A young Melbourne woman with a disability who is forced to have male carers attend to her menstrual management, showering and toileting, had her abuse responded to in the Australian Senate’s ‘Inquiry into Violence against People with Disability in Institutional and Residential Settings’, tabled this week.

Maddy Kendall, a 22-year-old woman living in a Community Residential Unit, made multiple complaints to staff about the lack of female support workers. It is a violation to her, to be forced to have her personal care needs attended to by male staff. This has resulted in her foregoing showers and delaying bowel movements, leading to multiple and very serious health problems.

Maddy Kendall said, “I wanted my story told so this abuse will not only stop happening to me but so it doesn’t happen to other people with disabilities.” Dr George Taleporos, Manager of the Youth Disability Advocacy Service said: “Maddy’s story is important and reflects how people with disabilities often have basic rights such as the right to bodily autonomy stripped away from them.

“Young people with disabilities are especially vulnerable to abuse and neglect in the disability service system. We are glad that this inquiry provided us with the opportunity to tell the government about the serious abuse that we advocate against. This is the first time that the Australian Parliament has paid significant attention to this issue and it can no longer be ignored.

"We know from our advocacy work with young people with disabilities that disability abuse and neglect is running rife in institutional and residential disability services. This Inquiry sets out some important and necessary steps the government must take to address the serious human rights breaches to which Australians with disabilities are subjected to.

“We are pleased that the committee has responded to Maddy’s story by including in its recommendations that people with disability must have choice as to the gender of who provides intimate forms of care. We are also pleased with the depth of the recommendations and call on all sides of politics to act swiftly to implement them.”

Key recommendations include:

  • There be a Royal Commission into violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability, with terms of reference to be determined in consultation with people with disability, their families and supporters, and disability organisations.
  • The Australian Government consider the establishment of a national system for reporting, investigating and eliminating violence, abuse and neglect of people with a disability.
  • Significant increased investment to fund advocates to deliver equitable access and representation of issues and to match the increased demand for advocacy anticipated under the NDIS.