with disabilities – women and children in particular – are many times more likely to be subjected to abuse.

90% of women with an intellectual disability experience sexual abuse at some point in their lifetime, with 68% of those people experiencing abuse before the age of eighteen.  These statistics form the daily reality of too many South Australians.  This unbearable situation must change.

Providing people with disabilities with the knowledge, and tools to recognise and speak out against all forms of abuse is an essential key to preventing it.

South Australia’s ground-breaking Disability Justice Plan law reforms which Dignity Party implemented are a start, but we need further policy and cultural change to ensure full support to all who speak out against abuse.

Too often, women with disabilities who attempt to report crimes perpetrated against them face a wall of ignorance, with their statements often not believed, and frequently no investigation is undertaken.

We need training, education, and understanding from people who are the first point of contact when a crime is reported.

Because very few people with significant disability are currently enrolled to vote, there is a gap in representation for those most likely to be affected by abuse.

Action:

Dignity Party believe that the South Australian Government, regardless of political alignment or agenda, must take every possible measure (legislative, judicial, administrative and social measures, including educational and training measures) to protect all people with disabilities, both within and outside their homes, from all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation.

In South Australia we need:

  • Legislation that provides adequate and appropriate penalties and correctional procedures, in cases of proven abuse or exploitation, to ensure that the abuse or exploitation ceases and is prevented from re-occurring
  • Provision of adequate physical, psychological and emotional support to the abused or exploited person (with a disability) to ensure their rehabilitation and to reintegrate them into their community at the pace and in the manner of their choosing
  • All domestic violence shelters must be fully accessible
  • Measures to provide protection from abuse to be age, gender and disability appropriate
  • Provision of education to all people with disabilities, their families, carers and advocates about how to avoid, recognise and report specific incidents or suspicion of abuse or exploitation
  • Encouragement for all citizens to report instances of suspected abuse or exploitation to the appropriate authorities without fear of retribution
  • Independent monitoring of all facilities, programs, services and supports provided to people with disabilities in all areas of their life, with the aim of detecting any abuse or other substandard practice that may be occurring
  • To ensure monitoring authorities identify, investigate, report, and where appropriate, prosecute, all instances of abuse or exploitation against people with disabilities, by any person or organisation
  • Implementation of explicit, compulsory, comprehensive training for all police and other investigative agencies in disability awareness including how disability may affect an individual’s communication and behaviour
  • Implementation of a mandatory reporting system for people with disabilities living in care or accessing care services.
  • Ensure whistle-blower protections are available for individuals who report abuse.

Dignity Party OPPOSE the exploitation and abuse of people with disabilities, and current barriers to reporting and prosecuting this abuse.

Dignity Party PROPOSE further education and training programs to assist people with disabilities, their families, carers and advocates to identify and report abuse, as well as training for those investigating instances of reported abuse.