Available for Comment
National Disability Sector Advocate
Mr River Night
Response to the Delivery of the Disability Royal Commission Report
With the delivery to Government House today by the 6 former Commissioners to the Disability Royal Commission, the final report is in the hands of the Governor General. This represents a monumental body of work by Australians and the voices of many who have endured unacceptable treatment, abuse and neglect.
"Disability and Sector Advocates wish to thank and recognise the courage and commitment demonstrated by all those who provided a voice and participated in this Royal Commission. While those of us in the sector already know many of your stories, the Royal Commission gives voice to these to the Australian public and helps us all educate and inform every stakeholder that is involved in decision making, policy change, safeguarding and delivering a sector we have a right to all feel safe in" said Mr Night today.
Mr Night is a National Disability Sector Advocate and outspoken supporter for reform and improvements in the Disability and NDIS sector.
As a person living with disability, a full time carer and father, Mr River Night is not shy from what he sees needs to happen to change and shape the disability sector in Australia after almost 30 years of experience.
"The Royal Commission report will be full of stories and examples of terrible things that should never have happened but did. The legacy and generational trauma and impact on the people who have experienced these things, will be lasting and it is compounded because this is not just history but happening everyday right now" said Mr Night.
“Living with disability and not being neurotypical, perhaps I walk forward when I should slow down and hesitate according to our cultural push to avoid talking about disability and diversity even when it impacts more than 4.4 Million Australians.
“What truly makes me sad is that after 10 years of NDIS we are still asking for things as simple as being treated as a human being by its processes.
"I have worked across government and many organisations in the last 30 years, taught in youth detention centres where 70% or more of the young people have a disability or mental health diagnosis, forensic centres where we lock away adults behind perspex and metal doors without prosecution, living in indefinite limbo, served on National Boards, worked with Child Safety, Public Guardian and Justice, community based programs, transition services, taught Tafe students and within special education settings and had the privilege of delivering hundreds of media items of coverage Nationally on disability.
“The disability sector does not need a Royal Commission to find what is wrong. We all know it, we all live it. We have been yelling it from the rooftops for decades. Ask any provider and person in the sector and they will give you a list of things that need fixing. If you want stories of horrific abuse and neglect ask any of us that have worked in the sector for more than 5 minutes. Saying the Commission is needed to find problems so we have to wait for recommendations is offensive to the thousands of us raising daily catastrophic issues to government and regulators already with too many example of inaction.
“The Royal Commission exposes the sector to the rest of Australia. Many Australians will show their care through outpourings of sympathy when they see the horror stories and our politicians will commit publicly to reviews and recommendations. Meanwhile this has been going on for decades and with the 10 year anniversary of NDIS a lot of us are asking, at what point will practical safeguards be organised, the millions stripped from Advocacy groups when NDIS started, returned and the federal agency responsible do better than 3 months to have a simple conversation on the phone when a provider needs support to get it right, let alone being able to sit in the same room as a NDIS planner that is making decisions about a person’s life.
“The NDIS Review and Royal Commission have been asking what is wrong and what needs fixing. The agencies already know and so do the service providers. The Minister knows and there is plenty of evidence out there already. While I applaud the work of the Commission and review it feels like another opportunity to stall urgent changes. I am glad the Commission's report is now delivered.10 years is long enough to work out issues. The biggest problems have occurred in the last 3 years with the centralising and dehumanising of processes, taking local contacts and relationships away and using the same scaling up methodology of machine based car manufacturing for a human, individual based assessment and planning setting, where changes are announced and consultation takes the form of secret chats and post implementation information sessions to inform instead of consult.
“If we don’t get back to basics urgently using common best practice and human approaches to human services, NDIS will be the next robodebt with its push for standardised decision making for individual situations, automation for plans worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and lack of diligence, transparency, checks and balances.
“The federal police and people in jackets raiding the criminal organisations is a nice visual but that is only for the extreme end. We want people checking on our community. The Community Visitor programs that exist to provide independent checks on people in supported settings where service providers are often the only stakeholder people see, is the one and only front line defense and those programs have had their capacity to visit and check on people restrained and put on hold with NDIS. We currently have ‘the honor system’ as our safeguard. If I had one wish that could be granted immediately it would be to send these independent agencies in to visit every person in out of home supported accommodation regularly as we used to, to catch the shonky practices and make sure all providers know someone is watching and someone is checking, holding to account providers and NDIS.
Mr River Night is available for comment
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