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Public hearing 16: First Nations children, Virtual - Day 1

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Publication date

CHAIR:  We can get underway, as far as I'm concerned.

MR CROWLEY:  Good morning, Commissioners.  Lincoln Crowley is my name.  I am Senior Counsel assisting this Royal Commission.  Commissioners, we have at the outset to commence the hearing, to begin with, a smoking ceremony and welcome to country from the Akeyulerre Healing Centre in Mparntwe Alice Springs.  The video was recorded last week.  Due to the hearing being a virtual hearing and no longer able to take place in Alice Springs.  We intend the video be played to commence this 16th Public Hearing of the Royal Commission.

CHAIR:  Yes, thank you, Mr Crowley.


My name is Amelia Turner Angkwerre, I'm here sitting at the Akeyulerre Arrernte Healing Centre.  Welcome everyone to the Alice Springs public hearing for the Disability Royal Commission.  We acknowledge the traditional owners of Mparntwe, the Central Arrernte people.  We acknowledge that the hearing is very important to us because it will be about first Nations children with disability in out of home care system and have a focus on out of home care here in the Northern Territory.  Even though the hearing is online and all you people are not here in Alice Springs like you planned, we are there with you in spirit, wherever you are, everyone who is watching online.

Why are we doing smoking?  It's a cleansing ceremony.  You can see the smoke we are making for you from burning our bush medicine.  This is a healing smoke.  You can let go of all the things that are weighing down on you, all the bad things that might be hanging around you.  Let go of them.  This smoke goes up into the atmosphere and travel right around the world.  Just feel as if you are here with us in the real smoke.  Cleanse yourself in it and get ready for the important work that you have to do today.  Cullamulla and we wish you all well.



CHAIR:  Good morning, everyone.  My name is Ronald Sackville.  I am the Chair of the Royal Commission.  I would like to extend a very warm welcome to everyone who is or will be following this public hearing, which is the 16th, of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.  The topic to be examined at this public hearing, as we've heard, is First Nations children with disability in out of home care.  I would therefore particularly  
like to welcome the large number of First Nations people who I am sure will follow these proceedings.

Before asking Commissioner Mason to make the Acknowledgment of Country, I would like to thank most sincerely the First Nations people from the healing centre who have been kind enough to conduct the smoking ceremony that we have just seen and to give the welcome to country.  I am very sorry that for reasons that we all know about, it has not been possible for the Commissioners, counsel staff and witnesses and others involved in the hearing to be present in person for the smoke ceremony.  I hope that circumstances in future will allow us to participate in these events in the way we all hope for.

I now invite Commissioner Andrea Mason, OAM, to make the acknowledgment of country.

COMMISSIONER MASON:  Thank you, Chair.

We acknowledge the first Nations people on the land on which this Royal Commission is sitting.

Nganana tjukarurungku kalkuni Anangu kuwaripa tjara nyinantja tjuta, ngura nyangangka.

We recognise Meeanjin, Brisbane.

Nganana ngurkantananyi ngura Meeanjin nga Brisbane ta.

We recognise the country north and south of the Brisbane River, as the home of both the Turrbal and Jagera Nations.

Nganana ngurkantananyi karu panya Brisbane River nya alintjara munu ulparira Anangu nguraritja tjuta nyinantja munu kuwari nyinanyi Turrbul nga munu Jagera nya.

We pay respects to the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.  Their land is where the city of Sydney is now located.

We also pay respects to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation where the city of Melbourne is now located.

We pay deep respects to all Elders past, present and future and especially Elders, parents and young people and children with disability.

Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:  Thank you, Commissioner Mason.  I, too, wish to pay my respects to the traditional custodians of the land on which I am participating in this hearing, the  
Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and I pay my respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.

As I did at Public Hearing 8, I thank Commissioner Mason on behalf of the Royal Commission for her dedication and assistance in the difficult circumstances that have been created by the pandemic to ensure that the voices of First Nations people with disability are heard by this Royal Commission.

Commissioner Mason is participating in the hearing from our Brisbane hearing room.  In order to do this, for reasons that are far too complicated to explain, she had to endure a home lockdown in Canberra for 14 days, followed by solitary confinement in a Brisbane hotel for another 14 days.  Commissioner Mason, we salute you.

I am in the Sydney hearing room of the Royal Commission.  As I have indicated, Commissioner Mason is participating in the hearing from our Brisbane hearing room.

Commissioner Rhonda Galbally AC is participating from her home in Melbourne.

The First Nations teams within the Royal Commission and Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission and other staff of the Royal Commission have devoted an enormous amount of time and effort to preparing for this hearing.  The original intention, as many of you will know, and as we heard in the welcome to country, was to hold this public hearing in Alice Springs.  This would have enabled members of the public and members of the First Nations community to attend the hearing and also for Commissioners, Counsel Assisting, witnesses, and most, if not all lawyers, to be present in the same hearing room.

It would also have allowed First Nations witnesses to give evidence in person in Alice Springs, and to do so, of course, in a culturally safe and trauma informed environment.  Events such as the smoking ceremony we have just seen were planned to take place in Alice Springs as a prelude to the hearing in the presence of everyone who was to participate in that hearing.

It became, unfortunately, very clear recently that with the extended lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne and sporadic and unpredictable lockdowns in other areas of the country, it would not be possible to hold the hearing in Alice Springs, in person, as we had planned.  I know that decision came as a considerable disappointment to the First Nations teams and other staff who have been preparing the hearing and working so hard to do so.  I'm sure that it has also been very disappointing for the First Nations people who hoped to be able to tell their stories in person to the Royal Commission.

The result is that this hearing must be held remotely with the assistance of technology, as has really become customary for the hearings of the Royal Commission during the pandemic.  It is rather symptomatic of the times in which we are living, that the hearing that we planned to hold in Alice Springs turns out to involve three Commissioners in three separate locations, none of which happens to  
be in the Northern Territory.

Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, Mr Lincoln Crowley QC, from whom we have already heard, and Mr Ben Power and Ms Avelina Tarrago will appear in the Brisbane hearing room.  Ms Rebecca McMahon of Counsel appears in Sydney.

A number of parties have been granted leave to appear at this hearing and I will shortly take appearances from the representatives of those parties.

It is difficult enough to prepare a public hearing to be conducted in person at a single location, and this is particularly the case when evidence is to be given by First Nations people, including First Nations people with disability, from various locations and those locations may actually be in remote areas.  The difficulties are increased substantially when the hearing has to be conducted remotely, as this one is to be conducted, and even more so when the arrangements in place have to be changed close to the hearing.

I wish to express appreciation on behalf of the Commissioners to our Counsel Assisting, our staff, including solicitors, members of the policy team, the engagement staff and counsellors, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that this hearing can proceed and that it can do so in a manner that allows First Nations people and First Nations people with disability, to give evidence in a culturally safe and trauma informed way.

A great deal of thought has been given into the presentation of evidence.  Some witnesses will appear remotely.  Some have provided pre recorded evidence and there will be, I'm informed, at least one witness who will appear in person from the Brisbane hearing room.  The evidence today will be given in pre recorded form from a number of witnesses.

In the Royal Commission's Interim Report which was published in October 2020 --- in some ways that seems an awfully long time ago --- we recorded data showing the First Nations people, including children, have significantly higher rates of disability than the non Indigenous population of this country.

We also explained the multiple forms of disadvantage that had affected First Nations people with disability and exposed them to greater risk of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.  Those disadvantages include the impact of colonisation involving the dispossession of First Nations people, forced assimilation, marginalisation, intergenerational trauma and, not least, the removal of children from families and communities.

The disadvantages also include social and economic experiences of people, First Nations people, and especially First Nations people with disability, manifested in poverty, inadequate housing, and poor health.

These issues have been themes throughout the Royal Commission's hearings.  Public  
hearing 8, for example, to which I have already referred investigated the removal of First Nations children with disability from their parents, families and communities through the child protection systems of the States and the Territories.  The starting point for that investigation was the gross over representation of First Nations people, especially First Nations people with disability, in the child protection systems.

The starting point for this hearing, as Mr Crowley will explain in more detail, is the gross over representation of First Nations children with disability in out of home care.  Data compiled by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2019 20, for example, indicates that over 40 per cent of the 46,000 children in out of home care in Australia were First Nations children.  A substantial proportion of First Nations children in out of home care are children with disability.

The fundamental task that faces this Royal Commission is to investigate violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability, including, of course, First Nations people with disability who are specifically referred to in our Terms of Reference.  We must, of course, recognise, take account of the historical causes of the unacceptable extent to which First Nations children with disability are exposed to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, including when that --- those experiences occur in out of home care.

But our job is to go further.  It is to develop workable proposals that will, at least over time, bring about transformational change in the circumstances that now prevail.  The focus of this hearing will be on the experiences of First Nations children in out of home care and the measures needed to address the systemic issues that may lead to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.  This will be done in part through three case studies involving the specific experiences of First Nations children with disability in out of home care.  These cases concern the out of home care systems in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania.  As you would expect, the identities of these children will be protected and pseudonyms will be used.

A number of witnesses have prepared very detailed statements that will be presented in evidence in the course of the hearing over six days.  These witnesses include representatives of State and Territory authorities responsible for administering out of home care systems.

The issues to be canvassed at this hearing, again, as Mr Crowley will explain in more detail, are a very great importance to First Nations people with disability.  As with Public Hearing 8, this is an opportunity to move along a path that has been marked out but has been insufficiently travelled.  The hearing represents yet another significant phase in the work of the Royal Commission and the contributions of First Nations people with disability to that work.

Mr Crowley, if you care to make perhaps --- announce your appearance formally, and then I will take the appearances from other parties and then invite you to make your opening statement.

MR CROWLEY:  Yes, thank you, Chair.  My name is Lincoln Crowley, I'm Senior Counsel Assisting this Royal Commission.  In this hearing I will appear with Mr Ben Power, Ms Avelina Tarrago here in the Brisbane hearing room and Ms Rebecca McMahon of Counsel in Sydney.  We're instructed by the Office of the Solicitor assisting the Royal Commission.

CHAIR:  Thank you, Mr Crowley.  There are quite a number of parties that have been given leave to appear at this hearing, and I will ask them to announce their appearances starting with the Commonwealth of Australia or the Australian Government.

MR DIGHTON:  Thank you, Chair.  My name is Dighton.  I appear for the Commonwealth.

CHAIR:  Thank you, Mr Dighton.  State of NSW.

MS FURNESS:  Thank you, Chair.  My name is Gail Furness and I appear with Trent Glover, instructed by the Crown Solicitor's Office for the State of NSW.

CHAIR:  Thank you, Ms Furness.  The State of Queensland.

MS McMILLAN:  Yes.  Good morning Chair, my name is McMillan, initials KA, Queen's Counsel.  I appear with Ms Clohessy, instructed by Crown Law.

CHAIR:  Thank you Ms McMillan.  The State of WA.  We can't hear you.  You may have to unmute yourself or take other action to ensure we can follow you.

We still can't hear you so I will adopt a variation of the practice of the High Court at the moment and announce that Mr Bydder --- now we can hear you so you can do it all by yourself.

MR BYDDER:      Thank you, Commissioner.  My name is Bydder, with Ms Buller I appear for WA, instructed by the State Solicitor for WA.

CHAIR:  Thank you, Mr Bydder.  The State of Victoria.

MS BEDFORD:  Thank you, Chair.  My name is Rebecca Bedford from Minter Ellison lawyers, and I appear on behalf of the State of Victoria.

CHAIR:  Yes, thank you very much, Ms Bedford.  The Northern Territory.

MS CHALMERS:      May it please the Commission.  My name is Chalmers and I appear for the Northern Territory on instructions from the Solicitors for the Northern Territory.

CHAIR:  Thank you, Ms Chalmers.  I believe the State of South Australia has been given leave to appear but will not be appearing by representatives.  If this is wrong,  
someone will no doubt tell me.

On the assumption what I've said is just correct, can we take the appearance from the State of Tasmania?

Well, it appears that Tasmania --- I know that Tasmania has been given leave to appear and if there is an appearance that can be taken later.

Thank you very much.  Mr Crowley.


MR CROWLEY:  Thank you, Chair.  Can I commence by saying on behalf of Counsel Assisting that we acknowledge and pay our respects to the traditional custodians of the various lands on which we participate in this public hearing.  We pay our respects to First Nations Elders past, present and emerging as well, as to all First Nations people involved in and following this public hearing.

This is the 16th public hearing of the Royal Commission and the second that will specifically focus on the experiences of First Nations people with disability.  This hearing will be conducted over six days, commencing today, 17 September, concluding next Friday, 24 September.  It will examine the experiences of First Nations children with disability in out of home care and the experiences of their families and the carers of those children.

Public Hearing 16 follows on from earlier Public Hearing 8, which examined the experiences of First Nations parents with disability in contact with child protection systems.  This hearing, again, does so with the terms of Article 23 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in mind and in particular Article 23, item 4 which provides:

State parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.  In no case shall a child be separated from parents on the basis of a disability of either the child or one or both of the parents.

As we have heard, this hearing is being conducted as a virtual hearing from the Commission's hearing room here in Brisbane.  Whilst Commissioner Mason, myself and other Counsel Assisting the Commission will be present here in Brisbane, we will use a range of different technologies to facilitate this virtual hearing to connect to witnesses, Commissioners and other participants from Alice Springs, Darwin, Perth, Sydney, Canberra and elsewhere.  The hearing is open and accessible to the public and can be followed live on webstream on the Disability Royal Commission  

Some witnesses will give their evidence in person here from the Brisbane hearing room.  Others will give their evidence via audiovisual link and others, still, by pre recorded statements.  The manner in which each witness will give their evidence varies depending on the particular circumstances and individual wishes of that witness.

It is with much disappointment that that hearing hasn't been held as intending.  Unfortunately due to the COVID pandemic, health and safety considerations it wasn't feasible for the Commission to hold a public hearing at a location which would have required many persons to travel, including across State and Territory borders in this uncertain and unpredictable time.  Although this virtual hearing is instead being held here at Meeanjin, Brisbane, it will feature issues and personal stories told by First Nations witnesses that are of significance to the wider community and First Nations people throughout the whole of Australia.

The Disability Royal Commission's Terms of Reference require the Commission to have regard to the particular situation of First Nations people with disability.  That particular situation is complex and amongst other things, is a product of our pre and post colonisation history, past and present laws and policies, and cultural and socioeconomic factors, and the personal circumstances of First Nations people with disability.  As Commissioner Mason said in her opening remarks for Public Hearing 8, and remarks which apply equally to the matters that are the subject of Public Hearing 16.

.... this week, we will hear First Nations people with disability speak with cultural authority about growing up and living in Australia as First Nations people, as First Nations people with disability, and as Australian citizens.

This intersectionality is important to mention at the beginning of this hearing because First Nations people with disability walk in three worlds --- the First Nations world, the disability world, and as Australians in Australian society.  This combination means that they are more likely to both experience racism and ableism, that unfortunate coalescence can and does have far reaching impacts.

In keeping with our Terms of Reference, Public Hearing 16 will continue the specific focus and inquiry into the particular situation of First Nations people with disability as we listen to First Nation voices.

In doing so, we bear in mind, and are guided by and acknowledge article 21 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People which provides:

Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and restraining, housing,  
sanitation, health, and social security.  States shall take effective measures and, where appropriate, special measures to ensure continuing improvement for their economic and social conditions.  Particular attention is to be paid to the rights and special needs of Indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities.

As with Public Hearing 8, the matters to be examined in Public Hearing 16 have been identified as key issues and concerns for First Nations peoples and communities throughout Australia.  The Commission has continued to listen and respond to the voices of First Nations people in the conduct of this inquiry.  The topic and scope of this public hearing emerged from a review of all materials received by the Royal Commission through private sessions, submissions, responses to issues papers, First Nations specific workshops, and all forms of community consultation and engagement and through the advice and wisdom provided by the First Nations Peoples Strategic Advisory Group.  It has consistently been identified through all of these forums as an area of importance of First Nations communities and First Nations people with disability.

The COVID pandemic has not only affected our ability to hold this public hearing at Mparntwe in central Australia, but it's continued to have a significant impact on our ability to engage in person with the community and other stakeholders as we further the work of the Commission.  Travel and face to face meetings have been severely impeded by border closures, lockdowns and the need to ensure that we carry out our business safely for all concerned.  We have nevertheless remained committed to the important task of bringing forward the experiences and stories of First Nations people with disability into this inquiry, and we have adapted the means and methods of our engagement to permit this work to continue.

It is imperative that this Royal Commission hears the stories of First Nations people with disability, told by First Nations people.  A true understanding of the experiences of First Nations people with disability can only come from listening, with honesty and respect, to the stories and accounts of First Nations people, particularly those with disability.  Positive change for First Nations people with disability can only come from responding to the issues and concerns of First Nations people with disability as told by First Nations people.

That is why it is vital, regardless of the current difficult circumstances, that we enable First Nations people with disability to participate and be heard through giving evidence at public hearings.

The Commission encourages all First Nations people, particularly those with lived experience as First Nations people with disability, who have something to say about the Commission and the issues the Commission will examine to engage with the Commission, to come forward and to be involved and to speak up and they will be heard.

In my opening address for Public Hearing 8, I described the Commission's exami 
nation of the particular situation of First Nations people with disability as a journey with a purpose --- the ultimate purpose, through this Commission, being to bring positive change to the lives of our mob --- First Nations people with disability who experience or are at risk of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation because they are First Nations people with disability.

This hearing continues that journey and seeks to serve that purpose as it continues to examine the experiences of First Nations people with disability from a life course perspective.  The course of a life is dictated by the available pathways and the ability to decide which path to follow.  For First Nations children with disability in out of home care, for their family, their carers and others who support them, and for child protection caseworkers, the available pathways are sometimes limited and decisions about which path to take are seldom straightforward.

All Commission hearing staff, Counsel Assisting, are committed to the task of assisting the commissioners to examine the issues and concerns of First Nations people with disability that will be raised in this hearing and to enable the commissioners to understand what may need to change and why it must change.  And to make the necessary recommendations that will provide positive pathways for First Nations people with disability in the future.

Public Hearing 16 will hear First Nations children with disability, and their family members and carers, and others, share their stories of their experiences of First Nations children in out of home care, First Nations children with disability.

Although the stories we will hear are individual stories told by different people from different places, they come through shared circumstances.  We will see and hear common underlying themes that emerge from their collective experiences, including inconsistent and at times uncoordinated decision making in respect of removals, placements and care plans for First Nations children with disability in out of home care.  Lack of understanding and appreciation of cultural considerations, and the impact of personal and intergenerational trauma upon First Nations children with disability in out of home care and upon their families and communities.  Lack of specialised knowledge and ability to identity and assess disability for First Nations children entering into or within out of home care and consequent risks of misdiagnosis or under diagnosis.  And the inability to access and receive the provision of timely and culturally appropriate disability services and supports for First Nations children with disability and for their carers and families.

We will hear about the importance of First Nations families, communities and culture in the care, support and development of First Nations children with disability.  In particular, we will hear about the important role within family and culture of First Nations grandparents and how, for many First Nations children with disability in out of home care, grandparents perform the critical role of family or kinship carers.

We will investigate models for the design and delivery of holistic disability services and supports that are community centred, trauma informed and culturally appropriate  
for First Nations children with disability and their families.

We will consider also a particular aspect of residential out of home care, secure care environment and, we will examine its rationales, necessity, cultural safety and appropriateness, and its therapeutic value for the most vulnerable children who are in out of home care, those being First Nations children with complex needs requiring intensive intervention.

Finally, our inquiry will consider, and as always, be guided by, the relevant available data with respect to First Nations children with disability.  Good data is essential for setting goals, measuring successes against these goals and holding governments, organisations and others accountable for delivering on those goals.

Without good data, it's not possible to know whether double discrimination that First Nations people with disability experience in other aspects of their lives is also reflected in the experience of First Nations children with disability, and their families and carers in respect of out of home care environments.

Without good data, it is impossible to know or measure the necessity or demand for services and supports, and to identify where that necessity or demand exists, and to understand the reasons why there is such necessity or demand.

Crucially, without good data it is impossible to determine the levels of funding that may be required to address need and demand and where and how those funds might best be directed.

Despite the obvious importance of good data, our work to date tends to indicate a lack of high quality data in significant areas.  We have observed this, too, in other hearings.  In Public Hearing 6 which looked at the experience of people with disability during COVID, Public Hearing 8 which considered education and neglect of children with disability and also in Public Hearing 8 which looked at the experiences of First Nations parents with disability in contact with child protection systems.

In advance of this hearing, the Disability Royal Commission sought relevant data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.  An analysis of national level data we received from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare will be received into evidence during the hearing.  The national level data is drawn from data provided by all Australian States and Territories, child protection data sets, and is of particular significance because this data has not been published previously.  The available data portrays the stark reality of the over representation of First Nations children in out of home care and the consequent over representation of First Nations children with disability in out of home care.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 22 per cent of First Nations children have a disability, compared to 8 per cent in the general population.  In adulthood, that increases to 48 per cent of First Nations adults aged 18 and over, compared to 13  
per cent in the general population.

According to the most recent report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare issued on child protection in Australia, Indigenous children continue to be over represented among children receiving child protection services, including for substantiated child abuse and neglect, children on care and protection orders and children in out of home care.

In 2019 and 2020, First Nations children received child protection services at almost 8 times the rate of those for non First Nations children.  A rate of 156 children per 1,000 compared with 21 children per 1,000 for non First Nations children.  First Nations children were nearly 11 times as likely as non First Nations children to be living in out of home care.

The national level data provided by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that of the 45,996 children in out of home care in 2019/2020, there were 18,862 First Nations children accounting for almost 41 per cent of all children in out of home care, significantly higher than the approximately 6 per cent of the total child population in Australia who are First Nations.  This indicates that First Nations children are entering out of home care at a much higher rate than non First Nations children.

Of the total number of First Nations children in out of home care, 14 per cent were reported as children with disability, indicating that the share of those who have a reported disability appears to be consistent regardless of First Nations status.  However, given that the proportion of both First Nations and non  First Nations children with an unknown disability status in the data set sits at around 42 to 43 per cent, this data should be used with some caution as it likely under represents the true proportion of children with disability in out of home care.  The higher proportion of children with unknown disability status is related to a key issue which will be explored through the evidence in this hearing.  That is that disability amongst First Nations children in out of home care is misdiagnosed, under diagnosed or not assessed.

The share of First Nations children with disability receiving foster or kinship care placements at 83 per cent, according to the data, is lower than First Nations children without disability at 94 per cent.

First Nations children with disability are much more likely to receive residential care placements than First Nations children without disability:  12 per cent compared to 3 per cent respectively.  This insight is also consistent regardless of First Nations status, suggesting a driver of this trend is disability status.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare national data also tells us that children appear to be in out of home care for longer periods of time on the basis of both disability and First Nations status.  Further, First Nations children with disability are much more likely to have been in five or more placements during a continuous  
episode of out of home care.

The absence of complete and accurate data will be an area of focus in this hearing.  The reason for this is obvious.  If the numbers are greater than the current data tells us, then there are likely more First Nations children with disability in out of home care who are not getting the care or supports that they need.

The key question for this hearing is whether First Nations children with disability out of home care are exposed to or at risk of exposure to violence, abuse, exploitation or neglect in all its forms because of their dual status as First Nations children with disability.

This is a difficult and sensitive topic for our community, and at this stage, I wish to advise First Nations people who are watching or listening to this hearing that the evidence will describe removal of children from family and respectfully acknowledge that hearing such evidence may be very difficult.  I will later provide details of support services which are available.  I also note that in the course of the hearing, the names of deceased First Nations people may be mentioned.

Related to the key question I spoke of a moment ago are the reasons for and the causes of statutory intervention by child protection authorities and the removal of First Nations children with disability from their families, and the effects of such removal upon those children and their families and carers.  This hearing will examine those issues individually and systemically.

Of the reasons and causes of removal of children by child protection authorities, according to national data provided by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, neglect was the most common primary type of abuse among First Nations children with disability, at 44 per cent, being children who were admitted to out of home care and subject to a substantiation, whilst for non First Nations children with disability, emotional abuse is the most common primary type of abuse at 50 per cent.  Whilst neglect may provide a reason for removal of children in that context, immediate factors that are often relied on to justify the removal of First Nations children from their parents and into out of home care cannot be considered in isolation from other socioeconomic factors such as poverty, lack of housing, domestic violence, and they cannot be examined without acknowledging the pervasive and damaging effects of historical policies, actions and events commencing with colonisation, dispossession and displacement, each of which have caused personal and cultural trauma for past generations, and which still continue to be experienced today for First Nations people.

The Royal Commission's Interim Report, published on 30 October 2020, noted:

As First Nations people with disability start to share their experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation with us, we are seeing the human stories behind the numbers.  What is emerging is a complex picture that suggests First Nations people with disability face multiple barriers to their  
safety, wellbeing and inclusion in Australian society and experience many different forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

That complex picture has appeared with even greater clarity as the work of the Commission has progressed.  First Nations people with disability have repeatedly told us their experiences are often compounded by multi layered disadvantage associated with colonisation effects, poverty, chronic health conditions, racism, intergenerational trauma, and a lack of culturally appropriate services.

These observations and statements provide pertinent context to the stories that we will hear and the issues that we will examine in Public Hearing 16.

Some of the particular issues that we will be considering in the course of this hearing are as follows: the experiences of violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of First Nations children with disability in out of home care; whether a lack of services for First Nations children with disability is a contributing factor for their removal into out of home care; policy and practices of child protection authorities in identifying disability or developmental delay of First Nations children in out of home care including disability assessments; the lack of culturally competent and trauma informed assessments within child protection and wider services, and the impact this is likely to have on misdiagnosis and under diagnosis of disability, and therefore the appropriateness or lack of services as a consequence; access to supports and services by First Nations children with disability in out of home care, including the NDIS; access to supports and services by carers of First Nations children with disability in out of home care; whether inadequate access to supports and services by either carers or First Nations children with disability in out of home care is exacerbated by remoteness; how placement decisions are made for First Nations children with disability in out of home care; data on the representation and experiences of First Nations children with disability in out of home care; and the negative outcomes for First Nations children with disability in out of home care, including the prospect of care criminalisation.

We will now provide a brief outline of the proposed evidence that we will hear from some of the witnesses to be called during this hearing.  Today we will hear several stories told by First Nations people through pre recorded statements.  We will first hear from the Strong Grandmothers Group of the Central Desert who will speak of the importance of maintaining family, culture and community for the health and wellbeing of vulnerable First Nations children.

We will then hear from a First Nations youth who will be referred to by the pseudonym "IL".  Pseudonyms will also be used for other witnesses throughout the course of this hearing in accordance with the direction this made by the Chair on 9 September this year.  IL will talk about his experiences as a First Nations child with disability in out of home care, cycling between caseworkers, placements with carers and detention.

Following IL, we will then hear from "Audrey" and "Brandon".  Audrey is a First Natio 
ns grandmother from NSW who has the care of her grandson Brandon.  Brandon has an acquired brain injury.  Audrey will speak of caring for Brandon and her efforts and difficulties to help him obtain supports including getting an NDIS plan and funding for Brandon, and connecting him with a First Nations mentor.  Brandon will talk about what it is like living with his nan, and his experience with school, and having a First Nations man as a mentor.

Finally, today we will hear from Aunty Winnie Woods.  Aunty Winnie is a First Nations woman from Western Australia.  She will speak of her grandson Josiah who has autism.  Josiah was removed from his mother by child protection authorities when he was about 8 or 9 and taken to Perth, where he was placed with carers.  Aunty Winnie will talk about his separation from country and family.

Commissioners, it should be noted with respect to the evidence to be given by the witnesses that I've just referred to, IL, Audrey and Brandon, Grace and Miriam, who I will refer to, each of these witnesses are witnesses who will be presented in their evidence to bear witness as they speak of their experiences personally and tell their stories from their own perspectives.  They will speak and talk from their own perspectives as First Nations children with disability in out of home care or as carers or family of First Nations children with disability in out of home care.  Although in some instances the Commission has sought and been provided with documentation and relevant documentation from the government departments involved, it's not proposed that submissions will be made urging any specific factual findings in respect of their individual cases or to ask for findings about whether any particular action or decision by authorities in those cases was right or wrong.

When the hearing continues on Monday next week, we will commence hearing about "Miriam", a young first Nations girl who lived with her foster carer, Grace.  Grace, who is non First Nations, will speak about Miriam's challenging behaviours, her efforts to have Miriam supported whilst in care, and Grace's concerns that Miriam was not assessed for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder, FASD, when in the out of home care system.

We will hear from Ms Martina O'Brien from Territory families who will also be called to give evidence about Miriam's case.

The Commission will then hear evidence given by a panel of witnesses from the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and later from Dr Andrew Webster of the Danila Dilba Health Service.  These witnesses will speak from their experience as healthcare service providers and practitioners in Aboriginal community controlled health services.  They will talk about the challenges and opportunities to providing culturally appropriate specialised disability supports to First Nations children with disability, and the importance of early access to culturally appropriate disability assessments, particularly for those in out of home care.

On Tuesday next week we will hear from "Leah", a non First Nations woman from Perth who commenced first as a foster carer but who eventually came the  
court appointed legal guardian of two First Nations boys, "Connor" and "Dylan".  She did so with the support of the boys' family.  Leah will tell the story of Connor, who has been diagnosed with various conditions, including FASD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and neurodevelopmental trauma, and the difficulties that she faced in obtaining health assessments and educational learning supports as she transitions over time from being Connor's occasional respite carer to his full time carer and later guardian.

We will also hear from Mr Glenn Mace and Ms Melanie Samuels from the Western Australian Department of Communities who will give evidence about Connor's case.

We will then hear from Aunty "Maggie" who is a First Nations grandmother from New South Wales.  Aunty Maggie will speak about caring for her grandson "Elliot" who has a range of disabilities.

On Wednesday next week we will hear from "Ivy" who is a First Nations woman from Tasmania who now resides in Brisbane.  Ivy is the mother of three children and she will share her experience of the removal of her daughter "Megan" who has a diagnosis of cerebral palsy.  She will also speak to the challenges she faced obtaining her daughter's diagnosis, an inability to use an NDIS plan who was ultimately available to her daughter's foster carers.

The hearing will shift focus from the experiences and stories of First Nations children with disability to the setting of secure care.  We will hear evidence of the operation of these types of services in two particular jurisdictions, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

In respect to the Western Australian service, we will hear evidence from representatives of the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia who will highlight their concerns with respect to the operation of the Kath French facility in Perth.

In respect to the Northern Territory service, we will hear evidence from Nick Espie, a representative of the Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, who will similarly speak of his experience with secure care facilities, and concerns held by the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency about the operation of the safehouse model in Darwin.

In respect of both the Western Australian and Northern Territory services we will also hear evidence from several government witnesses who will give evidence of the need, purpose and delivery of secure care services as we investigate best model practice.

Finally, on Friday, the Commission will hear from representatives of the family matters campaign from the national leadership group, we will hear from Ms Catherine Liddle, Paul Gray and Jacynta Krakouer.  They will give evidence of the need for comprehensive data and the difficulties faced by First Nations children with  
disability in out of home care as well as those of their carers and families in accessing specialised disability assessments, supports and services, and they will also discuss how the development, implementation and delivery of such assessments, services and supports might be improved for First Nations people and particularly First Nations children with disability in out of home care.  Thank you, Commissioners.

CHAIR:  Thank you, Mr Crowley.  Are you proposing that we should adjourn for a short time at this point?

MR CROWLEY:  Yes, thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:  It's now just after 11.00 Australian Eastern Standard Time.  Is it convenient to resume at 11.30?

MR CROWLEY:  Yes, thank you chair.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much.  We'll adjourn until 11.30 Eastern Time.

ADJOURNED    [11.02 AM]

RESUMED    [11.31 AM]

CHAIR:  Yes, Mr Crowley.

MR CROWLEY:  Thank you, Chair.

Commissioners, in my opening I referred to the national data received from the Australian Institute of Health And Welfare on First Nations children in out of home care.  The Commission has prepared a memorandum analysing that data and setting out the key findings from the analysis.  A copy of that memorandum is located in the Tender Bundle Part D at tab 45.  I tender that memorandum and ask that it be marked as Exhibit 16.42, please, Chair.

CHAIR:  Yes, that can be done.  Thank you.


MR CROWLEY:  Commissioners, the first pre recorded evidence to present and receive today is from the Strong Grandmothers Group.  The Strong Grandmothers of the Central Desert region are Aboriginal grandmothers with a particular focus of kids  
in country and not in custody or out of home care and they are concerned about, in particular, grandchildren's safety on the streets and in youth justice and welfare systems.  A copy of the pre recorded statement transcript of the Strong Grandmothers pre recorded evidence is in Tender Bundle Part A Tab 1.  I tender the pre recorded statement and ask that it be marked as Exhibit 16.1, please, Chair.

CHAIR:  Yes, that also can be done, thank you.


MR CROWLEY:  And if we could now please arrange for the pre recorded video of the Strong Grandmothers to be played.  The document reference is DRC.9999.0066.0002.


DOREEN:  Werte, we're the Strong Grandmothers Group from Central Australia here.  I'd like to introduce myself, Doreen Carol McCormack.  I'm Western Arrernte and Eastern Arrernte and Luritja.  I still speak my language.  We're going to be talking about how you can     how they care for people with disability, and I have kind of a knowledge of looking after people with disability, which I had my own daughter for 26 years and we cared for her at home for 26 years without anybody else caring for her, only her dad and I, and family members maybe help here and there.

Well, the Grandmothers Group got together to the system in a court because the children are going to court and getting sent to Don Dale, and I think we're fighting to make sure they get back to their country, you know.  Instead of being in an institution, they need to be sent back to the country and the Government need to do some more, make sure we send them home to their homeland instead of into an institution and, you know, some of the kids hasn't     they never really got into, you know, they haven't done anything really bad, maybe stole something but, you know, they just kids and that's what we're caring for for, make sure that they get a better treatment.

ELAINE:  Hello, my name is Elaine.  I'm part of the Central Australia Strong Grandmothers Group.  I am an Arrernte woman here from Mparntwe and my involvement with the Grandmothers Group is about supporting the youths out on the streets and around about their     talking about what do they face when they're caught and a lot of them don't realise maybe it's a bit of a disability, they might have bad hearing, their eyesight may not be the best, little things like that that a lot of people take for granted.

So children with disabilities should be home with their own parents and in their own homes where they feel like it's the best place for them to be and not     and maybe out of home care as well.  But then again a lot of the young ones get     a lot of those home cares, a lot of people don't realise and don't understand about Aboriginal people and there's still a lot of work to be done on that as well.  But um.

But our main focus, I think, is like I say, it is about children in care and getting the proper care that they need and a lot of     maybe a lot of the service providers don't really realise how important they've got to really understand about that child and working with that child, maybe on a one on one thing and then they'll have a better idea about how to work with groups of children with disability, and I don't think it's happening enough out there, and actually meeting with families.  That family connection is very important for our young ones out there with disability.

Maybe because ourselves as grandmothers and great grandmothers, our whole life revolves around our children and our grandchildren and caring for them from day one.  And those ones     the young ones that are out there today are no thing than others, and the responsibility is for our grandmothers to carry that on and take that role on, and that's why I think a lot of them do end up in gaol, in prison, because of their disability.

KUMALIE:  Hello, werte.  My name is Kumalie Kngwarraye Riley.  I am part of the Strong Grandmothers Group and we're involved with kids in, you know, with kids in custody and there's been too many of that for many, many years and the children are taken away without consultation with families as well.  Families don't know half of the time that kids and young men and young women are transferred to Don Dale without consultation.

So, you know, the parents     the families have a right to know their movements and not just think, you know, the kids are taken away and they can do whatever they want to do, but the parents and the families have first priority and for their communities and a lot of those kids, young men, young women do have disabilities.  I stated before, they got something wrong with their eyes and hearing or maybe they didn't have a chance to get a good education and maybe there were     there are a lot of things in our cultural background that affects our children, even domestic violence, the children grow up seeing it, you know, families fighting or families fighting.  The kids hear it and breathe it and they think it's okay to go to a playground and hit other kids.  It's not right and sometimes     not sometimes     I think my perspective is that the system do fail our people, our kids, and our kids in custody and our kids with disability.

Disabilities comes in many forms and even taking away our country, taking away our Stolen Generation, taking away what's right and also there are things that     there are a lot of blockage from us, you know, to have our strong voices to be heard about our children, eh, and about our people and it's about time, you know, our First Nations voice has got to be listened and be strong and be supported by the Government  
because, you know, the Government has been ruling our lives ever since we were born and we are still having policies chucked down our throats, chucked at us all the time, we can't do this, we can't do that with our kids, we can't even hug them, we can't even give them a hug, and we can't even discipline our own kids because of intervention.

A lot of it has got a major impact with our children and with our people when it's always these policies that are not consulted with in the beginning     in the beginning to know what are they going to talk about, what are they going to discuss.  It just comes down like a tonne of bricks on us.  "Oh, we didn't hear about this."  We're the last to know about it, eh, and "Oh, this is happening, this is happening, this is going to happen," and it's not like that, you know.

We have a right and we have a right for our voices to be heard, and we have a right with the Government to recognise and acknowledge our needs in what we're struggling to survive with all these many things cutting across with the red tape in front of us all the time, and also taking our rights away and our civil rights, and also about our children being protected.  But they're not being protected if they're in custody, they're not protected if they're in homes, they're not protected.  The children have a right to be in connected with their kinship, you know, with their families through those times if they're in homes and don't take away their identity, their dignity and treat them just for, you know, economy reasons.

DOREEN:  Yeah.

KUMALIE:  And there's a lot of those that I have noted, as being an educator as well, and that in education it's not     I feel it's not being supported, not being recognised and not enough employment for our people, and employing our people to be carers for their kids, carers for their disabilities.  That's not happening.  We're always seeing everybody else coming in and taking care, having roles and responsibility for our kids. 

I see it every day and we have many, many, many young people in communities with just their disabilities, you know, but we don't see it as a disability.  It is a disability, it comes in many forms, like I said.  So that's the main reasons and also, you know, for the youth patrol, and all that, that's why we developed Grandmothers   Strong Grandmothers because we wanted to be part of the solution.  That's it.

DOREEN:  Yeah, it's Doreen again here.  I just want to bring up something about children's disability payment.  When I had my child, because it was a late baby, and I just supported her with a carer's pension of my own, you know, it wasn't very much at all, and I didn't get any special money.  But I couldn't get any money for her at all, her payment, until she was 19 and we actually lived on three hundred and something dollars a fortnight and had to buy all the special food, everything that she needed because she couldn't walk, she couldn't talk, she couldn't feed herself and she couldn't do anything, so we were 100 per cent carers for her.

We didn't get any special payment for caring for her.  We were her parents so we thought that's really 100 per cent our job to take care of her.  So until she was 19, she got $90   when she was 16, sorry, and she didn't get any of her adult payment until she was 21.  So you can imagine the money that we had to really budget on for her special food, special stuff and the only good thing that we had was Michele Castagna now she's passed on, she was a wonderful person with a disability.  She looked after us with some equipment that we needed to have at home for her, maybe special prams and all the other things, but the food wise we actually budget on that money.

But when I think of it now, there's a lot of children with disabilities cared by people in Amway Care, and why not Government look after the people that's their parents, their kinship family, which is your grandparent.  Like we were     actually, I was in my 40s when I had my daughter, but I made sure I cared for her at home.  But what's happening now is carers are coming from everywhere looking after the     it's all about money and the people looking after them, they make money and they're away from their family and you can see some of the children not very happy and they hardly respond to Aboriginal person.

When I go and say hello to people and I see kids, and sometimes the carers will walk straight past you and me as an Aboriginal woman and a carer and a grandmother of 20 odd children and 17 great grandchildren, we all grandmothers here, we love our children dearly and we care for other people's children too.  But disability is the main important thing that I think Government should look into, who's caring for these kids here and we don't know, people abuse people, this is happening in places all the time.  So it really needs to go back to kinship care, which is grandparents, aunties and uncles, Government should make sure look into that and make sure Centrelink pays them to keep their children at home.  I think that would be the best idea.

..... And people complaining about they're overcrowded because there is only three bedroom homes in every town camps.  I don't think there's any four bedroom, there's only three bedroom and that's really meant for five people, so they've got about ten people in them and they've got their grannies, their aunties, their cousins or whoever and it's overcrowded and they wonder why kids are wandering around the street.  They haven't got a home, decent home to go back to because it's overcrowded, poor little things, you know.  I mean you can't blame everybody, you can't put everybody in the same basket.  But these town camps, they're overcrowded, honestly, I seen them myself because our family lives in them town camps.

KUMALIE:  Yeah, that's another issue.

DOREEN:  The issue is for old people to be cared for in maybe better way and different way because the parents are caring for their mother, their grandmother and everything like that and probably their kids, trying to get them to school, and so the Government could look into that, put them into bigger houses maybe.  There's home care for the children and their grandparents, you know, kinship caring, you look after the old people now, turn around.  That's all, yeah.

KUMALIE:  Coming back to the housing, like Doreen said, I have stated many times, you know, for housing because housing in town and the town camps or wherever is inappropriate because that is why there is a problem with overcrowding because in our traditional way we have men's quarters, we have women's quarters, we have young women's, we have widows' quarters.  We have, you know, everybody is catered for, but then there's no overcrowding, and that's an issue that the housing, the Ministers for Housing and the Government need to understand.  Build appropriate housing situation like we do in our cultural way, in our customary ways.  We can't live in one house.

DOREEN:  Yeah single men's quarters.

KUMALIE:  Yeah, you might have son in laws and daughter in laws, but they have to have different area dwellings.  We can't fit everything in     everybody in the house, in one house.  The three bedroom is nothing

DOREEN:  Yeah.  I like to address this to the people watching us soon.  If this could get across to people to make sure you understand what we talking about and look into the situation what's happening.  As a Grandmothers Group we do care for children, what's happening all around us, and make sure you put something towards it and say strongly the Government should make sure look into this kinship care, caring at home, care for with their family.  That's all I would like to say but I believe something should come about it.

ELAINE:  What you've heard today is the truth and when are we going to see a change and when is that day going to come for us as Aboriginal people, First Nation people?  We have our leaders out there speaking out and being a voice, but what about the people on the ground?  We are the people.  We are the ground roots people that are doing it tough.  We don't ask for any funding.  We did it 'cause of the love of the children out on those streets, and the ones that end up in gaol, because never know, it could be one of our family member, so that's why I think with a disability     in speaking about the disability it's part of it because a lot of those children that do go into prison may have hearing problems, their eyesights may be not good and a lot of them don't fully understand what they have done until they end up in prison, mentally and physically.

I'd like to see a change in hearing our voices today and let's move on, but don't forget those children with the disability.  They're our first and utmost      

KUMALIE:  Priority.

DOREEN:  Priority, yeah.

ELAINE:        priority that we would like to address here and we have addressed, the three of us, from the Grandmothers Group, but also we have a right and a voice and our voices should be heard.

KUMALIE:  Yeah, that's what we want.  I think, you know, when you're looking back at it, we're in the 21st century and over, nothing moves, because everything else moves but what about our people, we are still undermined, we are still struggling for the Australians to recognise and acknowledge us, that we are the sovereign people of the land and we do need more support, more employment support and more consultation and more, you know, let's start working together and stand united.


CHAIR:  Yes, Mr Crowley.

MR CROWLEY:  Commissioners, next we will hear the pre recorded evidence from witness IL who is located in the Northern Territory.  Witness IL is a 17 year old First Nations young person currently within the Don Dale youth detention centre.  A copy of the transcript of witness IL's pre recorded evidence is in Tender Bundle A Tab 2.  I tender the pre recorded statement and ask that it be marked as Exhibit 16.2, please, Chair.

CHAIR:  Yes, that transcript can be admitted into evidence and given the marking of Exhibit 16.2.


MR CROWLEY:  Chair, in tendering the document, I note it is subject to the non publication direction CTH DNP 00100 that is currently in place over, amongst other things, the contents of part A to the Tender Bundle.

Commissioners, in addition you will find there are accompanying annexures to that transcript in Tender Bundle Part A Tab 3.  I tender that document and ask that it be marked as Exhibit 16.2.1, please, Chair.

CHAIR:  Yes, that, too, can be done.


CHAIR:  Mr Crowley, would you just mind making clear the extent of the non publication direction; it covers the transcript, does it?

MR CROWLEY:  Yes, Chair.  The direction I referred to is until further direction that any document included in Part A of the Tender Bundle for the public hearing of the Royal Commission commencing today, 17 September 2021, with the exception  
of redacted witness statements and transcripts of pre recorded oral statements, are not to be published in connection with the evidence presented at Public Hearing 16, except with certain exceptions which relate to publication to the Commission staff, Solicitors Assisting, et cetera, and relevant leave to appear parties and others.

CHAIR:  What you've just read out, I may be misunderstanding it, seems to mean that the transcript of pre recorded evidence, which presumably would include the evidence of witness IL, is not subject to the non publication direction.  Have I misunderstood that?

MR CROWLEY:  The redacted version is not.

CHAIR:  I'm sorry, so I just want this to be clear so nobody following proceedings is under any misapprehension.  There is a redacted version of the transcript, is that right?


CHAIR:  Where does one find that?

MR CROWLEY:  So the redacted version is the one that I've referred to, the document reference TRA.3000.0004.0038.

CHAIR:  Is that Exhibit 16.2?


CHAIR:  Right.  So that is a redacted version that is, in fact, public, now that it's been admitted into evidence and it will be reflected, I assume, in what we are now either to see or hear.  I'm not sure whether this is video or only audio.

MR CROWLEY:  It's an audio statement only.

CHAIR:  What we hear now is part of the public record and can be disseminated?


CHAIR:  All right, thank you.

MR CROWLEY:  If we could now please have the recording played, the reference document is IND.0110.0001.0003.


SARA:  Okay, we're recording.  Do you want to use your name or      

WITNESS IL:  Yeah, [Witness IL].

SARA:  [Witness IL].  So I'm talking to [Witness IL].
This is me, Sarah, the lawyer.  We were talking about the Disability Royal Commission and young people with disability not being treated the right way.  [Witness IL], do you want to talk a little bit about what those doctors and, you know, social worker mob have said about your disability, about trauma?

WITNESS IL:  They just said that I had trauma and that I didn't have a good upbringing when I was a younger kid, you know.

SARA:  Yeah.  And      

WITNESS IL:  What they sort of taught me was how to cope with them things, but they didn't     they just, like, sort of moved me placement to placement and stuff like that.  It was sort of hard for me, you know, being away from family.

SARA:  Yeah.  And you're in     we're in Don Dale now, hey, [Witness IL], and where are you from?

WITNESS IL:  I'm from Alice and I've been in and out of prison since I was 10 and this has been happening to me since I was, like, I don't know, 5, 4.

SARA:  How does that feel?

WITNESS IL:  It feels upsetting, you know.  They should have did better.

SARA:  Yeah.  And you were talking about moving from lots of placements, how many TF mob, like, you know, the caseworker from Territory Families, how many of them do you reckon you've had?

WITNESS IL:  Nearly all of them.

SARA:  Yeah, so you've had, do you reckon, like, more than 20 in your life?

WITNESS IL:  Yeah, more than 20.

SARA:  Yeah.  And have you felt like they've helped you and listened to you?

WITNESS IL:  No, not     not much.  It just feels like they'd be there for me     with me for, like, a month or two and then they'd leave and then they'll become the senior of or team leader of Territory Families.  It's like     it felt like they was only using me so they can get up to a high level in the work space, you know, and most of the time they didn't even help me that much.

SARA:  Yeah.  And who has helped you, like are there other workers that you think  
have done it the right way, apart from those TF workers who you never really hear from?

WITNESS IL:  I don't really know, like, it's just     I don't know, it just feels like I have everything in here, like institutionalised.

SARA:  Yeah, institutionalised.

WITNESS IL:  Yeah, it's like that.

SARA:  Yeah.

WITNESS IL:  So, like, when I'm in here they make me     this is what it feels like     that when I'm in here they give me everything when I'm in here and then when I get it out it's, like, they just kick me out on to the streets (inaudible) nothing.

That's what happened recently, you know, I was out on parole and they said that they'll have all these stuff for me, appointments and stuff for my therapist and everything like that, and then when I got out nothing ever happened.  My therapist never came to see me or anything, these appointments, and the carers didn't even help me.

I had to get to my own appointments, I had to arrange my own appointments, I had to go to get my own bank details and stuff like that with Amanda.  Amanda's a nice lady, she helped me, you know, but she's a busy lady too.  So it was pretty hard for me, you know, and then, I don't know, I just, yeah, it just felt like everybody forgot about me so I just started hanging around with mates and then     but I got arrested and now I'm back in here, and I had court today.

But I don't know, they say     they're going to say no for     they looking for a     they said that they had a placement for me on the outside, and then when I went into the courts to     when I went to have a VIU with my lawyer today and they said, "Oh, nuh, we don't have any placements for you," you know, so that's like sort of giving my hopes up because they said that they had a placement for me, and the carers are happy for me to go back, and they had all my clothes there     'cause I don't know where my clothes are.  I had a big bagful of clothes.  The only clothes I have is the clothes that I got locked up with.

SARA:  And what you were saying about having to do all that by yourself, has that happened before?

WITNESS IL:  Yeah, it's been happening a lot, you know, so I'm sort of used to being left out like that, you know.  I've been homeless since the age of 8, and stuff like that.  I had     I had places to go but when I went there it felt like I didn't belong, you know.  It felt hard for me.  Didn't get to have a say, felt unsafe     stuff like that, you know.

SARA:  Yeah.  And if you do get to have a say, what would you tell people about, you know, how you want     that you need that help from everyone?

WITNESS IL:  I need that help, you know.

SARA:  Yeah.

WITNESS IL:  You can't change the system if you don't know the system, yeah.

SARA:  You used that word before, [Witness IL], "institutionalised".  Do you want to tell us     could you tell me a bit more about that.

WITNESS IL:  Institutionalised.

SARA:  You know, that means sort of like where we are now, Don Dale is an institution, and you were saying, like, you know, you get      

WITNESS IL:  Give me all these programs and activities in here, you know, but when I get out there's not that     there's none of them activities on the outside, you know, it's going to be hard.

SARA:  And those caseworkers, how often do they come and see you when you're in here?  You never see them?

WITNESS IL:  I was in here locked up for two years once, just recently, two years, a caseworker only came and visited me twice or three times out of that two years.

SARA:  In that whole two years, hey?


SARA:  Yeah.  And you know how you were saying before     you were talking before about how the doctors, you know, told you about ways to calm yourself down and when you're feeling, you know, angry or upset, what do you think would have happened if you knew how to do those things earlier?

WITNESS IL:  I wouldn't be in this situation.  I would have been a good kid, going to school every day and stuff, you know.  'Cause I've never really had anybody to teach me right and wrong, you know.  Didn't have a good mum and dad and stuff like that, you know, that's why I trusted Territory Families, but then they let me down too, you know, so that's why I sorta, I don't know, I'm sort of tough on letting people into my life.  I sorta, you know, got trust issues.

SARA:  Yeah, and that makes sense.


SARA:  If you were talking to the big boss of this Disability Royal Commission and you could say what things you would like to happen so that kids like you get treated a different way, what would you say?

WITNESS IL:  People that know the system and know where we're coming from and stuff like that.

SARA:  Yeah, that they need to be more involved and that they need to be helping?

WITNESS IL:  Yeah, and more organised and involved and helping and, yeah.  Not beating around the bush, you know, trying to find the easier ways and thing, just straight out, you know, help.

SARA:  Yeah.  Do you think about the future?


SARA:  And what do you want for your future?

WITNESS IL:  I want to be a hard working man, a youth worker helping youths like me, you know, because I know the system and I know how it works and, you know, me working as a youth worker, helping other Aboriginal youths and younger people, I reckon I'd be good, you know, 'cause I'll tell them how it works, I'll tell them right and wrong.  I'll tell them     I'll be the one telling them how to breathe, and stuff like that, and telling them, "You're not alone," you know.

SARA:  And if you had somebody like that, IL, in your life earlier     you know, you said the first time you got locked up was when you were 10     how would that have helped you?

WITNESS IL:  I just still would have been at     I would have finished year 12 a long time ago.  I finished year 12, but I would have finished it a long time ago, you know.  I would have got my stuff done and organised.

SARA:  Yeah.  So you've got that certificate now, hey, the NTCE for year 12?


SARA:  Yeah, that's good.  Are these mountains?  They look like it.  Is there anything else that you want to tell this Disability Royal Commission?

WITNESS IL:  Just     that's (inaudible)

SARA:  Yeah.

WITNESS IL:  And finding good foster parents for them other youths, you know, for the future because when I grew up the foster carers I was living with, like, most of  
them used to bash me and stuff, force me to clean the house and, you know, and I trusted them, you know, and I was a young kid trying to get away from that stuff, and I trusted them to look after me and then when I moved there they sort of, like, forced me to do stuff for them and then the money they got paid for us, they wouldn't spend it on us, they'll spend it on themselves.  We just had to clean up the house and stuff.

SARA:  And was there anyone you felt you could tell about those foster carers doing what you say?

WITNESS IL:  No, it's just one time I went to school and I had a bad, like, that morning I didn't make breakfast for my sister so my     I was sitting on the couch, watching TV, eating my breakfast.  The carer     the foster carer walked up to me, kicked me in the jaw and I spilt the plate, and then he got angry and then started hitting me more because I made a mess in the loungeroom.  And then I went to school, and then I had a bad day and then they was going to suspend me.  I was crying at, like, when I was little, you know, I was crying in the office telling them, "No.  No, I don't wanna go back home.  I don't wanna go.  They might bash me."  And the principal's, like, "Who?  Who?"  "My carers."  And then they called   they were Turkey families and then they told them what I said to the principal and then, yeah, that's     I don't know, but that's     that's what happened.

SARA:  Yeah.  Do you remember how old you were when that happened?

WITNESS IL:  I was probably, like, 8.

SARA:  Yeah.  And did you stay living with that carer after that?

WITNESS IL:  Nuh.  But I was living with that carer for, like, a while, you know, but I felt scared to let them know and one day I just, like, told the principal, you know.  'Cause the foster carer I was saying that I was going to tell     I told the foster carer that I'm going to tell     snitch on them, you know, and then they said, "Oh, you can do it.  Nobody's going to believe you anyway."  I was like, "Oh"     yeah.

SARA:  So the foster carer said that to you, that no one would believe you?

WITNESS IL:  Yeah, and then that's when I started, like, doing suicidal things, like suicidal thoughts, and stuff like that.  I started at a young age, I've tried to kill myself and stuff.

SARA:  At 8?

WITNESS IL:  Maybe younger.

SARA:  Younger.


SARA:  That's really hard, [Witness IL].  I'm really sorry.

WITNESS IL:  Nuh, you're right.

SARA:  When you went to the next foster carer after that one, how was that?

WITNESS IL:  It was sort of, like, I didn't really trust them, you know.

SARA:  Yeah.

WITNESS IL:  I didn't, like     because I trusted a lot of the carers.  That wasn't the only foster carer that I was getting abused from.  There was other ones before him.  But that's where it     like that's where it ended, you know, and then after that, that's when I started sticking up for myself and be, like, oh, you know, I'm getting a little bit older now so if they want to act bossy to me, I might do something, you know, growl at them or smash the car, and then that's when I used to get charged, and when I got charged I had to be on bail.  And when I was on bail I didn't want to stay at the carer's house, I used to go see family and then that's how my bail was breached and I was breaching bail a lot, and then I started getting locked up at the age of 10.  That's how it all started, you know.

SARA:  Yeah.  Did they      

WITNESS IL:  What's that for?

SARA:  Oh, if you want more paper.  When you said, you know, that you used to breach bail and go see family, did you ever get placed with family, like ever get to stay with them?


SARA:  Yeah.  And do you think that there was family that you could have stayed with?


SARA:  And were you allowed to, you know, did the foster carers and, you know, maybe when you were living in like Resi Care, did they take you to go see family?  Yeah.

WITNESS IL:  Only sometimes, but most of the time I just used to be, like, at the house all the time.

SARA:  Yeah.  Was family allowed to come and see you there?


SARA:  Yeah.  And we've talked about before, [Witness IL], how we're in Darwin now but you're from Alice Springs.  Have you been     you're not allowed to do cultural stuff with family still while you've been living in care?

WITNESS IL:  No, I'm allowed to do stuff with them but, I don't know, it's just that the system     I'm caught up in the system, you know, trying to find a way out, and most of it's not my fault.  This time I got locked up, you know, it's because I wasn't at the carer's house because, you know, I just moved into that house and I told them that I don't want to live there because it's unsafe for me and there's people around the corner that want to cut my head off, stuff like that, and I went home multiple times with, like, busted up lip or a stab wound in my head or   did I tell you about when I got stabbed three times in the head      

SARA:  No.

WITNESS IL:        and hit with a wheel spanner the same night, and I got stabbed in the shoulder, too.
SARA:  Oh my God.  And what did they do when you came home like that?  Did they take you to the hospital?


SARA:  And just left you?

WITNESS IL:  I took myself to the hospital and then when I got off hospital, went back to the carers, the carers, like, "Well, where you?  You know we have to breach you 'cause you wasn't here."  "I was at the hospital."  "We don't believe you."  "Oh, well, I got proof," I showed them the photos and then      

SARA:  Yeah, and did you get locked up that time because you breached?

WITNESS IL:  A couple of days later the police came up to me.  "You're IL (inaudible)."  "Yep."  "You're under arrest for breaching parole."  So now I'm back in here, and I just did two years and then I got out, you know, for two months and then now I'm back in, waiting for my next parole date.  Like probably they're going to say no so I probably got to do my eight, nine months.  They said I'm looking at eight or nine months, and I'll be 18 in November, two months.

SARA:  So you're maybe going to     if you don't get out, how do you feel about the prospect of going from here to the big house?

WITNESS IL:  I don't really     I feel, you know, I feel sad, you know, 'cause they sort of helped me.  They sort of helped me, you know, telling me all the stuff inside.  Like when I was in here and they was telling me, "Oh, you're getting out next month so we're going to be doing this, we're going to be doing that.  You'll be seeing these people and you'll be doing that.  We'll be helping you.  We'll be giving you lifts to your family."  That's all     that's all a lie.

SARA:  Yeah.

WITNESS IL:  I had to get myself to appointments.  I had to walk all the way to my family's house.  My phone got broken so I had to go and get, like, they said     the day I got out they said they were going to get me a phone, but they didn't, so I had to wait for like nearly three weeks, maybe more, yeah.

SARA:  Yeah, and you had to do all of that by yourself, or maybe some help from people like Amanda, but      

WITNESS IL:  Yeah, just Amanda was helping me, that's all.

SARA:  That's all, hey.

WITNESS IL:  And the carers that I was living at, like, they were all, like, unorganised.  They didn't know     yeah, like, if I told them, "I got an appointment.  I got an appointment," they wouldn't believe me.  They'll just think, "Oh, he's trying to trick us so he can get a lift to this place here and that place there."  I said, "I got my parole officer on the phone," and then they'd speak to my parole officer and they knew.

SARA:  And when you were living at that house, was it just you, or were there other boys at that house, too?

WITNESS IL:  There were other boys, but they weren't there most of the time, yeah.

SARA:  Yeah.  Were they off, doing stuff?  Were they at school or      

WITNESS IL:  There was one little boy, he used to go to school every day.  There was another bloke     yeah, most of them, like, they were all good boys.

SARA:  Yeah, and did you feel all right in that house, like it was an okay place to live with those boys?

WITNESS IL:  Yeah, it was all right when I lived there, but the carers and the system, like, you know, like I'm not being racist or anything, but them African carers don't know how to speak English properly.  And I'd ask them or tell them something and they'd be, like, "Don't know how to speak English," so they'd go tell another African worker that does and they'll interpret.

SARA:  To interpret for them, yeah.


SARA:  And did they have any Aboriginal workers at that house.


SARA:  Yeah.  And have there ever been any caseworkers that you've had who have been Aboriginal people?

WITNESS IL:  No, I don't know.  I don't really remember.

SARA:  Yeah.  Yeah, it's been     because you've had so many probably.


SARA:  All right.  We might wind up.  Is there anything else that you want to say?

WITNESS IL:  Nuh, just I'm trusting you to help me and try and help me with this case, you know.  When I was younger I couldn't speak up, you know, 'cause a lot of people used to bring me down, tell me, you know, "Nobody's going to believe you."  And when I spoke to you guys and stuff, I'm starting to trust you now and this is probably my time to tell people my story and let them know what really happened behind doors and what really happened, you know, and what I need and what youths need in the future, young people, you know.  I'm not only doing this for me, I'm doing this for the youths of the future and stuff like that so they can have a good life.

SARA:  Yeah, and is that what you want for young people      


SARA:       that they have a good life?

WITNESS IL:  Yeah, 'cause my two sisters are still in care.

SARA:  Yeah.  Do you get to see them?

WITNESS IL:  No, not that much 'cause I'm trying to get out of the system.

SARA:  Yeah.  And are they in Darwin?

WITNESS IL:  Some of them are.

SARA:  Some, yeah.

WITNESS IL:  One of them is and one of them's in Alice.  But I haven't seen my dad in, like, I don't know, seven, eight years.  Never seen my mum in three, four years.  Never seen my family in two years in Alice there.

SARA:  And have you asked to see them?

WITNESS IL:  Yeah, I've asked a lot of times to go back to Alice so I can visit them  
face to face but they said, "Oh, nuh, we'll just get the mum (inaudible) like.  Culturally, you know, I got to see my family face to face, it's the healing, and I need to go back to my homeland to heal me, you know, fix me up.

SARA:  Yeah.

WITNESS IL:  My grandfather's getting sick.  He's in that hospital and I'm trying to tell these people but they don't, like, I don't know.  They tell me to be good, but I can't be     like I am being good but I got a lot of stress on my mind, thinking about my grandfather and my court and for the future and, yeah, and that's     that's all I want to say.

SARA:  Yeah, it's all (inaudible) okay.  All right.
Thanks [Witness IL].  I'm going to stop the recording now.



CHAIR:  Yes, Mr Crowley.

MR CROWLEY:  Thank you, Chair.  We're making good time.  Could I ask that we break now to resume at 1.30?  The next pre recorded statement that will be played is about an hour duration, and it will be appropriate to commence it when we resume after lunch.

CHAIR:  Yes, thank you, Mr Crowley.

We'll adjourn then to 1.30 Australian Eastern Standard Time when the next evidence will be presented.  Thank you.

ADJOURNED    [12.19 PM]

RESUMED    [1.30†pm]

CHAIR:  Yes, Mr Crowley.

MR CROWLEY:  Commissioners, this afternoon we will be hearing the pre recorded evidence of Audrey, a First Nations grandmother who is located in New South Wales and who is the kinship carer for her grandson Brandon.

Commissioners, a copy of the transcript of Audrey's pre recorded evidence is in  
Tender Bundle Part A at Tab 4.  I tender the pre recorded statement and ask that it be marked as Exhibit 16.4.

CHAIR:  That can be done.  I'm sorry, I called you Mr Crawley.  You are in fact Mr Crowley.  I apologise.


MR CROWLEY:  That's all right, Chair.

Can I just draw attention, Commissioners, to this statement, the evidence of Audrey and also of Brandon.  Both are the subject of the pseudonym direction which is CTH DNP 00099, which is in place in relation to their identities.

CHAIR:  Thank you.

MR CROWLEY:  In addition to the evidence of Audrey, Commissioners, the State of New South Wales has also provided a statement from Ms Tracey Stokoe, Executive Director --- District Director of the Illawarra Shoalhaven and Southern New South Wales District Department of Communities and Justice, together with 24 accompanying annexures that are referred in that statement concerning the evidence of Audrey and Brandon.

Commissioners, I will tender the statement and the annexures.  If the statement could be marked, please, Exhibit 16.5.


CHAIR:  Yes, thank you.

MR CROWLEY:  And if the annexures might be marked 16.5.1 through to 16.5.24.

CHAIR:  Yes, that can be done.  Those annexures will bear the exhibit numbers you have just referred to.


MR CROWLEY:  Thank you, Chair.  If we can have played, please, the pre recorded statement evidence of "Audrey".

CHAIR:  Yes, please go ahead.


MS TARRAGO:  Good morning, Aunty [Audrey].  Would you be able to tell us your name and a little bit about yourself.

AUNTY AUDREY:  My name is [Audrey].  As I said before, I'm a Djangadi woman from up North, up Kempsey.  I've lived in Wollongong all my life.  I have seven children, 39 grannies and 26 great grandchildren.  I've raised nine of them.  I've never had any problems     yeah, I have had problems with them, but no real problems with the DoCS or anything or anybody, you know.  My children, all of my great grandchildren     my grandchildren are all a great part of my life.

Yeah, with [Brandon], I'm the grandmother of him.

MS TARRAGO:  And can you tell me a little bit about [Brandon] as a person.  How do you describe him?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Lovely.  In saying that, he can be a little shit as well.

MS TARRAGO:  What kind of things does [Brandon] love?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Football.  Football.  Football.

MS TARRAGO:  Does he have a favourite team?

AUNTY AUDREY:  South Sydney.

MS TARRAGO:  Yes.  So can we talk a little bit about how [Brandon] came to you.

AUNTY AUDREY:  I've had him since he was 10 months old.  He's gone back to his mum, who is my daughter.  He's come back to me about a year and a half later, the whole four of them.  They just     DoCS just turned up on my doorstep.  What could I do?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Look, when he was little he had a hole in the heart.  He had to go and have an operation.  DoCS had already been involved with her side because she used to live over Berkeley, they was already involved, and I used to talk to my daughter about this all the time, you know, about doing the right thing.  But like I said, she's had an accident as well, she's had the same sort of accident as [Brandon] has.

So I always wanted to go and get them before any of the DoCS came into it, but I know that they would have went straight back because the police would have just  
come and got them.

But when he was 10 months old he came back to me because my daughter couldn't have him, only because she couldn't look after him at the time until he got better.

So I had him for about a year and then he went back to his mum and dad     to his mum, I should say, dad was out of the picture by now     but he went back to his mum and she     they've basically been about a year and a half maybe, I just forget, but maybe about a year and a half later I had one of me other grandchildren that just come and said, "Nan, I'm not going home."  What can you do, honestly?

So me and him was getting the shopping out of the back of the car and this big van pulls up and had the four kids, you know, what could I do?  Honestly, what can you do in a situation like this, especially when I'm a grandmother that'll take them.

MS TARRAGO:  And so [Brandon] and his siblings were the group of four that were brought to you?


MS TARRAGO:  And how long have you cared for [Brandon]?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Well, I had him from when he was 10 months old until he was about a year old.  So I've basically had him from when he was about 2 years old.

MS TARRAGO:  And how old is he now?


MS TARRAGO:  Aunty [Audrey], you've mentioned an accident.  Can you tell me a little bit about [Brandon]'s accident.

AUNTY AUDREY:  He went over to my daughter's one day.  My son said, "Is it all right if [Brandon] and [redacted] come for a walk with me mum?"  And I said, "Yeah.  No, that's all right.  Where you going?"  He said over to the sister's and I said, "Yeah, that's all right."  So, anyhow, he went to the shop with his cousin and, like I said, [Brandon], he     I don't know if it's suicidal or just a gesture to sort of get us to jump, you know, back then I'm talking about     but he got hit by a truck.  He should not be here.  By rights, he should be     he was chucked down the road under another truck probably, oh, God, quite a few metres anyhow.

So he was rushed to Sydney Hospital, Randwick.  He had his skull cut open to ease the swelling on his brain.  Yeah, what more could I tell you.  You know, he's recovered to look at, [Brandon].  You would not even think that he'd had an accident until you start getting talking to him.  You'd probably think that he is a bit slow.  Well he never used to be before the accident.  But he used to give me a little bit of grief even before that, but since the accident I think     and I'm afraid, I don't want  
to     I want to be here for him to see him     I keep telling him all the time, "You're 16 years old, you're a man," you know, "you're becoming a man."  I said, "You've got to"     and I'm the only one here.  He's got his pop that keeps coming here all the time and he's in touch with all of his family.  When they pull him up for going on to me and swearing at me and calling me names, then that sticks in his head.

[Brandon] is     look, if you met him, he's a lovely child, he really is.  It's all     I feel sometimes that it was all to no avail because [Brandon], you know, he's coming home earlier, keeps telling me that I can't tell him what to do.  Look, if he hadn't had the accident, I wouldn't be worried so much.

He's had the accident and that's when my problems sort of started.

MS TARRAGO:  How old was he when he had the accident?


MS TARRAGO:  And if we could just talk about his disability.  So before the accident you mentioned earlier that he had a diagnosis of ADHD?


MS TARRAGO:  How old was he when he got that diagnosis?


MS TARRAGO:  Aunty [Audrey], I wanted to ask you some questions about [Brandon] and school.  How has his experience at school been?

AUNTY AUDREY:  From when he started?


AUNTY AUDREY:  He's always had a problem because he can't handle a lot of people.  He's just got to have     even when we have our family dos at Christmas and things, you know, new years and that, birthdays, he always stands back, you know, he just [inaudible] get a feed, you know, he just     his cousins are pretty good with him because I've brought them up to be like that.

And in saying I've brought them up, they're not even my kids, you know, but I speak to them, I talk to them, you know, "He's had an accident, so even when I'm gone you're going to have to sort of keep an eye on him, you know," and they go, "We know, nan.  We know, nan."

I mean, you know, if he's doing anything stupid the girls     I've got about one, two, three, four, five of the grannies that are around his age that really understand and they just go, "[Brandon], you gotta stop that," or, "Come on now."  He used to climb  
up on the roof a lot.  But as for school, he has never had a very good experience with school.

MS TARRAGO:  And how was [Brandon] growing up?  Can you tell me a little bit about his journey.

AUNTY AUDREY:  Just about maybe two weeks ago, about 10 o'clock, he was in the room and he was trying to do something and I heard him go     do you mind if I speak frank?  He said     you could hear him in there, the frustration in him, and he's going, "Oh, [bleep], my brain," you know, "my [bleep] brain," you know.  I let it go for a little bit and I went in and I asked him how he was and what's happening and he just said, "I'll be right, nan.  I'll be right."

A lot of his frustration     look, he's got friends, they're acquaintances I'd say because nobody comes here, you know, nobody comes here to play with him with his games.  So I had to get the Internet on so he could have something to     because we're here, we're in lockdown, he's got nothing to do.  Before that he used to     it took me a long time to let him play football, to agree to let him play football after the accident.

It's taken a lot of me trying to teach him, trying to get it through to his head because you've got to remember I've got to repeat things, keep telling him, you know, the sort of people that he's going to be mixing with, you know, and to be aware.

MS TARRAGO:  And when did Department of Communities and Justice, so DCJ, when did they become involved?

AUNTY AUDREY:  When he was 2 years old, when they brought him back to me.

MS TARRAGO:  And have you had to deal with them up until now?

AUNTY AUDREY:  I was asked if I wanted to take guardianship of them a few years back.  At first I said, "Well, what's the good of that?  They're the age they are now," and my second answer to that was, "I don't believe in guardianship.  It takes away the child's identity."  It's already been taken off them, you know.

They've already been traumatised before any of this has ever happened, and not by the mother, my daughter was bloody, you know, she was an excellent mum, she just drank too much, you know.  But as for loving them, she never ever laid a hand on them.

Even at the hospital, I had to sign papers, you know, so where do any parent or grandparent in my position, where do they stand, literally, because these DoCS workers, they've got to be held to account of how they do take care of these kids, and just putting them into care and saying, "You're an employee now," you know, that's not right.  And they might come and take     put in a plan for them.  Plans never work, you know, because they don't really follow them up.  They've never ever helped me, they've never listened to me, you know, they might at the time and then  
they just go on and do their own thing.

This is my perception of DoCS:  They take children, they think that they're already in a traumatised environment.  But you know what, half of these kids that they do take, they're not in.  There might be a little bit of drink and there might be a little bit of this, but I tell you what, no way was my grandchildren in a traumatised environment with [redacted].

There's no way they was in a traumatised environment.  Because they were loved, they had food, yeah, they were looked after.  She might be a little bit, you know, how could I say it, yeah, she just drank too much, that's all she did, you know, and she's gotten punished for it, the kids have gotten punished for it, you know, yet they were never bashed, they were never abused.

I realise that DoCS have got a big thing on their books, you know, and they     but you know what, they don't listen to change.  When people talk about change, they don't want to bring change up because to me they're like, "I've got authority.  I can do this.  I can do that."

It's like as if you're just there, as they keep telling me, "I'm an employee."  That's all right, that doesn't mean I don't do the right thing by them, you know, and I think that DoCS has a right to do that too.

When things are taken out of your hand and you're doing your best for this kid     and I'm only talking of [Brandon] at the moment     you know, why belittle me like that?

[Brandon] camps.  There were camps in that set up, you know, from the NDIS service that I picked and I was so belittled by     I guess I could just say [Kelsey], or do I say DoCS in general, you know, because it was like as if I didn't matter.  It didn't matter what I signed.  It just     I felt so like I wasn't even here on this earth, that's how I felt, you know, and I'm not supposed to say anything about DoCS because I'm an employee of theirs.  But bugger them, you know, they do the wrong thing.  Why is that not recorded?  Why is that not answerable?

When they got parents like me, and even a grandparent and they know me then why don't they     the way she said it to me, you know, it's the way they do it to everybody, it's like as if they reduce you.  They try to reduce     well, they won't reduce me because I tell them straight anyhow     but they try to reduce you to nothing, you know.

I'm not nothing, you know, I try to do the best for     especially [Brandon].  All the rest say, "[Brandon]'s spoilt," and I say, "I know he is," but what can I do, but that doesn't take away my love for them, and that's what they tried to do with me once, you know.  "Well, you know [Brandon]'s the only one that you're supposed to think of or do things for," and I said, "Uh uh, uh uh, uh uh," I said, "I can't do that.  I've got other kids, other grandkids that I've got to sort of look after as well," and I'm a  
big part of that.

MS TARRAGO:  Aunt, do you feel that DoCS respect your position 


MS TARRAGO:     In the family?

AUNTY AUDREY:  No.  No.  No.  No.  No.  They'll tell you, they'll tell me to my face, I'm the matriarch and I do a good job, you know, but you know what, I do not feel respected from them.  And I dare say that there's a lot of grandparents     and I'll say grandparents because this is the position I'm in at the moment     a lot of grandparents, the ones that are there, the ones that do it, you know, the ones that stick it out, you know, when he turns 18 and they come to them when they're, you know, 12 and tell them that they've got rights, "Oh, you've got a right to get up and walk out if you don't like it."  Well, gee whiz, kids     I never used to like it when my mum and dad did it.  But you know what, the best place for them is to stay where they are, especially when they're looked after and they're loved.  But, no, to answer that question, never ever felt respected by DoCS.

MS TARRAGO:  So does [Kelsey] work for DoCS?


MS TARRAGO:  Is [Kelsey] [Brandon]'s case officer?


MS TARRAGO:  And what sort of supports have they given you over the years?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Look, the things that I've asked for, like they've never carried through on.  When I had a breakdown a few months back I was asking them and asking them and asking them, you know, to get somebody.  For years I've been asking them to get me an Aboriginal     if they could find me an Aboriginal organisation that could sort of do things for [Brandon].

Everything you ask them, they do the opposite.  I asked for a male mentor for him.  I keep getting women.  She's got to be a very special sort of woman to be able to handle or talk to [Brandon] and get him on her side.  If he doesn't like you, he'll tell you.

For the long time care we had workers that come here with one of our     and the thing is they keep having people come in and out of their lives which is when your autistic even just slightly, that's a no no.  [Brandon] already gets anxiety attacks before we     before anything.

MS TARRAGO:  So you've been asking for supports and you've asked for     there's  
a word they call respite to support you.

AUNTY AUDREY:  Yeah, they got me that.  They got me the respite.

MS TARRAGO:  How long was that?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Well, it's only about     look, he stopped that about a year ago and then he said to me, "Nan, I would like to go back to respite."  When they go to respite, they take [Brandon]     I got him respite back.  Now he's back to     because he's 16, you've got to remember     but when they take him to respite they never     there was no one else there.  It was just him and the workers, or the worker.

So I said to him, "Why don't you want to go to respite?" And he said, "Because I don't do nothing, nan."  They don't take him out, they don't take him even just for bushwalks.  That costs nothing.  I give him money every time he goes to respite.  If I can't afford 100, I give him 50.  I always maintain that I give him 50, you know, because at least he's got something to sort of     his first respite, his first carer that he used to have, or mentor, he was good.  He was with him for a long time and then he stopped.

But as for respite, that's actually stopped because he doesn't do nothing.  He literally doesn't     and I've been asking DoCS     and this is long before now, you know, "Can you get him somewhere where he might go on     mix with other like minded kids and you've got people there that knows how to handle them," because like I said, he's not like he used to be where he used to be strong, never used to be scared.  He used to     and that's even other kids, you know     but since the accident he's a bit reserved, he'll stand back, he'll take notice, but it doesn't sink in properly, and I know him.

I mean I could read him like the back of me hand, you know.  He's a very scared little fella, you know.

MS TARRAGO:  And have you ever worked with a First Nations person within the DoCS office?

AUNTY AUDREY:  No, only had one, and they moved her on.  This is what they do wrong too.  Maybe     I don't know how much youse can do but maybe it's something that youse can mention     is stop moving the case workers on when they feel that they're getting too familiar with that family.  That's what it's all about, is to know the family.

MS TARRAGO:  How many case workers has [Brandon] had?

AUNTY AUDREY:  I've lost count.  I seriously have lost count.

I think what it is is the caseworker becomes familiar with the family and they know that     they can see that I don't     I'm a good nanny, you know, and I'll say that  
about myself, I am a good grandmother.  And when they start becoming too familiar with the family, then they move them on, and that's all I can say about that.

There's not much more I can say about that, and then you just have to put up with whoever comes along next and get to know them, and things like that, you know, it's not just [Brandon] that's got to get to know them, it's the whole family, me and     because my household is my kids come and go, my grandkids come and go.  I've raised nine of my grandchildren and they still come and go.  My house is an open house to them, you know, they walk in, they walk to the fridge.  They don't even say, "Nan, can I get a drink," you know.

MS TARRAGO:  And have you found that DoCS have acted culturally appropriately towards you?

AUNTY AUDREY:  No, never have.

MS TARRAGO:  What sort of things are culturally inappropriate?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Okay.  When they walk in, you don't just walk in up     they've tried to do it a couple of times, not just the ones I've got now     but over the years they've walked in and they've thought it was all right to walk straight up into the room.  And I said, "Hey, hey, hey, pull back there," you know.  I said, "You don't do that.  You don't just walk into my house and walk straight up into the room," you know, "just to see the kids.  If you want them, I'll go and get them, or if you ask me can you go in there I'll say yes or no," but I won't do that unless I've known them for a while and see what they're really like.

Because DoCS, they don't     how can I     it's really hard to sort of put into words.  They don't have respect for anybody else outside of themselves and what they're doing, and they'll always use the department.  They do this and they do that for the department.  The department, as I said before, the Minister for Child Protection, he should be protecting them.  Half the time he's not because he doesn't know what's going on.

MS TARRAGO:  After the accident you mentioned that [Brandon]'s been given an NDIS package.


MS TARRAGO:  When did you get that?

AUNTY AUDREY:  About a year ago.

MS TARRAGO:  And did you get help to get the NDIS package?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Yeah, [redacted] from long time care     like I say, I don't know what it really is but it's long time care to me     she's the one that works for  
Randwick Hospital.  She helped get that, most of that through.  In saying a lot of that, but since [Kelsey]ís sort of come in to work with the other [redacted], [redacted], it's like as if a lot of things have stopped in the sense of trying to help him.

I told them that.  You know what, nothing's been done.  Nothing.  Nothing has been done.  What I do get scared of is I don't want [Brandon] to be taken from me because he's in a loving environment     the little shit he is     but he's in a loving environment.  But you know what they do with them kids when they take them from their parents and they just take them     they put them into refuges, you know, tell me where the sense is in that, unless they're in a lot of danger.

MS TARRAGO:  Yes, and just going back to the NDIS package, so you mentioned Debbie had helped you.  What was in the package?  Do you remember how much it was all worth?

AUNTY AUDREY:  75,600 and so many cents.

MS TARRAGO:  And what kind of things were included?  What supports?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Cultural things.  Well, when Craig got me to sign these papers, and I read it, there was camping, mentoring.

Craig got him this mentor.  Since he started coming to see [Brandon] his respect for me has changed, as well as slowing down with everybody else.  I can't say any more than that.  He's just, you know, Paul just changing his attitude about things, you know

MS TARRAGO:  So is Paul a First Nations man?


MS TARRAGO:  And why is it so important for [Brandon] to have a First Nations man mentoring a young man?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Okay.  We've had males and even females that's tried, but we've had males     for him it's important to me because culturally they know how to speak to them, and if you've got a mentor who has got to know this sort of thing which was what Paul      I'll give you a little example.

I started telling you before, when the boys come home one day, [Brandon] and [redacted], Paul was already here and he was inside here, talking to me, and [Brandon]'s walked in and he's gone, "Hell, no, I'm not effin' going anywhere with you today.  I'm not going anywhere."  That was all right.  Paul goes, "That's all right, bud.  That's all right.  I'll sit here and talk to your nan."

Now, that day, there was [Brandon] and [redacted]     I had about six or seven other boys walked in with them from school that day.  They all went in the kitchen, they  
was all getting a drink, they was all blah blah blah and they was frenzied about something that happened at school.  I don't know if it was some girl they were going on, but they was really     you know how they'd just get frenzied, then they'd all laugh and joke, and things like that.

Paul just sat there and [Brandon] was out there with them and mixing in with them and they was all talking     I think it was something that happened at school anyhow     and [Brandon] goes     Paul was just sitting there and then he'd sort of ask a question every now and again, and if you know what I mean them being frenzied about something, it's like no one else can get in, you know, it's just them.

Paul, by the     anyhow, by the end of the situation here, Paul had them all out here in my lounge, all talking to him, telling him what happened and things like that and [Brandon]'s even got up and went with him, it wasn't very long 'cause [Brandon] said, "I'm not going to go for very long," you know, and he didn't push anything, you know.

What more can I say about that part of it?  To me, and I think I've seen the results by [Brandon] having a cultural     somebody cultural with him, how much more he's come down, how much more respect he shows, how much more he's willing to get in and do something, and this is what it's all about, isn't it, you know, getting these kids to participate in things.

MS TARRAGO:  And how important is culture to [Brandon]'s wellbeing?

AUNTY AUDREY:  For me, I think it's     what more can I say, you know, I see the cultural side of things, you know, and I hate saying this, but I've grown up in a      all us black fellas, we've all grown up in a white society, you know, and we're supposed to live like that.  But at the end of the day we are who we are.  I'm Aboriginal.  There's no sitting on the fence, there's no deciding what I'm going to be today because I am a little bit fair, you know, but I don't sit on a fence.  I'm Aboriginal right from the word go, my parents were Aboriginal and for me to deny my aboriginality is for me to deny my parents.

MS TARRAGO:  So if you were explaining it to non indigenous people that didn't understand, how important is identity for Aboriginal people?

AUNTY AUDREY:  To me that's a silly question, okay, because you've just got to look at us Aboriginals, you know, look at how happy we are, and we have      basically we have nothing.  We are treated the way we are treated, yet we can still smile and get on and have fun within ourselves, you know, and that might sound a bit stupid to you, I don't know about the rest of them, but to me that's, you know, you walk into a place, you know, I see kids at a take and that walks in somewhere and you know that they're Aboriginal, yet they stand back, you know, because they've never been     they've never known how to act.  I don't know how much more I can explain that.  Being Aboriginal is everything to me, to a lot of Aboriginals, it's everything.  It's a part of belonging.

MS TARRAGO:  Yes.  No, and I appreciate they probably sound like silly questions, Aunty [Audrey], and I think that's why it's so important to hear from you about why it's so linked to who you are so that people who don't understand will hear your words.  So it is 

AUNTY AUDREY:  It is a part of belonging, you know that you belong somewhere, you know, these kids that are taken, you know     can I just say this:  For a white kid to be taken, they haven't got issues because they're white, so they're accepted straightaway.  For a black kid to be taken, they've got to learn to fit in.

MS TARRAGO:  Can you tell me a little bit more about what it means being a grandmother, particularly the cultural side of what a grandmother in an Aboriginal community is.

AUNTY AUDREY:  What I'm doing.  What I'm doing, you know, you take care of your kids as best you can, you know.  I've had     [Brandon]'s been my biggest, this is from when he was a baby when he had     like he was diagnosed with ADHD when he started school.

They say to me, like one of me grandchildren, one of me boys, [redacted], he says, "All my dad was was a sperm donor," you know.  [Redacted], after he said it to me probably about a year, maybe two years ago, he said, "You know, nan," he said, "I'm glad that we got to stay with you because I know all of me cousins, I know all me aunties and uncles and we can go to dos," and he knows them all, do you know what I mean?  So that, to me, that said it, you know.

MS TARRAGO:  Now I just wanted to take you back to the NDIS package and you said earlier that some of the services aren't being provided at the moment.  Can you explain what's not being provided.

AUNTY AUDREY:  Mentoring, for a start, because it was stopped.  Gyms, because he's very weak in both a leg and an arm from this accident.  Yeah, just someone to come down and, look, when he knew that Paul wasn't coming anymore     and I don't know if this is appropriate to what you're asking me     but when he knew Paul wasn't coming down anymore, oh, the carrying on here he had, and it was Paul, he wanted to see Paul, and you know there's nothing going on there because Paul's just a good, bloody     look, he's into sport, you know.  [Brandon]'s even rang up      Paul even had him talking to one of the Fifita brothers, the one that plays for Canberra, you know, he's just into sport.

Look, I don't know what it is, but it's not just Paul that's related to him, it's Craig, Craig has related to him too but he thinks more of Paul, I think because Paul is the one that's there, you know, because Craig's got a thing that he's got to run.  So he comes down     he was coming down every so often, and this was all written into the NDIS package.  I should have gotten that package to have a look at it and tell youse what it was all about.

But everything about this meeting is [Brandon] has     the only thing that's ever been done for him since this NDIS came in is this computer has been bought and they bought that because we needed it for this meeting.  But nothing     we had a meeting, sorry, we had a meeting in at the community centre and we met this fella by the name of Calvin and he     I liked him.  I told him all about Craig, but this was later on, after the meeting.

At the meeting, you could cut a knife through because I told [Kelsey] straight, I don't like her, I think she's a backstabber when she didn't even consider      and I told her and Craig, "This has nothing to do with youse.  This is supposed to be what's been the best for [Brandon].  He's got the money and nothing's been done," you know.  But it's a situation where caseworkers have got to learn it's not just a matter of having that authority to be able to do what you're doing or, you know, I can come in and just stop something or take you, you know.

Hell, I went through that with my daughter, you know.  She had to stay in the hospital.  I brought her home.  The day I brought her home because I was only 15     but the day I brought her home, I was nearly 16 actually     the day I brought her home, the welfare was there, right there on the mish, you know, and anyhow, we all sort of started panicking, you know, and my mum     my daughter would have been a taken child as a baby, you know, but my mum, it was ë69, my mum said to them, "You know what, youse put your foot inside my doorstep," and she said, "and I guarantee you one of youse will die," you know.

She had the knife but she did ask them, "What are youse doing here?" And Mr Dawn has gone, "Oh, we just come to get the baby."  And mum says, "Why?" And they said, "Because she"     meaning me     "won't be able to take care of it."  Yet I seen something up on      you know what, back in the day, and even now, they think black fellas can't take care of their kids, yet they take them and they've got to be babysitters for them.

MS TARRAGO:  So many generations of this happening, is what you're saying, Aunt?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Yep, and still happening.

You know, I used to run from them when I was little and hide.  Mum and dad would tell me to run, you know, we all used to run over the sandhills and we'd have to lay down, you know, if you could be a thin piece of stick, that's how we were, you know, we used to     if we couldn't run up around there, we'd run under the house, hide under the house and hide behind those little pillars, you know, we'd run to the furthest end under the house and hide behind those pillars that they have the house standing on.

So, you know, I know what trauma is.  I know what, you know, how     and what right have they got to take away anybody's liberties, you know, and especially when  
you're a grandmother like me.  They come, they see me, they know me.  I don't drink, I don't smoke, you know.  I won't say I don't drink, but I have a nip here and there, but I've never drank.

MS TARRAGO:  And can I ask do you know why Paul stopped coming?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Because there was     the NDIS was stopped.  I read the agreement and I signed them all, they were sent to DoCS and that's when it was, "Well, you know that [Brandon]'s still in the Minister's care and this isn't going to happen."

, and when they stopped, Paul     oh, you know, I've got to deal, this is what I said when she said, "Oh, he's still a part of the Minister, he's still under the Minister's care," and I said, "Oh, so the Minister doesn't take care of him, the Minister doesn't put up with all the bullshit from him, the Minister doesn't come to see him to see how he's going."  I said, "The Minister doesn't have to sign papers and things for him."

MS TARRAGO:  So DoCS stopped it from happening?


The funny thing is that the day that [Kelsey] rang me up and said that she was the new caseworker and she was coming out on this day, it was already arranged for Craig to come down and would make some arrangement.  Now you've got to remember Craig was doing all of this without pay to start off with and it took me three months to get in touch with him because I had a breakdown.  I was coming to a breakdown because     this is how frustrating it is, I've got to keep repeating meself.  DoCS has never helped me in, you know, they come and they ask you the questions but nothing ever really gets done.

Well, it was all about [Brandon] and what we could do for [Brandon] and, like I said, everything that we tried to get going for [Brandon], it's like it doesn't go anywhere because of all this DoCS business.  You know, DoCS have got to look at things, they've got to see the real side of things, they've got to     can I have a 3 or 4 minute break, please?

Because I'm starting to get a bit frustrated about what DoCS haven't done, you know, to me, "You should be hearing me out.  You should see how [Brandon] is."  He hasn't had ongoing rehabilitation for his legs and arms.  Mind you, he mucks up a little bit but, you know, this all comes within the accident business side of things, you know, nothing has been done for him except for that he goes to see Dr Evans, you know, and [Brandon] keeps saying he doesn't want to go and see him because it's always the same thing:  Weight, height, you know, how good he's doing and things like this.

There's been nothing done by DoCS, you know, really and truly down the road they might, certain things might, but I've been asking for help, you know, "Get me a  
cultural side of things" so as [Brandon] can have a bit of understanding of his culture.  He doesn't really mix     he knows a lot of black fellas, don't get me wrong, you know     but his behaviour dictated that a lot too, I think.  He knows a lot of people, black and white, but like I said, a lot of his behaviour dictated a lot of that, getting to know him and who he is and what he does, you know.

MS TARRAGO:  And what do you hope for the future for [Brandon]?

AUNTY AUDREY:  All I want for [Brandon] is to be able to socialise in the future, to be able to calm down, to be able to talk to people, to be able to apprehend what's being said so that he can make a conversation back.  That's all I want for [Brandon].

For him to be able to     and I've always maintained this, even years before he had the accident and thing     I want him to be able to socialise in life.  I want him     you know I even asked him about going into the Paralympics but, you know what, he won't be able to do that because his anger is so     and his anger comes up because if there's too many people there then he starts panicking.

But all I want for him is to be able to socialise, to be able to talk to people, to be able to look after himself.  None of the basics have been     I said to him the other day, "You know you"     because I've always said, "you're going to have to come out here and learn how to cook," you know.  [Brandon] said, "I already do," and I said, "Well, no, you don't."  I said, "You don't even know how to put a bloody egg on to boil," you know, so I said, "You've got to     these are the things you've got to learn," and I've always     put it this way, it's not trying to learn because all the rest of my kids and my grannies, they all know how to cook because they watch me, you know.

In [Brandon]'s case, he feels that he can put things on in the microwave and thing, but I just want him to be able to socialise.  That's my basic     I just want him to be able to socialise and to be able to talk to people and to be able to understand what they're saying to him.

You know, when he was at school and he said, "School's not for me, nan.  School's not for me."  That's fair enough, that's fair enough because it's not for everybody, you know, but in saying that I told him, "It helps you make friends," you know.

I don't know what more I could possibly say, but what I want the department to understand is when they take these children, whether they're in a good frame of mind or a bad frame of mind, when they take these kids, it's not what they think, and they've got to try and help the situation, whatever it was before the kids were taken, okay, they've got to try and help that situation first.  Not just take them off, put them in somebody's care and leave them.  That can't be.

You've got to, before they start growing up, because you've got to remember they grow up and they end up going back to their parents, but in a bad manner, you know, they go back thinking that     they've got to punish their parents for something, for them being taken, and they've got to also start understanding, they've got to look at  
the situation and try and deal with that situation in a positive manner, not just take the kids and they're palmed off to somebody.  They've got to try and get them back with their parents because this is where a lot of the behavioural problems start, is because they don't know themselves, and then you take that away by putting them into guardianship.

MS TARRAGO:  Yes, thanks.  I understand that, Aunt.  So my last question is if you could make a recommendation to the Royal Commission, what would it be?

AUNTY AUDREY:  To take a real good look at the situation before youse take these kids, whether they be black or white, and I know I shouldn't     I'm only here to talk about [Brandon]     but whether they're black or white you've really got to take a look at the situation and think is it     because I've dealt with a few DoCS workers and when they don't like a situation their mindset is fixated on what they want, not what they want for the better of the kids.

Just taking kids isn't bettering their lives, you know.  Trying to work with them and their parents or grandparents, that will better their lives and at least they will get a better sense of self by knowing things have been tried.


MR CROWLEY:  Chair, that completes the recording of Aunty Audrey's statement.  Could I ask, Chair, if we could have a short break for about 10 minutes before we commence the next pre recorded statement of Brandon?  That goes for about 45 minutes.

CHAIR:  Brandon is Aunt Audrey's grandson?

MR CROWLEY:  That's so.

CHAIR:  I wonder if you could help me, because I'm not really very clear about what you're going to ask the Commissioners to do with the evidence that we have heard.  I rather gathered from your opening that you don't propose to ask the Commissioners to make findings about at least some of the case studies that will be the subject of evidence and I assume that includes Brandon's case.


CHAIR:  I have read the statement of Ms Stokoe which you have tendered in evidence.  It's clear from that statement that DoCS has a different perception of some matters than Aunt Audrey.  I'm not casting any doubt upon her evidence, but we have different perceptions of the situation.

There are also a whole series of questions that occur to me about the formal position.   
I infer from Ms Stokoe's evidence that at some stage, an order has been made that Brandon be placed in the care and the control of the Minister by reason of a determination, I assume, that he was in need of care and protection.  I don't know whether we are going to be provided with material that explains why such an order was made and whether there were any relevant circumstances associated with it.

Ms Stokoe's statement basically goes to the NDIS situation and her statement accords with what Aunt Audrey said, namely that of the $70,000 allocated, $1,500 has been spent, and I rather gather from Ms Stokoe's evidence that there's been a series of issues with the proposed manager and a substitute for the proposed manager.

What I'm not clear about, and maybe this is something you have to think about, is what are we to do with the evidence if we're not invited and cannot make findings about what has actually transpired in Brandon's case.  I'm not quite clear on the material that I've seen so far, what formal orders, if any, have been made for Brandon's out of home care.  I appreciate that he's in the care and custody of the Minister until the age of 18, but I presume at some stage there must have been some directions or orders made in relation to out of home care.

There's another element, apparently, that Brandon receives support from iCare and has for some time arising out of the accident in 2014.  I presume that is part of the provision of services under a no fault scheme, although perhaps it's got something to do with an action brought on his behalf for whoever was responsible for the accident.  I simply don't know.

These are queries I've got.  I understand the force of the evidence that Aunt Audrey is giving but if that evidence is to be divorced from any findings, I wonder what it is you're going to ask us to do with that.  You don't have to answer that now but I would appreciate some assistance on that in due course    


CHAIR:      and it may be that Ms Furness has something to say about this as well.


CHAIR:  All right.  Unless Ms Furness wants to say something right now, I don't require her to do so, we'll adjourn for --- it's now just after 2.30 Australian Eastern Standard Time, we'll resume at 2.45 for Brandon's evidence to be adduced in the same way.

MR CROWLEY:  Yes.  Thank you, Chair.

ADJOURNED    [2.32†PM]

RESUMED    [2.47†pm]

CHAIR:  Yes, Mr Crowley.

MR CROWLEY:  Thank you, Chair.  We'll now continue this afternoon with the pre recorded statement of Brandon.  A copy of the transcript of Brandon's pre recorded evidence is in the Tender Bundle A at tab 5.  I tender that pre recorded statement and ask that it be marked as Exhibit 16.4, Chair.

CHAIR:  Yes, that statement may be admitted and will be given the marking of Exhibit 16.4.  Thank you.


MR CROWLEY:  There are some documents that accompany that which are in relation to a statement produced by the National Disability Insurance Agency.  Those documents, Commissioners, are in the Tender Bundle A at Tabs 6 to 23.  I tender that material and ask that it be marked as Exhibit 16.4.1 through to 16.4.18, please.

CHAIR:  Yes, that can be done.  Thank you.


MR CROWLEY:  If we could now have, please, the pre recorded statement of Brandon played.

MS FURNESS:  Excuse me, Chair, before that occurs, Chair, you indicated that you may seek some submissions from us in relation to the matters that arose before the break.  I would wish to make some submissions in respect of those matters but perhaps it would be most conveniently done at the end of the day.

CHAIR:  I didn't actually ask for submissions, I just asked Mr Crowley to clarify what he is suggesting we do with the material as far as the Commission is concerned.  You will obviously have the opportunity to make submissions that are appropriate in regard to what Mr Crowley advises as to his proposals that he would put to the Commissioners, but I wouldn't regard that just at this stage of submissions.  We can work out where we go with any submissions.

MS FURNESS:  I'm sorry, Chair, I understood from the transcript that you indicated you would call upon me, but not necessarily ---

CHAIR:  I just wanted to see if you had anything to add to the interchange between myself and Mr Crowley.

MS FURNESS:  I do, thank you.

CHAIR:  All right, if you want to say something, please do.

MS FURNESS:  I'm happy to do it at the end of the day and not interrupt the evidence.

CHAIR:  We'll do it at the end of the day.  Just remind me in case I flee from the room having regard to the time of week.  Yes, Mr Crowley.

MR CROWLEY:  If we could have the statement of Brandon now played, please.


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Okay, we're ready to start, I think.  So it's 9th of September 2021 and I'm having a chat here with [Brandon], [Brandon], and his nan, Aunty [Audrey].  Now the recording's on so each of you now, if you want to just say hello and just tell us who you are.  Let's start with you 

AUNTY AUDREY:  Who are we going to start with?

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, let's start with you, Aunty [Audrey].

AUNTY AUDREY:  My name's [Audrey].  I'm [Brandon]ís grandmother.  I've had him since he was about 2 years old.  I had him since he was 10 months old to start with and then I had him after that and then he went back to his mum, and then he come back with his siblings, they brought him to me.  I have been with him since day one and been with him through all of his accident which brought him to this point, but may I say that I have felt that I have never ever got real help for him over the years.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah.  Thanks, Aunty.  And [Brandon], do you want to say hello for us?

BRANDON:  Hi, I'm [Brandon].  I used to play football a couple of years back and just stopped playing because     just because of COVID.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Thanks, [Brandon].

BRANDON:  And, yeah, that's it really.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  All right.  Well, [Brandon], I've got some questions that I wanted to ask you and just have a chat to you.  So I've got a few things that I'd like to talk to you about so if you can tell me as best as you can about some of the things I ask that'll be great, okay?


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  So your nan was just saying there that you live with her.  Just tell us what it's like, if you could, what's it like living with nan?

BRANDON:  Well, it's all right.  I get woke up early every morning, which I don't really like.


BRANDON:  I don't     she gets me to take me tablets every morning.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  That's part of every day?

BRANDON:  Yeah.  And she mostly gets me to really, like, clean up the house, like take out the rubbish and everything most of the time     not all the time but most sometimes.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah.  Okay, so they're some of the jobs you do at home.


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  What about the things that are good about living with nan, what sort of things do you like about living with nan?

BRANDON:  That I get to eat.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, is she a good cook?


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah.  What's your favourite thing that she makes?

BRANDON:  Probably the pasta.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah.  What else is good about living with nan?

BRANDON:  I don't know, probably 

AUNTY AUDREY:  That you're looked after.

BRANDON:  Yeah, that I'm looked after, yeah.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah.  Yeah, she looks after you at home.



AUNTY AUDREY:  You gotta tell them, lovey, that it's not always like that, we have our ups and downs.

BRANDON:  What do you mean?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Like this morning, we had our little bit of an argument.

BRANDON:  Yeah, I know that.

AUNTY AUDREY:  Yeah.  Well, you gotta tell them, you know


AUNTY AUDREY:     Everything's not peaches, you know.

BRANDON:  Yeah I know this, everythingís just hell, for me, anyway?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Well that's what you've got to tell them.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Well, let me ask you some more questions, [Brandon].

AUNTY AUDREY:  Sorry     sorry.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  You're right, and as we go you can tell me whatever you think comes to mind, okay?  I didn't ask you before, how old are you [Brandon]?

BRANDON:  I'm 16, turning 17 in three to four months.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Okay.  Okay, so 17 next birthday?


AUNTY AUDREY:  (Inaudible)

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Oh, yeah.  And what about at home there, who else lives at home with you and nan?

BRANDON:  That's it actually, just me and nan.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  You two.  That's why you have to do all the chores.


AUNTY AUDREY:  Okay, you can talk now.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  So, [Brandon], are you going to school at the moment?

BRANDON:  No, I was going to school and I ended up stopping because I was trying to get a job, and then when I tried     when I went down to go look for a job they said that I had to be at school and have my white card and everything.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  What sort of job were you looking for?

BRANDON:  Well, I want, like, a scaffolding kind of job.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah.  You like going up high?

BRANDON:  Yeah, I like building things up high and all that.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And what do you have to do to get your white card?

BRANDON:  I'm not really sure about that really.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Do you know who you can do that through, or where you've got to go to get that?

BRANDON:  Well, they said to me I have to go to my GP, and all that.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah.  And is that one of the things you're looking to do, get your white card?

BRANDON:  Yeah, 'cause I really want the scaffolding job.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And what about school, how did you like it at school?  Was it good?

BRANDON:  Yeah, it was all right.  It could be a bit of a pain sometimes.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, what was painful about it, apart from the school work?

BRANDON:  Friggin' mostly the teachers, like telling me what to do really.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And what was your favourite subject at school, did you have one?

BRANDON:  Maths.



LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  That was not my favourite subject.

AUNTY AUDREY:  Could we just have a second?  Could we just have a second?


AUNTY AUDREY:  I won't let them see.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Are you okay?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Yeah, just give us a second.


(Aunty [Audrey] talks to [Brandon] in private.)

BRANDON:  Yeah, if you want.

AUNTY AUDREY:  I think it'd help a lot, I really do, but it's up to you if you want to do it or not, okay?



BRANDON:  Well, and with school, like, I was trying to get my white card, but then when I --- but then I ended up getting --- one day I was during the year I ended up getting into a fight with four people in the one day, and then I ended up getting expelled.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And when you were trying to get the white card, that was something you could do at school, was it?

BRANDON:  Yeah.  But by the time I was going to get the white card I already got expelled.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  What about since that time, have you thought about whether you would go back to school, or do you want to go back to school?

BRANDON:  Like, I do want to go back to school, I do, but like I just don't  
really     I don't always wake up early before the bell goes.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah.  And what about when you were at school, [Brandon], was it hard there at school?

BRANDON:  Like, it was sometimes, but not all the time.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And did you have anyone helping you there at the school, apart from the teachers?

BRANDON:  My brother was helping me sometimes, when he was down in my classroom.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  If you could go back to school, what do you think would be good that would help you so you could do your school?

BRANDON:  Probably, like, I don't know, 'cause I like --- I like going outside all the time 'cause I can't, like me personally, I can't stay in a room for so long without moving.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, fair enough.

BRANDON:  So probably the easiest     the easiest way for probably me to learn is probably by making the classroom and the outside, like, a learning session or something.


AUNTY AUDREY:  Yeah, he did     look, if I can intervene?


AUNTY AUDREY:  He did have somebody that was there with him, he had it all through primary school and then the minute he started high school he had somebody there with him and then everything just went haywire when they couldn't get somebody to work with him.

There was a lot going on and there was one particular     they put a teacher in the room that basically was not experienced in any of     they made her the head of that class, that special class, and when she wasn't     had no experience with kids like this and she was one of these people that was a     the kids have to perform, if you know what I mean, to do good.  Yeah, she     yeah, look, there was a lot going on.  We won't go into it if you don't want us to.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  No, that's fine.

AUNTY AUDREY:  But [Brandon] just     look, and then the thing is she was there  
all the time and when the headmaster tried to better things, but she was there all the time and her and [Brandon] just clashed because she didn't really understand that he needed     he needed timeout and things like that.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, okay.  And, [Brandon], I was talking to you before about [Kelsey], your caseworker.  Do you ever talk to [Kelsey] about wanting to go back to school or how you might be able to go back to do school?

BRANDON:  No, I don't really talk to [Kelsey] that much anymore.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  What about talking to her about getting a job and going for your white card?

AUNTY AUDREY:  I told you to be honest about [Kelsey].  I told you to be honest.

BRANDON:  I would talk to her about getting

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Can you talk to her about those things at all?


BRANDON:  Like, I can, but I don't really like her in the manner of, I don't know, like talking to her that way.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, not comfortable?

BRANDON:  Yeah, I ain't comfortable with talking to her very much.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And why do you think that is, [Brandon]?

BRANDON:  I don't really know, to be honest.  Probably because I     I, I don't know.  Like, me and her have clashed a couple of times, I can admit that, like in the swearing way, not like clashed clashed.  Like I have swore at her a couple of times, I can admit that and, like, I have told her to leave me alone a couple of times as well but she hasn't done that either.  I don't really, like, I don't really know, to be honest with you.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, all right.  Well, let me ask you this, [Brandon]:  Do you think it would make a difference or it would be easier for you to talk to someone like that if it was a man instead of a woman?

BRANDON:  Yeah, it probably would help me, actually.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And what about if you had an Aboriginal caseworker?

BRANDON:  Yeah, that would make it more easier.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Why do you think that would be easier?

BRANDON:  Probably because they would, like, understand me more.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Do you think it might be a bit better understanding between you?


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And do you think you would feel more comfortable with that sort of situation?

BRANDON:  Yeah, I would.  I would feel way more comfortable.

AUNTY AUDREY:  Why don't you say what happened with Paul and everything too and Uncle Craig and what happened there.

BRANDON:  For god's sake.

AUNTY AUDREY:  This is what it's all about, my boy.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  You're right, [Brandon].  Just take a moment.

I want to ask you some more things, [Brandon].  We've been talking about school and that sort of stuff, but we sort of jumped ahead because remember I asked you before who else lives at the home there.  I didn't ask you yet more about whether you got any brothers and sisters.  You got brothers and sisters?

BRANDON:  Yeah, I have two sisters and two brothers.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And who's the oldest?

BRANDON:  [Redacted], the oldest brother.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, and where are you in the family, amongst your brothers and

BRANDON:  It goes [redacted], and then there's my oldest sister, then there's my other older brother and then there's me and then there's my youngest sister.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Right, okay.  So you're not the youngest, but you're at the other end.

AUNTY AUDREY:  You're the fourth.

BRANDON:  Yeah, I'm the fourth one.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, okay.  And what about the rest of your family, who else is there in the rest of your family?

BRANDON:  There's my mum, not really dad 'cause I don't really talk to him anymore.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah.  What sort of contact do you have?

BRANDON:  With dad.


BRANDON:  I don't really talk to him whatsoever really.  I haven't talked to him in a long time.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Okay.  And with mum?

BRANDON:  Well, like, I don't     I do talk to her a lot but she doesn't really listen to me though.  She mostly just friggin' raves on to me other brother, the oldest one.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, okay.  Do you listen to her?

BRANDON:  Yeah, sometimes.

AUNTY AUDREY:  About as much as he listens to me.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, I was going to say what about nan, do you listen to nan?



BRANDON:  Sometimes.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, well that's probably a good thing.  Okay, let me ask you about other people.  What about cousins and uncles and aunts, do you have much     do you see them much?

BRANDON:  I see them a lot, actually.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah?  Is that good?


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah?  What do you think's good about seeing the rest of the family like that?
BRANDON:  That it's mostly a fun     we have fun.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  What sort of things do you do?

BRANDON:  Like, we play football, we friggin' go places.  Friggin', I don't know, jump on the trampoline.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, okay.  It sounds fun.

AUNTY AUDREY:  He's not a real talker, but he's doing well.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  He's doing a great job.  He's doing really well.  Okay, [Brandon], I want to ask you some more things then about the sort of things that you get up to and what you like to do.  You talked before about you used to play football.  Tell us about that, when did you use to play footy?

BRANDON:  Well, I played football for a long time.  I played it since I was how old nan?


BRANDON:  Just since I was 5, and I've played from 5 until I was 16.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And what position did you play?

BRANDON:  Well, from 5 till 9 I played fullback and then from there on I played second rower.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Oh yeah, lost all your pace.

AUNTY AUDREY:  After the accident happened you had to  

BRANDON:  I ain't saying that, no.


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Okay.  And what did you like about playing football?

BRANDON:  Mostly I was playing     that I was with my mates really.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  You had mates in the team?

BRANDON:  Yeah, I had a lot of friends in my team actually.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And why did you stop playing?

BRANDON:  Friggin' because my mates stopped really, that's really why.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  You reckon you'd like to still be playing footy?


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Is that something you could do still, you reckon?

BRANDON:  Yeah, I could.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And is there something stopping you from doing that?

BRANDON:  Like it's mostly COVID really.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, it makes it a bit hard for everything.  And what about other than footy, what other things do you like to do?

BRANDON:  Well I like riding motorbikes.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah.  Have you got a motorbike?

BRANDON:  No, I did at one stage.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And where do you do that?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Not from me.  Not from me.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Where do you go riding the motorbike?

BRANDON:  Mostly in the paddocks.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And is that something you do with your friends as well?


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Okay.  And what about these days, during lockdown and things like that, what sort of things can you do at home?

BRANDON:  Nothing really.  Mostly just sit in my room and play my game really.

AUNTY AUDREY:  And torment me.

BRANDON:  Yeah.  No

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  What sort of game, are you talking about computer games?

BRANDON:  No, like Xbox games.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And apart from that, [Brandon], are there other things that you like to do at home, at nan's?

BRANDON:  Not really.

AUNTY AUDREY:  There's not much to do really, is there?

BRANDON:  There's not much to do here really.

AUNTY AUDREY:  Yeah, he doesn't

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And what about when you can go out or when you could go out, what sort of things would you like to do?

BRANDON:  Go down [redacted], go over to the park, go kick the football around.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Do you catch up with mates there?


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And what about since school, is it harder to see friends since you finished doing school?


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Let me ask you then about other things.  You talked about seeing your family and doing fun things with them.  What about any cultural things, do you get to do any cultural things with family or with your friends?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Not at the moment.

BRANDON:  Not at the moment, no.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  What about before?

BRANDON:  Before I could, yeah.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, what sort of things?

BRANDON:  Like with one of me friends before, like, me and him went fishing friggin'  

AUNTY AUDREY:  Yeah, but     could I just intervene a little bit?


AUNTY AUDREY:  I would like him to sort of, like, he does do them things and he goes fishing, but the main part     since he's been in this position he's     he's got heaps of mates, don't get us wrong, he's got heaps     he can go downtown, he can go anywhere he wants and here in [redacted] everybody knows him, I mean literally they know him, he's a character.


AUNTY AUDREY:  But at the end of the day they go home and he's left with nothing.  In saying that, he goes up to his mother's, he'd come home, but the real problem here that stopped a lot of the things that happening for him is the intervention of [Kelsey].  She stopped a lot of     he had Paul coming down twice a week, wasn't it, twice a week, you know, and that was his mentor that was coming down from Penrith and that was his mentor.  In the end     do you want to tell them about what happened with [Kelsey] in this situation, or do you want me to?

BRANDON:  (Inaudible)

AUNTY AUDREY:  But [Kelsey]     [Kelsey], I'm sorry to say it     but a lot of things have stopped since she became [Brandon]'s caseworker, a lot of things, where it shouldn't have.

She just stopped everything, without any consideration, without any talks, and that's what she said, that everything that I signed, which was for him to go to the camps, for Craig and Paul to take him camping, for Craig and for Paul to come down to see him, how many hours and things like that and what they were going to do, the gym for starters, these are all things that are going to help [Brandon].


AUNTY AUDREY:  And I read the papers, but when they went back to the, you know, she rang me up one day and basically told me that everything that I'd signed was null and void and I, "What?"  You know, but you know what in all of this the one that has missed out is [Brandon].  He's missed out.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Well, why don't you tell me about Paul and when he used to come and visit.

BRANDON:  Well, he would take me places, like, for drives, like down Kiama, Wollongong and Bulli and all that and take me     go kick the football around.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  How was that?
BRANDON:  Yeah, it was fun.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And would it be good if you had someone like Paul that you could still have come and visit and take you places like that?


AUNTY AUDREY:  'Cause he's had nothing, nothing.  Absolutely nothing has been done since when he got on the NDIS, that's the only thing that's ever been done for him because everything was stopped.  You didn't tell them about you went down     Paul took you down to get you signed up for the gym, did you?


AUNTY AUDREY:  They're all the things you've got to tell them about and how it's

BRANDON:  Oh my God.

AUNTY AUDREY:  You see this is what I get but it really has affected him in the sense of him not having that mentor there.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  So, [Brandon], I was asking about when Uncle Paul used to come and visit and you were telling us about the things that you used to do there and go places with Paul and that was good, but your nan said that hasn't been     you haven't had that for a while now but you said it was something that you would like to do again.  That's right?

AUNTY AUDREY:  They can't understand you nodding.


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Just tell me, [Brandon], what sort of things would you like to be doing if you had someone like a mentor like Paul.

BRANDON:  I don't really know now.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Well, you said you used to go and kick the footy around, that's always a good one.

BRANDON:  Yeah, I would.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah.  And do you think if you had someone like that that could come and visit, that that might help you with things like, you know, sorting out what to do about your white card and what things you might want to do about jobs and that sort of stuff?


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  What I was going to also ask you about, [Brandon], is are there other things that you like to do or you'd like to be doing that you think it'd be good if you could have some help so you could get to do those things?

BRANDON:  No, not really.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  What about, you know, going out to places, you said you can go down to [redacted], you know     and you used to be able to go out anyway     but going down to [redacted] and that would be something you could do.  What about any other sort of sport or activity and things that you like doing, do you reckon if you had somebody who could help you with those it might be easier?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Do you understand what he means?

BRANDON:  Mm'hm.

AUNTY AUDREY:  But the thing     you've got to     see I don't want to put words into your mouth.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  No, that's okay.

AUNTY AUDREY:  I don't     like Paul had him ready to go to     when he got the NDIS and Craig did up the plan for him, everything was in place, the gym was in place, Paul was coming down, they would go and do all the things that he said.  See he can't think of all of these, but one of the main ones was because he's lost a lot of strength in his     he's still a good footballer but he's lost a lot of strength in his legs and this is what the gym was all about.  They had camping set up for him, they had mentoring, they had the gym, they were going to go     and Paul was going to go with him to the gym.  Everything, like everything was just set up, and then when I went and signed     I signed everything, didn't I, Paul, and then

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Let me ask you then about     sorry, Aunty, let me ask you about some of those things then, [Brandon], that your nan's talking about.  The gym, you used to go down to the gym?

BRANDON:  Yeah, I did.



LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And when was the last time you've been down to the gym?

BRANDON:  Probably a couple of months ago now.

AUNTY AUDREY:  Well, not really, just since Paul hasn't been involved.

BRANDON:  Yeah, that was a couple of months ago.

AUNTY AUDREY:  That's about a year, isn't it?

BRANDON:  A year?

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And what     would Paul take you down there?


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And did he used to help you train?

BRANDON:  Yeah, he did.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And do you think that'd be something that     that'd be good, if you had someone like that to help you go to the gym and train with you?


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  What about trips like that, camping and stuff like that?
BRANDON:  Well, I don't even like camping.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  What about going out though on trips like that, that's something you'd like to do?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Do you understand what he means?  Would you like Paul     just say somebody like Paul come down and you keep going out and, like, just going, you know, the way things were.

BRANDON:  (Inaudible)


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  All right.  Well, let me ask you some other questions then, [Brandon].  I don't have too many more for you.  I wanted to ask you about     what about going to see the doctor, do you have to do that often?

BRANDON:  Not so often as I used to, but I still see the doctor about every six months.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, and is there one doctor you see, or different doctors?

BRANDON:  It depends what I have to deal with really.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Okay.  And what sort of things do you got to see the doctor about?

BRANDON:  Like my heart.  I don't know, about my strength in my legs and my  

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, okay.  All right.  And I talked to you before, [Brandon], about living with nan and, you know, what was good and what was bad about living at nan's.  Let me ask you about this, do you think that nan could do with some help looking after you?

BRANDON:  I don't understand what he means.

AUNTY AUDREY:  Did you hear what he said?

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  No, I couldn't hear that bit.  Sorry, [Brandon].

AUNTY AUDREY:  I'll let you tell him, just what you just said to me.

BRANDON:  I didn't really understand that part.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Okay.  What I was asking, [Brandon], is do you think that nan could use some help to look after you at home?

BRANDON:  Prob   

AUNTY AUDREY:  You     go on.

BRANDON:  In some ways probably, yes.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And with what?

BRANDON:  Like, I don't know, getting me up of a morning.


AUNTY AUDREY:  Look, can I just intervene again?


AUNTY AUDREY:  The thing is what really helped was just having that mentor come here and taking him out for that few     when they started coming here when he wasn't getting the help he was pretty bad, weren't you, [Brandon]?  You got to answer properly.  But with the mentoring, look, just that couple of hours a week, just them two days a week, I don't think anybody realises the effect that it has in the sense of helping, you know, it's just that break, you know.  The breaks mean everything.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Let me ask you about that, [Brandon].  I heard that you used to go to respite care sometimes, you'd go out so that nan could have a break for a bit.  Do you remember doing that?

AUNTY AUDREY:  They can't understand a nod, [Brandon].

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  How was that, [Brandon]?  Was it good?


AUNTY AUDREY:  But you need to talk to them and tell them what's happened and everything.  This is what I didn't want     I'm only sitting here because you wanted me to.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  That's okay, Aunty.

AUNTY AUDREY:  I'll need for you to tell them what it was like and then when you got old enough and what happened and you told me that you didn't want them and, you know, things like that.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  [Brandon], what I was asking you just about when you used to go to respite, was there anything that you liked about doing that?  Was there anything that you liked doing there?

BRANDON:  Not really.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And what didn't you like about it?

BRANDON:  That it was very boring.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, how come it was boring?

BRANDON:  Because there were no games there or anything to do.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And were there other kids there too, other friends there you could see?


LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And did they ever have things for you to do there

BRANDON:  Not really.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:      Places you could go and do things, games, anything like that?

BRANDON:  No, not really.

AUNTY AUDREY:  Can you explain to them what happened and why you stopped and everything like that.

BRANDON:  Stopped what?

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  I was going to ask you about that, [Brandon].  What happened with respite, why did you stop?

BRANDON:  Got to the point where it was that boring.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah, you had enough of that?


AUNTY AUDREY:  Look, [Brandon], if he's with     he can't be with people that he doesn't know and that's why when he went to respite, he was on his own.  At first, when he was little     'cause I'd give them money to take him places and things, and then that all fell through, didn't it, [Brandon]?


AUNTY AUDREY:  With Matt at first, and the few that he did have, the respite was, I think     I don't know if he got, he was getting older and, therefore, respite wasn't part of his repertoire, you know.


AUNTY AUDREY:  He comes home and he tells me, you know, like he'd talk to me about it because I'd ask him, "How was it?"  And he would say, "Well, it was boring," or, "It was good," and it depends who he had, whether they take him     like he had one that literally took him     what do you call it when you went mountain climbing?


AUNTY AUDREY:  With Chris, remember?

BRANDON:  What, mountain walking?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Mountain walking.


AUNTY AUDREY:  Yeah, he had one which cost nothing and he took him mountain climbing and things like that and, yeah, a lot of good things because he was a sportsman, he was a sports teacher.  Everything to do with [Brandon] has got to be about sport, eh, [Brandon]?


AUNTIE AUDREY:  (Inaudible)

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  [Brandon], is there other things that you think would be good that might help you and help nan to look after you at home, things that you would like?

BRANDON:  I can't really think of anything at the moment.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Nearly finished, [Brandon], and I'm asking you the big question here at the end which is, you know, a big question, what would you wish for because I'd like to hear from you if you've got any ideas about things that might be better or how things could be better for you.

BRANDON:  Well, it could be better for me, you know, in the sense of like me     I don't know really.  The best way for me to continue on life itself is probably going back to football probably.




BRANDON:  (Inaudible)

AUNTIE AUDREY:  He's asking in the sense do you want something like what was happening with Paul, like having somebody coming in and you just going out and having that few mentors and few hours, you know what I mean?

BRANDON:  (Inaudible)

AUNTIE AUDREY:  But do you think that would help?  I'm asking you now, do you think that would help?

BRANDON:  No, it wouldn't, no.

AUNTIE AUDREY:  To not to have somebody like Paul coming in?

BRANDON:  No, unless it was Paul himself.

AUNTIE AUDREY:  And not unless it's Paul himself.  Look     yeah.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  All right.  Well, [Brandon], last couple of questions for you.  We've talked about a couple of things about what you might want to do for a job or, you know, playing footy again.  Is there anything else that you can think about that you'd like to do in the future with your life?

BRANDON:  No, not really.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  And what about those things that we've talked about, any way that you think something might be done to help you to do those things or to give you some support or nan some support, if you could have a wish of those things?

AUNTY AUDREY:  Yeah, what would you wish for?

BRANDON:  I don't know.

AUNTY AUDREY:  I think he's done really, really well, even to just sit here this long.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  Yeah.  No, he has done really well.

AUNTY AUDREY:    And answered the questions in the best way he knows how.

LINCOLN CROWLEY QC:  All right.  Well, thanks, [Brandon], that's been really great of you to talk to us today.  You've done a really good job so I really thank you.  It's been really nice to meet with you and with your nan to talk to you and I really appreciate you doing that, you know, it takes a lot to, you know, meet with me and listen to me and answer questions like this, so I really thank you for your time.


CHAIR:  Now, Mr Crowley, I think next we're to hear from Aunty Winnie, are we not?

MR CROWLEY:  Yes, that's right, Chair, and I will ask Ms Tarrago to introduce ---

CHAIR:  Before we do that, it's dealing with another case.

MR CROWLEY:  A separate case, that's right.

CHAIR:  It might be convenient to ask Ms Furness what she wanted to say at this point and then we'll come to Aunty Winnie's evidence.  Thank you.

MS FURNESS:  Thank you, Chair.  In order not to take up the time of the hearing in public we have communicated with Senior Counsel Assisting and those assisting the Royal Commission, and expect that we can resolve the matter between ourselves.

CHAIR:  Very good.  Thank you very much.

All right, if we can then proceed with Aunty Winnie's evidence and Ms Tarrago will introduce that.

Yes, thank you, Ms Tarrago.

MS TARRAGO:  Commissioners, lastly today we will be hearing a pre recording evidence of Aunty Winnie Woods who is a First Nations grandmother from the NPY lands in Western Australia whose grandson was placed off country into out of home care.  You will find a copy of the transcript of Aunty Winnie's pre recorded evidence in Tender Bundle Part A at Tab 26.  I tender this statement into evidence and ask that it be marked Exhibit 16.6.

CHAIR:  The evidence can be introduced into evidence as Exhibit 16.6.


MS TARRAGO:  Thank you.  Before the recording is played, Commissioner Mason wishes to make a statement in relation to Aunty Winnie.

CHAIR:  Yes, Commissioner Mason.

COMMISSIONER MASON:  Thank you, Chair.  Before the next witness is called, I wish to make a public statement.  Ms Winnie Woods is known to me.  She is a Ngaanyatjarra woman and she is family to me through my father who was a Ngaanyatjarra man, Benjamin Mason MBE.  So we are connected as family because we are all Ngaanyatjarra people.  Winnie and I, we respect each other as Ngaanyatjarra women.  However, we live far apart and we have no interaction with each other in a close and personal way.  Thank you.

CHAIR:  Thank you, Commissioner Mason.

Yes, Ms Tarrago.

MS TARRAGO:  Could the operator please play the pre recording video from Aunty Winnie.


MS TARRAGO:  So thank you, Aunty Winnie, for coming and speaking with us today.

Aunty Winnie, can you please tell me your name and where you're from.

AUNTY WINNIE:  I'm Winnie Woods and I'm living at Wanarn community and same time on dialysis.

MS TARRAGO:  And where is your community, what state?

AUNTY WINNIE:  My community is Wanarn, that's where I was born.  It's my birthplace, my birth country.  I lived in Jameson before.

MS TARRAGO:  And what language do you speak?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Ngaanyatjarra.

MS TARRAGO:  And any other ones?

AUNTY WINNIE:  No, only Ngaanyatjarra and I can understand any language like Pitjantjatjara, (inaudible) and so on, yeah.

MS TARRAGO:  And you speak English as well?


MS TARRAGO:  And you're connected to NPY Women's Council?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Yeah, that's right.

MS TARRAGO:  And what do you do with them?

AUNTY WINNIE:  I used to work in Women's Council as a chairperson for four years and most of my friends are still in Women's Council, so I know them very well.

MS TARRAGO:  So, Aunty Winnie, you're a senior member of the NPY Women's Council?


MS TARRAGO:  And what does that mean for     if you're telling non indigenous people, what does it mean to be a senior member?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Just helping other ladies to understand if the white fellas are talking to them.

MS TARRAGO:  And you have a grandson named Josiah?


MS TARRAGO:  Can you tell me a little bit about him.

AUNTY WINNIE:  Yeah, he was --- he's got autism and he was taken from the families to Perth and he grew up with a carer and we haven't been to Perth to visit him, stay with him for, like, one or two weeks.  He had no visitors from the families and I had to     I shifted to Perth for a renal and I had a chance to visit him.  He used to come on the weekend to the hostel where we were staying while mum was sick in hospital, so yeah.

And I told Josiah's carer, "Can you take her around to the hospital, she wants to visit him, she wants to see the boy."  And so she did, she'd take him around, like, once a week, one or twice a week, yeah, and she was happy to see him.  Now doctor told me that she had cancer so that made me really, you know, funny.  As a mother I just felt down.  Everything was just     I couldn't believe it.

So I told Josiah's carer so she can bring him around to the hostel where we were staying, he could stay on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday, and get picked up Sunday afternoon to go home.  But, yeah, and that part just made me feel really, really bad, I couldn't control myself.  As a mother, you know, I just felt very bad and I say, "Well why the hell she's got this sickness," and I knew that she won't live longer, a year.

When she passed on I told Francis, my grandson, to come to the mother's funeral, but they didn't send him.  I was really, really upset, so I was expecting him at that funeral.  I don't know what went wrong and, you know, they shouldn't do that.  I mean they should really send him to the mother's funeral, and he didn't make it, no.

MS TARRAGO:  And, Aunty Winnie, do you remember how old Josiah was when he left?

AUNTY WINNIE:  About 9, 9 or 8, yeah.  No, when I was in Perth I went to his 15th birthday party and in Alice Springs, 18     I went to his 18th birthday, yeah, and not this time, we missed it because of the coronavirus, we can't make it.

MS TARRAGO:  So now he is living in Alice Springs?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Yeah, he's in Alice Springs and that's     Alice Springs is closer, instead of the city, so the family can visit him.  I visit him now and then.  The father was there and his cousins visit him, take him right round the township, show him the places, and all that, and he loved it.  He loved playing with his cousin, yeah.

MS TARRAGO:  And, Aunty Winnie, it's really important to you that he has connection with family?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Yeah.  Yeah, it's very important and I can't visit him because they     it's still (inaudible) the coronavirus.  For me, as a dialysis patient, I can't go into town.  I got to stay till     when that coronavirus settle down, then I'll go in to  
visit him as well for two weeks.

MS TARRAGO:  And when was the last time Josiah went home to country?


MS TARRAGO:  So now he's over

AUNTY WINNIE:  I was talking about him to (inaudible) home to see the families, and didn't get around to do it.  I don't know what they're doing.  Yeah, some of the family really want to see him.

MS TARRAGO:  And when Josiah left home to go to Perth, was he a language speaker too?

AUNTY WINNIE:  No, he can't talk.  Can't say a word.

MS TARRAGO:  Is that for his disability?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Yeah.  No, he can't talk properly.

MS TARRAGO:  And when he's living on country when he was younger, were there any disability support services?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Yeah, from Women's Council, they used to come around every second, yeah, used to visit the disability kids in the lands, yeah.

MS TARRAGO:  And did he go to Perth to get more services?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Yeah, probably but the same time, you know she wasn't feeling well at that time so we sent him in for better services, education and all that.

MS TARRAGO:  Aunty Winnie you were saying you met the carers during that time.  Do you remember how many times you might have sat down with the carers to talk about Josiah?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Where at?  In Perth?

MS TARRAGO:  Or anywhere.

AUNTY WINNIE:  No, they never used to sit down and talk to us, no.

MS TARRAGO:  And what about the department?

AUNTY WINNIE:  The department of?


AUNTY WINNIE:  No.  No, I never had a chance to talk to them about Josiah because most of the time I'm out in the lands.

MS TARRAGO:  And how far away is Perth from your homelands?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Too far.  Too far.  From here, probably two days travelling.  By air, you can get there in no time.

MS TARRAGO:  So it's a long way from his country.


MS TARRAGO:  And when he went to Perth, were you allowed to talk to him on the phone or

AUNTY WINNIE:  No, never used to talk to him.  He just     yeah, I used to talk to him but he never used to talk to me.  He'd just have his phone on his ears and sit down and listen and smile, that's all he can do.

MS TARRAGO:  And, Aunty Winnie, how important is it for you to have connection as grandmother with him?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Very, very, very much.  I still got a gap in my heart, I'm still mending it.  I always think, "I wish my daughter was alive to see her son."  He's 18     he's going up to, I think he's 19.  I'm still recovering.

MS TARRAGO:  And, Aunty Winnie, there is very strong women connection there and the senior law women on country as grandmothers.


MS TARRAGO:  Can you tell me why senior law women are very important in community?

AUNTY WINNIE:  'Cause they know, they know every songs, they know every dance and they can, you know, get together with the other ladies, like at law and culture, get together and start organising the culture, dancing, singing, yeah.

MS TARRAGO:  And do you think that carers and DCP should listen more to senior law women and grandmothers in community?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Yeah, they should, yeah.  I don't know why they sitting in town.  They should come out to the lands and see what's going on, what's happening out in the lands with the senior ladies, yeah, especially on law and culture.  We didn't have law and culture this year because it was coronavirus, so they had to stop it till next  

MS TARRAGO:  And what do you hope for the future for Josiah?

AUNTY WINNIE:  I'm hoping if everything will go right with my grandson, yeah.

MS TARRAGO:  And if you could make recommendations to the Royal Commission, what would you say?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Recommendation, like what's that?  Can you explain?

MS TARRAGO:  Yes, if you could tell the Commissioners what you think needs to change so that children like Josiah can live in the community?  What things do you think need to happen?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Yeah, so we waiting for him to turn 20, probably 20, and we'll try get him out to the lands so he can live there

MS TARRAGO:  So for you you would like people like Josiah and for Josiah to be able to live on country and community with their family?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Yeah.  See how he goes, plus it's forever, you know.  We, as I said, we'll wait till he turn 20 and we'll ask the carer, "We want him out in the lands."

MS TARRAGO:  And, Aunty Winnie, do you think that community should be supported more for more disability services?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Yeah, we should have     yeah, we need that and we need one carer to stay in the community so he can, you know, look after him, keep eye on him 'cause I can't manage, I'm sick, I'm sick, so is my partner's sick and my daughter's just about on the road to where I am, yeah.  So the father's okay so we'll probably get him to come over to Jemma's and, yeah, and look after     we can all look after him, take turns and look after him, yeah.

MS TARRAGO:  And, Aunty Winnie, is there anything else that you would like to tell the Royal Commission?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Anything like what?

MS TARRAGO:  Anything that's on your mind about Josiah or disability services?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Well, disability service are doing their job okay but I'm a bit concerned about my grandson.  If he gets to --- if he goes to the community we'll all have to keep eye on him and see what he's up to, yeah.

MS TARRAGO:  So, Aunty Winnie, would you have any recommendations about  
housing in community that would help families?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Yeah, I know the big house, four bedroom, two toilets, two bathroom, but there's so much     many kids staying in that house and he doesn't like staying in the house with so many people.  He just goes off.  I think he's better off by himself in a house with, like, grandma and auntie and uncle without any kids going in and running amok.  He doesn't like it.

MS TARRAGO:  And do you think communities and home lands need more accommodation for people like Josiah?

AUNTY WINNIE:  Yeah, we need another house if we going to get Josiah out on the lands, we'd have to get another house for him.

MS TARRAGO:  Thank you, Aunty Winnie.

AUNTY WINNIE:  Okay.  Thank you, dear.  Bye.  Nice talking to you.

MS TARRAGO:  You too.


CHAIR:  Yes, Mr Crowley.

MR CROWLEY:  Chair, that completes the evidence that we have to present to the Commission today.  If it's appropriate now we could adjourn until Monday for the next part of the evidence.

CHAIR:  Just before we do, perhaps you might indicate what is likely to happen on Monday for people who are following the proceedings.

MR CROWLEY:  So on Monday we will commence with evidence from Grace, who will speak about the care of Miriam, who is a young First Nations girl with disability.  That will be in the morning session and that will be evidence which will be by Grace giving oral evidence and will include some pre recorded artwork evidence involving Miriam.  And then later in the day there will be some evidence given by a number of witnesses in a panel from the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Service.  Then following that there will be ---

CHAIR:  Have any of those witnesses prepared statements that you intend to tender or will all evidence be oral?

MR CROWLEY:  There will be statements as well as oral evidence from those witnesses and also from government witness from the Northern Territory as well.

CHAIR:  Yes, thank you.

MR CROWLEY:  And the final witness for that day we anticipate, Chair, will be from Dr Andrew Webster from the Danila Dilba Health Service who will, in the afternoon, give his evidence, again oral evidence with a statement.

CHAIR:  Right.  Thank you very much.  Is it convenient then to adjourn until 10 am Australian Eastern Standard Time on Monday?

MR CROWLEY:  Yes, thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:  We'll do that.  Thank you very much.