Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Scandalous 20-year cover-up of abuse of disabled in Mornington Peninsula state-run home

Whistleblower reveals abuses in state-run care

Julie Sullivan knew something was wrong as soon as she began working at a Community Residential Unit on the Mornington Peninsula in 1989.
Some of Victoria's most profoundly disabled people were subject to six years of abuse in a state-run home, including a suspected rape, assault, unlawful restraint, denial of medical care and regular soap suppositories.
Documents obtained by Fairfax Media reveal a 20-year cover-up by respective state governments over the scandal at the Department of Human Service's care house on the Mornington Peninsula.

Speaking out: A 20-year-old cover-up has implications for recent cases of disabled abuse.

The revelations come as the federal and Victorian parliaments prepare to hold public inquiries into the abuse of disabled people in residential care and as the state Ombudsman investigates Yooralla over its failure to protect clients from serious sexual assaults by male carers.

The Mornington Peninsula house, which remains in operation today, cared for five severely disabled adults who under laws at the time were made wards of the state.

Serious concerns about the treatment of residents were first upheld in a secret government investigation in 1989. A panel of inquiry found medications were not being properly administered to residents, the inappropriate use of mechanical restraints and the likely hitting or slapping of residents under a practice known as "aversion therapy".

The residents, who were unable to speak or defend themselves, were found to have been given soap suppositories by untrained staff in what the panel of inquiry deemed not an "appropriate nursing practice" and one which could cause "perforation of the anus".

But the senior staff responsible for the appalling treatment of residents remained in place for a further six years.

It was only the suspected rape of a severely disabled female resident in 1995 by a male carer that triggered departmental intervention and disciplinary action against key staff who were the subject of complaints first made in 1989.

A 1995 review of the Mornington Peninsula house found the residents had been denied medical treatment and that the young woman who was attacked by her carer had been suffering obvious bruising on her arms, chest and groin for five weeks before any action was taken.

Despite being suspected of rape, the male carer was charged with unlawful assault and reckless intentional injury. This was because forensic evidence was not taken from the woman until almost 48 hours after her attack and because she her disability made it impossible for her testify.

While conditions at the Mornington Peninsula house are believed to have improved, the abuse of disabled people in state care remains a regular occurrence. In 2012, Fairfax Media revealed the department had 112 cases of serious alleged "staff to client abuse".

The tragic story of what happened at the Mornington Peninsula house is found in the hundreds of pages of government documents gathered by departmental whistle-blower Julie Sullivan, who first tried to expose the mistreatment of the residents in 1989.

Ms Sullivan is preparing a submission about the Mornington Peninsula house and the department's treatment of her as a whistle blower to present to the upcoming federal senate inquiry.

The documents provide a rare insight into the treatment of disabled Victorians in the 1980s and 1990s and reveal high-level manipulation of the initial panel of inquiry into abuse allegations in order to avoid "adverse comment" should the scandal be made public.

smh.com.au 11 Apr 2015

More corruption and child abuse in the hands of the 'authorities'.

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