Justice For The Disabled

October 19 2011

 

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. K.L. Vincent:

1. That a sel ect committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into and report on access to and interaction with the South Australian justice system for people with disabilities, their families, carers and support networks, namely:

(a) participants' knowledge of their rights;

(b) availability and use of appropriate services supports;

(c) dealings with the police;

(d) the operation of the courts;

(e) how South Australia compares with other states and countries in terms of access to the justice system for people with disabilities and what measures could be taken to enhance participation in and thereby provide people with disabilities with just and equitable access to our justice system; and

(f) any other related matter.

2. That standing ord er No. 389 be so far suspended as to enable the chairperson of the committee to have a deliberative vote only.

3. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being reported to the council.

4. That standing order No. 396 be suspended to enable strangers to be admitted when the select committee is examining witnesses unless the committee otherwise resolves, but they shall be excluded when the committee is deliberating.

 

(Continued from 14 September 2011.)

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (20:34): I rise on behalf of the Greens to support the motion of the Hon. Ms Vincent for a select committee to investigate and report on access to justice for people with disabilities, their families, carers and support networks.

A recent Four Corners program highlighted the need for this area of our society to be repaired and certainly improved upon. For those who did not see the recent program, it dealt with the stories of abuse at St Ann's Special School some time back. In particular, the very brave parents of a young boy went on that program and spoke of how that particular school and the church attached to that school failed their son who had an intellectual disability. Their son was sexually abused but never got either recognition of that or justice for that. For those who are not aware, no efforts were made to even inform the parents of the suspected abuse. While the alleged perpetrator was told his services were no longer needed as a bus driver for that school and that he would not be receiving any more work, they congratulated him and thanked him for his previous service in a lovely letter. As I say, they did not inform the parents.

Those who are most vulnerable in our community are those who have the least access to justice and are those who come into contact with our justice system in a negative way, in most cases. If there are areas where we can improve on our treatment of people with disabilities and in the way that the system not only listens to people with disabilities but also understands the differences and the changes that our institutions must make to accommodate and include all members of our society, then that can only be a good thing.

I am certainly looking forward to being a participant in this select committee and am happy to volunteer my time and effort. I hope that we come back with a positive report that looks at further improvements in this state to afford people with disabilities, their families and their carers better access to justice. With those few words, I commend the motion to the council.

 

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