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Sunnyfield leadership fails to protect residents from violence and abuse at group home

The Royal Commission has released a Commissioner’s Report on Public hearing 13, which examined the prevention of, and responses to, violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in supported disability accommodation operated by Sunnyfield Disability Services (Sunnyfield).

The report makes 24 findings about Sunnyfield, including its employees and board of directors, as well as the NSW Ombudsman, in relation to the experiences of three residents, ‘Melissa’, ‘Carl’ and ‘Chen’*, who lived together in a home in Western Sydney.

In summarising the evidence, the report is critical of the defensive and dysfunctional work culture at the home. This culture prevented staff from reporting concerns about their colleagues and manager acting inappropriately towards the residents. It also prevented Sunnyfield from acting ‘on several red flags which should have resulted in greater scrutiny’ of the abusive and violent conduct at the home.

The report also found that when Melissa’s guardian complained about the operation of the home, Sunnyfield terminated her Service and Residency Agreements. The report concludes that in terminating the agreements, Sunnyfield prioritised its own interests over Melissa’s, specifically her right to a secure and safe home.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Sunnyfield failed to prevent violence and abuse against Melissa, Carl and Chen in their home by two Sunnyfield support workers

  • Sunnyfield’s responses to complaints and feedback from the families of the residents were inappropriately defensive and often hostile

  • the NSW Ombudsman’s office should have disclosed to Sunnyfield the adverse work history information it held about one of the two support workers

  • Sunnyfield’s Board did not include any directors with lived experience of disability, nor did it have any arrangements in place to meet with residents of the home and their families. This adversely affected the Board’s understanding and oversight of the issues affecting the home

  • when Sunnyfield reported on their own investigations into the home to the NDIS Commission, it should not have relied upon legal privilege to avoid producing any part of the investigation report to the NDIS Commission.

The report also highlights the systemic issues confronting regulatory bodies in protecting and enhancing the human rights of people with disability, including state bodies and the NDIS Commission.

Key recommendations in the report include:

  • Sunnyfield should apologise to Melissa, Carl and Chen, and their families for failing to prevent the violence and abuse they endured

  • Sunnyfield should discuss appropriate redress and what ongoing additional support and assistance it can provide the three residents and their families.

* Pseudonyms.

Please direct all inquiries to the Disability Royal Commission Media team on 0436 841 166 or via our email