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Public hearing 28 - Violence against and abuse of people with disability in public places, Brisbane - Day 2

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CHAIR: Good morning, everybody, and welcome to this, the second day of the Royal Commission's hearing into violence, against and abuse of people with disability in public places. We begin by acknowledging the Jagera and Turrbal people of   as the traditional owners and custodians on the lands on which the city of Brisbane is now located and on which this hearing is taking place. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging. We also pay our respects to any First Nations people who are following these proceedings, either from the Brisbane hearing room or via the live broadcast. Yes, Ms Bennett. 

MS BENNETT: Thank you, Chair. Before we call the first witness, I would just like to tender an exhibit from yesterday, that is, the Whispering Forest exhibit that I omitted to tender yesterday. 

CHAIR: Yes. 

MS BENNETT: If that could now be marked Exhibit 28 1.8. I would be grateful. 

CHAIR: Yes. The exhibit referred to by Ms Bennett will be admitted into evidence and become exhibit 21   either point or dash 8, depending upon who is doing the tendering.


MS BENNETT: If it pleases the Chair. Commissioners, the next witness is Ms Fiona Strahan and I ask that she be affirmed. 

CHAIR: Ms Strahan, thank you very much for coming to the Royal Commission to our hearing room in Brisbane to give evidence today. We have your written statement, for which we also thank you, and we have had the opportunity to read that. And today we shall, of course, hear your oral evidence, and shortly I will ask Ms Bennett to ask you some questions. But if you would be good enough to follow the instructions of my associate and she will administer the affirmation to you. 

ASSOCIATE: I will read you the affirmation. At the end, please say yes or I do. Do you solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that the evidence which you shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 



CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Strahan. I will now ask Ms Bennett to ask you some questions.


MS BENNETT: Thank you, Ms Strahan. You have made a statement to assist this Commission; is that right? 


MS BENNETT: And have you read that statement recently? 


MS BENNETT: Is it true and correct? 


MS BENNETT: I tender that statement. The exhibit number which I will provide to the Commissioners in a moment - 

CHAIR: I think it's about to come to you. 

MS BENNETT: Sorry. Yes, Exhibit 28 4. 

CHAIR: Exhibit 28 4. Yes, that will be admitted into evidence.


MS BENNETT: Thank you. Now, Ms Strahan, you wanted to make some acknowledgments before you started your evidence today. Can I invite you to do that? 

MS STRAHAN: Yes, thank you. I would like to pay my respects to the Turrbal and Jagera people, upon whose lands I have the privilege to be on. I pay my respects to elders past and present. I would also like to honour all the disabled people before me who fought for the rights that I have benefitted from, and I also need to remember the disabled people, friends and unknown who could no longer bear society's rejection and abandonment and lack of safety and took their own lives, and I miss them. And then finally, as I sit here today, I bring in my heart and my voice a family member who could be here but isn't. Thank you. 

MS BENNETT: Thank you, Ms Strahan. Can I ask you to tell the Commissioners about your own childhood and family life growing up after coming to Australia from Hong Kong at the age of 3. 

MS STRAHAN: Sure. I had   I grew up in a fabulous family and my father had come from working-class Wheatbelt of Western Australia. Was the first in his family to go to university. Then after two years went to Borneo and came back somewhat damaged but still incredible and got a scholarship to Oxford. And then married my mum, who had also been to university. And their commitment on the middle child and their   I'm the only short-statured person, and their commitment to me was the same as to all my siblings which was education, education, education. Education, independence, travel. 

And both of my parents were activists in either environment   or mostly in environment but also some human rights, and so are my siblings. So, I   and we had no TV. We grew up with books and it was just   and I was expected to be part of the family. You know, I didn't try and get out of   well, actually, I should tell you this, that I had an experience when I was quite young about some   I went to a church group with our neighbours, and someone came up to me and said, "Oh, God made you short because you are special" or "You're special because God made you short" and I hadn't kind of figured that I was short. Like, it was just me. 

And I think this is often really hard for people to understand, that the me that you are talking to has integrated her gender and her size and this is it. You know. And so I   I didn't quite get what they meant but I did try to be special, and so I tried to get out of things and swizzle around the house in dress-ups going, "I'm special" and everyone was like, "Yes, but you still need to feed the dog." Well, probably I was too young to feed the dog but, you know, "You still need to keep the dog outside" or something. So, I had   

MS BENNETT: I will just pause you there because our interpreters will   


MS BENNETT: No, that's okay. Don't apologise. It happens to literally everybody. 

CHAIR: It's a very common problem with the Commission, so you are certainly not alone. 

MS STRAHAN: Yes, and it is something about the anxiety and finally being here that has kind of    you know. 

CHAIR: We understand. 

MS STRAHAN: My dad did make me some things to help me   like some little steps to get up to the bathroom sink because actually everyone in my family is very tall. So, I grew up and I was loved and I   I was not treated as different. And then my dad who was   says, "Oh, I just got a job at Taronga Zoo as the director", so we moved there. And that's where I spent my childhood   well, from 9 to 16. And animals don't care about your size. 

MS BENNETT: And you tell us that you felt some limitations put on you by the time you got to school. How did that impact on you? 

MS STRAHAN: Well, primary school was   was kind of fantastic. And my writing was really wobbly because my feet didn't reach the floor and my   so my dad made me a box that I could rest my feet on. But primary school was fantastic and   and I had quite a few leadership roles. I was the head of Blue. We had red, yellow, green and blue. Blue was everyone from kind of, you know, S to Z. And yes, so I was   I was   I was not treated differently. 


MS STRAHAN: But high school was completely different. 

MS BENNETT: And you tell us you had some difficult times as a teenager. 

MS STRAHAN: Mmm. I think   I think one of the things   probably all of you will remember this, that when you go   leave primary school, you're kind of at the top and then you go into high school and you're the minnow in the pond again. And there was some pretty nasty girls in a form above us who were horrible to all of us, like dunking in toilets and things like that, but their behaviour towards me was kind of more complicated. And I think that there's the thing that many kids experience where one minute you're in the group, the next minute you're out. 

MS BENNETT: And as an adult, you became a disability support worker, and you tell us you didn't identify as having a disability at that stage. Is that right? 


MS BENNETT: And that changed for you in the early 1980s. Can you tell the Commissioners about why or how that change the for you? 

MS STRAHAN: I had a job where I was   I was studying welfare work at Sydney Tech and I had a job where I was doing travel training with two young boys with intellectual disabilities. And so every Saturday, we would work out a plan and we would do a train, a ferry, a bus and kind of walking across streets. And I just   I just said to the world I was short, you know. I didn't identify as having a disability and   and I didn't use the   what I call the D word, the   you know, didn't identify as being a dwarf or I didn't use that. I knew I was but I didn't use that language. 

And anyway, we were   we were coming up George Street, and there was this demonstration, people walking down the road and it was   it must have been 1982 or something. 1981 was the year of disabled people and they were having an anniversary kind of rally. And the young people I was working with said, "Why are these people on the road?" And I was like, well, sometimes they will block a road off so people can walk on it. And they said, "Can we walk on it?"  And I said, no, we probably won't, but let's walk alongside. 

Because   and then we came to an area where there were speakers and there was a   a short-statured man in a suit, black suit and white shirt, and I have no   no idea what he said. None. But my fist shot up in the air   and I had been a very active feminist up until then and my fist shot up in the air and that was the beginning of my identification as   not as a person with a disability but starting to understand the societal and political structures that disable us. 

MS BENNETT: And what do you understand about that now? Where do you stand on that now? 

MS STRAHAN: Well, I think   and it's funny, because I've only recently   it's only been in the last few years that I have had a lot of contact with the Short Statured Peoples' Association, and   because sometimes, I think, there was a part of me that if I saw a short person, until this chap, it   there was a complicated emotional thing around a mirror. But now it's like I have a real sense of belonging in a community in which I've been, you know, a leader, a follower, you know, a loner and a partner. 

And I will never forget reading Mike Oliver's book about   about the social structure   you know, and I was studying   a lot later I was studying sociology and the sociological analysis and economic analysis and patriarchal analysis of disablement. And that was just, for me, revolutionary in that it gave me an understanding of   of how society works so that it   I'm not the problem. I'm not the problem. You know? And I think that often there's a sense of, you know, I'm the problem and then when people behave a particular way to me, I should get used to it. 

MS BENNETT: Let's talk about the way that people behave towards you. What   what sort of experiences have you had in your life that people tell you you should get used to? 

MS STRAHAN: Well, I think last night is a really good example. I was standing with my two short-statured collaborators, and   and we were standing in the foyer of the hotel yakking, as people do, and I needed to go to a shop down the road, and I hadn't noticed there were a bunch of young men looking at us through the glass. And then I came out the glass door, and when I came out they followed me and got closer and closer and kind of turned into a V, just behind me and were talking to me about how many of us that   not talking, talking out loud about how many of us they had seen. And then I -

MS BENNETT: Do you mean by that people of short stature? 

MS STRAHAN: Yes. And then I just nicked into the shop. 

MS BENNETT: Can I just pause there to ask you, how did that feel? Coming after yesterday's evidence, before your evidence today, how did that land for you? 

MS STRAHAN: I think it's like   you know, like, when I talk with other short-statured people, it is like, "Oh, my God, you're kidding?" You know. Like, they were waiting for   or just hanging around, you know, staring. There's a part of me that wished I could turn it into some kind of ninja and you know, turn them into toads or something. Or, you know, something, because one of the things that   and it's really important to say is that   that   and Debra talked about it yesterday. I have never used that word, but menace. And it's like, I know that if I turned around and said something to them, I'd put myself at greater risk. 

And I might not do anything. I might just kind of go like that, which I often do, or, you know, say something. But   but what I   what I   and another example are where I have   I have been followed. I think the one that was really upsetting was a few years ago, and my sister who lives in the US called it a hate crime, which was when I was walking down the street, middle of the day, in Hobart, and I had gone to do something really ordinary, like get a coffee. And I feel like I have to say that so that people don't get a sense of me putting myself in a risky situation. I wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary. 

And then there were two cars with a car in the middle and they started yelling at me. And it first started off at jokes like, "Here, mate, here is your girlfriend", you know. "Here is your new wife" or something like that. And then as I walked, they were kind of like this, and what I'm doing here is kind of putting myself in front, and then they are just kind of behind me. And then as I got   and what I noticed in me was I was an   and any counsellor will understand, that I was having the beginning of a trauma reaction where my amygdala went, "Let's get out of here" and rationality had disappeared. 

And I realised that when I got to the traffic lights, the car would be   they would be face to face. Like, when they turned around we would be face to face. And I've been spat on before. And so I didn't want that. So, my brain went, okay, walk down this street. Then I could hear them actually turning into that street. And what I did was I jaywalked across the street. And the first car saw me and stopped. The second car didn't see me and screeched to a halt. And then the third car saw me, and I got to the other road   side of the road and by that time I   I was so completely in the middle of a very deep kind of trauma reaction because what had happened is I had lost control of what I was doing. And I didn't   wasn't   yes. 

And that was probably   and that was a few years ago. And my legs are shaking now telling it. That   what I learnt from that was   and we talked about this yesterday, about a cumulative, and it was like my   my tank was full. You know. It was an overflow. 

MS BENNETT: And full of   is that accumulation of   I think what Dr Keenahan talked about is microaggressions or assaults or harassment just over your life. Is that what you mean by that? 

MS STRAHAN: Mmm. And I think, you know, like, I had another one when I moved to Hobart where my path of travel was blocked by three men. And there was some industrial work happening so the road was blocked off so I couldn't kind of walk out on to the road. And they blocked me and they wanted to take my picture, and I said "no" and I had my hand out. And I had my hand out the entire time of the conversation, which is not very far, being short-statured, and they kind of got closer and they said, "Come on, come on, you're really cute" and it's like, "No. No." And then it's like, "Well, what about a cuddle and a kiss?" And it's like, no. And this is in the middle of the goddamn day. 

MS BENNETT: In a public place. 

MS STRAHAN: In a public place. And eventually I think they got it, and I kind of slid sideways and they went on their way.

MS BENNETT: You speak in your statement a little bit about derogatory sexualised behaviour that you are subjected to. Is that part of your experience? Is that part of the accumulative impact that you are talking about? 

MS STRAHAN: I think so. I think I've been asked things like, you know, how do you have sex? And I feel like saying, you know, with gusto. You know, because, like, if I'm not    but just the   I remember when I was in my 20s, I was hanging out with some friends at a May Day thing, and I was chatting to this really nice   well, supposedly a really nice guy who had a club and, you know, I thought he was pretty cute and   and he said, "You will have to come along." I went, "Okay." And then he said, "Yeah, we could put you in a dancing cage."  It was like, no, thanks. And so that that's that thing of like   you know, sexuality is in us regardless of our bodies. Right. And   and it's a   you know, a organic thing but it's like   as a short-statured person, there's like this weird kind of is she a child, is she an adult? Is she a toy? Is she a freak? 

CHAIR: You talked about the incident yesterday. Did the young men talk to you or only about you? 

MS STRAHAN: About me. 

CHAIR: They never said anything to you? 

MS STRAHAN: No, about me. 

CHAIR: And they spoke in your hearing? 

MS STRAHAN: Yes, and I could feel them getting   like, because of their voice, I could hear them getting closer in that kind of arc. 

CHAIR: Thank you. 

MS BENNETT: Is it fair to say this is an experience   these experiences have been consistent over your life? 

MS STRAHAN: You know, I grew   with   in high school, I had   a really awesome bunch of friends and boys, in particular. And   and I really wanted to ride a motorbike but   so my friends went to metal class and they were trying to   because they had motorbikes and they were trying to work out how to make one, and they came back with a conclusion that I would either have to run every red stop   red light, because I couldn't put my feet on the ground or drive very slowly, in which case the bike would fall. And I think that was that kind of solidarity where I was one of the gang. 

And I have always had really fantastic friends but when I can be alone or in   I mean, you know, a friend   a friend of mine and I went to a club, and then the next night my friend went and she was asked, you know, because I was having a relationship her, and she was asked how do you have sex with your girlfriend? And she said, you know, eff off. So there is something kind of really bizarre in terms of people's reactions to it. So they do accumulate but they don't accumulate obviously. It's like the cells remember them. Sorry, I don't know if I answered your question. 

MS BENNETT: So as you think about these examples of harassment and abuse over time in public places by strangers, has that gotten better or worse over time? Is it still an issue today as it was then? 

MS STRAHAN: Yes. Yes, it's still an issue today. It is an issue last night. You know, I mean, that wasn't sexualised. But the sexualised   I think having grey hair, the sexualised stuff kind of lessens. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. But the harassment remains. 

MS STRAHAN: But the harassment remains. 

MS BENNETT: And the impact on you every time you go out, we heard yesterday about the constant scanning of the environment. Is that something you relate to? 

MS STRAHAN: I don't   I don't know if I   I consciously scan. I know that   like, yesterday   maybe   maybe coming here makes me more aware of what stuff   you know, what happens. Because I'm here for myself and, you know, the disabled community, but   communities. But when I   at   I went out for breakfast with a friend, and the person in the café asked my friend if I would like the croissant and it was like   and she was just like, "I have never seen this before." And then when I came here   she wanted to have a squiz, and when I came here, the   one of the people downstairs talked to her about, "I will show you where you need to go."  You know. And it's like, well, actually I've been here   you know, yesterday. So, there's this funny - 

MS BENNETT: Not speaking to you. 

MS STRAHAN: Not speaking to me. And that's the first time that's happened for a long time, and I wonder if we are all being kind of too   I don't know   anyway. But   

MS BENNETT: Can I ask, you have spoken a little bit about photography and filming. Is that   that's a common experience for you. Is that right? 

MS STRAHAN: You know, the two   the two situations of harassment happened in Tasmania, and I   I had been living outside of Daylesford prior to that and I realised that I was in a very safe community and now I was in a city where, you know, it was different. Yes, the first time I got photographed, I didn't realise. You know, it was, like, later. Because I think   I think it's really important to   to get this message across that when I'm sitting on a bus or walking on the street, I'm not going, "Here I am a short statured person, waiting for someone to go wrong walking along the street." 

I'm thinking about, "Do I have to pick my kid up? Do I have to kind of   you know, did I finish that work? Oh, no I have to do it tonight", yada yada yada. So, it's not like I have a hypervigilance necessarily. Particularly walking through the streets in the middle of the day. Sorry, what was your question? Photographic   and the first time I got photographed, I   and I smile a lot. And, you know, I was walking along and I caught someone's eye and I smiled, and then I realised they had a camera out. And that was the first time I realised that I had been filmed and I was like, what's he going to do with it? And I go into the "what the" first and it's not until I'm three blocks down and thank I go, "I should go back" and I don't. 

MS BENNETT: You talk in your statement about having a disruption. 

MS STRAHAN: Yes, look, I would really like to describe that, because   sorry, am I talking too much? 

MS BENNETT: No, please. No, tell us. No, I want you to tell the Commissioners what you mean by a disruption. 

MS STRAHAN: Okay. I think, what happens is so, so I'm walking along the street, I'm not thinking I'm a short-statured person. I'm not denying I'm a short-statured person. I'm just not thinking about my body when I'm walking down the street and thinking about whatever I'm thinking and then that happens and it's like, first of all, it's an interruption because it's not expected. I haven't got to that point where I expect this. So, they there is kind of like a   you know, disruption. Interruption. 

And then what happens is, there is like a disruption which is   is I guess perhaps the trauma stuff, but it's also like a   best described as a discombobulation. It's like everything is kind of   and I have to pull and, you know, all the bits back together. And sometimes that can happen quickly and sometimes it takes a while. That incident of the filming didn't   wasn't a huge thing. The   the men following me in the car and the men blocking my traffic   took months and months. Because I kept talking about it. And that's how I knew. If I talked about it, it meant that it was still really present. And it's really present now. But, yes. 

MS BENNETT: What about reporting these instances to somebody or anybody? Is there anyone you feel you can report to? 

MS STRAHAN: Look, I think   I think because there's   I have no evidence, but I was talking to the Commissioner in Tasmania, and she said at least if   tell me the story so that I've got the story in my reporting. But, no, because I didn't take any number plate. I was trying to survive. I didn't, you know, they were men who were way bigger than me. And, yes, I was in   I was just surviving or taking the steps to avoid   you know, it's kind of a combination of avoidance and placating and getting out. 

MS BENNETT: And before this Royal Commission, had you heard of the National Abuse and Neglect Hotline? 

MS STRAHAN: No. Never. 

MS BENNETT: You talk in your statement a little bit about what you think contributes to this conduct that you are on the receiving end when you are out in public. You talk about community attitudes in media towards people of short stature. What you can tell the Commissioners today that is important for you to get across today? 

MS STRAHAN: I think   I mean, I will just go backwards. I think one of the interesting things about the number of short-statured people here and that we are all kind of, you know, 40 plus, is that I grew up with no social media. I grew up with no photographing   well, if they did, you know, it was a lot more   well, there was some. But   but   and so I didn't   it was just   I didn't have that. I don't have that photograph. You know, and now it's like, what are they going to do with it? 

I think   I think   I think the media   we have this   as short-statured people, like, if I was in   if we were in Egypt I would be a whizbang advisor to a queen. But then, you know, we then, you know, were the toys of, you know, kings and queens in   in England. And then, you know, throughout the world we were in circuses, and then there was the   we were experimented upon in   in during the Nazi occupation, and here we are. 

And I think the   that it's   and because of Snow White and the   bloody Snow White, I think there is a   there's a separation of us from the mainstream   from   in one sense from people with disability because we, on one hand, are not seen as having a disability, but there isn't a sense of understanding the social model of disability and the nature of capitalism, patriarchy and racism and all of that that works together to reject us. 

And I think the media hooks into that because it's easy and it's quick and it's like low kind of comedy. And until we are kind of the face of the person, you know, interviewing somebody, I don't know how else that changes because so much disability awareness is done and   and I'm not sure, you know, there's slow incremental changes, but I think that certainly Twitter and Facebook and Snapchat have a social obligation to ensure that   that there isn't this level of violence. Because it is violent. 

CHAIR: In your answer just now, unless I misunderstood you, you said that sometimes you are not seen as a person with disability. 


CHAIR: Would you mind explaining that? 

MS STRAHAN: Well, I'm just seen as a dwarf and dwarfs are different. You know, like, I don't have a cane. I don't   you know, sorry, I'm not trying to patronise, but, yes, there is a sense of that we stand outside of disability because   yes. It's hard to describe. 

CHAIR: You mean the public perception   

MS STRAHAN: Public perceptions, yes. 

CHAIR:   of people with disability. 

MS STRAHAN: Yes, so the public perception of a person with disability is someone who can't do something and it is physical. 

CHAIR: I see. 

MS STRAHAN: You know, whereas we can maybe do lots, but   yes, so there is this kind of tussle, I think. And even for us to   you know, the short-statured community to identify as having a disability, part of that was the work that I did in getting workshops with the SSPA about the Royal Commission because people were saying, "Well, I don't have a disability" and it's like, no, but you are certainly getting violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. 

CHAIR: Thank you. I follow now. Thank you. 

MS BENNETT: And I understand from your statement, you now proudly identify as a person with a disability. Is that right? 

MS STRAHAN: I identify as a disabled person, yes. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. So, what do you think needs to change to be able to   for you to be able to walk down a public street without fear that this so going to happen? 

MS STRAHAN: There are so many different things. I think one of the things is that   when   I will just give you an example. I need to go kind of sideways. About 20 years ago, there was a case where a very, very, very distressed woman had a late-term abortion of a short-statured person. Right? And very, very traumatic. And   and that was reported, and there was an immediate thing where people walking – short-statured people walking along the street had people wind down their window and yell out, "You should have been aborted." 

There is something that we don't understand, or we don't accept that when something comes out, there is an immediate reaction. You know. When something like that comes out. I think that   and that's   and it's like, does that mean we silence stuff? No. Is it about how we talk it? Are we   do we become aware that there might be a backlash when this stuff is   is mentioned? You know, there was a report in Victoria, quite a couple of decades ago about Aboriginal kids in education and they said that, you know, racism sat on their shoulder. 

And it's like, there is something similar in terms of what sits on our shoulder. And I don't mean the short statured people; I mean all of us with any visible difference. One of the things that   that I really object to is being called a burden. Because I'm not. And   and   but I remember there were   there were three different Social Security Ministers who identified that disabled people were a burden because of the number of us on the Disability Support Pension. And then   and then, you know, people call us burdens. And it's like, but we don't look at the fact that in Australia we are so deeply and horribly underemployed. 

But that's like   like that's   yes, but in coming back to behaviour in public, I think that there is education to police, we need   I would like to have a   in   you know, a disability officer in the police. You know, a community engagement officer in police. And not just one per state, but, you know, regions. I would like   and that that person might even, God forbid, be a person with a disability. I don't know. But I feel   and we also need structures of where we can go when we are   in order to be safe. Like, you know, is there a sticker on a shop window that says, you know, come in when you are being followed or harassed or being made fun of. 

I think that there is   and these aren't things that the Royal Commission can necessarily, you know, address, but I think we need to be in politics. So, politics needs to kind of change, and I think the rise with independence might see more opportunities for disabled people to enter politics. I don't know. But our visibility has to be seen as ordinary, not extraordinary. It has to be a kind of like, of course there's a disabled person here. You know. There's so much. I think   I think what I   do you want to ask me a more specific question? I think I'm rambling. 

MS BENNETT: No, you are not rambling. Those were really useful suggestions. I was going to clarify, when you talk about the stickers on the shop windows, you mean, like you see little pride flags these days. This is a safe space. 

MS STRAHAN: Absolutely. Yes. Yes. And there is a disability pride flag, and so we could use that. There is an international one that's slowly kind of getting traction. So, yes, that would be great. Rather than, "If you are disabled you can come in here and be safe." We don't want that. We just need a little sign. 

MS BENNETT: Yes. And is that concern there that you are creating exclusionary spaces? You want to be welcome everywhere. 

MS STRAHAN: Yes, exactly. Exactly. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Can I just interrupt here. I think the question put to you is what needs to change. 

MS STRAHAN: Yes. Okay. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: You suggested a series of things that might sort of help alleviate the problem. I have a suspicion that you might have an idea of what needs to change in society in greater depth and I would love to hear that. 

MS STRAHAN: I think we have to start from kind of birth in terms of, you know, kindergarten and maternal services. We have to do something around the funding of you know, schools. I   I think the more   yes, sorry, I'm a bit  

MS BENNETT: Let me take you to your statement. You talk at paragraph 48 about your role in leading a program called Broadcasting Your Voice project, that you say is directed to attitudinal change. Can you tell the Commissioners a little bit about that - 

MS STRAHAN: Yes, okay, sorry. I'm the project manager at Disability Voices Tasmania in Tasmania. And we have a project, we are just running the second part of that, where we work with people with disabilities in all areas of podcasting. And   and the people that turned up had all had some experience   we had a young man who was a sound artist. We had someone else who was an artist and also doing a kind of podcast already and then another man who wanted to make a podcast about Tasmanian music. 

So, we did that training and we connected people to be able to interview musicians and things like that and then we had a listening party where we celebrated that. Disability Voices Tasmania is also having a podcast station. These podcasts are on Spotify at the moment. And then what we have done is working with ABC down there, and then interviewing people who have been part of that podcast and that project. And so rather than   one of the things   this is a really good   one of the things that happens a lot is we get this one off. 

It's like, hallelujah, oh, there is this one-off project, that has got, you know, 100 grand or 10 grand or five grand or something and what we are trying to do is make sure there is no one-off. That we are always look at where can people go from that. And I think that that's really important because it's like there has   we have a history of one-off projects where people get hope, they get some skills, but there's nowhere to go. And so with our project, we are making sure that there's somewhere to go. And   yes.

MS BENNETT: What's the name of the podcast? 

MS STRAHAN: It's called   the podcast   they each have different names but if you look at the DVT channel on podcasts, you will hear them. So, we are doing   we are doing that again and what we learnt from the first one was we only did five people. We can now do kind of 11. Now, that's one little spot in Tasmania. But I think when we lead the projects, when we get the funding, when we are skilled in engaging with the community and then getting partners on board   whereas often we have the partners on board and then we go out to the community, it's the other way around. I've been in the community sector for a very long time. 

MS BENNETT: So the two elements I'm detecting from that really are capacity building and visibility. 

MS STRAHAN: Absolutely. 

MS BENNETT: That's what that project is aimed at. 

MS STRAHAN: And a good dash of pride in there too, about, you know   I think the thing that's really interesting is   and important is when we go from "I", me, the person with a disability, to "us." You know, the collective. And we aren't always in the collective at the same time and we won't necessarily be   you know, agree on everything but when we come together we are such good problem solvers. And I think that instead of it coming down that way from government, it needs to come, in a sense, straight to us. 

MS BENNETT: You talk   sorry. 


MS BENNETT: You talk in your statement as well about your involvement in responding to targeted violence and hate crime. And that there needs to be a further understanding around those issues. Is that something that   how do you see that as something that needs to be developed? 

MS STRAHAN: Yes, we have a group in Tasmania that is having a forum in a   next week, I think, on Sunday week on targeted violence, and we are working with   it's a group of all communities, you know, so it's Aboriginal people, it's LGBTI, it's multicultural. And I think that's the other thing that's really important, is to find the commonalities between other marginalised and oppressed people and come together on that. So, that's really good. 

And I   I   in terms of recommendations, I've read the submission from my colleague Nicole Asquith, and her recommendations are really exciting. In terms of what needs to change, society won't change if we are not visible in a whole variety of roles, you know. And that our visibility is as an equal and as a colleague. And when I look at the skills of people with disability, the number of people with disability receiving DSP who have, you know, degrees, masters degrees, PhDs and still not kind of working is like we're not working hard enough. We are so working hard enough. 

MS BENNETT: I take it by that you mean the Australian community? 

MS STRAHAN: The Australian community, the Australian government, the state governments, we're not working hard enough to get people in society. There is such a kind of   and that's what I mean by   by, you know, there is all these one-off projects. And   and I have never met a person with a disability   I've worked with people with all kinds of disability. I have never met a person who doesn't want to be part of society. Never. In 40 years of work. Never met a person who goes "No, I just want to, you know, stay away.” They might have, you know, really clear boundaries about "I can do this" or "I could go there" and "This is how I need to go there" but I have never met someone who just said, "Yes I'm fine sitting here."

MS BENNETT: You talk in your statement about the need for greater media representation and making it entirely common for all   people with all sorts of disabilities to be present in our lives in different ways. You have been doing a one-woman show. How has that been as part of that presence in   in entertainment? 

MS STRAHAN: Look, that's a really interesting thing because all my family were and my remaining sister is   were thespians. You know, they were connected to the New Theatre in Sydney and   and I was always kind of carefully kind of, you know, kind of, you know, selling the popcorn or something like that, because my parents had this really strong sense that I would just be a fool, you know. That would be what I would be cast as. Even in the New Theatre, which   I don't know. 

Anyway, but the acting gene was   is in me. And then   and I had a Maori   amazing Maori teacher who   who I was in quite a few plays with. And then about 20 years ago I wrote a kids’ story, and I performed it at the first Daylesford Writers Festival. I got myself a director and I got some musicians and it was fantastic. It was great. I was in that   you know, I with a storyteller, you know, and, you know, one of the things was to, you know, capture the minds of the children. I had a great conversation afterwards. 

And then now that I'm   my kids are kind of less dependent and have moved out of home, I started writing   I have   I had this in my head for a long time about rewriting Snow White. Because one of the things that happened that I didn't put in my submission is that every summer, the pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was on at the Sydney Town Hall and it felt like   it felt like   my parents never took me. And it felt like the   the names of the dwarfs were on the aether, and I would be walking along the street and someone would go, "Oh, there's Happy", you know. 

Or, you know, I remember at times sitting on a ferry reading and it was like someone said   and I was frowning, and someone said, "No need to be so grumpy, ha, ha, ha, ha." You know, there was all that. So, I've decided to take that on and so I do have   I road-tested it at the Fern Tree Tavern in Tasmania. I road-tested it, and it is called The D Word. And what I want to do and I think all of us can do is rewrite the story. It doesn't matter if 10,000 short-statured people rewrite the story, because it's got a really ugly history. And its history was that Hitler loved it and it was released in 1937 and Hitler loved it and he got delighted when Mengele said, "I've got a dwarf family at last." 

MS BENNETT: So you are now trying to reclaim that? 

MS STRAHAN: So    yes. Well, not    but, yes, I am and it's like the power to write the story, the power to stand in and act as   as myself rather than being a dwarf or being a silly kind of character, or a   yes, is   is   is really fantastic. 

MS BENNETT: Is it difficult to use the language that perhaps might be difficult language and a language with a really difficult history? How can that be done in a respectful way? Can you assist the Commissioners and those watching to understand your perspective about those complex uses of language? 

MS STRAHAN: Sure. There is something really interesting about, "it's okay for me to use the word 'dwarf' but don't you use it."  You know. Unless you've kind of like got, you know, permission. And, you know, I'm talking to you as you as the representative, not you as in   Liz. Yes, there is something about   you know, it's about ownership. It's a bit like my   you know, I have Aboriginal family who claim the word "black". You know, it's not for other people to use. 

That doesn't mean I want you dancing around going, "What do I call you?" Just call me my name. You know. And people often say, what do I call you? And it's like, my name. You know. It's interesting, and I mean, I'm an older woman, but people   you know, there are someone you are going to be talking to later who's younger than me, and the next generation are just flowing so much apart in terms of this, and they will be   I will look like a dag down the track, perhaps, but what they bring   and utilising social media in a powerful way and using media in a powerful way   will be different. So, things are not static with us. But sometimes they feel unbelievably static with power. 

MS BENNETT: I'm going to ask you a   the final question I'm going to ask you is what is   what is it you would like to leave the Commissioners with today? And those watching, what's the message you would like to leave them with? 

MS STRAHAN: I wrote something down. I think the only thing I want to say is that no matter how awful our stories are, no matter how painful and horrific they are, segregation is not the answer. We need to be everywhere, and there are all kinds of supports that we can create that will enable us to be where we want to be, providing we have, you know, a sense of collective change. Not dogmatic orders, or saying, you know, now you're not to use this word or anything like that. We need a collective change that is putting a stake in the sand, saying no more. 

MS BENNETT: Thank you Ms Strahan. Commissioners, I have nothing further for this witness. 

CHAIR: Thank you. If you don't mind I will ask my colleagues if they have any questions. Today, I will start with Commissioner Ryan. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: I only need to say thank you. I have already asked questions so I won't question anymore but thank you for coming. 

CHAIR: Commissioner Galbally. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Thank you, Ms Strahan. So, coming back to the beginning of your evidence, when you were spat on and followed and menaced, would you call that hate? 


COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: And so   and that hate is a difference. 

MS STRAHAN: It's a difference. It's not ignorance. They know exactly what they are doing. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: And do you think that has in common   that's what I understood you to mean   with racism? 

MS STRAHAN: Yes, yes. Yes. And homophobia. Yes. I think they are different words but the same intent. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: When you were talking about solutions, you mentioned education of police and a disability officer notion. I believe there is, in some jurisdictions, that model for LGBTQI. Is that the model   


COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Because that seems to have made a difference. 

MS STRAHAN: There is that in Tasmania, yes, and also I think it's not just that person and maybe the reporting staff around them, it's the whole institution up to the Commissioner that has to be behind that. Because it's really   it's almost dangerous to not have an institution behind that because that puts that person in a situation where, you know, their hands are tied. They can't   they can't   their hands can't be tied. There has be an organisational commitment to that. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: So, that's one of your structural suggestions. The safe shop idea, that was another structural, where shops would put up their hands and people could duck in there. 

MS STRAHAN: Yes. Yes. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: The whole issue of everyone being out in the society, is that your suggestion, that the more that happens, the more things will change? 

MS STRAHAN: When I   yes, when I went   the first time I went to Berkeley, I was   which was kind of like my, you know, equal to, you know, some kind of pilgrim   that I got there. I caught an accessible train. This was in the 80s. It was about '86. I caught an accessible train, where everything was just kind of low and high. I got off at the station and the lift had buttons, it had a phone   a   I have forgotten the name of the phone that they would have had then if you were deaf, and you could type. It had low and high buttons. There was braille. There was good surface. 

And it came out and I walked out into   from the station into the street and there were disabled people everywhere. Of every kind. And no one looked at me. No one looked at me. It was, like, amazing. And here were people doing really ordinary things. We weren't being extraordinary. We were   you know people just being ordinary. Going to music shops, having lunch, going to the uni and things like that. And there was a sense of   it was kind of like I didn't have to do anything. 

You know, there were   I would walk into shops and there would be you know, counters high and low, which benefit lots of people. You know, including elderly people, kids   you know all of that. And it was just so organic. And there was like a part of me that had never seen that. My vision for our country is that. That people   all people are everywhere. And because the environment is supporting us, we don't actually seem so weird, you know. We don't seem so unusual. People with carers and support workers and families and kids on people's wheelchairs and you know, it was just   yes. 

And I just didn't want to leave, and I pleaded with my partner that maybe we should move there, and he went, "Yes, okay" but I couldn't get a job so   because of the way that, you know, Americans are not necessarily employing people from outside. But I have friends there who I have met in my international advocacy, and I go there a lot because it's kind of like   and what I'm doing now is I'm just kind of collapsing as if I'm relaxed because I didn't have to work. Does that make sense? 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: The level of hatred sound like it's pretty low. 

MS STRAHAN: Yes, yes. And it was like, you know, there was no, like, oh look at that short, you know, person or anything. And it was like   it was just   it was so beautifully ordinary. You know. And where   I don't know if people get that. Yes. 


CHAIR: What were you doing at Berkeley? 

MS STRAHAN: My sister lives in San Francisco and I had met a whole lot of Americans when I was representing an organisation at the fourth World Conference on Women in China, and   and we   yes, we've had 25 years of friendship. So, I go there a bit. 

CHAIR: I taught at Berkeley, 1966/67. 

MS STRAHAN: Did you?

CHAIR: They burned down Telegraph Avenue, the year after I was there, free speech movement, Mario Savio, all the rest of it. It's a university community, which explains lot, actually. 

MS STRAHAN: Yes, and I think that, you know, it was where a lot of the Anglo disability rights, you know, came out of. And it really    

CHAIR: Yes. A lot of movements came out of Berkeley. 


CHAIR: It's one of the state universities of the University of California, and one of its problems has been the funding. It's done much better than many other state universities in the United States. And, in fact, it's had some   quite a number of Nobel prize winners from Berkeley. We will have a chat later on about that


CHAIR: About Berkeley. Okay. Thank you. Thank you very much for giving evidence and thank you for recounting your experiences in the way that you have, which has left a very considerable impression on us. I hope we get the opportunity to see your one-person show. 

MS STRAHAN: Sure. I hope so too. Thank you for the opportunity to be here. 

CHAIR: It's been a pleasure. Thank you very much. 

MS STRAHAN: Right. Thanks. 


CHAIR: Ms Bennett, what do we do now?

MS BENNETT: We now adjourn until 11.15. 

CHAIR: Right. It's just before 11 so we adjourn until 11.15. Thank you very much. 



CHAIR: Yes, Ms Dowsett. 

MS DOWSETT: Thank you, Chair. The next witness is a woman who is joining us live on the audiovisual link, and she has been given the pseudonym of Jenni. And after you make the introductions, Jenni would like to give her own Acknowledgment of Country. 

CHAIR: Yes. Thank you very much. Jenni, thank you for coming to the Royal Commission, if only remotely, in order to give evidence today. We appreciate your assistance. We have the statement, partly, that you have prepared and we have read that statement. And shortly I will ask Ms Dowsett to ask you some questions, but I understand that you have already taken the affirmation, so we don't need to do that. So, thank you again. And I will now ask Ms Dowsett to ask you some questions. 



MS DOWSETT: Good morning, Jenni. Can you hear me okay? 

JENNI: Yes, I can. 

MS DOWSETT: Now, I understand that you would like to make an Acknowledgment of Country before we begin? 

JENNI: Yes, I would, please. I would like to begin by respectfully acknowledging the Wathaurong peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of the lands and waters from which I am giving evidence today. I would also like to pay my respects to their elders past and present, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders of other communities who may be present at the hearing today. I recognise the histories, diversity of cultures and identities of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, and acknowledge that sovereignty has never been ceded and support reconciliation, justice and the recognition of ongoing living culture of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Thank you. 

MS DOWSETT: Thank you. Now, as the Chair said, you have made a written statement for the Royal Commission. That's a statement dated 12 September 2022. Have you had an opportunity to read that in preparation for giving evidence today? 

JENNI: Yes, I have. 

MS DOWSETT: Are there any alterations, additions or corrections you would like to make? 


MS DOWSETT: Are the contents of the statement true and correct? 

JENNI: Yes, they are. 

MS DOWSETT: Chair, I tender the statement and ask that it be marked Exhibit 28 5. 

CHAIR: Yes, Jenni's statement will be admitted into evidence and given the marking of 28 5.


MS DOWSETT: Jenni, perhaps if we could begin with a little bit about yourself and your background. I understand from your statement that you were   you were born and raised in Melbourne, in greater Melbourne. You started out in the eastern superb suburbs and then, as an adult, you moved into the city, living and working in the suburbs like Fitzroy and St Kilda. That's correct? 

JENNI: Yes, yes. 

MS DOWSETT: And you have worked in a number of different industries. You worked in the music industry, you worked in a record store, as a paralegal, in the arts industry and now in the health sector. 


MS DOWSETT: And you also have a voluntary position of the Short Statured People of Australia. 

JENNI: Yes, I do, yes. 

MS DOWSETT: And that's SSPA. 

JENNI: Yes. 

MS DOWSETT: And in your free time, you are studying for a master's degree? 

JENNI: Yes. What there is left of free time. 

MS DOWSETT: Well, yes, with a full time job and volunteer position and a master's degree, you must be very busy. And you are the mum to a 9-year-old daughter. 

JENNI: Yes. 

MS DOWSETT: We will talk a little bit about more about her later, but I want to stay focused on you for now. You outline in your statement what you describe as the everyday experience of abuse, and you talk about some different kinds of abuse that you have experienced, talking about how it began when you were a child, but also continues to current day. That's correct? 

JENNI: Yes. 

MS DOWSETT: Could you just give the tribunal   sorry, the Royal Commission an overview of the kinds of everyday experiences that you are talking about, and perhaps begin with contemporary ones. Things that happen now. 

JENNI: Yes. So, I've   just like Fiona and Debra have also experienced, my experience is that it's varying forms of violence and abuse when I'm out and about in public, and it started quite early when I was at primary school age. The frequency and types of abuse I've been subject to has relatively stayed consistent throughout my life. It's primarily been in the form of abusive comment, taunts, harassment, intimidation, threats of violence, and these   they happen to me more times than I would be able to count. 

And I'm sure that other people may feel that too, that I can't recall everything because it's just such an ongoing wave of everyday abuse. But there are   you know, incidents that are clear in my mind that stand out, only because they make me feel sick when I remember them. And they are just so vivid and feel so real still to this day, even if they happened years and years ago. 

And I think   we live in a small rural town, and we are a bit insulated by that, by just having those boundaries around this town where I feel somewhat safe. But once I step outside of the boundaries, I don't feel safe anymore when I go on the regional train down to Melbourne to work or to visit friends or to go out. And even when I go to a neighbouring larger rural city, you know, my husband and I have endured a lot of threats of violence and abuse and sexualised comments and intimidation as well. So, we feel like we are stuck in the middle here. And we are getting on either sides of us in a geography perspective. 

MS DOWSETT: Sure. If I can just direct your attention to a couple of incidents, but before I do that, I want to be   to be very clear that we would only want you to share as much as you are comfortable with, and you have indicated to me that although this is a very difficult thing that you are doing, that you do want to share your experiences and give this evidence today? 

JENNI: Yes, I do. 

MS DOWSETT: Now, if at any point in time you need a break, if it becomes too uncomfortable, please let me know. Okay? 

JENNI: Yes. 

MS DOWSETT: So if we could perhaps start with your experiences of stalking. In your statement, you describe two accounts. One that happened in 2003 when you were living in St Kilda, and another more recent event that occurred after you had moved to the regional town that you describe as a place of relative safety. Could you just tell the Royal Commission about those two incidents and what happened and how it made you feel? 

JENNI: Yes. The earlier incidents was in an inner city suburb of St Kilda, and, you know, it's a very   you know, cool suburb to be in. There's all sorts of people that are there that live there, there's lots of backpackers, people that have lived there for generations, people like myself who rent apartments or places there because they have just moved out of home, and it's a real mix of people that gather there. 

And you meet a lot of friendly people, and I've always been friendly. I will say hello if someone says hello to me in a genuine way. And I was waiting for the tram and this man started talking to me and, you know, and I made conversation with him and that was fine. And then he started doing that thing that makes us feel very uncomfortable, where he started to do that, "Oh, you are very cute. You're very beautiful." 

And it wasn't   I didn't feel that it was that genuine feeling of someone telling you are lovely, you are gorgeous, it was that creepy feeling of feeling like you have been infantilised, that someone is saying "you are very cute" and almost looking at you, not as a woman but as a child. And   and it just started   you know, it was bordering on ick and creepy. And so, you know, I just was polite and said thank you and that and then just thought that would be the end of it. 

But then I kept running into him and every time I ran into him he would make a beeline for me straightaway. He always seemed to turn up whenever I was in the area. And he always was, again, very   you know, wanting to give me all these compliments and wanting to talk to me or wanting   you know, he would start saying, "I want you to be my girlfriend." I would be like, "no, no, no, no, no, no." You know, and I'm trying   I was at that stage with my life that I didn't understand what   what that was in that particular scenario, when now that I look back at it and I go, well, actually that was not a good thing. That was not a good   there were alarm bells ringing, but I was not listening to them because I just thought this person would just go away and get on with the day and take the hint that I'm not really wanting to deal with them at all. 

And then it just   it went on for quite a long time and then one day he started following me home, and I   I just went, "I have to stop this." This person   it's like that little thing or that clip goes off in your head, and you go, this person is not understanding. This person actually is making me feel scared. I feel scared right now. I feel terrified. He looks like he couldn't harm a fl at but I don't know that. Because I don't know him at all. He is a stranger. But he's making me feel really uncomfortable and not safe. And so I   

MS DOWSETT: Were you   sorry, please continue. 

JENNI: You know, I just had to turn around and scream at him, and this was on a well known street in St Kilda. I had to scream at him to leave me alone. And thankfully from that moment on, he did. So, every time he did see me in public, he did not acknowledge me at all. I felt lucky. I felt really lucky. 

MS DOWSETT: And if you can, thinking back to that point in time, were you aware then of anywhere you could report or anyone you could go to help you with this experience? 

JENNI: No, no. Not at all. Not at all. I never knew that I had a right to report this sort of behaviour or these threats. No. I didn't. 

MS DOWSETT: So, if we can come forward in time to the second incident. So, this is after you have moved to the regional town. So, at some time around 2008, 2009; is that the right timeframe? 

JENNI: Yes. Yes, that's correct. Yes. So I   

MS DOWSETT: And so  

JENNI: Sorry. Go.

MS DOWSETT: You continue. 

JENNI: So I was working at Arts Access in Victoria in South Melbourne, and I was travelling down there still by V/Line whilst I was looking for a job closer to home. And I was on the train one day coming home and I had a spare seat next to me. I have learnt never to sit at the window if you feel that you're going to be harassed. So, I   from now on I always sit on the aisle seat to prevent people from blocking me in that position. I just   I digress, but I just had to say that out loud. It is one of those safety measures I have put in place for myself. 

But on this occasion, I was sitting by the window. I had a spare seat next to me, and this young fellow came and sat next to me. I did not recognise him at all. And immediately I sort of went, oh god, I hope he's okay. Like, you start putting out the   the signals in your head, like, trying to, you know, sense if everything was going to be okay. But then he started talking to me like a normal person. You know, he wasn't patronising, he wasn't rude, he wasn't suggestive. He wasn't anything. He was just being, you know, a normal conversation. You know. 

And you know, and I told him, my husband and I had just moved here, we don't know a lot of people in the area. My parents   you know, I said I have got family that live in our town but that's really it. And I said to him, my husband's been in Australia for a couple of years because he migrated here from America and he's   he wasn't struggling to make friends; he just didn't know people outside of my inner circle. So, I thought, and this   the dude sitting next to me, he sounded like a pretty sound dude, and he   you know, I said it will probably be cool if you know you two meet and stuff. I felt like I was setting my husband up for like a blind date to go fishing. 

And so I exchanged phone numbers, I exchanged phone numbers with him, because I thought he seemed reasonable. And I'm   I'm very   I don't say gullible, but I'm very   you know, open to talking to people. I don't   you know, now I'm not, because of that, but, you know, back then I was. It just didn't phase me just having a conversation with a stranger. And then   

MS DOWSETT: Can I ask you, so you have exchanged these numbers and you were setting up a   hopefully a friendship for your husband, but it took a turn at some point. Can you describe what happened after that turn occurred in this relationship? 

JENNI: Well, he   he was constantly phoning me and messaging me. It was constant. It was a barrage to the point I had to keep turning my phone off, which, you know, my family would say, "Why have you got your phone off? I've been trying to call you." And I couldn't tell him, I couldn't tell my family because I thought   again, I thought it would just stop, it would go away. And it was constant. It was all the time at work. I was getting in trouble at work because my phone was constantly going off. Because I had it on   because my husband, you know, might be wanting to call me or something. 

And it started   I started to feel nervous, and I started to feel like, oh, I think something is not quite right here. And then one day, my sister and I were at an Aldi. It was very early in the morning on I think it was a Saturday morning. I don't think it was even 10 o'clock. And I got a text message from him, and I was in the   in the last aisle. And the text message was so vile, describing a sexual act he was going to do to me and that what he was thinking was happening at that moment, that I nearly collapsed there and then. 

And I ran   I   I   the shopkeepers must have thought something was a bit odd around me because I ran around the shop thinking he was actually in the shop. And to the point that I actually could not think that even if I saw him, I don't know whether I could recognise him because it just   it changed something in me where I felt nothing but fear and I even   and I had that fear of, "What if I actually don't recognise who he is if he walks towards me." It's like I blanked out his identity, even though I knew who he was and that he came from a very well-known rich family in the area. 

But, yes, and I got in the car with my sister, and I just fell apart and cried and cried and told her everything. Went home, told my husband and my husband just had no idea. He said, "Why didn't you tell me?" I said, "Because I thought it would just stop, it would go away." And then that Monday I went to the phone shop and got my phone number changed. Got a new phone number. 

And   and then from then on, because I was still working in Melbourne, I avoided Ballarat at all costs. If I had to go up there I would make sure I was with people and I would only go up there if I had to go up there because where he came from was up that way. And   and I just   you know, even getting on the train from Melbourne, I was so worried that I would run into him that I would make sure I was on the train carriage with the conductors because I   my husband and I became very familiar with them and knew their names and they knew us and knew our names. And so I felt safe if I was on the same carriages as them. 

And that   that went on, that fear went on for a couple of years, and it was only until   even when I got a job in Ballarat, I still felt that fear, and even when I knew that even my colleagues knew family members, because his family was so well known in the area. But, again, I just had that feeling was, I don't know if I would actually recognise him. Because I think the trauma   my trauma response to that whole event was so much that he just   I just somehow blurred him into the crowd. Because I just could not want to see that person again. 

MS DOWSETT: Sure. I would like to change topics now, because there are a couple of things that I would like to ask you about. 

CHAIR: Can I just ask a question about that. I understand completely what a terrible experience this was, very distressing indeed. Do you attribute this to his perception of you as a person with disability? 

JENNI: Yes. 

CHAIR: Or was it a case of   I'm interested to know why you have formed that perception. 

JENNI: Because he started to use what I now recognise as infantilising language, the way he talked about me, his little girl, his   you know, that I was special, that I wasn't like other girls because I   you know, I was a   the M word and, like, he just   

CHAIR: I don't want you to go into detail. I certainly don't want to make you uncomfortable. I was just trying to understand what it was that led you to that conclusion, because stalking is something that, of course, unhappily occurred in a variety of settings, but it was because of the way he communicated with you that you formed that view. 

JENNI: Yes. Definitely. 

CHAIR: Okay. Thank you. I understand now. 

MS DOWSETT: Thank you, Chair. Jenni, you talk in your statement about having been subjected to verbal abuse and sexualised comments from when you were about 12 or 13. And you say that at the time, it was just normal to you. It didn't even occur to you that it was wrong or why it might not be. But you came to develop a knowledge and an understanding of that as an issue, much later in life in your   in your working life. Can you talk to the Commission about what happened to change your perspective and help you understand what was happening? 

JENNI: Well, I started working at Women's Health Grampians. And when I started working there, I   I was under the perception that it was just a women's health service, that I didn't understand that they were part of these other women's health services that worked across Victoria. And one of their main focus areas was on gender equality, and prevention of violence against women. And so from working there   and that started late   late 2010   I started to learn about the different forms of   forms of violence, how violence occurs, the statistics around violence, and this was just women in general, not women with disabilities. 

And   and the fact   and, you know, the other things that really hit me hard was the rights to report these forms of violence. And when I looked at that   at the list, thinking, oh, my goodness, everything I've experienced comes under this, because up until that point all I thought violence was either rape or family violence. I did not understand that there are other forms of violence that occur in particular spaces to particular people and at different rates. 

And I remember feeling sick when I   when the penny dropped. I remember feeling, well, I don't have any right   like, I had a right back then, but I can't do anything about it now because it's in the past and I don't know what these people look like anymore. You know, even though I knew that the later person's name and family, where he was from, I could probably do something but I just thought I just wanted to forget about it. But just   yes. And then   I don't know, did you want me to talk about Women with Disability Victoria? 

MS DOWSETT: No, that's okay. I want to ask you firstly about the incidents with your daughter and then we will move on to your knowledge about reporting now. So, you describe in your statement having been subjected to non-consensual filming and photography yourself, but you also talk about how this is impacted on your family and in particular your daughter. So, yourself and your husband are people of short-statured, and you say that on the very day that you brought your daughter home from hospital, the impact on her life began. So, can you   as comfortable   as much as you are comfortable to share, can you tell the Royal Commission about that? 

JENNI: Yes. I know it's pretty crap, but I have to talk about this or else I'm not going to be able to have a chance to say this in a forum where it would be taken seriously. So, I have to say it. My   so the day of   we were at a large public hospital that's in the city, not out in the regional area that I live in. And we came down to the foyer and I had to go chemist to get some medication, and so I said to my husband, why don't you just wait here in the foyer with our baby, who was in a bassinet carrier. 

And so my sister and I went into the chemist, and we were there for quite a while. And then I get this phone call from my husband, and I could hear it in his voice that he was shaking. And he said, "Can you hurry up? I need you to hurry up now."  And I thought   oh, what the   and I thought is he just being impatient or what? Like, I just didn't want to know why he was sounding like that. So, we got back to him where he was   where I left him in the foyer, and he said, "We've got to get out of here. We've just got to get out of here. I want to leave now."

And   and then as we were out of the hospital into the carpark, he said that a   quite a large family came up to him and wanted to take   started surrounding him, you know, that lovely way of let's target the person physically by actually just surrounding him and intimidating him. And they just said to him, "We want to take your photo." They wanted to high five him and all that comical stuff because it's so much fun to meet a person of short stature, because somehow we are exciting, and, you know, for the purpose of wanting to be high fived. I have no idea. 

But this group of people, yes, they were just harassing him, wanting to take his photo, and then realising that he's got our baby with him, they said, "We want a photo of you and your baby. You know, we want a photo of the both of you."  My husband was saying, "No, no, you can take a photo of me but not of my baby. Please don't take a photo of my baby." And he said even when they were physically taking the photo of him, they were still trying to take a photo of our baby. 

And so I don't   like I can't really put it into words, and I know I'm speaking on his behalf, but I know I feel it too, it's like her whole sense of self and privacy was taken away at that moment. And you can't   you know, you can't do that to a child. And from that moment on, every time we took her out, it was just constant harassment of, "Can we take a photo of you." You say no. But they still take a photo. "Can we film you." You say no but they still film you and it was everywhere. And   

MS DOWSETT: And that's something that continues now she's a 9 year old? 

JENNI: Yes, it still continues now. 

MS DOWSETT: And are you able  

JENNI: And it continues to a point where she is starting to want to defend us and she's not our brother's keeper. She should not be. And that's why I don't put photos on her on social media. I don't put anything, because I don't want her to be looking for herself and suddenly herself in other people's photos with horrible comments or suggestions or what have you. I don't   you know, it's   her   her autonomy is taken, pretty much. 

And we try so hard to protect that, that it's   that it restricts what we do with her. Completely restricts everything we do with her. We don't willingly take her to things like the Melbourne Show, or to festivals or other big public places where there is going to be crowds of people and alcohol. We avoid them like the plague. Even though you can't really avoid COVID much these days, but you know what I mean. 


JENNI: Sorry, I just realised how ridiculous that sounded. But  and it's   it restricts her childhood. It really restricts her childhood. Because it's become insular that we only do what we feel is safe for us to do, for us to take her out, for her not to have   minimal photography or filming happen because   because people think it's an oddity that two short-statured people can have a child that doesn't have our condition. That it seems to be and   you know, something to be recorded, to be filmed. 

And so   and the thing is, like, because of the line of work I do, I'm also about cyber safety. I don't know if there is photos of her and me or me and my husband and her are going to be put into roleplay scenarios, are going to be used for nefarious horrendous things on social media. Like, you know, and that's not even a half of it. The   I don't know if you want me to talk about the other incident with the pram. 

MS DOWSETT: I think the incident with the pram is in your statement, so I might get you to just leave that there. I want to move on and so we will just take a breath. You've had a drink of water. Are you okay to continue? 

JENNI: Yes, yes. 

MS DOWSETT: So I want to change tack just a little bit and talk about reporting. And you have spoken about not reporting in the past because you didn't know who you could report to or even that there was something to report. But you've come to an awareness through your work that maybe there is an avenue and, as I understand it, through the course of your work, you are aware of a thing called the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline. 

JENNI: Yes. 

MS DOWSETT: Can you tell the Royal Commission what it is you know about that hotline and how you came to know it? 

JENNI: I know about it because one of my coworkers, I think, was   was consulting on it. And I know that we did some work around getting it or keeping it funded to be a service for people with disabilities to report to. That's   that's as far as I know. That   it's something that we did advertise to our members and that we have included in resources and such, but yes, that's as far as   

MS DOWSETT: When you were putting   sorry to talk over you. 

JENNI: That's alright. 

MS DOWSETT: When you were putting together the advertising, there was a poster you were telling me about creating, and there was an issue around naming the hotline. Can you tell the Royal Commission about what that issue was? Why were you worried about putting the phone number on the poster? 

JENNI: What was that?

MS DOWSETT: It's okay. If you don't remember, we won't go into it. 

JENNI: Yes, I have got to jog my memory on that one. 

MS DOWSETT: That's alright. Have you ever used the hotline yourself? 

JENNI: I think what I   I think what it was, was it was actually at the time when we didn't know whether it was going to be continued to be funded. I think that's what it was. There was a period of time where it went back into review to see if it was going to be continually funded, and I think that's what was   there was a hesitation of whether or not we include it, because we didn't want to give out information that was going to be a dead end to people if it wasn't going to be funded. I think I'm pretty sure that was what it was. 

MS DOWSETT: And have you used the hotline yourself? 


MS DOWSETT: You say in your statement that there needs to be a clear reporting pathway. What   what would a clear reporting pathway look like, from your perspective? 

JENNI: Well, it's   it needs to be something that all people are able to access, but there needs to be a speciality about it for people with disabilities and everything   people with disabilities in being able to feel confident that they are going to get someone on the end of the line and someone that's actually trained to support people with disabilities in the   in matters of violence and abuse in public spaces and private spaces. It doesn't matter. 

And just to feel that they are getting a referral service   a referral pathway to services that they can actually access because there is   there's a lot of great services and phone numbers out there, but there is already a lot of barriers for people to even access those phone numbers and services, whether it's because they don't have access to a telecommunications device, whether it's a phone or a computer, or they are unable to use the service because they may use a communication aid, or they may need to use a TTY. 

There's just so much barriers that   it's all fine and dandy that we can offer these services, but you have got to think about, well, how does that person actually access that service from   how do they even know about the service in the first instance? And, you know, and you have got to have people that are really well trained in trauma-informed practice because people with disabilities are not just feeling this trauma from abuse and violence in private and public spaces; they are feeling other levels of trauma from medical intervention, from education, from family, from institutions. 

It's   you know, and I think we do a lot of work with some of the national numbers, and we do do a lot of retraining with them, and it is fantastic what we have been able to achieve. And it is fantastic the reception and the openness and the willingness that we get from national numbers. But there's also   there is always going to be that problem of, well, if the person doesn't know who to call, how are they going to access these services. 

MS DOWSETT: Can I just ask you, in that "we", you said "we do a lot of work" who is the “we” you are referring to? 

JENNI: I'm talking about my workplace, who I probably   you know, and I know   you know, I know that, you know, they talk a lot about this at Royal Commissions in the past so I don't really need to cover it. But I'm just saying that, you know, when we work with women with disabilities, we listen to what they   what the barriers are for them for reporting and what it looks like for them when they want to report. And when they report, what happens to that situation, and how they are treated. 

And I think   and I know as Fiona before me had mentioned, having that disability liaison person at police stations, that would be brilliant if we had designated people in services that are crisis services or emergency support services. And it's much more credible to have people with disabilities in those lines of work, to be able to understand the nuances of what we experience on a day to day basis. It happens to us, not to just   not just the average person on the street. 

It happens to us and so people have got to question why does it happen to us. You know. And so to have someone that actually has that knowledge and empathy and experience, is crucial in opening up those lines of communication where people will feel comfortable to report and will feel validated. 

MS DOWSETT: Thank you very much for that. Those are the questions that I have for you, but I will hand you over now to the Chair, and the Commissioners may have some questions. 

CHAIR: Thank you very much. I will ask my colleagues if they have any questions for you, if that's okay, Jenni. And I will start with Commissioner Galbally. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Thank you very much, Jenni. I have no questions. 

CHAIR: Commissioner Ryan? 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: You indicated, unlike many of our other witnesses, that you had an awareness of the hotline that people could ring to make complaints. Why is it, do you think, that people don't use that hotline? 

JENNI: Well, I don't know. There could be an access issue. There could be that it's not advertised enough, that it's not spoken enough about. So, you know, I wish I could answer that. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Sure. Right. Then the only other thing is you said it would be brilliant if there were people in police stations to go and complain to. Given the training of police officers, I think it would be highly unlikely that many of them would have a disability. So, how would we overcome that problem? 

JENNI: Well, that's   yes that's a fair point. But you have, you know, you have other levels of police like PSOs that can   that could possibly be people with disabilities, and I think when we talk about disability, we are not talking just about the physical disability. We are also talking about invisible disabilities. So I think there could possibly be quite a few police that may have invisible disabilities that they have not disclosed. 

It's about just having someone there as a   I know that they have community visitors through the Department of Health and Human Services here. You know, someone like that would possibly work, but they really need to be trained up to understand not just the issues that people with disabilities face in this area and family violence and public and private spaces, and the violence and abuse that we deal with, but also have that knowledge of that reporting procedures, understanding what are the next steps and what are the supports we can get to be able to report these crimes. 

And I think people have just got to destigmatise how   what reporting looks like and, you know, because I think a lot of people with disabilities too are in fear of the police because they have also had traumatic experiences, whether they have been removed from care, or whether they have been in trouble because of some incident. So, there's lots of nuances that have to be considered. But I don't think at this point in time there's enough done. 

So, whatever it looks like, it needs to be done as a co designed model with people with disabilities, in particular, women with disabilities. It can't be design and created by other people without disabilities, and that's a very big issue for us. Because if you don't include us in the co design from the   right from the beginning, then it really isn't about us at all, and it's not for us. It won't be suitable. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: I must say it occurred to me while you were speaking that there are a number of people in the police service or force who acquire disabilities during the course of their service. 

JENNI: Yes. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: And they are usually asked to leave. The   I was simply going to say some of the things that you have reported in your statement and your evidence today might have been things that you would have reported to the police. Did it ever occur to you to do that, and, if you did, what would have been   why didn't you or did you? 

JENNI: Well, the instances of stalking, I had no idea that was a form of violence. So, I didn't know that sending messages of that nature via phone or computer was a form of violence. The incident with the man taking control of the pram with my baby daughter inside of it, I think that was so traumatising that I couldn't even tell my husband for about two years. 


JENNI: That I did not know   I just sort of put it in my head that this man was an old dithery man that just had no idea what he was doing, and he just maybe had a moment. I don't know. But in itself, that was a terrifying experience for me. But I just wanted to get home. Like, I could have   I went to the travel assistance office and hid there until I knew that my train was going to arrive and then just ran   bolted with my daughter to the train. 

I don't know. Because there's also this issue   and I know this is going to sound a bit off track, but there's also an issue we have when, you know, a parent with a disability and your child does not have your disability, there is also that threat of if you're   if you   if you are deemed not fit or not protecting your child or not taking care of your child, there is always that level of   I don't know, not threat but just that fear that someone could step in and take your child away because you have put your child in danger, because some stranger off the street just decided that he was going to start taking control of your pram and walk off with it with her. You know? 

Like, there is so many different layers to this as to why I could not feel safe in reporting it, even though at that point in time I was working at Women's Health Grampians. I couldn't even tell my co worker for long time. I was so scared about what the repercussions could be on me, not on this man. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Thank you for that. Just in case it needs to be explained, I certainly didn't ask you that question in any way to make you feel difficult. 

JENNI: No, no.

COMMISSIONER RYAN: But I think you have given us some marvellous insights to the barriers to overcome to help people report these things more frequently. So, I'm very grateful for that. Thank you, Mr Chair. 

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Jenni, for your evidence today. We appreciate what you have said, and we appreciate also that it's not an easy thing to come to the Commission and tell us of experiences such as those that you have talked about today. So, we are very grateful that you have been prepared to do that, put that in writing in your statement and to answer the questions that you have today. It's been of considerable assistance to us. So, thank you very much indeed. 

JENNI: Thank you. 

MS DOWSETT: Thank you, Chair. If we could now   sorry. 

CHAIR: I think Ms Dowsett is now going to say something.

JENNI: Sorry, am I allowed just to make a comment on something, if I may? 

CHAIR: Please do so. Yes. 

JENNI: Throughout   the Stop It app has been referred to a few times. People have asked me if I knew about it and I had no idea about it. And even my workplace had no idea about it. 


JENNI: And I did have a look at it on the Vicpol site. It's   I can tell you   I know that you've had Scope, who are an absolute reputable organisation, to provide that assistance in   in working with the Victorian Police to you know make their website accessible, but even going to that Stop It app website, there's nothing in Easy English. There is nothing in   there's no   there's nothing in any alternative formats other than community languages. So, that, for a start, is an issue. And then if you even try to access the form it is a very difficult process to navigate that website page. 

To even get to do a search for disability on the Vicpol site, they have a page that's called Accessibility, where you can get versions of information in accessible format, but you have to find this page first. And then there is still hoops to jump through on it. So, if the whole moral of me talking about the barriers   that's a barrier. You know. There should be examples also on that page on the Stop It app page of people can disabilities experiencing sexual harassment in public spaces and on public transport. Because you've got two examples there. They are not representative of people with disabilities at all. So, I just wanted that on the record, if I may. 

CHAIR: Yes, thank you very much, Jenni. Thank you. 


MS DOWSETT: Thank you, Chair. If we could adjourn briefly for five minutes just to reconfigure the room for the next witness. 

CHAIR: Yes, we will do that. Thank you. It is now just after 5 past 12. We will resume at 12.15. 


<RESUMED 12:18 PM 

CHAIR: Yes, Mr Fraser. 

MR FRASER: Commissioners, the next witness is Peta Stamell, who is present with us here in the Brisbane hearing room and has with her, per request, of course, her 10 month old son Rowan. I note there is a support person nearby who will assist with Rowan in the event he needs a break or if there are any technical issues with the audio feed, for example. I ask that the witness be affirmed. 

CHAIR: Yes, thank you very much. Thank you very much for coming to the Royal Commission to give evidence. A special thank you to Rowan. We won't require Rowan to be sworn or affirmed. We will assume that the evidence he gives will be the truth and nothing but the truth. We   I will ask, if you would be good enough, to follow the instructions of my associate, who is just sitting there. And she will administer the affirmation to you. Thank you. 

ASSOCIATE: I will read you the affirmation. At the end, please say yes or I do. 

MS STAMELL: I can't hear you very well. Could you turn it up? 

ASSOCIATE: I will read you the affirmation. At the end, please say yes or I do. 


ASSOCIATE: Do you solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that the evidence which I shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 



CHAIR: Thank you very much. I will ask Mr Fraser to ask you some questions now. 


MR FRASER: Thank you. Now, Ms Stamell, Peta, you provided a written statement to this Commission dated 16 September 2022. And have you had a chance to read that in preparation for your evidence today? 


MR FRASER: And are the contents of that statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief? 


MR FRASER: Commissioners, a copy of that statement is at tab 15 of the Tender bundle. I tender that statement and ask it be marked as Exhibit number 28 6. 

CHAIR: Yes. The statement of Ms Stamell will be admitted into evidence and given the marking of 28 6. Thank you.


MR FRASER: Now, Peta   and please tell me if you are having trouble hearing me or anything like that. Would like to begin by asking you to tell the Commission a little bit about yourself. So, you have two sisters; is that right? 


MR FRASER: And you are all women of short stature; is that correct? 


MR FRASER: Your parents are of average height? 


MR FRASER: You grew up in Bondi, in New South Wales? 


MR FRASER: And you're 38 years old? 

MS STAMELL: I'm 39. I wish I was 38.


CHAIR: Don't we all? You're not the only one. 

MR FRASER: And can you tell us a little bit about your studies, for example, at 18 you studied graphic design. Is that right? 

MS STAMELL: Yes, I moved to Canberra to study graphic design, and I graduated in Canberra a couple of years later. And I now work in the field of graphic design. 

MR FRASER: So after you studied in Canberra, you spent some time in Canada; is that right? 

MS STAMELL: Yes, I did a ski season in Canada with a working visa. Then I moved to England where I spent far too long, seven years, and then I moved back to Australia. A real sea change, moved to Tamworth, New South Wales. Fantastic regional town. Loved it. And then I moved back to Canberra about five years ago. Yes, and I have been a graphic designer pretty much all that time. When I was in England, I was working for the BBC predominantly in television. Yes. 

MR FRASER: And in addition to your working life, you obviously have a busy personal life as well? 

MS STAMELL: I have a 10-month-old baby. And he's gorgeous. 

MR FRASER: Now, Peta, in your statement, you note at 5 that, sadly, public abuse and harassment have been commonplace for you. And you refer to some instances when you were a child growing up   sorry, abuse and harassment in the community. Can you tell the Commission about your experiences growing up? 

MS STAMELL: That's a very broad question. So, generally, growing up with dwarfism, you start learning that you're different pretty early on, but when you are 5 and you are cute, it's pretty mild stuff. I remember thinking kids my age would call me a midget when I was like around 5, and the word actually held no emotional resonance, because I didn't really care. It was just another word. And the adults around me would get really offended and I didn't know why. 

And then as I got older, you start to, in your early teens   you know, the perfect time to start getting    abuse from strangers, that's when you really start copping it. You become like fair game for people in the public, and you also start looking weird and not looking   looking stranger and not cute anymore. Instead you look kind of like an adult shouldn't really look, not like a cute little kid, which you can get away with when you are a kid. Yes. 

So, that becomes quite noticeable when you are about 13. What's interesting is I always had a really good time in institutions like schools and anywhere where you actually can develop an identity outside of just what you look like. The abuse really happens in public spaces with strangers. The more broad   the more broad crowds of strangers are, the more you get. So, you will often get at, like, fairs and royal Easter show and things like that and malls. So many malls. In fact, to this day I hate going into malls for that reason. 

MR FRASER: Well, let's talk about some of these experiences in Australia now, in your adult life. In your statement, you talk about different places where you have experienced abuse and harassment in the community. Can I start with your experiences where you simply are walking or cycling down the street in your local area, when you give some examples in your statement. Can you tell the Commission about some of these incidents? I'm around paragraph 31, if that helps. 

MS STAMELL: Sorry, can you repeat that? 

MR FRASER: Paragraph 31. 

MS STAMELL: Okay. So you basically   I'm like   can I have a more specific question? Like, I find the broadness difficult. 

MR FRASER: Well, for example, you give   you give an example where you are cycling down the road and there was a car full of people that started to follow you. Tell the Commission about that. 

MS STAMELL: Yes. So the instance I talk about in this   in the witness statement was in Tamworth. I was walking back from a soccer game that I was in, and on a corner of a street, a group of young men, I would say in their 20s, just saw me. They were clearly quite bored, decided to yell at me, calling me a fucking midget, laughing at me. And then, you know, immediately your adrenaline goes up. I was on my bike cycling home, actually. So, I started riding home. The car started to follow me. 

I stopped because I knew they were going to keep following me, and they did. They actually went further down street once they passed me and did a U turn to have another go at me. And I   and I filmed it. Then I went to the police station, the local police station, and I was quite distressed and reported it. And I said I wanted something done or at least I wanted it recorded down for posterity’s sake. And they told me there wasn't anything really that could be done. But I gave them the video footage that I had, which had a number plate in it, and they knocked on the doors of the owner of the car, and they caught the footage   they confiscated the footage of the men, because they had been filming the incident as well. What's the point of abusing someone if you don't have it on record? 

And, yes, and so they basically gave them a stern warning. And they told me there was nothing else that could be done. But I actually really appreciated that they did give them a stern warning because they didn't have to, and I really felt like they had my back. Like, they   for that   what was significant about that was I felt like even though nothing could be done, significant, I felt like they felt   they felt that something should have been done. 

And historically, you know, when you've tried to talk about these experiences   and they are so numerous, which is why I find broad questions hard. I'm like, well, which incident of, like, getting called a midget on the street? Yes. To have someone say, yes, this is not right and we're going to have your back on this anyway was really nice and it was actually   yes, that was it. I was actually able to move on from it pretty quickly because I just got that little bit validation. 

MR FRASER: Just for the purpose of the transcription, can I ask you to slow down a little bit. 

MS STAMELL: Okay. I will try. 

MR FRASER: And I will try to do the same thing as well. So, in addition to those sort of incidents on the streets, as you have mentioned, you talk about particular difficulties in places where alcohol is served, such as bars and pubs and nightclubs. And there was an incident, wasn't there, where you were out with your sister   and I'm at paragraph 24 of your statement   and a stranger actually picked her up. Is that right? 

MS STAMELL: Yes. That was actually one of the worst   the worst experiences. This is the kind of experience that you worry will happen every time you go out. And every time you go out, you do worry about this happening. And then you have this internal dialogue where you are like, I'm being paranoid, it will be fine, and then it happens. And you are like, oh, that's right I'm not being paranoid. This does happen. 

So, yes, as you have all read, I went to a pretty popular bar in Belconnen in Canberra, to meet a friend for a beer. She wanted me to introduce   she wanted me to meet her work colleagues who she really liked, and she thought we would have a great time together. And so me and my sister together went to this bar, and immediately the   the vibe when people saw us was pretty obviously bad. Like, pretty   like, immediately. 

But you know, so what will happen is you will go in and people will look at you, and you make   it's so obvious, very quickly, like, do they   what do they do? Do they turn to their friends and nudge them and then their friends look and then they smirk and get out their phone and start filming you, or do they nudge their friends, their friends look and then they look back and that's it. So, in this case, you know, everyone was looking, and the more nudging that was happening, the more looking. 

And then I would say it was almost like critical mass of people that decided that we were hilarious, and so, yes, the whole pub   it felt like the whole pub was looking at us. So, we then walked to the bar, where the bartender had difficulty seeing us originally. So, I can't be sure whether his hesitancy to serve me was difficulty seeing me or whether it was that he, like, picked up the mood of the room. And I like that term because that's how this stuff happens. The mood of the room. And he didn't want to serve us because we were already social pariahs at that time. 

So, he served us eventually anyway, like with a little bit of hesitancy. And then we got our beer. Me and Melanie by this stage were already really unhappy. But this happens so often, or degrees of this happen so often you try and like   you're like, okay, I'm going to be defiant and I deserve to be here so I'm going to be here. And we went on to try to meet our friend's group. And then we went to the table, where they were. Our friend introduced us. She was oblivious to what was happening. Me and Melanie were not, and her friends were not. 

So, a couple of them, like, said a half-hearted hello. A lot of them didn't. They started getting up in succession, and then quickly the whole group got up and then they moved away from us to the other side of, like, a little courtyard thing and started laughing about us. And, yes, our friend was quite shocked at that point because I think she picked up that this was not going as how she imagined. Me and Melanie tried to finish our first drinks because, you know, you just want to pretend everything is not how it actually is. And you are, like, well, we're here for a drink, I'm going to sit here for a drink and then I will leave. 

But it was so bad, the pointing and the staring and just the vibe, that we were like, you know what, I don't actually sit here and put up this. This is a sunk-cost fallacy. I'm getting up and I'm leaving. And on the way out, someone picked up my sister, picked her up, turned her around to his friends laughing and said, "Look, I've got a midget." Then my friend put her arm on his arm and was like, "Put her down."  So he kept walking out. And then, yes, like, lots of people were jumping out and taking our photos on the way out and then we got in the car, drove home and Melanie started crying. And like I   we deal with a lot. I've never seen her cry, and that was pretty heartbreaking. Yes. 

MR FRASER: Now, you have also lived in   lived and worked in Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as travelling to other parts of the world. Have you experienced similar types of abuse and harassment when overseas? 

MS STAMELL: This is really interesting, because I remember, like, growing up thinking Australia was one of the most progressive countries in the world and I was lucky to be here, thinking if I was in other countries I would be treated even worse. And I remember being quite nervous to go outside of the country for that reason. But now that I've gone outside of the country a lot, like, it really highlights how much of a cultural thing this is. 

I get far less harassment in North America. Interestingly, the more Australian tourists in that area, the more harassment I will get. I   in England I get far more harassment than I get in Australia. That's really interesting. And it's more   it's more threatening aggression as well. So, in Australia, I will get a lot of people just harassing you, but the threat of physical violence as isn't as high as it is in England. Yes. 

Apart from   other countries in Europe   some countries in Europe, it's just an absolute pleasure to walk down the street. Like, it feels like   oh, relaxing because you are not constantly trying to assess how you're being perceived. People just kind of leave you alone, and they do it enough that you can   like, lower your guard. 

MR FRASER: So in terms of   I suppose that's global. What about the online space? You talk a little bit in your statement about online abuse. Do you maintain a big internet presence? 

MS STAMELL: Yes, so I have got a Facebook account. I   because   so the internet   I remember when YouTube started, and a couple of my friends wanted to do, like, travelling podcasts   no, no, travelling videos. And I remember thinking I don't want to do that. All I'm going to get is a whole lot of midget jokes, and I just can't   I just don't want to handle it. And then I was like, I will just do comments and so maybe I should do that. And I never got around to it. And a lot of that was just the stress of having to be, like, how I'm going to be received. So, I have actually generally avoided any online visible presence. 

Facebook is good, because, you know, you are pretty much filtering to your friends. If your friends start having a go at you about your size, like, you need to control who you are accepting friendship requests from. That being said, I'm a member of a number of, like, Dwarfism Facebook groups, and there's a lot of sharing of harassment and things that other people get. So, I mean, I'm experiencing vicarious online harassment. 

Like, a lot of young   this really affects me actually. Young people trying to participate in meme culture, like, you know, just being   like whatever trend   online trends and, you know, doing online challenges and they will   like, their video will hijacked, someone will put like a Oompa Loompa song over, and then it will be shared a million times. And I could just imagine what my 20 year old self would have felt like if that was mine. 

MR FRASER: Coming back for your own experiences, you say at paragraph 6 of your statement that   and I will use your words:   

"I characterise the anti social behaviour that my sisters and I are forced to endure as a campaign of harassment which is effective because it's decentralised."

So there I understand you to be speaking about the impact that the sort of abuse and harassment you have experienced has upon you. Can you tell the Commissioners a little bit about that impact? 

MS STAMELL: Yes, this is interesting. Because I   I get myself in for reasons other than my height, right. And they just   the insults, like, they don't land as hard. Like, we had a really quite amusing example of my sister was in a McDonald's and she accidentally picked up someone else's thickshake or something. And this guy got angry at her because he   she had picked up his thickshake and he was like, "How dare you, you fucking cunt." And Melanie came out of the McDonald's and like, was smiling and told me about the incident of like just, you know, random confrontation or whatever. And the first thing she said was like, "He didn't call me a midget. Like, it was so equalising. Like, he hated me for doing something that was a bit of an asshole move   " 

CHAIR: It's called equal opportunity insults. 


CHAIR: Equal opportunity insults. 

MS STAMELL: Equal opportunity, yes. So   but as soon as people would make it a height related thing, it impacted you psychologically in a way that was like   like, it would make you want to physically vomit. 

MR FRASER: I think you say in your statement that   

MS STAMELL: I want to say, it is a campaign, because, I mean, like, dwarfism is so rare. Most people will never meet someone with dwarfism in their entire life. Right? So, why is it that when you   the one instance you are likely to meet someone, people choose the same words and the same reactions? Like, where are they learning that from? They are learning it from pop culture and the media. So, I blame a lot of what we experience on television and the movies. And I can honestly list off an entire litany of things. Even progressive shows that have just dedicated an entire episode to ridiculing us. So, that's where people learn to do it. 

MR FRASER: Now, you have told us some   about some quite serious examples of abuse in the community that you have experienced and also with your sister, and you refer in your statement to instances where you reported that conduct to the police in Australia, as you mentioned, and also in the United Kingdom. Can you tell the Commission about your experience of reporting some abuse you experienced in the United Kingdom? 

MS STAMELL: Yes. So, the UK is an interesting place. It has   as well as having, like, worse public attitudes in the instances where they are quite threatening, it also has some of the most progressive public attitudes as well that I have experienced. So, the disability activism that I witnessed there was quite inspiring, and the fact that they had disability as a protected identity and you could report hate crimes against it was really kind of novel for me and empowering itself, because it's a way society can actually say, yes, I mean this happen, it's going to happen. But, you know, we kind of think it shouldn't. 

Whereas you get told there's nothing anyone can do, it's basically society is telling you that you kind of just need to suck it up and maybe be a little bit less sensitive. And, I mean, it's almost enforcement but I wouldn't maybe go that far. So, anyway, yes, I had some serious instances in the UK and I went to the police station   so this happened twice. I went to the police station two times and I said I want to report an incident of an anti-social behaviour. I want to report it as a hate crime. Both times, I was actually told they couldn't report them, there was nothing that was actually legally wrong, what would   like what had happened. And this is being followed down the street, filmed, people putting their hands above your heads, filming you, laughing. That kind of thing. 

And there was nothing that could legally be done about that because it's   I don't know what. Like it wasn't harassment. It wasn't stalking. I don't know what it was. And I refused to leave the police station until it was recorded as a hate crime, because I thought, you know what, at least I want this down on the record. So, if some researcher decides to do some research, there is some evidence that this actually happened. So, that happened twice. 

And the police did take it seriously eventually but, like, you know, once I had to ask for a senior sergeant to come out. He actually said what I had experienced was wrong or illegal or something and said he would report it. And the other police actually took it super seriously. And there was a little bit of solidarity because that police officer was gay and had experienced anti-social behaviour herself and was like, you know, I never thought to report this before, and I'm going to do that now. So, it was I a bit of solidarity. Yes. Again, it was just the validation. That was important. 

MR FRASER: And the example you gave before about your involvement or reporting something to the police in Australia, that was in a regional town, wasn't it? 

MS STAMELL: Yes, so the reason the cops in Tamworth did anything, because they knew me. I also lost   my bike got stolen and they called me at work and told me it was stolen before I realised it had gone. So, I really felt like I had the community support there. So  

MR FRASER: Do you   obviously this   and you say in your statement this sort of abuse and harassment is commonplace. Do you generally report all the instances of abuse that you experience? 

MS STAMELL: If I had to do that, I would be constantly at the police station. No, I don't report this stuff most of the time. It has got to be pretty egregious. The only reason I even reported it in Tamworth is because I thought they would care, like   and they did. So, yes, I got what I wanted out of that. Yes. But this stuff is so numerous. Even like   it becomes normal after a while. And if it doesn't happen within quite a stretch of time, it's almost, like, unnerving and you are   like, you are waiting for it to happen. 

MR FRASER: Other than reporting to the police, are aware of any other reporting line operated for the purpose of a person with disability reporting violence and abuse in the community? 


MR FRASER: Now, you talk in your statement about positive examples where people around you, be it friends, have made an effort to stop that sort of conduct, abuse and things like that. How important is it to you that people in the community actually take a positive approach? 

MS STAMELL: Where did I write this?

MR FRASER: Well, you say, for example   you give some examples of the public and that intervened at paragraph 44 of your statement. 

MS STAMELL: Yes, so it's interesting. This stuff will often   most often   I'd say 99 per cent of the time happens when you don't have any witnesses. As soon as you have got a tall person around, witnessing it, people tend to not do it. If I'm with another person with dwarfism, it does happen. It actually happens more. If I'm with a tall person, it happens way less. It gets to the point where you start wanting to be escorted by tall people everywhere, and that's a horrible feeling when you feel like you have to be escorted somewhere. It's   it's awful. 

There aren't   often when people witness it, they don't know what to do. They get very nervous, look the other way, pretend that there is something else going on, as in, like it's a personal thing. Like I know these people and it's a personal fight. So, they are surprised, often, when I don't know them. They don't intervene, to be honest, very often. I've got a few instances where people have intervened and I've really appreciated it, but, I mean, one of them is when two young men told these young teenagers to leave me alone. And then the young teenagers started having a go at the young men. And they   these guys   the teenagers were quite scary. 

And I was like, "This is why a lot of people don't want to intervene." But I appreciated that they did. It doesn't happen very often, but I appreciate it when it does happen. 

MR FRASER: If I can change tack now to looking to the future and ways to change things moving forward, you mentioned earlier in your evidence about a cultural issue. What do you think needs to change for the type of abuse that you have experienced to stop? You give a couple of examples in your statement. For example, if we could start with cultural change. Representations in the media. 

MS STAMELL: Is it just something simple like cultural change? Yes. Actually this is a massive cultural issue, and things are getting better, and I attribute that to a lot of, like, social justice issues being kind of fashionable right now. You know, like, you will see teenagers walk around with "be kind" on their T shirts. Like, that's a new thing, and that's nice. And, clearly, if you've got a mantra of "be kind", you are not going to call me a midget in the street, even if you're thinking it. 

So, yes, slow cultural shifts and grinds would   it's not an answer I know, but, ultimately, that's what we need. I honestly think   and I want to   I talk a lot about   like, I worked in TV, and the bigotry I saw behind the scenes is insane, and no wonder it filtered through to the screens on the screen. Game of Thrones was a real game-changer for me. You know, Mini Me, like, from Austin Powers comes out. Suddenly that's the latest insult that I hear. Over and over again. Mini Me, ha ha ha, Mini Me, whatever. 

Game of Thrones comes out. I walk past a group of guys with beer and they're like, "Have you seen Game of Thrones?" I hear that. So, they are making that pop cultural association. And suddenly they have got a character that is three dimensional, has life experiences they all identify with, often daddy issues, and, yes, he's a really positive cool character. And if you talk about online space, like, I saw videos of Tyrion, the character, being analysed by, like, real kind of like    boys. Like, the kind of people that would give me the hard time in any other context talking about this character in respectful tones, identifying this character because they don't like their dad either. 

And they didn't reference his height. Not even politely. They just didn't feel the need to reference it. That was insanely normalising. And anyone watching, any impressionable person watching that, their takeaway is, this guy's height is kind of not relevant. It's not needed to be mentioned even politely. That was amazing. So, just the step change cultural shift as a result of that one positive representation backs up my theory that better representation in all forms of media would make my life significantly better. 

And I just want to say, that like even when you are on Netflix and you are watching old series of the Golden Girls, so super progressive for their time, there is an entire episode dedicated to laughing at one of their boyfriends who has dwarfism because he's short. And she ends up dumping him because she doesn't want to be seen with the short guy. And that was a moral takeaway. Like that was   the moral takeaway was like, you know, it's kind of funny, shouldn't make jokes but let's laugh anyway. This is   you know. And I saw this recently. I was like no wonder, like, society is rude to me if this was considered good for its time. Sorry, I feel like I have kind of gone on a rant. 

MR FRASER: I suppose another positive example you refer to is the work of your own   your own sister. 

MS STAMELL: My sister, older sister, very inspirational. I can never live up to her legendary status. So, she is an actress, refuses to take derogatory roles, gets offered a million every day. So, she got on a role on Play School on the ABC, and that makes a big difference to how children react to me. You know, children will come up, their parents will be nervous, and the kid's reaction will be, "I have seen someone like you on TV." And, it's like, cute, cool, you like this person, you are not going to be mean to this person, why would you be mean to me? So that's really good. I just want to say, though, that, like, the ABC deserves a lot of credit for being brave enough to make that casting choice, and I feel like that's happening more and more often. It deserves some significant, like, accolades. 

MR FRASER: Now, the   as far as   just to go back in your statement, one of the reasons why this change is needed, is it fair to say, is that the impact that that abuse and harassment has had on you, which you refer to, is   for example, you avoid public transport at certain times. Is that right? 

MS STAMELL: Yes, it will   it can   harassment is so bad that it can start to control your life, and that's something I have really had to fight against. Like, you know, am I going to go to a bar with a friend? Am I going to catch this public transport? Am I going to catch a cab? Every move you make is calculated with how much social friction am I going to experience doing that. And you know, like, my entire life has been I think fighting against the inclination to just stay home, because I'm a very extroverted person, and the energy that takes is insane. 

Yes, so, like, I do feel like my life has been pretty negatively impacted. I think the amount of energy that I spend thinking about this stuff could be better put elsewhere. Also, like this   has real impacts on, like, professional life and personal life. So, if you're getting, like, just constantly ridiculed, that's going to translate ideas of your employability, to your dateablity, to everything. Like, yes   like I   yes, so it has definitely had a massive impact on my life. It's had an impact on my ability to imagine, like, a future for myself that other people, I think, I imagine. 

So, I remember talking to my sisters about it. Well, you kind of try to analyse what's happening and you are like, "Well, we are kids at the moment. It's okay. But when we're adults"   because adults are always the ones that were getting made fun of   "I don't know if we really have a future, and I don't know what that looks like."  And I remember having some weird ideas that I was never explicitly told, but were very real. I remember thinking, like, I wouldn't be allowed to have children, and I remember thinking no one would ever employ me. 

And that was exacerbated by the fact that, like, when you're a teenager trying to get menial jobs, they are often physically based and require, like, you to fit into an infrastructure that you don't. So, you get rejected for logistical reasons. But, like, it becomes all the same. Like, you might as well get rejected for social reasons as well. I remember actually one of the first jobs I had I was hired probably against OH & S recommendations. And this person employed me, probably out of a favour, and I really liked it. It gave me a lot of confidence. 

But a lot of that job was actually dealing with people calling me a midget at work, and I just   I got upset about it once and I told someone off and my boss apologised to them for me telling them off and gave them free entry. So   

MR FRASER: You also talk   

CHAIR: Mr Fraser, I see we are a little bit over time. 

MR FRASER: Thank you. I will   


MS STAMELL: Because I'm really interesting.

MR FRASER: I will ask this   before we finish, subject to any questions the Commissioners may have, I would like to invite you to say is there anything else you would like to tell the Commission about your experiences or what needs to change or your hopes for the future? 

MS STAMELL: I mean, there's   I know    actually say, like, a lot of this stuff is really hard to solve. I would love to see a stronger disability advocacy movement in Australia that would be, like, across disability. That requires a lot of   I'd say mutual projects for people to work on. I would also look to the UK that has actually pretty progressive stuff. So, they have got an advisory board for advertising. So, if you actually have an advert with someone with dwarfism on it, you are required to get it past like a council of people with dwarfism. So, that really stops a lot of really lame unimaginative advertising going out that's all about making fun of us. I think that's quite useful. 

And I don't know how you do this, but, like, better representation on TV or, in the absence of better, no representation. Because, honestly, nothing is better than the crap I had to grow up with. 

MR FRASER: Thank you, Ms  

MS STAMELL: Sorry, I also want to say, I'm also really happy this Commission is happening. When we talk about validation, the fact that you are all here makes me think, well, maybe society is a little bit anti this behaviour. Yes. 

MR FRASER: Thank you. I will pass over to the Commissioners for any question that they might have. 

CHAIR: Thank you very much. I will ask my colleagues whether they have any questions. Commissioner Galbally? 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Thank you very much. In North America, do you   did you get a sense of why it was   we heard earlier, as you probably are aware, from Ms Strahan about Berkeley being like bliss in America. 

MS STAMELL: Oh, Berkeley, bliss. America has got a number of things going for it. I would say number one would be their pretty trashy cable TV shows about dwarfism. They love any show with little people. But they are positive, you know? They are often, like, following people with dwarfism with families, with cute kids, all about how those families, like, get along every day. I would say they are pretty voyeuristic, but they are also really positive. 

They're people with dwarfism doing normal things like having kids and raising them. The LPA, so the Little People's Association, is quite massive, and that's a population thing. So, very politically active. And they have a lot of lobbying power, and they have had a lot of influence in, like, media representation. Like, you know, I'm talking   so little   it is Little People, Big World was a show that is, like, running for in excess of 20 years. And it's following a family with dwarfism and the kids are fifty-fifty. And it is so feel-good television that every time I see a thread about dwarfism on the internet, someone references that show. So, it's clearly had a big impact. 

I would say that's   the cable TV is probably the biggest thing, the positive representation. Second to that would be the LPA. Also, their ADA, so their anti-discrimination, like, employment laws and stuff. I think it has a bit of an impact. Like, I have been speaking to people with dwarfism in America and I've got jobs I don't think we would be allowed to do in Australia and when I say that  

CHAIR: I think Commissioner Galbally was actually about to ask a question. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: No, I'm really interested. No, no. 

CHAIR: And you have answered a question that wasn't actually asked. So maybe Commissioner Galbally can ask the question and then we will see what the answer is. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: No, I just wanted to know about America, so you - 

CHAIR: America is a very big place. What you   which areas are you talking about there? 

MS STAMELL: Basically, East Coast. Wealthy areas, I'm not going to lie. Like Seattle   yes, Seattle, Washington DC. I have done a lot of travelling through the rust belt and stuff, road trips. People are pretty polite there. I mean, I did get harassment and everywhere I have been has been, like, really easy. Like, I can walk down the street. I can go to bars. Any experience that I have that is negative is pretty mild. But that being said, I have heard it's very regionally specific. So, there will be some really bad areas. 


CHAIR: Thank you. Commissioner Ryan? 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: I don't have any questions but thank you for coming. It's been great to have your evidence. Thank you. 

CHAIR: Ms Stamell, thank you very much for your evidence and both in writing and the oral evidence that you have given today. Thank you very much to Rowan, who has been exceptionally well behaved, especially when he's being carried at the back of the room. So, we very much appreciate the assistance that you have given and the experiences you have recounted to us, which are very helpful to us. So, thank you very much. 


CHAIR: Mr Fraser, it is now 1 o'clock. Should we adjourn until 2?

MR FRASER: Yes, thank you, Chair. 

CHAIR: Very good. 



CHAIR: Yes, Ms Dowsett. 

MS DOWSETT: Thank you, Chair. The next witness is Maree Jenner, who is giving evidence on behalf of Short Statured People of Australia. 

CHAIR: Ms Jenner, thank you for coming to the Royal Commission to give evidence today at our Brisbane hearing room. Thank you for the statement that you have provided, which each of us has and which we have read. And shortly I will ask Ms Dowsett to ask you some questions, but in the meantime, if you would be good enough to follow the instructions of my associate, who is sitting just in front of me, she will administer the affirmation to you. Thank you. 

MS JENNER: Thank you, Chair. 

ASSOCIATE: I will read you the affirmation. At the end, please say yes, or I do. Do you solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that the evidence you shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 



CHAIR: Thank you very much, Ms Jenner, and now I will ask Ms Dowsett to ask you some questions. 


MS DOWSETT: Thank you, Chair. Ms Jenner, you made a statement of 17 September 2022? 


MS DOWSETT: And you've had an opportunity to read that statement in preparation for evidence today? 

MS JENNER: Yes, I have. 

MS DOWSETT: Are there any alterations, additions or corrections you would like to make? 

MS JENNER: No. Not at present. 

MS DOWSETT: Are the contents of the statement true and correct? 

MS JENNER: They are true and correct. 

MS DOWSETT: Chair, I tender the statement of Ms Jenner together with its annexures and request that they be marked Exhibit 28 7 through to 28 7.5 in accordance with the index you have. 

CHAIR: Yes. The statement will be admitted as Exhibit 28 7 and the annexures thereto will be Exhibit 28.7.1 to 28.7.5. Or dash as the case may be.



MS DOWSETT: Thank you, Chair. Ms Jenner, you're giving evidence today on behalf of an organisation that we've heard a number of witnesses refer to, and it's the Short Statured People of Australia or SSPA. Can I ask you, before I introduce you, to introduce that organisation, tell us what it is and what it does? 

MS JENNER: Absolutely. Could I just actually first say that   just give an acknowledgment of the   that we are on the First Nations land. I know we've adjourned for lunch and that also   pay respects to elders past, present and emerging. And that the land always was and always will be Aboriginal land. 

Right. The Short Statured People's Association of Australia, it was   it's actually a peer support volunteer organisation that supports people with dwarfism or short stature. It started out actually   it's 54 years ago, and I went to the very first convention as a 10 year old child. So, that was in Port Macquarie, and it was a couple, George and Rosemary Whittaker, that founded the association because they had been to America and seen the Little People's Association of America and saw what an impact that had and the support that provided for people with dwarfism. 

So, they came back to Australia and decided they would establish something similar in Australia 54 years ago. So, I am the Vice President. We have the President. I'm the Vice, part of executive, the Secretary, and a Treasurer. And we also have other council members, and we meet on a quarterly basis. Everyone is volunteer. We provide peer support to young people and adults with dwarfism an opportunity to connect, get medical information, also, yes, to socially engage. 

We also have a sports arm and we have an arts   it's called Short Arts, the artistic arm. We have, yes, a mentor program we are developing, and we also provide supports to parents of children with dwarfism because, as you've heard, majority   80 per cent of us have parents of average stature. So, we don't have parents with   I'm the only one in my family, like we have heard again today, that   with the exception of Peta earlier, Ms Stamell   but I'm the only child with dwarfism in my family. Everyone else is average height. 

MS DOWSETT: Perhaps you can now tell us a little bit about your family and your background? 

MS JENNER: Sure. So, my family, I grew up in the country, actually New England area, so I went to school, primary school in Uralla which is, yes, near Armidale, and I went to high school in Armidale. So, primary school, I was   I had one of five, and when I was at primary school, I was actually only one of four because my brother came later. Second eldest. I unfortunately encountered bullying at school because of my difference, my dwarfism. 

I went on to high school and I   at the end of high school, I decided I would like to be a nurse, and I   it was really interesting. When I was going to leave school the vocational careers guidance counsellor asked me, "What would you like to do?" And I said I would like to do nursing. And she was like, oh, no, you won't be able to do that. And I said why not? And she said, because you are too short. And, anyway, I will just cut a long story short to speak. But I challenged that and I asked her to help me because I really wanted to do that. 

And so she gave me the letter of the advisory board in Sydney. My mother and I wrote a letter. Really, who responded was   to the advisory board and then we got a letter back from the Children's Hospital at Westmead at the time, and she offered me to come down and have a look and do an interview. I got employed for three months as on a trial. And I actually was the first person with dwarfism in New South Wales to register as a nurse. So, I finished it. So, yes, anyway. That's   I did nursing. 

After I did nursing, I actually decided for a career change and then I went and studied photography. I did that for four years. I then finished that and then I applied for a job at the State Library of New South Wales. I went for the interview and the   the photographic manager asked me the best question anyone can ever ask someone with disability. Is   "Okay, Maree," she said, "I've shown you around, you saw the dark room, you saw the studio, you saw this. Tell me how you can do the job." 

And I said, "Okay, well, in the dark room, I would need step stools." I had studied for four years so I knew what I was talking about. "In the studio you can do things differently. You can put things on the floor, which makes it lower. You can also go further back." And all of that. I got the job. I worked as a photographer. I became the photographic supervisor. I then became the photographic manager. 

I worked there for 12 years. I left there. I took a voluntary redundancy because I had met a Dutch man, and I went and lived in the Netherlands for 15 years. The first year in the Netherlands, I   I learnt Dutch. I wanted to be part of the community. He   his mother spoke quite good English, but I wanted to learn Dutch so I could communicate with her better. 

So, I learnt Dutch, and then after that I applied for a part-time job at the UN tribunal, and I got a job working in the transcription unit in the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and then I applied for a full-time job at the International Criminal Court, and I became the transcription coordinator. So, I was a team leader, and I had many staff, speaking probably 10 different languages. We were a unit within because we did the transcripts of the witnesses for the lawyers. So, I managed this team of staff. So, I worked there until 2015. 

I came back to Australia because my Dutch partner and I separated, and that was in 2011, and I stayed on but then in '15 I decided to come back because I wanted to be still working when I came home so I could build those connections and networks. I reconnected with the SSPA, and I   yes, actually I worked here in wonderful Brisbane for a year at the State Library of Queensland, and that position finished and then   I would have loved to have stayed here but that didn't work out. But I was on the Central Coast and when I got a job with the NDIS Partner in Community, that   

MS DOWSETT: We will come to the NDIS a little later on but thank you for that background. Now, you've indicated it was Dwarfism Awareness Month and you thought the coincidence of this hearing and that month is important. Can you explain why? 

MS JENNER: Exactly. Well, dwarfism awareness is about awareness. And it's unfortunate. What we have been hearing stories about the lack of respect, the treatment that we are given within the community. People's expectations of us people's treatment of us, so, unfortunately, we need to have awareness campaigns to create   to educate people in relation to, you know, I look like you, I'm small, I'm short, but I can still do things. People think that we are not capable of doing these things. There are challenges for people when it comes to recruitment. There can be, just like I faced with the year guidance counsellor. She was saying to me   looking at my height and deciding because of that that I shouldn't go any further. So, people make decisions looking at our size. They think our intelligence is also and we are capable of only doing this. 

MS DOWSETT: So, if I can turn to the subject matter of this public hearing which is violence and abuse of people with disability in public places, the SSPA did some work around this beginning with its convention back in 2020, and that was a process of storytelling and advocacy and gathering information and it is that, the information, the stories of the membership that you are going to talk to us about this afternoon; that's correct? 


MS DOWSETT: So, on behalf of the membership or drawing on the experiences of the membership, what is it that you would like to tell the Royal Commission about the everyday experiences of people of short stature? 

MS JENNER: I feel that because I'm the last person to sit in this chair with dwarfism, that my comrades with this   with dwarfism have made it very clear of their experiences. Going out in public, we are on display, unfortunately exposed to treatment, disrespect, and it can be, for some, on a regular basis which is extremely tiring, challenging, wears people down. So, that can have an impact on mental health. As we heard, people avoid when they go out so that can reduce, you know, what their peers will be doing at that age, compared to what they're   or feel safe to do. 

So, this is why we started to have these conversations about   when the Commission was established and we were talking about how it could be there for us to tell our stories that it evolved, and now we are so appreciative that we are sitting here now being able to give this opportunity to tell our story and they're being heard.

MS DOSWETT: We have heard from a number of women of short stature. Are you able to share, based on the members' experience, the experience of men of short stature? 

MS JENNER: I   we made it open for   you know, I was a contact for people to contact me if they would like to give information in relation to all   or support in relation to making a statement. One male, he did speak to me, but it's   I don't have a lot of information in relation to men. But one thing that he made clear to me was it   what's being said is about his use of public transport when he uses it and when he goes out, which actually impacts on   because he doesn't drive. So, it impacts on his ability to be getting out and about. Going to work, more often will he use a cab or an Uber, than   as opposed to public transport if he feels that he's at risk, which is also   you know, it's not the most cheapest way to get about. 

But I feel generally overall what I have seen and what we have spoken about before is we have posts   not posts, groups on Facebook where we talk about our experiences, and this is the way we see the way people talk. I actually approached different ones because I would   I noted them and then asked them would they feel comfortable to do this. But they declined, so   but   and one was a physical abuse in relation to he was leapfrogged over by a group of young men and he   you know, didn't feel comfortable to go in relation to this. But the other person, I actually did put him in contact with the lawyer and he did speak with him, but that hasn't gone any further. Yes. 

MS DOWSETT: Is it accurate to say that the experiences of men of short stature and women of short stature, when it comes to things like the name calling and the non-consensual touching, there is a degree of similarity about the behaviour? 

MS JENNER: Definitely. I think, yes, in relation to the name calling, definitely. And the physical abuse in that regard may be, yes, more inclined to be maybe physical, and not in so much sexual and touching. And - 

CHAIR: How many people of short stature are there in Australia? Do you know? 

MS JENNER: There's approximately about 2,000 if we base it on the percentages of the occurrence but we only have   we have a very small   we only have our membership is about 150. So, not   and like, for me, I was a member in the beginning and then I had a time where I didn't   you know, but now what we see is because of social media, we actually have a big membership because we have got lots of followers, and hope they're followers   I'm saying we also have people that are not   are following us for other reasons. But it's   we   in that way, I see the short statured community of Australia is our membership, because   

CHAIR: Do you have any sense how many followers might be people of short stature, in addition to your 150 - 

MS JENNER: I couldn't   I couldn't   I would have to   we would have to look at every single one, but that's a good question. I will take it on notice and I will have a look. 

CHAIR: We occasionally ask good questions, every so often. 

MS JENNER: What's that? 

CHAIR: We occasionally ask good questions. 

MS DOWSETT: I wanted to come to the online space. You say in your statement that social media and online platforms have delivered some amazing benefits for the short statured community, as they have for community generally. But it is also a place where harm is perpetrated. Can you share some of those experiences with the Royal Commission? 

MS JENNER: Definitely. Exactly. The online presence is wonderful because, like I said before, it enables us to actually   we reach more people than just the membership. We have the membership and we send out our quarterly journal and that to all members   that pay a subscription to be a member   but in relation to our   posts and things that we put on social media, and the information and that, it's there. It's accessible for everybody. 

We also create groups. So we've got our parents group. We have got a young group for young people. So, we have our youth advisors, and they connect with that. So, it enables them   especially since the pandemic because we started to then   like, when we had the first online convention in 2020, so that enabled people from all over Australia to connect. So, social media enables us all. So, we have a New South Wales group, we have a WA group, but still we can organise online activities and everyone can come. 

We have online groups where everyone talks. There's a parent group, like I said. There's a young people's group. There's   I set up a group for women, for Australia. There is also   you know, there is   yes, different   where we have an NDIS group, particularly for us, so we talk about   we have a hacks group, so we talk about any AT or anything we have bought that might be of benefit so it has all those pluses it's great. But what happens   and I think   which was part of my evidence, was the post that was put up by Bill Shorten when   after we had   we had been to visit him, because he invited us. He was in opposition then back in March and invited us to come to meet with him because he wanted to hear about us and the NDIS. 

And he actually wanted a photo, which was taken, and, like, we spoke about this yesterday, everyone was standing. He actually   it was interesting because he asked us in that meeting, "What is it like, how is it on social media?" And we said   well, the same. Social media is great, but then you get people   because we can use it to promote our achievements, whether someone is, you know, a position, a job, something like this, we can use it to get them the word out. 

But we also   then it comes to this way, that people put something up, and then he then had all these   there were positive comments, but there were also very   some derogatory comments that follow. And that, for us, was really disappointing, but I was pleased that he could see exactly what we have referred to with what happens. 

MS DOWSETT: We have heard from a number of witnesses about the non consensual filming and photography that happens and the concern about people saying, well, you don't know where it's going to end up, you might become a meme. Are you   are your members aware of what you can do if when you find yourself on social media? 

MS JENNER: No. I think that's   I would probably   if I found myself being used that way, I would look into what I could do but, yes, I haven't sort of. Because I have been filmed myself just riding my bike around my local area. I've had people yell out and call me a midget and then film me as they drive past. And   and, you know, there were   there was one time and I thought to myself, "Maree, why didn't you photograph the number plate" because by the time you get such a shock, it sort of   like, you stop, and then you are going   oh, it's more a   you know, for me, it's upset but disappointment maybe or   and a bit of anger, that it's like why? What   what are you going to do with that? But   but, if I found myself   and which probably happened to that. That probably turned into what I was hearing today about memes and things like this, me riding a bike. 

MS DOWSETT: You've spoken about your personal shock and disappointment, and we have heard, again, a number of witnesses talking about the impact that violence and abuse has on them, and we have heard witnesses talk about how exhausting it can be to be constantly on the alert for what's going to happen when you're in public. Is that something that you have heard through the membership? Is that the common experience? 

MS JENNER: Definitely, definitely. It is something and also the impact of when that happens. That it discourages people from, you know, doing what everyone else does. And the impact now   I'm older now, as you know. I have gone through majority of my life without social media, but for young people now   because my bullying at school happened at school. Now, as we know, it's 24/7. So, that type of abuse for people, young people with dwarfism, that can happen continually for them. 

And we know what an emphasis young people place on image. So, if someone is going to use that and then   so it could result in people not going out, not being included because they are not given that respect and consideration that everyone else should. Everyone has a right to do what we do, but because of this treatment and the way that we are   yes, that these occurrences happen, people, you know, will change what they do compared to   and that is   yes, it's not   not fair. 

MS DOWSETT: Jenni spoke in her evidence about living in her regional community, and she's amongst people she knows, and so I got a sense that she felt safer there. Like, she wasn't a novelty. She wasn't so much something to be pointed out. Is that also a common experience? That among your community, you   you may feel more safe; it's the stranger, the people you don't know? 

MS JENNER: Definitely. It really is that. When you go to a new place, like if you live somewhere   because some people say, oh, no, I don't experience that, because maybe they have been living there for a long time. So, people know them, and they do show that respect. I find that   I travel quite a bit. I get around. I have lived in different places. When you go somewhere, especially if you're in regional areas as opposed to the bigger cities, like when I came to live in Brisbane and then I moved to the Central Coast to live, and that was   yes, I was new. They hadn't seen me around much. 

So, when they did start to see me and that's when, you know, these things happen. It's like, oh   and it's   yes, often. And the people that will still do it will be people that we don't know. It's as opposed to the people   and I'm always amazed when people on social media say this is what happened to them, they are walking around and someone films them, their friends are shocked and they say, "I'm so sorry that you have to put up with that." Because they are not   you know, they respect their friend with dwarfism, the same way as the friend with dwarfism respects them, so they are shocked to hear that this is what we encounter. 

MS DOWSETT: I want to move now to the topic of reporting and, again, it's something that all of the witnesses have been talking about. So, this is paragraph 70 of your report   of your statement, if that helps you orient your thoughts. 


MS DOWSETT: I would just like you to share with us, again, based on your members' experiences, some of the barriers to reporting. We have heard that a lot of people don't report. Why? 

MS JENNER: Great. Well, the first off is that we have been hearing a lot of people didn't know where to go to report it. So, if there was   I suppose it's awareness of what we can do. I suppose, with my personal experience and others, it's like because it happens so often and it's how busy are you going to be doing that when also getting on with life and maybe thinking it's   you know, part of it is, like, oh well, I don't   it's part of being different, but I don't want it to be part of being different. 

My difference gives me great attributes, and, yes, I do stand out and people do notice me, and that, but when you're young and you're not feeling as comfortable in your skin as what I do now, that has a very negative impact of the difference and, yes, so I suppose I have said it's a sense of shame or embarrassment too that this is what happens to you, and are you feeling   if you are not feeling comfortable, being able to   you know, to tell someone this is what   you know, it's a bit like, "Oh, they are only having a joke."  You know. Like, why are you being so   I have had people say to me, "Don't be so grumpy" in relation to referring to a dwarf. But I   you know, like, we have every right to be treated like everybody else. 

MS DOWSETT: What's the impact on the mental health and the health and wellbeing of that sense of shame? This thing has happened, and you can't report it so you have to internalise it. Is that   is that the experience? 

MS JENNER: Yes, definitely. I mean, I suppose, you know, I   I remember my mother saying to me things like, "Come on, Maree, you've just got to stand   sticks and stones, Maree, can hurt you   can break your bones but names will never hurt you. Don't let the names hurt you." And this sort of stuff and it's   yes, of course. You know, you would have to   you know, every day face it and go, they are only names. Or it's   you know, it's just a name calling. It's not really   it's not really hurting you, so don't let them see that they are hurting you. Be brave. Stand up to it. You know. Stand tall. But I'm not very tall. 

MS DOWSETT: So, if we can move away from the barriers themselves, and perhaps think about ways we could overcome some of those barriers. Was there some suggestions you would like to make around that? 

MS JENNER: Overcome these barriers?

MS DOWSETT: Yes. How can we make it possible for people to report   perhaps if we put to one side the time it would take to report everything, if you wanted to report anything. What would make it easy? 

MS JENNER: Make it easy. Easy.


MS JENNER: An app. Make it's   whether it's an app for someone to lodge something they can   you see the young ones are so quick on their phones, and they can   you know, much quicker than what I am. They can easily   if it's accessible, and completely as we heard from Jenni this morning, to make it   if something is there, we need it to be completely accessible to everybody. So   and easy to use. And I think we have all   you know, majority of people walk around with a phone now. 

So whether it's maybe someone doesn't feel comfortable telling, but maybe for someone else, that's the only way they can get their message across. They can't type it. So, just to ensure that that contact, that app, that service is accessible for everybody and it's easy for people to do it. It's not something as much as, you know, going to the police station, whereas some people, again, I think that could be an embarrassing thing to do, to maybe   it all goes into a central place but then goes out to the local community where the people live. They put in a postcode or whatever, and then they know where this is happening. 

MS DOWSETT: You talk in your statement about having dedicated police liaison officers. Would you like to say some more about that? 

MS JENNER: I just think   I think that would be brilliant, because I think that to know that there is someone there that is in relation to supporting people with disability in   to these sort of situations, and they are there to support. It's not there to   you know, that's their specific role because sometimes you   you know, you hear the police are busy and they have got other things. But this is a specific department liaison person that is there to support people with disability in relation to the discrimination and the abuse and treatment that we get treated in community or within online spaces anywhere. And I think that would be a really good thing. 

MS DOWSETT: You say in your statement that SSPA does receive some reports. Its members talk to one another about what's happening. But you're a volunteer organisation. You don't have the time and the resources to make the referrals. And in paragraph 74, you suggest that there should be   you would like to see a dedicated organisation or phone line that could refer people for support and advice that's separate from the police. 


MS DOWSETT: Now, later this week, we will hear evidence from Ms Mitchell from DSS, and in her statement at paragraph 10, she talks about the hotline. You have heard some questions about the hotline this week? 


MS DOWSETT: Ms Mitchell says: 

"Hotline staff help people to identify appropriate ways of addressing abuse and neglect of people with disability, including by providing them with information and support or by referring them to an appropriate complaint handling body."

Does that sound like the start of what you would like to see? 

MS JENNER: Definitely, yes. 

MS DOWSETT: So, it's the kind of thing we have already got the makings of. 

MS JENNER: I know, yes, but that does sound like the start, but I would actually   I think we said it earlier today, is that it would be great to involve us all when   to make things better, I think, but in relation to our community or the short statured community, all the disability groups to advise on what those barriers are and what would make it for us to be able to do this. 

MS DOWSETT: And when you say, "we said it earlier", are you talking about the evidence that we heard from Jenni about the need for a co designed processes and trained people? 

MS JENNER: Definitely, definitely. Yes. 

MS DOWSETT: I want to move on to that   the final topic that I want to ask you about today, which is the broad topic of avenues for change. And I want to come back here to your CV and the work that you said that you do with an NDIS community partner. Can you tell the Royal Commission about the engagement   community engagement work you do through that mechanism? 

MS JENNER: Sure. I work   yes, for the NDIS Community Partner in my area. And I do a school inclusion awareness program. So, I go into primary schools talking to   it's stage 3, so it's years 5 and 6. And it's   the program is called Different on the Outside, Same on the Inside. So, it's talking about looking at differences. So, I engage with the children and I ask them to ask me questions in relation to my ability. I talk about do you think I could drive a car? 

And they say, "Oh, no. Not unless you had a higher seat or"   you know, so we talk about the supports that I need to be independent, just as an adult. And then I   we also talk about the way we look and the language we use. So, I talk about respect and kindness in relation to difference. And we look at a whole lot of different dogs and I say, "Okay, so let's have a look at all these different dogs." 

So, there's like a Saint Bernard, and there's a Greyhound, and there is a little spaniel and there is a Chihuahuas and there are a Labrador and this, and I say, okay, let's look at all the differences in the dogs, and they point out the large and hairy and big and strong and all the pluses, because if you are in the snow you need a lot of fur, and, you know, to run very fast then you've got this, but this little dog is good for getting under things and that. 

And so I say what would it be like if we only have one sort of dog? And they go, "That would be really boring." And I said, "Exactly. So, what it would be like if we all looked the same?"  And they went, "That would be really confusing." So it's like, appreciating difference in all of us. So, it's enabling   they start to then tell me, because I talk about my difference is very visible, and I said, "But that's only 10 per cent of disability. 90 per cent is invisible."  And so then they   some of them may say to me, "Oh I wear hearing aids. I also have a disability."  Or "I have autism so I also have a   we all are different."

I say we mobilise differently, we speak differently, we communicate differently. We all have difference and to add value. But I said, it's what's on the inside. We all have goals, aspiration, we all like to be loved and we love to be included. And so I love doing that, and I see that as early intervention. They are the adults of tomorrow. So, they are making   when I've been listening, we have been talking about education, because we need to change attitude. 

We need to change it now for the benefit of the adults of today but if we work also with the young ones, this is what this is doing, because what we want is a more inclusive society, so where everyone is included, we are not dependant so much on government support, but the community embraces everyone and includes everyone. So, which is a win win for everybody. 

CHAIR: Is this an NDIS program specifically? 

MS JENNER: Yes. Yes. They are the NDIS Partner. So, NDIS funding pays for   it's the local area coordination program. So, I'm a community engagement coordinator with them. 

CHAIR: And is there a program of this kind in every area of Australia? 

MS JENNER: No. No. This one is through   I'm on the Central Coast delivering this, and there is also a woman out at Orange and Bathurst for the same NDIS Partner delivering it. She has cerebral palsy. And I'm actually going   next year, we are going out west to Broken Hill, and we are going to be looking at setting up something similar there, but I won't be facilitating, but I will go. But it would be wonderful if that's in every, or you know, area for children to have that. 

And the teachers have said, what Maree teaches them, no teacher can teach. Because of the lived experience. They have also said the language has changed since Maree visited the school in relation to   because we talk about   I talk to them about use of language and the words around me, if you were to describe me. So, I say to them, "What will you say to mum and dad when you go home today? Who came to the school today?" and they will say, "A woman with dwarfism came." And I say, great. That's great. You can say that, because I say I like to be called a person first, or a woman with short stature or dwarfism. 

I said, I'm not that comfortable to be called a dwarf because it sounds like it's an object, but I said some people are comfortable with it, but they own that. It's not for other people to call them that. And it's the same with the term, of course, the M word, midget. And they   some of the children know that word so they sort of   you know, want to say it and that. And I said, yes, but I said how   how does that make you feel if someone calls you a noun and it doesn't sound like a person, does it? It's an object and it's not said in a kind way.

So, we talk about that language around that. And that's what the   the teachers have said. And I   I don't know whether I'm a bit anxious here today, sitting here, but I love doing that job because I can see the benefit, especially when I was in year 5 at school, and if someone had come and, you know, done that, that would have help helped in relation to me feeling - 

CHAIR: Which schools do you go to? Do you have to get permission to go to particular schools? 

MS JENNER: I go to all the primary schools. The public schools. 

CHAIR: State primary schools? 

MS JENNER: They are public but I don't   if the Catholic schools want or the private or independent, I will go. Yes, no. It's   I'm not  

CHAIR: I'm not suggesting you wouldn't go; I'm just wondering who asks to you go. 

MS JENNER: Yes, I contact the schools. I've got a wonderful email. We send it out at the beginning of each term and just try and get them to book me in. And it's   COVID really impacted it at first because of   yes. But it's been going out west because the woman that runs it out there, she has been running it for several years. But COVID didn't impact that area as much as what it did on the Central Coast because we are part of the Greater Sydney and that, but it certainly is getting really good response. And I   you know, just all that we've been hearing here and one of the recommendations is early intervention. 

CHAIR: What is the geographical limits of where you go? 

MS JENNER: Well, it's only Central Coast, but   

CHAIR: Sorry, from where to where? 

MS JENNER: Right. So, that's just below Newcastle sort of   and down to the Hawkesbury River. But I will go   one of the parents she has a child in primary school in the Illawarra, southern Sydney, and they are a member of the SSPA, and her daughter has asked could Maree come to the school and talk. And I said absolutely I will. I will go and do that. Yes. I   I'm more than happy to go, yes. 

MS DOWSETT: Thank you, Chair. There is a second part to the education campaign that you talk about in your statement, and it's about raising of awareness about what is abuse, both for the members of the SSPA but I think you also mean for the community generally. 


MS DOWSETT: Can you tell us why that part of the campaign is important? 

MS JENNER: Definitely. Well, I think   people being jeered at, mocked, verbally   some people might think like the term "abuse" relates to physical, but that taunting, jeering, teasing wears people down. Am I reading   is this what we are   


MS JENNER: It's great, yes. That   people don't quite   I think it's that. People think   you know, Jenni spoke this morning about becoming more aware as a result of her work. If you are not involved in those areas, you think   and I must say, you know, myself as well, when I   when the Commission was first set up, I thought that this sort of treatment wasn't part of the abuse. But I understand it now very clearly, and I'm very happy to be sitting in this chair. 

MS DOWSETT: We heard from Ms Strahan this morning a suggestion about safe places, about disability pride flags on stores and places where you can go if you need somewhere to feel safe. And you mentioned a similar thing in your statement by reference to a campaign that some of us may remember from our childhood about safety houses. They had little yellow sticker houses and stops, that if a child was in trouble on the way home from school, if they felt unsafe, you could go into this safety house. You envisage a similar campaign for disability. Can you share that? 

MS JENNER: Definitely the same as what   I think we spoke   no, Tracy also spoke. It's the same sort of thing in relation to being able   to know that if you are being stalked or if you are being harassed that it is a safe place to go to. And that's for everyone, not just for someone with dwarfism, it's   or someone   maybe someone as a result of their culture is being harassed. It's inclusive for all communities and that, to me, is a really plus sign. 

And I was listening to Tracy yesterday, and she was saying physical barriers to get into shops, but this is   you know, that will mean, if they are a safe place for everyone, physical access will have to be top priority as well. So, it's   everyone can get into the store or the business or the place where it is. So, I think more onus on the business owner, the store keeper, to be disability competent and that for   or inclusive for everyone. I think that's a overall win, yes, in that regard. But I see that to be sometimes when we are out and we have said   we have heard people are being stalked and this sort of stuff, if you know, that's where I can go, or we have a campaign around it, that will   it generate awareness in relation to that. But are we going to talk about   because the other part that I wanted to also raise was Upstander? 

MS DOWSETT: Yes, you can talk about Upstanders. 

MS JENNER: Because part of the program I do with the children is I actually tell them my bullying story that happened when I was in primary school, and I talk about the boys that were doing this to me. One particular was the perpetrator, but all of his friends were going along with it, and I was saying what were they   they were being bystanders, and the importance of being an upstander. And this is where I think we need a campaign for people to be upstanders for everybody. 

And in relation to someone with a disability, if someone is being harassed in any way, I think   well, I don't think. I'm taking an assumption that if people   we heard different experiences of people and nobody intervened, or they said after the person had left, and it was over, "That was not very nice what they did to you" but there was no encouragement for someone to stand in or stand up. And that's where I think a campaign around everyone being upstanders for one another. 

Because we all want   we want to be treated the same way   we should treat people the same way as we want people to treat us. So, it's that type of thing. I think there is a part of society we seem to have missed, and whether or not that's   yes, it's just that   yes, that respect side of things. And I think that by this education campaign, children get it. They understand. They have just got to enact it. But if people were made aware   and I love the term at the moment "ally." 

So maybe it's either an upstander or an ally for one another. I'm an ally, for our First Nations people. I don't identify, but I'm a strong ally. And I would love people to be an ally for me. And so if I'm out and about and I'm in a situation, we stand up for one another and support one another. So, I think also a campaign around that sort of thing. 

MS DOWSETT: Thank you very much. That's where I'm going to leave my questions with you for now, but I will hand you over to the Chair, and I'm sure the Commissioners will have some questions. 

CHAIR: Yes, thank you very much. Commissioner Galbally, do you have any questions for Ms Jenner? 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Thank you, Ms Jenner. I would like to ask you about your experience in the Netherlands and whether you were taunted and, you know, what it was like there in open spaces? 

MS JENNER: Thank you. I   in the beginning because I didn't speak the language, when I   you know, first went there and that, I wasn't so much aware. Later on when I understood what was being said and that, it was   it was there. They actually call people with dwarfism   it's   they have got a slang term called Lilliputter, so that's based on Gulliver's Travels. 

CHAIR: Gulliver's Travels.

MS JENNER: So, I would hear that, that I'm a   oh, look there is a Lilliputter, right. And so I would say, "No, I'm not. I'm a klein vrouw" which is "I'm a little woman", basically. So, that would come and actually it was really interesting because my adult Dutch friends thought that was a nice way to talk to me. They said, "Oh, I'm not being rude. It's just that that's what we have learnt is the term" which is a bit like, okay, a dwarf, this sort of stuff, but it was educating. 

I didn't find the jeering as much. I found the children   because Dutch people are very   quite up front and confident so they would   the children were amusing because they would come and ask me where are my parents, why am I here on my own? And they also wanted to know quickly what   can you drive a car? Or can you do this? They sort of just needed to understand it. But it wasn't so much the pointing or laughing or jeering at with them. It was more they just wanted to sort of get it, "Why were you like this. I need to understand." I actually found it to be less when I lived in the Netherlands than what I've had in Australia. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: On paragraph 83, you talk about the need for legislative reform. Can you just tell us what you mean? 

MS JENNER: I would love it if there is some sort of   yes, legislation in place that it can be considered that this is   you know, people are accountable for what they are doing and that whether it's a business or whether it's a   you know, people's behaviour that   within government that something needs to be done. And to do that we need to have those resources and things so it enables that we don't encounter these situations. So, legislation, like, it's   it's not criminal, the behaviour that we're talking about at the moment, because we are not reporting it, but just to hold people and departments and that accountable for their actions, and if government can help with that. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: So it would be   you have got here abuse, harassment and humiliation. That would be   they're the three things. 

MS JENNER: Yes, the treatment. 


CHAIR: Commissioner Ryan? 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: So I guess to extend your thought about legislation, are you suggesting you don't think this needs to be criminalised? It would be similar to the other anti discrimination legislation that exists or other sorts of discrimination? 

MS JENNER: I think I   well, it depends of the severity, I suppose. I'm not an expert. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Well, I agree with you. We have had reports of people picking people up. That's an assault. 

MS JENNER: Yes, definitely. That's criminalised, yes. But I was just thinking more in relation to   sorry. I'm really   

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Do you mean calling out? 

MS JENNER: Sorry, I've got a bit of a blank thing. Yes. So, such legislation would need to be framed to include forms abuse in public spaces that may not amount to criminal conduct under existing laws but which is harmful for people with disability. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: You might be thinking of things like people have reported to us that they have put their hands above people, haven't actually touched them but they have put their hands above them. Perhaps the sort of vilification that existed on social media, for example. 

MS JENNER: Yes, yes. Yes. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Look, just going back to your idea of a public campaign, one of the downsides of a public campaign is they come and go. So, do you have any ideas about how   I think some sort of public resource is quite useful, but how can we have it   for example, the one that you have referred to, Racism. It Stops with Me has actually been going for around for a decade. So, does it need to be something that   how with do we make sure it's not something that's just one off? 

MS JENNER: That's a good question. We don't want it to be one off. We want it to be something that is ongoing. I suppose is the funding is put there for it, that it's not just a fad, because we don't want it to be that. It's something that continues and government puts that   that allocates that funding to support that many campaign to continue to remind people. The one for litter, Don't be a Tosser. I mean, I think you will notice that people will tell people when they throw something on the ground now to pick it up. It continues to happen. I think that, you know, like, it rolls on, is what I meant, that campaign. Yes. No, I don't want it to be a fad. I want it to be something, so it will need to be resourced and funded. And developed. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Thank you. Mr Chair. 

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Ms Jenner, for the evidence. Also thank you very much for the work that you are doing which has contributed in no small part to the conduct of this hearing. Thank you very much for your contributions and, as I said earlier, for the statements that you have provided and also, of course, for the evidence that you have given today. We very much appreciate it. Thank you. 

MS JENNER: Thank you. Can I add one more thing? 

CHAIR: Briefly, if you don't mind. 

MS JENNER: Very brief. The representation of us in the media, in the film industry, on our TV screens, needs to happen. And I was only thinking, because I've been listening to everyone, when we see people like us up, we don't need to dwarfism awareness. When we see people with disability on our screens doing everyday roles, not something gimmicky, then we   people take us seriously. They give us value. And it's people with disability. 

And like there is quotas on things that people have to employ so many people, it should be that the film and the arts and all of those industries should have to do the same for people with disability, the numbers. Because you put us up there and everyone sees it as part of everyday life doing things, then it's not seen to be something. Because we   for dwarfism, as you have heard, like, it's one in 25,000 for my condition. Some conditions are one in 3 million. Some people don't know or have never seen anyone   some people get a shock when they see us, but if you see us on the screen, or this in the media then it's more like we are part of society. We are part of everyday life. 

CHAIR: Thank you. 

MS JENNER: Thank you. 

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Ms Jenner. Thank you. 


CHAIR: Now, Ms Dowsett, do we go straight into the next witness or do we have a short break?

MS DOWSETT: We will take a five-minute adjournment, a brief comfort stop, if we may, Chair. 

CHAIR: We will resume at 5 past 3 Brisbane time.



CHAIR: Yes, Ms Bennett. 

MS BENNETT: Thank you, Chair. The next witness is Professor Llewellyn. 

CHAIR: Professor Emerita Llewellyn. Professor Llewellyn, thank you very much for coming to the Royal Commission and for your statement which we have read and for the research that is referred to in your statement. And some of the material, of course, is annexed to the statement and so we have the articles and research papers that you are referring to or at least some of them. So, that provides a very useful set of information and data that will undoubtedly help us a great deal. If you would be so good to follow the instructions of my associate, she will administer the affirmation to you. 

ASSOCIATE: I will read you the affirmation. At the end, please say yes or I do. Do you solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that the evidence which you shall give will be the true, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 



CHAIR: Thank you, Professor Llewellyn. I will now ask Ms Bennett to ask you some questions.


MS BENNETT: Professor, you have made a statement to assist this Commission; is that right? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: That's correct. 

MS BENNETT: And you have read that statement recently? 


MS BENNETT: And are its contents true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, they are. 

MS BENNETT: Commissioner, I would like to tender the statement of Professor Llewellyn as Exhibit 28 8 with the annexures thereto being 28 8.1 to 28 8.15 sequentially in accordance with the index provided earlier to the Chair.

CHAIR: Yes. Thank you very much. Those documents will be admitted into evidence and given the markings you have indicated. Thank you.



MS BENNETT: Now, Professor, you have a long and illustrious curriculum vitae, but to put some of the key points you are a Professor Emerita at the University of Sydney at the Faculty of Medicine and Health; is that right? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, that's correct. 

MS BENNETT: And it is fair to say you have been involved on research on health issues affecting people with disability and their families for over 35 years; is that right? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Thank you for drawing attention to the number of years. That's correct. 

CHAIR: Ms Bennett won't be coming to the question of age. She will leave - 


MS BENNETT: She started very early. And you have been involved in developing and delivering educational content around that same topic; is that right? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, that's correct. 

MS BENNETT: And you have a range of research and published papers, some of which are annexed to your statement, but dare say too many for us to conveniently set out in one place? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: That's probably correct. Yes. 

MS BENNETT: So, Professor, I just said you're a part of the faculty of Medicine and Health. You research issues to do with interpersonal discrimination and interpersonal violence. I'm going to come to what those things mean in a moment, but why are those matters that concern the faculty of Medicine and Health? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: I think it's relatively straightforward. If you think of being discriminated against by another person to you, face to face, whether it's harassment or bullying or staring or infantilising or pushing or shoving, it is going to impact on you and your health. So, it's very personal in that sense, and it will affect your health and wellbeing, and the evidence is clear now about that. 

It's also a public health issue because it's something which 80 per cent of the population actually don't experience, that is, people without disability. We are talking about interpersonal discrimination towards people with disability. Around 20 per cent of the population, give or take. But to change that or even to understand that means that somewhere in that 80 per cent, there are people doing this to people with disability, and public health requires us to think about organised efforts of all of society to change for the better, for the health of all. So, that's why it sits within health and that's why it sits within the faculty of Health and Medicine. 

MS BENNETT: Thank you. So, I want to   as I understand, there are two elements to that. There is the personal impact, and the personal health impact that discrimination has. Is that right? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: That's absolutely correct.

MS BENNETT: And then there is the public health response that's required by just the ubiquity of that. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: The endemic nature of it, really. As I said, for 80 per cent, at least, of the population, and so we heard today and I believe yesterday, and certainly in our research it shows that it is endemic, so, yes, it's a population and a public health issue and the whole population has to be engaged in thinking about this and responding to it. 

MS BENNETT: Let's break down what   what the terms that you are using means. So, can you explain for the Commissioners and for those watching what interpersonal discrimination is? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes. I follow the   if you like, the definition that was given by Nancy Krieger quite some years ago in relation to interpersonal discrimination of all types, not only for people with disability. But this is   and we've heard, of course, about bullying, harassment, victimisation. But the important part of the statement is that it is perceived as unjust. So that what is happening to the person is perceived by them, and most likely by others, as being unjust. That's the discriminatory part of the statement or the definition. 

MS BENNETT: And so what then, when you use the term "interpersonal violence", is that capturing separate to that? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes. It's difficult and I can absolutely see that there is grey areas, and I believe we have just heard from the last witness around a grey area. With violence, however, we do have better understanding, perhaps, of something which is a violent act. It's probably more generally acceptable to the public what a violent act is, whereas the notion of discrimination, because it's something which is perceived as unjust, and particularly by the person in receipt of it, it's not as, obvious, I think. So, that's one. And the second is, of course, usually with violence there are ramifications and usually criminal ramifications as well. And that's not always the case with discrimination. 

MS BENNETT: When you talk about that unjust interpersonal discrimination, you talk about bullying, harassment, victimisation that is perceived as unjust. I imagine most bullying and harassment and victimisation would feel unjust, but do you mean that it's based on an attribute that is effectively random. Is that the distinguishing factor? What is it about the   most people consider bullying to be unjust, wouldn't they? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: I'm not sure that I could agree with that. 


PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, I'm not sure that I can agree. I think when we   yes, when we understand that social interactions are not always very friendly, that people can say things to each other or act in ways that could be construed as bullying by one or other, but it's let go because it's between two people of perhaps could I say   not so much similar status, but without differentiation. When the person clearly perceives themselves to be different or are perceived by others to be different, then there is definitely an element of unjustness. 

MS BENNETT: And that's some of what you've heard from the witnesses as you have heard the evidence over the last day or so. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, absolutely and what we hear in, obviously, our research projects   to the qualitative research projects where we speak with people with disabilities. 

CHAIR: I think the point Ms Bennett may be making is that the concept of discrimination implies that something has been done to someone else because of that someone   some characteristics of that someone else. I think that's   is that the point, Ms Bennett, that you are   

MS BENNETT: What I'm trying to explore is, I think, to put it squarely in the context of this hearing, people with a disability are being harassed in public places, is the evidence that we are hearing, because of their disability, because they are perceived to be different from the person doing the harassing. That   is that what are you talking about when you talk about the injustice of the bullying and harassment, that's it's based on such an unfair and arbitrary attribute? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: I just want to answer, actually, by way of example. 

MS BENNETT: Yes, that might help, thank you. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: And I'm not sure that I'm going to give you   I will have to leave it up to you to decide. Here is an example from the study which is about public transport. A young woman actually studying medicine   not at my university   in one of our research studies, she's on public transport. She goes to use the so-called disabled seating   the reserved seating. She is harassed by others, told she's young, she ought to get up and move. 

She takes to   I'm pretty sure it is also   we used this in our article as an example. She has an invisible disability. She takes to wearing a low cut blouse, which she wouldn't normally wear, which shows the long scar that she has right down, you know, literally from her neck almost to her lower thorax to demonstrate that she has a right to sit there. So, to the person saying to her, she's young and fit, yes, that's an example of an identity allocation, if you like, but it's not on the allocation of disability or disability identification, because, in fact, that was invisible to that person. But it was still harassment. It was definitely unjust. She did have a right to sit there. So I think it's a difficult   I'm not sure that I have given you a solution to the question. 

CHAIR: Let me give you two examples. One is where someone is on a train, and they are sitting in a disabled section. 


CHAIR: And it's pretty clear that they are a person with disability, and a man coming along and snatches the bag. 


CHAIR: You might say, well, that was done because the person had a disability, she was an easy target, she was sitting. You might have a person exactly the same position as that person, except that she was sitting not in an area reserved for people with disability. It might have been not obvious to anybody that she had a disability. The bag snatcher takes the bag; that's because he's a thief. So, there is the difference between doing something because the person has a disability and doing something to someone who happens to have a disability but there is not a causal relationship. This is all very complicated, jurisprudential and philosophical, but they are the distinctions. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Could I ask also, since we are being philosophical, about   is vilification a subset of interpersonal discrimination or is it different? When people are vilified. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: It would only be my opinion on that because I don't think we have got evidence   certainly not research evidence about what is the difference between vilification and discrimination, if there is a difference, or if it's the subset. Vilification   you know, that term has perhaps become more frequently used in relation to cyber victimisation. It's certainly   vilification is not usually a word that's used in, for example, the population surveys which ask about discrimination. So   




PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, racial vilification absolutely, and certainly Nancy Krieger talked about that but not in relation, I think, to discrimination against people with disability in any population data that I can think of. 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Even in the hate crime legislation in the UK? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes. But the hate crime legislation is somewhat different to what I see as interpersonal discrimination because that does go into criminal acts. 

CHAIR: We might return to Ms Bennett to take up the jurisprudential point. 

MS BENNETT: Your Honour, well I think what, Professor, you have just referred to is   as I understand your response to Commissioner Galbally's question was that there is a gap in the data around vilification of people with disabilities. Is that right? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, that's not asked. Correct. 

MS BENNETT: Yes, that's right. So, you are not in a position to answer that at the present time because there are gaps in the data. Is that right? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, absolutely.

MS BENNETT: And that's a gap that you would like to see filled? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Absolutely. Yes.

MS BENNETT: And so can you tell the Commissioners a little bit about what data you need to be able to answer some of these questions? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, of course. So, in my statement, I refer quite a lot to the data collected in the United Kingdom and the reason why we turn to that data. And that's because, in Australia, we have very limited, at the moment, items in any population surveys. I perhaps just step back a little bit to say why I keep focusing on the word "population data", because even though we engage in different types of research, clearly qualitative research where we interview people, the most robust evidence in the sense of is this widespread and distributed across a population comes from population data. 

And the easiest way to think about that is to think about the census. Because the census, of course, is for all people in Australia on a particular night. So, it is, if you like, the most complete set of population data. We don't have questions on this in the census; however, in other population surveys, we do have questions on discrimination and so it's critical to have that type of data to be able to argue that this is a widespread phenomenon, interpersonal discrimination, across people with disability. 

Otherwise, it may be the case that it's actually limited to a particular group of people, for example, or a particular number of acts which, at the moment, don't include vilification but do include words like "stalking" and "harassment." So, for example, in Australia, we do have data about stalking and harassment for people with disability in a population survey from which, then, you can have robust estimates of the prevalence of that particular behaviour. What we don't have is   and that's stalking and harassment only. And what we don't have is by whom and about the impact on the person with the same level of detail as we do in the United Kingdom. 

CHAIR: Just to be clear, I think perhaps following up what Commissioner Galbally said, you're not suggesting that there can't be   if legislation deals with vilification of certain groups of people, you are not suggesting that that could not be extended to people with disability? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: No, not at all. 

CHAIR: You are just saying there isn't evidence about this vilification directed at people with disability. 


CHAIR: Okay. 

MS BENNETT: And so accepting there are some limitations on the data, there are some things that your research and that of your colleagues has identified, and I take you to paragraph 9 of your statement. And you say there   you talk there about interpersonal discrimination being:

"... an area that arises in part because this kind of interpersonal discrimination and violence often goes unrecognised, unnoticed, or is purposefully ignored by bystanders."

I would like to pause there. Is there an   there is an evidence base to support that proposition, isn't there? 


MS BENNETT: In Australia and across disability types, that people with disability suffer interpersonal discrimination. And just to   that's harassment, and violence and bullying, and the matters that you describe and then it goes unrecognised, unnoticed, or is purposefully ignored by bystanders. 


MS BENNETT: And that's across the period of your 35 years   sorry to repeat   in academia that that's been the results of the studies and research that you have carried out? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: I wouldn't say the whole 35 years. No. Because although aware of these issues for some time, it really is only in near enough to the last 15 years that these issues of the interpersonal discrimination that occurs for people has   with disability - has really been raised by people with disability themselves to the extent that it has, that they have been talking about it more publicly, and that people have begun to research this area. I would say up until   and certainly that's true in our case, that before that, the researchers primarily focused on discrimination in organisational and institutional settings. 

MS BENNETT: And this moves into   where there is no such link. There is no workplace or   


MS BENNETT:   education setting. When you are in a public space. 


MS BENNETT: Unrecognised   what do you   unrecognised by society? Is that what you're talking about there? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes. I think it's   it's certainly evident from the qualitative research as well as the evidence given to this hearing that it may well be unrecognised by people who are present at the time, as well as unrecognised in the sense of more publicly. So, if you look at the advocacy work by the disability organisations and submissions to various inquiries and so on, it's very rare to find any reference to interpersonal discrimination in public places because the focus, as I said, are not surprisingly   if you think of particularly the history in Australia, is that the focus has been much more on, for example, in the Forgotten Children report, literally on what happened in institutions or residential settings, if not in institutional care. 

MS BENNETT: When you say "purposely ignored by bystanders" is that an observation arising from your research as well? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes. I think in the studies that we have conducted   not the population studies. I have to keep sort of saying that, because it can be confusing. The evidence from individuals can be quite different to what's in the population studies because of the way that   the items and the questions that are asked. But certainly in the qualitative work, that is absolutely correct, that others can be aware of what's going on but not seek to help. And I would like to come back towards the end to that point, if I could. 

MS BENNETT: Why don't we pause now and just   being ignored by bystanders, that's part of what's needed as a public health response, isn't it? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely 

MS BENNETT: So that bystanders know to stand up for and against the type of interpersonal discrimination that you are talking about. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: First to recognise it and secondly to actually learn what to do. I think it is fair to say that a lot of   it's   some people might say to me, for example, do you mean people are purposely ignoring it and being unkind, as it were? And the answer is, I would say probably not. They simply do not know what to do. And, for example, in the work done for the new Australian Disability Strategy, it shows quite clearly that somewhere around three-quarters of the population simply don't know what to do. They're just totally unaware of it. 

And so it's critical that there are campaigns or public education campaigns, if you like, which   which is really a public health campaign, to actually teach people what to do. And I was actually caught this morning by Luke photographing the R U OK posters above the morning tea station. And we conducted a research study at the University of Sydney on disability harassment is never okay. I actually bought the poster   a copy of the poster with me because it could be out there as well. 

That's all the R U OK campaigns is. It's first of all recognising mental health is a problem for many people. And, secondly, it's asking and informing people about what to do about it. That's exactly what we need for disability harassment, whether be in the workplace or wherever. We simply need to make that 80 per cent of the population aware this is an issue for their fellow citizens, and to start thinking about it and putting it into their minds that, as bystanders, they can actually do something to help. 

So, for example, this says, disability harassment is never okay. And just like with, for example, the DRS ABCD of first aid, for those of you who have first aiders and know that there are acronyms, we actually said, you can distract. It's informative to the bystander. Distract, engage, get help, confront, report. There are actual skills that you need to learn to be able to be an informed engaged and useful bystander. 

MS BENNETT: Let me pick up on the last of those letters there, report. You say at paragraph 9B: 

"There are no obvious and readily available structures and processes for reporting interpersonal discrimination when people with disability are moving through the community in contrast to the formal structures and processes for reporting such conduct in education or employment settings." 

Can you tell the Commissioners and those watching what do you mean? What about the police? What about   why   are there no structures available? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: In theory, there is the police. I think we   we heard this morning that, for some people, that is quite difficult. Secondly, particularly for young people who are transitioning from school and into university, training, work, their experiences at school where there are reporting structures, although maybe not always as good as they would like, there is always someone to tell. 

From our qualitative work, talking to young people, they are out and about, they are socialising with friends. They might be walking across a park to go from one place to another. Who do they turn to? And it is not clear that what they have experienced is something about which they can report. That   to the police, I should say. That they could go to the police and say, this is what's happened to me. 

And the best way that I personally can understand that is, as a woman, something may happen to you in a public place, and you can't quite believe that somebody has touched you. It's almost like, did that really happen? And you are left stunned. And it's the closest I can get to that experience of this has happened, I didn't understand what was happening, I'm not sure what to do about it. And then as we heard, I believe, from Jenni this morning, who was unable to tell her partner or her sister, I believe, or her work colleagues about really very unfortunate and awful incidents, because she had almost internalised, "Maybe that was my problem." 

So I think there is a real difficulty here that it is quite hard for people who have not experienced disability discrimination, that interpersonal discrimination, to understand that it sounds simple, go to the police, report it to the police, but perhaps it's just not that straightforward if you're in that situation. 

MS BENNETT: And I think you tell us in your statement   and I think it's towards the end around paragraph 69D, that interpersonal discrimination that you are speaking about is actually a social determinant of health. 


MS BENNETT: So, is that related to what you were talking about there? What do you mean by that? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Well, what we now have is enough evidence that there is   interpersonal discrimination has an impact on the physical and psychological health and wellbeing of people with disability. And that comes from population studies   again, in the UK. What we mean by a social determinant is that it isn't a health issue associated with the impairment or the health condition that you have, if you are a person with a disability. 

It's actually a socially determined impact on your health. It's determined by society's structures or the processes or, in this case, the interpersonal discrimination is impacting on your health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, people often think, well, the person is a person with a disability, they probably have poor health anyway. That is not necessarily the case. And in this instance, as I said, there is the evidence that it is a social determinant of health, that interpersonal discrimination does actually have a measurable, and at a population level, impact on the health and wellbeing of people with disability. 

MS BENNETT: I want to delve a little bit into some of the studies that you talk about to see what conclusions arise from the evidence that you have been able to gather or review. But around paragraph 18 and following of your statement, you talk about the project in 2015 to 2017 that concerns strangers and discrimination in public, broadly. And I think you tell us at paragraph   well, first of all, can you tell us very briefly what that was looking at? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: That particular study was one funded by the Australian Research Council, and it was specifically focused on interpersonal discrimination in public places. It was the first study   qualitative study where we specifically focused on this issue, and it was because we had been conducting research with young people as they transitioned out of school and became very aware of the impact of them being outside for the first time in their lives, often   the, if you like, more supportive structures of an organisation. 

And so that particular study was an interview study with young adults, and those young adults   the interviews ranged across all of their life experiences. They were life history interviews or life history narratives, and what we were keen to understand was different types of interpersonal discrimination they experienced, whether any of their personal characteristics   which may, for example, be gender or their particular impairment or the particular place where they live, their home situation and their background. 

We are also interested in locational aspects, whether it was, for example, if they lived in a particular neighbourhood or in rural areas or in metropolitan areas. And we were also interested in the situational characteristics. What was the situation in which this occurred? So, we also invited narratives from the young people about any instances in which they described all of that. And they could do that with photos, or they could write a poem, or they could tell us the story. However they wanted to share with us the experience they had. 

MS BENNETT: And you tell us in your statement the focus of the research is on interpersonal discriminatory acts not typically thought of as crimes. 


MS BENNETT: Which have, you tell us, less academic research focused on them. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, because at that time, there was the beginning   particularly following the Equality Act in the UK, there was an emerging evidence base about disability crime, or disableist crime, hate crime, bias crime. It was   as it was called in Australia, or at least by the New South Wales police at that time, but not on acts which were not typically thought of as criminal. Yes. 

MS BENNETT: You tell us at 24C of your statement that: 

"That interpersonal discrimination, even that subcriminal interpersonal discrimination, impacted on some of the young adults' capacity to move about freely, with some participants seeking to avoid exposure to prejudicial attitudes and verbal abuse."

So can you tell the Commissioners and those watches about the flow on effects of interpersonal discrimination found in your study. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, so, for quite a few of those young people, it did impact on how they were, if you like, living their lives. Like choosing, for example, not to walk across that park again not to socialise with their friends in a particular place, even though they were in the company of others. It also impacted, in a couple of instances, on the further education that the young people were undertaking, because they had to travel on public transport to get there. And that research, that part of the research, which is about public transport, is, of course, published and was attached to my statement. 

And that was where we focused most of the analysis, although there is much more analysis to be done of that data, because the public transport was such a big issue, because, at that age, it was unlikely that the young people would be driving. They were, in fact, dependant on public transport, so we were very interested firstly to publish that and to talk to others about it and do more in that area, as we did in New South Wales at the time, to change was what was happening on public transport because it was such an important area in their lives. 

MS BENNETT: And the impacts that you found that you talk about at subparagraph E of 24, concerning education, employment, place of work generally. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes. That's correct. 

MS BENNETT: Access to all of those places. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Correct. Correct. 


COMMISSIONER RYAN: Is it problematic that that survey only had 26 people involved in it, though? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: It wasn't a survey. It was qualitative. So, they were in depth interviews. Is that problematic? No. Is it different to the population studies? Yes. It's just simply a different way of understanding. And the reason why we do both is because without understanding the experiences from the point of view of the person who's experiencing it, then it's not possible to have rigorous and robust questions in population surveys to actually understand what this phenomenon is at a population level. 

So, in fact, that was one of our arguments for doing that particular piece of research, is so that we could start to build up, if you like, what is the evidence base from which we can draw a set of robust questions to be included in Australian population data sources such as the Personal Safety Survey. 

CHAIR: Are these issues, in your view, unique to people with disability or are we talking about issues that affect other groups in the community? I'm thinking, for example, of the violence and harassment directed for a while in Melbourne at Indian students, for example, who were   presumably were seen as different because for those harassment or inflicting violence on them, they perhaps looked different. Is there anything different qualitatively from the experiences of the Indian students and what you are describing for people with disability? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: It's a very big question. And I don't have an evidence answer for you. I have my own opinions. But that's a little different. 

CHAIR: That's alright. You can    give your own opinion. Everybody else does. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, everybody else does, I guess. My experience is that there is something about disability which raises issues for some people that they feel the need to be discriminatory. Disability is part of the human condition, but that, I think, is not a universal view. So, for example, we heard this morning   and I believe this afternoon as well   about this notion of when there are enough people with disability, then people with disability feel safe. 

In other words, as a famous researcher said many years ago, he called it zero reject, but the idea was that, in schools, you would have the number of children with disability in every school that was similar to the number of children with disability in the population. In other words, everybody would get to meet a person with disability or a child with disability when they themselves were a child with   a child in school. In other words, everybody would understand disability. 

That isn't the case. It's not the case in our society. People with disabilities are still not out and about perhaps as much as he would have liked to have seen way back in the 1970s. So I think there is an issue of unseen and unfamiliar. So, that's an opinion. Is that different to racism? I just really don't know. It's not something that's researched, but it does seem that there is   and we've heard that this morning from people of short stature that there is something which, as I said, attracts people with malintent, if I can put it like that, about disability. 

It's   I'm sorry, it's not   there's no conclusive answer. It is certainly a researchable question and it's certainly a researchable question in relation to discrimination. We do know from the UK studies, for example, that for people with disability, disability discrimination is something which has more impact on them than discrimination according to any other reason. So, that is clear from the UK data. That people with disability talk about the disability discrimination as having more impact. So, that in itself is important. But whether there is a difference in what people are doing which they discriminate on the base of disability or racism, I don't know. 

CHAIR: Some very interesting question there's about racial discrimination, for example in the United States with the history of slavery and the impact - 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, absolutely. 

CHAIR:   on black people in the United States, but I think we are probably ranging wide enough   


MS BENNETT: Yes, but just to understand there, the question of motivation remains one for study but the impact   there is data, to suggest that the most significant impacts of discrimination based on an attribute fall on people with disability. The people with disability suffer the worst impacts from this discrimination. Is that a fair   

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes. Yes. That's a fair statement. And added to that it is worse for young people, and this should be of concern to every single person. Because if this is worse for young people and they have their whole lives ahead of them and the impact is worse for them in terms of their health and wellbeing   and that's clear from the UK population data as well as, actually, from the Australian data, even in the PSS or the Personal Safety Survey   sorry, too many acronyms. But in the Personal Safety Survey, it is worse for young people. This is of great concern because of the impact and what they are likely to do or not do because of that over the rest of their life's trajectory. 

MS BENNETT: This is a further ripple effect. Young people might be constrained by the discrimination.

PROF LLEWELLYN: Exactly. Exactly.

MS BENNETT: And what can you tell us about what data there is around the experience of young people over time? Has it improved or stayed the same, that experience from   over the last 20 years or so? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: In Australia, we do   and we have   that is in my statement. We have reported that just this last year by looking at longitudinal data from the household income, labour   


PROF LLEWELLYN: HILDA. Yes, thank you. Because we just use the acronyms all the time, I had to actually say to myself what exactly are those. HILDA is our household survey in Australia. It's been going for over 20 years. It's an annual   sometimes bi-annual, like in COVID, survey. And it's what's called a panel refresh survey. So, new households come into it over time. And we have used that data a lot to see what's happening historically, because one of the issues is understanding have things changed.

What we can see is that between 2001 and I'm pretty sure it is 2018, was the last   because we haven't yet analysed the 2021 data   is that overall for young people in Australia, they feel safer now than they did in 2001. That's a good result. That's a very good result. So, what you are seeing, then, is that there is an absolute change in their safety. What we are not seeing is the   what we call the relative change. In other words, the relativity between the disabled young people and the non-disabled population has not changed. 

So, let me put it slightly differently. There is a gap for   between the young people with disability who feel less safe than their non-disabled peers. That gap that was there in 2001 is still the same in 2018. So, that hasn't changed. The whole group are slightly   feel slightly safer, but no change has happened which has brought the young people with disability feeling safer and closer to the degree of safety that their peers feel. And this is very concerning. If someone like the employment data for people with disability, despite the policies and the interventions, you're not actually seeing change in what's happening in the lives of these young people with disability in relation to their perception of safety.

MS BENNETT: And that might be a moment to segue towards the impact of the online environment. Is there any relationship or what's the impact of the online environment, as far as your work is concerned? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes. Well, what I was just discussing with HILDA does not include the online environment, but we do have data from the UK about the online environment because questions are asked   in fact, I believe I quoted   

MS BENNETT: Paragraph 59 or so of your statement. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes, I actually quoted one of the questions, I think. Yes. In the peer side of victimisation item, the adolescents   they were 14-year-olds   and they were asked how often have other children sent you unwanted or nasty email, texts or messages or posted something nasty about you on a website? And then the adolescent informants were also asked, how often do other people hurt you or pick on you on purpose? So, they were actually asked two things. One was about the online or the cyber victimisation and the other was the non cyber victimisation. 

And, of course, what was found, not surprisingly, because it reflects the data from adults, that adolescents with a disability had a higher a higher prevalence of peer cyber victimisation as well as non cyber victimisation. One and a half times what the non disabled or the non disabled peers were experiencing. And over and above that, it was actually the girls where the effect was in that difference between the two groups was primarily for the adolescent girls. 

What isn't clear   and that was on the more frequent victimisation. It was on a rating scale. What isn't clear is whether   we know that the   the frequency which the girls were engaged in cyberspace but what isn't clear was it because of the particular platform that the girls might be using. Because those questions weren't asked. So, it could be, for example, you know, were they are using Facebook or Twitter or TikTok or Instagram. We simply don't know. And that's the sort of detail that we now need to get into with our data sources and have items that ask those questions, because if we want to have public health interventions, targeted interventions, you would need to have   to make sure that you're targeting where the problem actually is. 

MS BENNETT: I would like to turn to talk about responses in a moment. Before we do that, you talk at paragraph 69 of your statement about the impacts of interpersonal discrimination in public places, and the following paragraph at 70, sub B, you say: 

"The pervasive stigmatising attitudes and narrow perceptions of people with disability held by society are also exhibited in public places where there are very few avenues for redress."

Can you just expand on what you mean by that and what the relationship is between those stigmatising attitudes and the kind of interpersonal discrimination you have been talking about? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Well, when people are asked, for example, in the British studies about what other people say to them or do, they are, for example, given a long list of discriminatory behaviours that come from, really, a stigmatising attitude. That this person is of less value, so it is okay, as it were, to do this particular thing. To threaten or to intimidate or to harass and so on. 

So, what underpins that   I would like to say it's the $64 million question. My experience in many different cultures through the work I do with WHO, with the World Health Organisation, is that every culture has some way of thinking about disability differently, but it is different in each culture. There are different words for disability, which often indicate something very physical. So, for example, in Papua New Guinea, a colleague of mine who has a life long physical impairment is called the girl with the limp, who has become the woman with a limp. So it not a word like disability. It's a description. And it's not particularly devalued, but it's still stigmatising in that she doesn't have another identity apart from being a girl with a limp who has become a woman with a limp. 

MS BENNETT: And so do we take from that that stigmatising   that cultural changes are part of the response where we see interpersonal discrimination expressed in a culture   in our society  


MS BENNETT:   that is linked to the culture and attitudes in that society.

PROF LLEWELLYN: Absolutely. Absolutely. 

MS BENNETT: So turning, then, to what possible responses there are and acknowledging that it is based on a dataset   or the limitations of data that you have identified for us, what can you tell the Commissioners about evidence based responses to this kind of interpersonal discrimination that you're aware of, either from other jurisdictions or in your research? 

CHAIR: You mean policy responses. 

MS BENNETT: Yes, policy responses, yes. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Well, I think there are three different areas where I think there need be to be responses. Clearly, there is policy response. There is also legislation and regulatory response. And I think it is also practice response. In terms of policy response, we do, for example, in Australia's new Disability Strategy, called Australia's Disability Strategy 2021 2031, there is, for the first time, a safety targeted action plan. 

So, not only is it included with the within the Disability Strategy there, is a targeted action plan to address safety. But it does rely very heavily on an experience of harm or risk of harm, and it's very focused on organisational and institutional settings. Now, I'm not sure that that's going to help and assist us in this area of public spaces, such as cyberspace, and public places, even if they are associated with an institutional setting. For example a cafe associated with a hospital, for example. 

So, I think we need much more than that. I think although those policy actions are in that safety targeted action plan, and they're necessary, we have to really think about a mandatory process that actually makes departments and agencies responsible and accountable for applying what I call it a disability lens or a policy lens perspective to everything they do. And just to be really practical about this, our Commonwealth Government departments have to do this for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. You cannot develop a new policy at government level, federal government level, without taking into consideration   

CHAIR: You are familiar with the Victorian exposure draft of the Disability Inclusion Bill? 


CHAIR: It does just that, doesn't it? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Exactly. So, this is what we need to do across every jurisdiction. And there are ways to do it. The Canadians have been doing this since around 2017. They came up with, working with people with disability, the questions that should be asked of all policies in all organisations. 

MS BENNETT: Can I ask   and this is the final question I will ask before I hand to the Commissioners. In framing those questions, what is the critical thing that is necessary from the questions for that kind of approach? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: It's a good point. The Canadians, for example, have seven questions. But I will just talk literally about the first one, because it is most straightforward. Literally   literally asking if we write this policy, what impact will that have on people with disability? And you can't answer that without including people with disability in asking them what will this mean for you? Because, otherwise, you have, as I keep saying, the majority of the population   80 per cent   making a decision that this is the right policy without actually having asked the people upon whom it will have an impact. 

CHAIR: Well, the Victorian exposure draft does that by saying there is an obligation to consult and there are some definitions of what that involves, so that that may be quite a useful of precedent to consider. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes. I think it's a very useful precedent. I mean, clearly the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities asks that, of course, but, unfortunately, it's often in the breach rather than in the fulfilling of that. And Australia, as we know, being called to account for that particularly in relation to health. And this is an issue which is a public health issue and for people with disability. So, I agree with you. It's absolutely useful to start having those and that as an exposure draft. But a way to   all of us saying "this is required" in whatever original organisational and institutional setting. And that is just one aspect of policy change. 

MS BENNETT: Commissioners, those are the questions I have for Professor Llewellyn. 

CHAIR: Thank you. I will just ask my colleagues if they have any questions for you. Commissioner Galbally? 

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: I'm interested to go to your second, to legislation and regulation. You said there were three: Policy, legislation, regulations. So I'm interested in practice as well. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Okay. I think the issue around   well, may I first   no, shall I answer the practice one and then come back to what I think might useful in legislation at a national level. 


PROF LLEWELLYN: With practice, I think   I have already spoken at some length when I gave the example of the R U OK poster outside and the notion of a Disability Harassment is Never Okay. That's a practice issue for everybody because it's a population approach. I think those sorts of   there are targeted ways that we need to do this as well. I have already spoken quite a bit about my concern for younger people with disability, where   so   where we are at at the moment, that we do not seem to be getting the changes that are needed in their perceptions of safety in the community. So, I think there is a place for targeted approaches for young people, and there are a couple of ways that you can do that. 

At the moment, we do not collect data on disability in administrative datasets in Australia. So, for example, if you go to the doctor, to a GP, for example, there is no obligation or no even training, may I say, for GPs to even consider, if there is a young person with a disability there, that some of what they may be saying may be due to particular experiences and experiences, for example, of interpersonal discrimination. 

So, while we at the moment do not consider it important enough to be asking about disability, again, there is   it is voluntary, but there is an identifier for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but not for people with disability. So, it's not incumbent on the person, whether it be a GP, whether it be in housing, whether it be in education, wherever it might be, it is not incumbent for people to actually ask, "Is there anything happening which is, in fact, putting you at risk?" And there is those   there is at least one of those programs that has been written up in the literature as being very successful with young people because it gave them an opportunity to actually say, "This happened to me." 

May I just say briefly about the Disability Discrimination Act, the Commonwealth Act 1992   remains as an Act about organisational settings and does not include anything about public places. Clearly, that needs to change and particularly in relation to public spaces, which is how I tend to speak about cyberspace. 

CHAIR: I'm not sure that's entirely right. But that's something we will be having a look at. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Well, that's my understanding, that it's in education, it's at work, it's   I actually think one of the ways to understand this best   and it's not being done   would be a systemic analysis of what sort of complaints to go to the Australian Human Rights Commission and the inquiries in relation to particular issues of discrimination which may be within the ambit of interpersonal discrimination in a public place or a public space, and similar to the Australian eSafety Commissioner   a much younger Commission, of course, but would do the same. 

Because we need that sort of data to be able to then say what other legislative approaches could be helpful. I think we heard so much this morning about the need for validation of these experiences, and I'm not naive enough to believe that legislation is the perfect answer, but it does provide a validation of this phenomenon which is clearly a public health problem and very, very difficult in the lives of people with disability. 

MS BENNETT: Thank you. 

CHAIR: Commissioner Ryan. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Professor Llewellyn, are you from Queensland? 


COMMISSIONER RYAN: Right. Because I think the Queensland legislation on anti-discrimination is almost exclusively relates to organisational issues, but the New South Wales has vilification laws, for example. 


COMMISSIONER RYAN: So it might vary from state to state. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: I think this is part of the problem, but   absolutely, but what people often look to is what is in the Commonwealth disability discrimination legislation, because they are so aware of the Australian Human Rights Commission. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: I was just going to ask you with regard to your   most of the questions, I must say, I have had, we have answered in the course of your evidence, which is great. But I was looking at the piece of research on the attitudes. Were you involved   I wasn't sure whether or not you were involved in that or not at all? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: The attitudes, the studies that were   Department of Social Services, yes. Yes, no, my colleague Anne Kavanagh. Yes. That's the attitudes work, which   there has been really quite a number of studies over the last years but that was one that was done alongside the Centre for Research Excellence in disability and health. And there was also at the same time a big attitudes study to inform the Victorian disability legislation. 


PROF LLEWELLYN: And the disability strategic plan. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: The only other question I had left after most of what you've said already was with regard to   I'm a bit confused sometimes about the sorts of questions that are asked and the conclusions that are drawn. 


COMMISSIONER RYAN: For example, in this particular piece of research, it talks about the fact attitudes held by people could devalue or patronise people with disability, and that was largely drawn   that particular conclusion was largely drawn from a question which asked people to comment on whether people with disability could be easily exploited. And it struck me that that might be a question you would answer as yes without necessarily having a devalued view of people with disability. 

You might simply make the observation that one might make from the evidence we have had so far, because it does appear to be that people with disability are easily exploited in circumstances. It doesn't necessarily mean that you devalue them as people. You simply recognise, I think as you said in some instances in your evidence, that people with disability who are young are   still feel less safe than people who are. I mean, do you understand    


COMMISSIONER RYAN: I'm a little confused about   

PROF LLEWELLYN: I absolutely understand what you are saying, and it's one of the reasons that attitude work is actually quite difficult. But if I could speak to   it's the reason why it is so important that we actually address this issue of shortfall in population surveys, not just in attitudes-type surveys, because population surveys typically are not about attitudes. So, for example, a National Health Survey is about your health. The Personal Safety Survey is about you and your perceptions of safety. That's actually what we need to know. 

We need to know what is it that's happening to be able to describe it in all its diversity as well as its specificity and to be able to describe who is doing it to whom under what circumstances. Because without that sort of detail, then policy interventions, while well meaning, tend to be rather broad rather than targeted to what is the particular problem here, and for whom, and under what circumstances. And that was really exactly the question we are asking in that qualitative study of those young people. 


PROF LLEWELLYN: What is happening, for whom, under what circumstances. That's what we need to do in our population surveys. And I think the last two points of my statement sort of spoke to a way that we could do that by getting the right people sitting in the room, with people with disability, sorting that out so that we could extend what we currently have in both the survey of age and disability and carers and in the Personal Safety Survey and, hopefully at some stage, in the census. 

Because we have been able to influence the census in that we now have four questions which we didn't have before. So, that's a good beginning and we need to go further with that. So, I really urge you as Royal Commissioners, to really focus on this issue of the actual data that's needed, not that   I know we hear so often, "We need more data, we need more research." I'm not ever going to say it like that, because it's very specific data we need, and then we can do the research, which will be able to contribute to both legislative change, obviously to policy change, and to practice change. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: This might be a question in the nature of almost a Dorothy Dixer but I think you might like to comment on this. In the research that was done for the Royal Commission itself that's tabled in your evidence - 


COMMISSIONER RYAN:   there's a comment on page 8 that says: 

"The Personal Safety Survey only selects respondents from private dwellings   houses flats and caravans   therefore, excludes people who live in institutional and other care settings. The PSS doesn't include respondents who need assistance with communication, so it's highly likely to exclude those with communication impairments or severity of disability."

Would you like to make some comment about that? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes. My colleagues at the ABS would do everything that is needed   people who live in caravan parks, people who are homeless, people who live in boarding houses where people with disability are overrepresented   if they had the resources to do so. The resources for the ABS and the AIHW   the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics   come from both the Commonwealth and every jurisdiction in Australia. 

This is what I mean about when you talk about public health, it's about everybody's business, because we all, I think, have a responsibility to advocate for those resources to be able to go to those official, national statistical agencies to get the answers to the questions that are needed through those population surveys so that we can have evidence based policy. While we continue to say that here is a quick answer or here is an innovation, let's try this, we are not actually addressing the problem at its root. So, I feel very strongly about that and very strongly about advocating for the resources necessary for the 20 per cent of the population who are very affected by this issue. 

COMMISSIONER RYAN: Thanks, Professor Llewellyn. Thank you, Mr Chair. 

CHAIR: Thank you. I just have one question. Paragraph 70, subparagraph A of your statement, says that: 

"Research highlights this issue. There are no obvious and accessible ways for people with disability who immediately stop or reduce or walk away from interpersonal discrimination that takes place in public."

I wasn't quite clear what that referred to. Can you perhaps elucidate that for me? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes. It's like if something like this happens to you, what is the obvious way that you can, as it were, fight back? And I don't mean fight literally. It's respond in a way which still allows you to feel safe or as safe as you can be in this situation. And we heard two very moving accounts of this this morning, where people spoke about once in that situation, an emotional response comes. It's not possible to think in a logical, rational way about what I should do. We heard of a person crossing a road incredibly unsafely to get away from a particular incident. 

So, I think this is why it's so critical about bystanders or why I'm cognisant of the fact that it's also much of this happens where there is no one else around. But there is, I think, a place for targeted interventions for young people with disability to actually be talked through and to be able to be taught some responses. Because however we look at this issue, it is an issue for the person with disability, absolutely, and for people around them. 

But for young people with disability to start to   without overstating it, but to become aware of what might happen and what might be some responses at the time, which would also include, for example, the reporting to police. But to give them some skills. It was the situation that I had to argue quite strongly for in the Royal Commission in Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, about actually teaching young people with disability about the potential for sexual abuse. 

A lot of people think why should we frighten children? Why should we frighten young people? Why should we teach them? I think it is irresponsible and not accountable if you don't give people information about what is a potentiality in their lives. So, I hope that answers the question. 

CHAIR: Yes. Sure. Just one other thing. I'm wondering why you are placing so much emphasis on the police. The criminal law is an extraordinarily blunt instrument. 


CHAIR: And we have just had a hearing that has dealt with the overreach of the criminal law where we have vast overrepresentation of First Nations people in detention. We know about the operation of drug laws, and President Biden has just issued pardons for people convicted of possession of cannabis. The criminal law is not the answer that a lot of people think it is to social problems. I'm just wondering why the police play such a prominent part in your prescriptions for change? 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes. Well, I'm sorry if I have given that impression, because it's not   I have given an inaccurate impression of   yes, of what I think. 

CHAIR: Well, I may have misunderstood. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Look, I think in other areas, for example, in health, there's a lot of work being done on disability champions, on what are called patient navigators to help people through systems that are complex. I think there's absolutely a place for us to be thinking about what are all of the opportunities where a person or a group of people could assist if there is an incident of interpersonal discrimination towards a person with disability. Are they people who you might call disability champions, let's say. 

For example, we heard Peta talk about going to a bar with her sister and what happened there. Who would be the disability champion? There were clearly not bystanders who spoke up. So, who would be that person? Is there something that should happen in the training, for example, of the bar manager who would be responsible for   if an incident like this happened for being able to help resolve the situation. But it doesn't, in fact, necessarily stop it happening again. 

So, I don't think there's a straightforward answer. But I do think that we need to be very creative and thinking about what are multiple channels where people could report. I think public transport has come some way in that, in that we now have, in New South Wales, at every manned station   personed station, we do have somebody responsible for assisting a person with disability on and off a train if required. One would expect they ought to be the disability champion in that sense. 

So, I think that there is a place for thinking about those types of initiatives, apart from, for example, in public transport overall and particularly in the buses, in much better training, particularly for bus drivers in the range of functioning difficulties that people   the travelling public may have in even being able to read the bus number as the bus approaches you. Or, for example, taking time to actually get on and off the bus rather than the bus driver being more concerned about the schedule. 

CHAIR: Well, we heard about the issues that arise   can arise, have arisen at football matches in live stadiums. There are many things that can be done without invoking the criminal law or the police to ensure that that sort of thing simply doesn't happen in the first place. But if it does, there are pretty rapid mechanisms that can be utilised in order to ensure the perpetrators are removed or otherwise dealt with. 


CHAIR: And whether they actually get a summons to appear in the Local Court charged with an offence is an entirely separate matter that doesn't necessarily address the problem. 

PROF LLEWELLYN: Yes. No, I agree. 

CHAIR: Professor Llewellyn, thank you very much. This has been a most interesting discussion, and your research has been   and will be enormously helpful to us and, indeed, other research that you have done on behalf of the Royal Commission for which we thank you and express our appreciation. So, thank you very much for your evidence today and for the work that you have done for the Commission. It's been extraordinarily helpful to us. Thank you.

PROF LLEWELLYN: Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you, all of you. 


MS BENNETT: If I could impose to ask for a 9.30 start tomorrow to accommodate our first witness. 

CHAIR: Can you? Right. Alright. Well, then we will start at 9.30 to accommodate the witness.