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Public hearing 17: The experience of women and girls with disability, Hobart - Part 2 - Day 4

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Publication date

CHAIR:  Good morning, everyone, and welcome to this, the fourth day of the hearing that commenced on Monday this week, hearing number 17.2 of the Royal Commission.  I apologise for the lack of the real-time videoing of the proceedings yesterday.  That was the result of some difficulties that we had in terms of staffing in consequence of COVID 19, but I'm very pleased to say that today the live stream will resume, and we hope that we shall have business as usual.

We commence, as always, with the Acknowledgment of Country, and I invite Commissioner Mason to make the acknowledgment.

COMMISSIONER MASON:  Thank you, Chair.  As a Ngaanyatjarra and Kronie woman, I wish to pay my respects and acknowledge the First Nations people of the land on which the Royal Commission is sitting today.

We acknowledge the Muwinina people, the traditional custodians of the land on which Nipaluna, the city of Hobart, is now located.

We recognise the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation where the city of Melbourne is now situated.

We recognise Meeanjin, Brisbane.  We recognise the country north and south of the Brisbane River as the home of both the Turrbul and Jagera nations, whose land is now where the city of Brisbane is located.

We also wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the various lands on which you all virtually appear from and any First Nations peoples who are participating in this hearing, especially women, Minymaku, and children, tjitjiku, with disability.  Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much, Commissioner Mason.  Ms Eastman, I understand that there's a tender to take place first up.  Before that, is there another appearance for any party given leave to appear?

MS EASTMAN:  Chair, not that I'm aware of.

CHAIR:  All right.  Thank you.

MS EASTMAN:  If I might make some opening remarks first and then deal with the tenders after making some opening remarks, if the Commission pleases.

CHAIR:  Very well.

MS EASTMAN:  Commissioners, today you will continue to hear from women about their experiences with violence, abuse in their families, domestic settings, and sexual violence.  Up on the screen is a content warning, and as we've said each day, the evidence will cover matters that will be distressing and confronting.  In fact, our first witness today, Libby Crawford, has asked us to have our tissues ready.  In fact, this morning our first witness will be Libby Crawford who lives in Adelaide but she has travelled to Hobart today to give her evidence in person.

Ms Crawford pre-recorded some evidence with me in September last year, and she will tell you about her life.  Ms Crawford was born with some difficulties, including a double cleft palate and harelip.  As she grew older, she was diagnosed with an intellectual disability.  Ms Crawford has experienced physical abuse as a child in her family.  She was sexually abused when she was 12 and a resident at the [REDACTED].  And Ms Crawford will tell you about her experiences of domestic and financial violence when she was married for some time and her life in a group home.

After hearing from Ms Crawford, we will then move to Brisbane and, again, we have pre-recorded some evidence with Niky and Niky's mother.  Niky was sexually assaulted at a respite day centre operated by Anglicare Southern Queensland.  Niky and her mum will tell you about what happened when Niky and her father notified Anglicare about the assaults, reporting to the police and also Anglicare's response.

We will then take morning tea, and after morning tea, you will hear from Carolyn Cumming.  She is the Service Manager Community Aged and Disability for Anglicare Southern Queensland.  The Royal Commission has asked Anglicare about its response to when Niky's father reported the sexual assault.  Ms Cumming has provided a detailed statement, together with providing copies of Anglicare's policies and procedures.  And Ms Fraser will ask Ms Cumming some questions about the way which Anglicare responded to the assault on Niky.

After Ms Cumming gives evidence, we will take lunch.  After lunch, we will hear from a panel from WWIDA.  Ms Frohmader, who participated at the first part of the Public hearing, will join the panel with Ms Hermans and Tess Moodie.  Tess Moodie has been in the hearing room and following the proceedings during the course of the week.  The panel from Women with Disability Australia, WWDA, will draw together the themes that the Royal Commission has heard in our hearing in October, and also during the course of this week.  We will discuss a wide range of issues, and we want to understand from WWDA their proposals about changes and what needs to be done for the future.

And then finally today, we will hear from Katie Koullas.  She's the founder and CEO of Yellow Ladybugs.  Yellow Ladybugs is an autistic led non-government organisation with strong bridges to the community.  Yellow Ladybugs is dedicated to the happiness, success, and celebration of autistic girls and women.  The Ladybugs are committed to being part of a growing conversation around specific challenges and support needs of autistic women and girls and individuals.

And they actively seek to address many of the challenges the autistic community faces, including barriers to diagnosis, lack of inclusion in school and employment, and access to support services.  Ms Koullas will be joined by Nikita.  Nikita is a member of Yellow Ladybugs, and she will tell you about her experience of sexual abuse.  That will conclude today's proceedings.
So, Chair, the material that we need to tender into evidence arising from yesterday's hearing, can I start first with the evidence for Kristy Hill.  You have an audio recording and a transcript of the recording.  Could those two items be identified as Exhibit 17.20.1 and 17.20.2.  I'm not sure we can hear you, Chair.

CHAIR:  Life continues to be complicated.  The audio recording and the transcript of the audio recording will be admitted into evidence and they will become Exhibit 17.20.1 and 17.20.2.  Thank you.



MS EASTMAN:  Next is the evidence for Brigitte.  There is the video recording for Brigitte and a transcript of the video recording.  If those items can be marked Exhibit 17.24.1 and 17.24.2.

CHAIR:  Yes, the video recording and transcript of the video will be admitted into evidence and given the exhibit numbers to which Ms Eastman has referred.



MS EASTMAN:  Then for Margaret Burn, she provided a statement to the Royal Commission.  If that could be marked as Exhibit 17.19.1.

CHAIR:  Ms Burn's statement will be admitted into evidence and given that exhibit number.


MS EASTMAN:  And for Ally Robins, her statement was provided yesterday as part of the hearing, and if that could be marked 17.25.1.

CHAIR:  Yes.  Ms Robin's statement will also be admitted into evidence and given that designation.  Thank you.


MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Chair.  Give me a moment.  I'm going to run around the back of the hearing room, and I'm going to join Ms Crawford now.

CHAIR:  Yes, thank you.

MS EASTMAN:  So, Chair, I hope you can see me now on the screen.  And we are joined in the hearing room with Ms Elizabeth Crawford.  Would you like to be Ms Crawford or Libby today?


MS EASTMAN:  Libby.  So we are joined by Libby.  So thank you. So I am going to    

CHAIR:  Yes.  Libby   

MS EASTMAN:  Sorry, go ahead.

CHAIR:  Libby, if I may call you that, I want to thank you very much for coming all the way to Hobart to give your evidence today.  We are very grateful to you for making that journey and being prepared to share your experiences with us.  I'm sure you've been introduced to the Commissioners in the room, but I will just point out that in the hearing room with you in Hobart are Commissioners Bennett and   Commissioner Bennett and Commissioner Mason.

Commissioner Galbally is joining the hearing from Melbourne, and you will be able to see Commissioner Galbally on the screen.  And I am participating in the hearing from Sydney and hopefully you can see me on the screen as well.  So thank you once again for coming to the Royal Commission and also for what you've already done for the purposes of this hearing, and I will now ask Ms Eastman to ask you some questions.  Thank you.

MS CRAWFORD:  Yes.  Thank you.

MS EASTMAN:  So, Libby, we are going to start with taking an oath.  You have got the Bible here, hand on the Bible.  I'm going to read the oath to you and at the end please say yes or I do.  Do you swear by almighty God that the evidence that you will give to the Royal Commission will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

LIBBY:  I will.



MS EASTMAN:  Well, Libby, welcome to the Royal Commission.

MS CRAWFORD:  Thank you.

MS EASTMAN:  You live in Adelaide?


MS EASTMAN: And you live in a group home in Adelaide? Yes?

MS EASTMAN: And you have recently moved into a new home, haven't you?


MS EASTMAN:  When we spoke to you last year, you were living in a home with three men    


MS EASTMAN:     who didn't talk and you were not very happy with that.


MS EASTMAN:  And you had to go to hospital.


MS EASTMAN:  And while were you in hospital you took the opportunity of advocating for yourself    


MS EASTMAN:     to say you did not want to go back to that group home.


MS EASTMAN:  And so where you are living now?

MS CRAWFORD:  I'm –living in -- with another two more ladies, who can talk and one of the ladies loves doing crafts, which that’s my main pass-time.

MS EASTMAN:  Can I ask you, so the two ladies who you now live with, it sounds like a house full of craft.

MS CRAWFORD:  Yeah.  Yes.

MS EASTMAN:  So tell me about the craft that you do.

MS CRAWFORD:  I do what you call, which I haven’t got here, and from, it’s sort of from an art – but it came called Zoom art-- 

MS EASTMAN:  What does it look like?  What does the craft look like?

MS CRAWFORD:  It kinda looks like a clip, or it comes with clip, and you use it that classes, and there's a lot I, sticky kind of things    and things   when you have got a kind of paper on it so it keeps stick and when you, like   you look at where you, like, go and you pass it off    and you've got this pin type thing and you've got thick thing and then you – put the pin in the slip thing. Slip thing is for   

MS EASTMAN:  So it sounds like it's quite tricky to put the pins in the different places.


MS EASTMAN:  So work around.  Thank you for telling us about that.  What is life in the current home like compared to before?

MS CRAWFORD:  It's okay for now.  And one of my friends and I was talking last night.  I feel it's that – I miss being on my own – with –  with a girl.

MS EASTMAN:  That's your aim, isn't it, because you just want to live by yourself.


MS EASTMAN:  Choose your own house.


MS EASTMAN:  Have the supports that you need.


MS EASTMAN:  And not feel that everybody is making the decisions for you.


MS EASTMAN:  Okay.  So can I ask you, when we spoke last year and we talked about your life, we recorded that.

MS CRAWFORD:  Yes.  And everything you told me in that   at that time was true, wasn't it?


MS EASTMAN:  So we might show the Royal Commissioners the recording that we did.


MS EASTMAN:  And that was based on   just to introduce to everybody following   that was based on you had prepared some information for the Royal Commission.


MS EASTMAN:  Talking about your life.


MS EASTMAN:  And in the video, we will talk about   well, people can hear us talk about when you were a child and there was some problems with your mum.


MS EASTMAN:  And that was not a good time for you    


MS EASTMAN:     in terms of how she treated you.  Then you moved into a particular place which was for children with disability in Adelaide.


MS EASTMAN:  And you lived there for a while.


MS EASTMAN:  And when you were about 12 there, you were sexually abused.


MS EASTMAN:  And you told your sister about that.


MS EASTMAN:  And I think we will hear you saying shortly that you weren't sure   your sister and I   you weren't sure, shall we tell mum and dad, because they were a bit rocky at the time as well.


MS EASTMAN:  Then, as you grew up, you've lived in different places.


MS EASTMAN: And I think you say you are going to tell the Royal Commissioners that you fell into the wrong crowd for a while.  Is that right?


MS EASTMAN:  And that gave you some fairly good life experience in terms of dealing with different people.


MS EASTMAN:  And sort of seeing a side of life that can be really hard.


MS EASTMAN:  And you've had a few boyfriends in your time.


MS EASTMAN:  And you did get married.


MS EASTMAN:  And I think you are going to tell us about what happened.


MS EASTMAN:  He took the wedding present and ran off with the money.


MS EASTMAN:  And then that marriage wasn't so good for you.


MS EASTMAN:  And then you have moved into different places as well.


MS EASTMAN:  And then after that I might ask you some questions about the work that you are doing as an advocate.


MS EASTMAN:  And you have become a very strong advocate in South Australia.


MS EASTMAN:  And the Royal Commission has seen, I think, one of your videos when we looked at the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


MS EASTMAN:  So Our Voice SA participated in that hearing, probably with some of your friends.


MS EASTMAN:  Rachel.


MS EASTMAN:  And I am going to ask you about being an advocate and what you think needs to change for women and girls.


MS EASTMAN:  I know that, for you, being able to tell the Royal Commission how important it is for women and girls to be treated with respect   


MS EASTMAN:     with dignity, that you are human beings but you also, as women with disability, want to love and be loved and you want to have good relationships.


MS EASTMAN:  So can we talk about that too?


MS EASTMAN:  All right.  So let's watch the recording that we did together last year.

MS CRAWFORD:  Yeah.  Yeah.  Let's.

MS EASTMAN:  And get your tissues out, you said.


MS EASTMAN:  Can I ask you some questions about your mum.  Do you want to talk about her?


MS EASTMAN:  So she was diagnosed with bipolar and she didn't cope very well when you were little.  Is that right?


MS EASTMAN:  And you remember that there were times when mum had to go to hospital?


MS EASTMAN:  And you remember that your mum sometimes abused you.

MS CRAWFORD:  Yeah, quite a lot.

MS EASTMAN:  Physically when you were   when she was unwell.  Is that right?

MS CRAWFORD:  Yeah, quite a lot.

MS EASTMAN:  Quite a lot.


MS EASTMAN:  And so when you think about when you were a little kid, you can remember being punched, kicked    


MS EASTMAN:     and having your hair pulled.


MS EASTMAN:  And you understand because of this you went to live at [REDACTED].


MS EASTMAN:  And that was a school and a centre.


MS EASTMAN:  Do you want to talk about [REDACTED]and what you remember about living at [REDACTED] School?

MS CRAWFORD:  Yeah.  What I remember when I was 12 years old I was raped by a man named [REDACTED].  So I went home and I told my sister.

MS EASTMAN:  So you told your sister that you'd been raped by somebody at the centre.

MS CRAWFORD:  Yeah.  And   and we agreed we'd keep it secret because mum wasn't well.  And so when I was 18, I wasn't well at all, right.  And then I was helping with a lady   I can't remember her name.  She was blind.  Completely blind.  And she had a guide dog, right, so I was her friend there.  Then mum came and picked me up, and then mum asked me about it, and so I was a little bit angry with [REDACTED], right, but she did a good thing.  And so it all opened up and when dad came home from work, mum and dad come to my room.  I had a boyfriend then, right, and so   so I said to them, "It's not my boyfriend." And kept repeating it, right.  And I told them who it was.

MS EASTMAN:  So can I just ask you, so you told   so when you first spoke to your sister about it, the two of you decided not to tell mum or dad because they were having a rocky time as well?


MS EASTMAN:  So you and your sister kept that as a secret --


MS EASTMAN:  You didn't tell anyone.

MS CRAWFORD:  For a long time.

MS EASTMAN:  But then I think either you or your sister told your mum a number of years later?


MS EASTMAN:  And the people, as you say, from community welfare came.


MS EASTMAN:  And after you had that meeting with the welfare, what happened next?  Did any action happen?  Did anybody take this matter further?


MS EASTMAN:  Did anyone offer   did anyone offer to help you or support you in any way?

MS CRAWFORD:  Let me think.  I went to some, some hospital.


MS CRAWFORD:  And there was some people there who talked to me and who cross examined.


MS CRAWFORD:  Like that, yeah.  But since then, nothing.  No one take it further.

MS EASTMAN:  No one took it further.


MS EASTMAN:  But eventually you sort of ended up in a unit of your own and you --


MS EASTMAN: -- lived by yourself? And I think you say yourself you got involved with the wrong people.


MS EASTMAN:  Now, what do you want to tell the Royal Commission, if anything, about this part   this time in your life when you got involved with the wrong people, what happened?

MS CRAWFORD:  Well, I didn't know it was wrong people, right.  I still was hurting in my heart, right, and I had a unit, right, and I came back from shopping.  I had money in my purse, right.  And then I had boyfriend, and then I said, "No", and then   but then he bring his ex girlfriend move in to my house, unit, and then he went in gaol.

MS EASTMAN:  He went in gaol.



MS CRAWFORD:  He was in gaol but he beat me up right.  So then I didn't know what's going on, right, and my landlord tell me he have to leave, right, and then I said to him, "you have to leave right.  Go somewhere else”.  But then I let it go, right.  Then someone told me that go to the police, right, so  - but I had talk to the police and tell them where I was living, right, and then they gave me a picture of my boyfriend, right, and they said, "that's him."

MS EASTMAN:  “That's him”.


MS EASTMAN:  So, Libby, can I ask you when you had this relationship and this boyfriend    


MS EASTMAN:     what experience had you had or what did you know about being in a relationship and having a boyfriend?  Do you   did you know, "Well, how should the boyfriend treat me?" Or, "What treatment should I say, 'That's not good enough'?"  Or what did you know about that?

MS CRAWFORD:  I didn't know what love is.

MS EASTMAN:  You didn't know what love was.

MS CRAWFORD:  Right.  And I didn't know what relationship was – how itshould be friendship, like that.

MS EASTMAN:  Did anybody teach you about consent as you were growing up and understanding what consent to having a sexual relationship would be?

MS CRAWFORD:  As I was growing up, my sister had a talk to me.

MS EASTMAN:  Your sister.

MS CRAWFORD:  When I was -- when I came back   right, and like being so   my sister said, "End this relationship now." So   and I did and, yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  And when you were growing up and during this difficult time, did you want to have boyfriends?

MS CRAWFORD:  I want to run away from everything.

MS EASTMAN:  Yep.  And did you think about what sort of   if you had boyfriends, what type of boyfriends you liked and how you wanted the boyfriends to treat you?

MS CRAWFORD:  Then I didn't know what a boyfriend was, how they should treat me.  But apart from that and as I'm growing up, as now I know what good people are, what bad people are.  Karen and I have longer conversations, she help me do things, and when boyfriends, how they should treat me, that kind of thing.

MS EASTMAN:  Because you did meet someone and you got married, didn't you?




MS EASTMAN:  And that marriage has ended now.


MS EASTMAN:  But when you were in that marriage, you did experience -- 


MS EASTMAN: -- some domestic violence?


MS EASTMAN:  Now, it's very hard, I know, to talk about when you've had domestic violence in your life.


MS EASTMAN:  How   what would you like to tell the Royal Commission about that period of life, when you were married and you had that experience of domestic violence?

MS CRAWFORD:  Well, okay, I was married to a guy which I thought he loved me, so I went got married and my uncle from New Zealand send me   us money for a wedding present.  Yeah, then dad gives it to us on our wedding day.


MS CRAWFORD:  And then he spent it on himself, on drinks   when I say drinks, alcohol, right, so I just thought, yeah and I asked him, "Where's the money gone?  What about me?", right.  He said, "What about you?" I just thought “I'm your wife”, right.


MS CRAWFORD:  So we both went back to the boarding house, right, and then he's meant to go for work, right, and one of the staff says, "Oh, he's been lying to you, lies."  Right.  I said, "What?" The staff member said and then, then he got angry.

MS EASTMAN:  Why did he get angry?

MS CRAWFORD:  Because I know the truth, right.  And so now when he   when he quits, he gets fired.  Right.  And so this day I was in bed, and he get my arms and he shook me hard.  And then one of the staff said, right, "You want me to call the cops." I said, "Yes, please."  That wasn't right.  And then every time I called the cops on him, they laughed at me.

MS EASTMAN:  Every time?

MS CRAWFORD:  Every time I called, they laughed at me.

MS EASTMAN:  So what's your attitude now to the cops?

MS CRAWFORD:  Well, that    

MS EASTMAN:  Do you trust them?

MS CRAWFORD:  In a way.  I know they do the right thing now.  But one thing, I don't trust them at all, and I don't know what someone's thinking about.  Yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  All right.  So you got out of that marriage, but you went to live in supported   a supported residential facility --.


MS EASTMAN: -- in Adelaide, and that wasn’t a particularly happy place for you.


MS EASTMAN:  And you had a   you met a boyfriend when you --


MS EASTMAN:  were there, and he sort of came to visit you in your room.


MS EASTMAN:  But you both got in trouble, didn't you?


MS EASTMAN:  And were you told off in front of everybody in the house --


MS EASTMAN:  --that you two shouldn't be together --


MS EASTMAN:  --even if he was your boyfriend.  Is that what happened?


MS EASTMAN:  And you were kicked out of that place.


MS EASTMAN:  Because you were told it was unacceptable to have a boyfriend.


MS EASTMAN:  So, Libby, from what you've told us today, you are a survivor--


MS EASTMAN:  --of family violence as a child --


MS EASTMAN:  --as a teenager and as an adult --


MS EASTMAN:  --in some of the very important relationships in your life: with your parents, with your boyfriends and husband.  Looking back at your experience, what needs to change so that what happened to you doesn't happen to other people?

MS CRAWFORD:  Well, more people, women, right, who have got disabilities, right, should not   because they are vulnerable, right, they should not   I repeat   they should not get abused.  And I'm against being people   if people with disability get abused, I cry.  Because I know how it feels.

MS EASTMAN:  And what about relationships?


MS EASTMAN:  Do you still think having that having a close, personal or intimate family relationship is important in your life?  And what would you like to happen?

MS CRAWFORD:  Well, I did have boyfriend just recently and just recently I broke up from him because I suffer asthma.  And he's got asthma.  But then he's a smoker.


MS CRAWFORD:  Yeah.  And he had a very bad temper.  And then he gets violent and I just think “why does this keep repeating?”  You know  so, yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  Is there anything else you would like to say to the Commissioners today?

MS CRAWFORD:  I hope and pray to God that there's more women come forward and tell their stories to you guys and I hope they get what they deserve.


MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Libby.  How do you feel watching that again?  That's a while since we talked to each other, isn't it?

MS CRAWFORD:  Yeah, it's quite a while.  Words stick in my throat when I watch it, and yeah, it -- I’m more able to go through and listen to and   and, yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you for sharing the story.  A lot has happened to you in your life.

MS CRAWFORD:  Yeah.  And as me – but yeah I say, I say “nice, yeah, that I'm a survivor”.

MS EASTMAN:  Yep.  You're a survivor.

MS CRAWFORD:  That normal people but since those that are dead then will    just my experience – is enough.


MS CRAWFORD:  Yeah.  So I did it.

MS EASTMAN:  You did it.  And being an advocate, this is something, it's a passion for you now, isn't it?


MS EASTMAN:  And you want to be a strong advocate for women?


MS EASTMAN:  And part of telling your story to the Royal Commission is to   as you said right at the end, you pray to God that other women can come and tell their stories.  And if they are in trouble in their families, or with their boyfriends, or their husbands, they should be able to ask for help.


MS EASTMAN:  And something should be done.

MS CRAWFORD:  Yeah.  For some people who -- who – well especially women that – family or whoever -- they should get what they deserve.

MS EASTMAN:  And getting what they deserve means—


MS EASTMAN: -- justice doesn't it? 


MS EASTMAN: You told me that before, justice.

MS CRAWFORD:  Nothing but justice.

MS EASTMAN:  Nothing but justice.

MS CRAWFORD:  But it might mean death row or seeing men in    men in gaol for life. 

MS EASTMAN:  Maybe not, maybe not death row.

MS CRAWFORD:  No.  No. I’m just put it out there. 

MS EASTMAN:  But in gaol for life.


MS EASTMAN:  But I think it's a strong punishment, isn't it?

MS CRAWFORD:  Yes, it's really strong.

MS EASTMAN:  And a strong punishment is the community saying the treatment of women, treatment of women with disability who experience violence and abuse in their families or sexual abuse, you need a strong punishment, so the community says “this is not right”.

MS CRAWFORD:  Right.  It's not right.

MS EASTMAN:  But probably not death row.  Okay.  Libby, thank you so much for talking to us.

MS CRAWFORD:  You're welcome.

MS EASTMAN:  The Commissioners might have some questions for you.  They may not.  But we have very much appreciated the time you've spent with us to tell us about your life and sharing a lot of personal family information with us.  So thank you very much.

MS CRAWFORD:  It's my honour being here.

MS EASTMAN:  I'm glad you are here too.  You okay?

MS CRAWFORD:  It's making me   yes, fine.

CHAIR:  Libby, thank you very much.  I will ask   if it's okay with you, I will ask Commissioner Galbally if she has any questions or anything that she would like to say to you.


COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  It's nice to see you again, Libby.

MS CRAWFORD:  Yes, it's very nice to see you too.

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  I would like to just thank you so much for your appearance today and just to ask you would you add to your list that the police ought to take you seriously and not laugh at you?  They should take you very seriously.  And all women.

MS CRAWFORD:   Very seriously.  It's not good getting laughed at. If you deal with things, they should do their job properly.

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  And do you think the police didn't take you seriously because you were disabled?  Do you think that's why?

MS CRAWFORD:  I think that could be the reason when they see I'm a woman, but I personally    I don't know.  It could be I've got disability, you know.

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Yeah.  Good luck with your advocacy to get a living situation that you would like, too --

MS CRAWFORD:  Thank you.


CHAIR:  Thank you, Commissioner Galbally.  I will ask Commissioner Bennett first and then Commissioner Mason if they would like to ask you any questions or to say anything to you.  Perhaps first Commissioner Bennett.

COMMISSIONER BENNETT:  Thank you, Libby.  It was very powerful to hear what you had to say today.  Violence against women in our community is a terrible, terrible indictment on our community.  And it's clear that there is such a shortage of services for women experiencing domestic violence, but we are hearing that there is very little for women with disability that understand their needs and able to work with them.  And it's very heartening to hear that women like you are standing in to fill that gap.  So thank you.

CHAIR:  Thank you, Commissioner Bennett.  Commissioner Mason, is there anything you would like to ask Libby or to say to Libby?

COMMISSIONER MASON:  Yes, thank you, Chair.  Just had one question for Libby.  And thank you so much for your evidence today and to putting your experiences on the record of the Royal Commission.  You had a   you have got a sister who has supported you all of your life.  It sounds like you're now being that sister to women with disabilities in Adelaide.


COMMISSIONER MASON:  How important is it, do you feel, that women with disabilities talk to younger women with disabilities about safety, about these stories of violence and abuse and how they can be safe, that they should speak up?  And can you explain to me how important that is to you, that as a woman with disability that you're doing that, because it sounds like that wasn't given to you when you were growing up but now you're giving that to our young women.  Can you tell me a bit about how that impacts you?

MS CRAWFORD:  I   it's   done very important they thought well   real sad.  They are not animals.  They're not a cat.  They are not dog.  They are human beings like, if you've got a head and you've got a heart, that makes you a human being. And I personally all women are human.  Some people got born with limbs, but they are woman.

COMMISSIONER MASON:  Yes.  You are saying that they are women, they are human, they are not animals, they are not a cat, or a dog and they are worthy.


COMMISSIONER MASON:  They are human beings and they are worthy.  Thank you.  Thank you so much, Libby.  Thank you.

CHAIR:  Thank you, Commissioner Mason.  Libby, I too would like to thank you very much.  We know that it's not easy to come to the Commission and tell us your own experiences throughout your life of family violence, but you have done that today and you did that in the interview that we saw, that we watched and listened to very, very carefully.  One of the things you said was that you would like to encourage more women to come forward and tell their stories.

By doing that today yourself, I'm sure you have encouraged more women to come forward to the Royal Commission and elsewhere and tell their own stories of family violence and stories that they have experienced.  So thank you again for coming to us and giving evidence.  And we very much appreciate the help that you have given us.  Thank you.

MS CRAWFORD:  Thank you.

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Chair.  I will also mention that we were joined in the hearing room today when Libby was giving her evidence by Ziggy.


MS EASTMAN:  And Ziggy has been with us.  So just to acknowledge Ziggy's presence as well.  It's been helpful, hasn't it, Libby, to have Ziggy.



MS EASTMAN:  Chair, I'm going to depart from the program and perhaps ask for a five to 10 minute break before we move to Brisbane for our next witness.  Thank you.

CHAIR:  All right.  Well, we will resume at 11 o'clock Hobart time, 10 o'clock Brisbane time.

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you.



CHAIR:  Yes, Ms Fraser, I think there may now be an appearance to be announced.  Is that correct?

MS FRASER: I am joined in the Brisbane hearing room by the legal representatives of Anglicare.  If it's now an appropriate time for them to announce their appearance.

CHAIR:  Yes, please.  Thank you.

MS FRASER:  Thank you.

MR ANDREATIDIS:  Commissioners, Andreatidis QC.  I am instructed by MinterEllison and, as Ms Fraser indicated, I appear on behalf of Anglicare Southern Queensland.

CHAIR:  Yes, thank you very much.  Yes, Ms Fraser.

MS FRASER:  Thank you, Chair.  We will now hear from Niky and Niky's Mum.  This is a pseudonym and the full names of Niky and Niky's Mum are known to the Royal Commission.  I would like content warning number 1 to now be placed on the screen.  If the evidence that you are about to hear raises concerns for you, please contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732, the Blue Knot Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Niky was sexually assaulted at a respite centre of Anglicare Southern Queensland in 2018.  Niky and Niky's Mum pre recorded their evidence with Ms Eastman on 6 August 2021.  The document identifier for the pre recorded evidence of Niky and her mum is document number IND.0146.0001.0001.  I would ask that that recording now be played.


MS EASTMAN:  Can I ask you to tell the Royal Commission about yourself?

NIKY:  Yep.  I basically went from   right through from preschool to year 12 and then I went straight into this   the respite.

MS EASTMAN:  What was it like going to school.  Did you like going to school?

NIKY:  I loved it because I had nice friends and all that.  Yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  And what did you want to do after you left school?

NIKY:  Basically work with mum and dad.  And    

MS EASTMAN:  And so when you are talking about going to respite, what can you tell us about respite?

NIKY:  It was just like a day   a day respite centre, basically.  We do activities and go on outings and all that.

MS EASTMAN:  And what sorts of things do you like doing at respite and just generally when you are hanging out?

NIKY:  Well, I like doing diamond art and that, yeah.  And then helping mum and dad with the [REDACTED].  And listening to my music and that.

MS EASTMAN:  What music do you like?

NIKY:  Country music.

MS EASTMAN:  Really?

NIKY:  Country and western.  Yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  Niky, you live with a disability.  Do you want to tell the Royal Commission about your disability.

NIKY:  It's a big one.  Smith Magenis Syndrome.

MS EASTMAN:  What's that?

NIKY:  It's a chromosome gene where part of number 17 is missing and I get the shakes and all that really badly, yeah.  So I'm on medication for it.

MS EASTMAN:  And how does your disability affect your day to day life?

NIKY:  It doesn't affect me at all, really.  I just live with it.  Mmm.

MS EASTMAN:  Now, I want to ask you now about something that happened back in September 2018, and I know it's a hard thing to talk about.

NIKY:  Yep.

MS EASTMAN:  And so you've prepared a statement for the Royal Commission and you want to read the statement.

NIKY:  Yes, I do.  I was sexually assaulted at a respite day centre in Queensland.  The perpetrator was another client of this service who was new to the area.  I told my dad about it a couple of days later because I was still processing it, and we had a meeting with the centre the next Monday.  We told the centre about the violence, and then we told the local police.  The police were really helpful, down to earth, explained things well and believed me, peacefully    

NIKY'S MUM:  Specifically.

NIKY:  Oh, specifically the Child Protection Investigation unit.  The police did a video interview recording with me and took a recording of me walking from the respite centre to outside where the assault happened.  My mum and dad and my GP all believed me too.  My GP did lots of tests to make sure I was safe and healthy.  I started seeing a nice counselor at Laurel Place, which was suggested straightaway by the police.  Some of the workers from the day respite were helpful, believed me and wrote down as happened.

Some other workers didn't believe me and kept trying to ask me for information about the court case.  There was   they were begging to know what happened when they kept asking me about what happened.  It made me feel unsafe at the centre.  One of them tried to tell me it didn't happen at all.  I told them it wasn't their business.  The DPP were really helpful.  I went and sat with them in the city.  They showed me around the courthouse and the room that I was going to be in if I had to talk to the judge and the lawyers.

He changed his mind lots of times in the court and changed his plea from guilty to not guilty.  More security cameras at the respite centre to make people feel safer.  Don't keep asking them about what happened.  Believe people when they say something has happened.  More training for carers and manage for the respite service about responding to sexual assaults.

MS EASTMAN:  Niky, thanks for reading that, and I know that's a hard thing to talk about and to tell the Royal Commission.

NIKY:  Mmm.

MS EASTMAN:  But thank you very much for sharing that experience.

NIKY:  That's okay.

MS EASTMAN:  Are you okay if I ask you a few questions?

NIKY:  Yeah, that's fine, yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  And one of the things you just mentioned at the end, is, you said, "Don't keep asking about what happened." Believe people when they say something has happened."

NIKY:  Yes.

MS EASTMAN:  And that's an outcome that you would like to see?

NIKY:  Yes.

MS EASTMAN:  And for you, the people who are closest to you believed you?

NIKY:  Yes.  Mmm.

MS EASTMAN:  And when they believed you, that made you feel safe?

NIKY:  It did, yep.

MS EASTMAN:  It made it okay to tell    

NIKY:  Yep.

MS EASTMAN:     somebody what had happened.

NIKY:  Yep, mmm.

MS EASTMAN:  And that was a bit different to the workers who didn't believe you.

NIKY:  Yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  So when they didn't believe you, you said it made you feel unsafe at the centre.

NIKY:  It did, yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  Why did that make you feel unsafe?

NIKY:  Because they just   they weren't even around at the time when it happened.  Okay.

MS EASTMAN:  One of them tried to tell you it didn't happen at all.  How did that make you feel?

NIKY:  I was fuming at the time.

MS EASTMAN:  You've also said as one of your suggestions more training for the carers and managers of respite services    

NIKY:  Yes.

MS EASTMAN:     in responding to sexual assaults.

NIKY:  Yep.

MS EASTMAN:  So is one of the parts of training is about when you hear a person tell you that they've been assaulted, that you believe them.

NIKY:  Yep.

MS EASTMAN:  And support them.

NIKY:  Yep.

MS EASTMAN:  And that's your other point about having more security cameras at the centres to make people feel safer.

NIKY:  Exactly, yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  There were some cameras at the centre, weren't there?

NIKY:  There was only one.

MS EASTMAN:  One.  But it didn't   it didn't cover the area where the assault occurred.

NIKY:  No, and there was security cameras over at the hospital as well and it didn't basically get to where it was happening.  Mmm.

MS EASTMAN:  I also wanted to ask you if it's okay   and just let me know.

NIKY:  Yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  Is   the police suggested going to see a counselor at Laurel Place.

NIKY:  Yes, they did.

MS EASTMAN:  And that was straightaway.

NIKY:  Mmm.

MS EASTMAN:  And before that, you had never had to see a counsellor at all. 

NIKY:  No.  No.

MS EASTMAN:  So this is a pretty new thing.

NIKY:  It is.

MS EASTMAN:  And what was your experience like?  What was it like when you saw the counselor?  Did you find that helpful?

NIKY:  It did, yes.  It did, yeah.  It did, Kate, yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  And so one of the reasons you wanted to come and talk to the Royal Commission today was that telling them about what happened to you might help other people feel that they can tell    

NIKY:  The Royal Commission,  yep.

MS EASTMAN:  And they can trust people to say, "This is what happened to me."

NIKY:  Exactly, yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  They don't have to keep it a secret.

NIKY:  No.

MS EASTMAN:  And they don't have to be ashamed.

NIKY:  Nope.  No, they don't, Kate.  And they have even got their own voice to speak up about it.  Yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  Right.  And what is it like to have your own voice to speak up about it?  How important is that?

NIKY:  It feels great to speak up and that, yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  Niky's experience has also had an effect on the family, and you have watched how people have responded to Niky and the impact on Niky of these events that go back to September 2018.  Is that right?


MS EASTMAN:  So can I ask you a little bit about your daughter.  I have asked her to give a description of what she is like, and she is very modest, other than disclosing the [REDACTED] side of things, but can you tell us about Niky growing up and a little bit about your family. 

NIKY'S MUM:  She's very social, so she does enjoy   or was until this happened   going to a centre where she can mix with other people and be, you know, doing her own thing, to a certain degree as much as possible, in a small place, yep.

MS EASTMAN:  All right.  So could I now ask you some questions about what occurred in September 2018?  So you were away at the time, and you became aware that Niky had reported the assault to your husband.

NIKY'S MUM:  Yeah, the actual   the actual day that this all happened, I was still here, but [REDACTED] came home and   sorry, she came home and didn't say anything about it.  I went away the next day, and it wasn't for a   until a few days later that it got   and when she had to think about going back to the centre the next week that it all came out and she told her father.  She'd obviously been stressing about it.  And he rang me straightaway.  We talked about it over the phone and so on.  Yeah, so, yes, I was away when she disclosed, yes.

MS EASTMAN:  So the first thing that happened was then a meeting with the staff at the respite centre.


MS EASTMAN:  And you had the impression that they didn't really know what to do.

NIKY'S MUM:  Yes, I did.

MS EASTMAN:  And I think you said you felt like they had their head in the sand.  It was a lot easier for it just to go away rather than to have to do something about it.  Is that right?

NIKY'S MUM:  Generally that picture, yeah.  I think the immediate   the staff that my husband saw at the time, well, they had to ring up and find out what to do and the head of the organisation from a bigger centre said, "Oh, well, that's a police matter." And, yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  So who   so who reported the matter to the police?  Was it your husband or someone from the respite centre?

NIKY'S MUM:  Yes, my husband.

MS EASTMAN:  So your husband?


MS EASTMAN:  And then the police came to your home, and Niky said that she did talk to the police.  Is that right?

NIKY'S MUM:  To the local police, yes.

MS EASTMAN:  The local police.  Then there was a referral to the Child Protection Unit.

NIKY'S MUM:  Yes, mmm.

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of that experience with the police and specifically the Child Protection Unit, what's your reflection on that?  What was that experience like?

NIKY'S MUM:  Well, we found them very helpful and very good at guiding [REDACTED]   I've done it again, sorry.  Niky.  Guiding our daughter, and, yeah, they   because they were trained in that area, we thought they were much better able to do it.

MS EASTMAN:  And so Niky has just said that the police made the suggestion about getting some counselling right at the   the outset.  And what did you observe about that?  What did you see about that?  How did that have an impact on Niky?

NIKY'S MUM:  I think it did help her process and to get the anger out.

MS EASTMAN:  So are we right in understanding that the police undertook an investigation, and that included taking a video-recorded interview for Niky and also, I think as you say in the statement, looking at the CCTV footage.  And the matter then progressed to the perpetrator being charged.


MS EASTMAN:  And then the matter then proceeded to a court proceeding.  Is that right?

NIKY'S MUM:  Yes.  Yes.

MS EASTMAN:  And you say the perpetrator was charged with rape and carnal knowledge of a person with an impairment of the mind.  That's what the police told you the charge was?

NIKY'S MUM:  Yes.  And he pled guilty to the second    

MS EASTMAN:  The second charge.

NIKY'S MUM:     of the charges.

MS EASTMAN:  How has things been for family and what you have seen for Niky since he has been sentenced and he is no longer in a position of being in the town or having to run into him?

NIKY'S MUM:  It was like a cloud had lifted, now that there was no chance of running into him or him being around the community.  And that he was punished for the crime that he committed.  It's   yeah, it's quite a weight off your shoulders.

MS EASTMAN:  Now, can I ask you some questions about the respite centre.  I think you've said in your statement you think that there needs to be some training for the staff at the centre to better respond to these issues.  But also, as I understand it, to ensure that it doesn't happen in the first place.  It's not    


MS EASTMAN:     simply a matter of ‘let it happen and then let's respond to it’, but having some clearer safeguards to ensure that Niky and others who go to the respite centre can go there knowing that they are feeling safe and that there is not the risk that they will be subject to any violence or abuse.  Is that right?

NIKY'S MUM:  Yes.  Yeah, I believe so.  I   there should be some sort of training towards any scenario that can   can happen in dealing with vulnerable people.

MS EASTMAN:  Before Niky went to that respite centre, did you have any concerns about what her safety and her welfare might be at the centre?

NIKY'S MUM:  No, but that was a long time ago.  It was 18 years ago, we worked out, that she first became involved with the centre, which was set up to help the members of the community.  And she was happy to go, and everything seemed to be running well and went along for a long time.  And then it changed.  What's the word?  It came under the umbrella of a very big organisation a few years ago, probably a couple of years ago before   a couple of years before this incident at the most when things changed.  But my   I think that a big organisation of that size should have in place training for all staff.

MS EASTMAN:  You've also flagged having better policies so that people of concern   as you say, somebody who may have a criminal history or something concerning in their history   that they're screened before they come to work at a centre like the respite centre.  Is that right?

NIKY'S MUM:  Yes.  Yes.  Definitely.

MS EASTMAN:  What support, if anything, did the respite centre provide to Niky or to the family generally?

NIKY'S MUM:  None.  Absolutely    

MS EASTMAN:  Was there any offer of support?

NIKY'S MUM:  No.  The only thing that happened was that two long term workers who'd known her since she first went there were   let us know that they were absolutely mortified.  But that's about all.  That we couldn't really have a conversation about it that was at the centre, so that was all that was said.  There was nothing from anyone who was in charge of the centre, or nothing from the overriding organisation until an audit happened last year, and that's when I voiced   or we voiced our concerns about that, and I got a letter afterwards of kind of apology, but   

MS EASTMAN:  When you say "kind of apology", how   did you consider it to it be an apology?

NIKY'S MUM:  I didn't feel that   you know, it was on paper but it didn't feel very genuine I guess is the word.

MS EASTMAN:  Did   before you got that letter, did anyone contact you to say, "Would you like an apology and, if so, what would you like us to say in the apology?"

NIKY'S MUM:  Not at all, not at all.

MS EASTMAN:  Has there been any offer of assistance to support Niky in terms of counselling or support the family at all?

NIKY'S MUM:  Nope.  Not at all.

MS EASTMAN:  Has there been any steps taken to have any other type of redress   and I think you have mentioned in your statement that the Victims Support Unit has been very good in assisting with some applications.  So there's a process on foot at the moment.  Is that right?

NIKY'S MUM:  Yes, but that's mainly getting compensation for our expenses and that sort of thing.  That's that paperwork sort of side of it.  But as the organisation itself, no, nothing.  The only thing that's happened is since this letter, I have actually had a chance to meet the lady who wrote the letter recently, and I told her that I would like to have a meeting with someone to find out if things have been put in place or if   what policy is.  And I have yet heard nothing.  So    

MS EASTMAN:  Nothing.  Okay.

NIKY'S MUM:  So we will wait and see if anything happens.  But, I mean, that's only recently, I have to say.  But I intend to    

MS EASTMAN:  So sort of reflecting back on these events, what would you like to share with the Royal Commissioners about a way forward?

NIKY'S MUM:  There probably needs to be some sort of checks and balances in the hierarchy of the organisation that's providing the care.  Accountability and training for the staff who are looking after the vulnerable people with disabilities, or aged, or whatever it is.

MS EASTMAN:  Can I thank both of you so much for sharing these experiences with the Royal Commission  and for the suggestions that you've made about change and, Niky, as you said, having a voice to be able to speak up and tell people what occurred.


CHAIR:  Yes, Ms Fraser.

MS FRASER:  Thank you, Chair.  I understand that we will now break for morning tea.

CHAIR:  All right.  What time should we resume?  Should we resume at 12 noon Hobart time, 11 am Brisbane time?

MS FRASER: Chair, I am in your hands.  From my perspective, it is not necessary that we have that amount of break, but I am in your hands.

CHAIR:  Well, the program that I am provided with suggests that Ms Cumming will commence her evidence at 12 noon.  So if   this will allow us to maintain that, so let's come back then at 12 noon Hobart time, 11 am Brisbane time.

MS FRASER:  Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:  Thank you.



CHAIR:  Yes, Ms Fraser.

MS FRASER:  Thank you, Chair.  I'm joined in the Brisbane hearing room by Ms Carolyn Cumming, of Anglicare.  I would ask that the oath be administered to Ms Cumming now.



MS FRASER:  Thank you, Ms Cumming.  Ms Cumming, you have given a statement    

CHAIR:  Sorry.  Ms Cumming, thank you very much for coming to the Royal Commission.  I would just like to indicate where all the Commissioners are so that you are aware of it.  I appreciate that you are in the Brisbane hearing room.  We have Commissioner Bennett and Commissioner Mason in the Hobart hearing room, and we have Commissioner Galbally participating the hearing from Melbourne.  I am participating in the hearing from the Sydney hearing room, and, as you know, Ms Fraser, who is about to ask you some questions, is in the Brisbane hearing room as well. I will now ask Ms Fraser to ask you some questions.  Thank you.

MS FRASER:  Thank you, Chair.  Ms Cumming you have given a statement to this Royal Commission?


MS FRASER:  And the statement is dated 18 February 2022.


MS FRASER:  And you gave the statement in response to a notice to give information or a statement in writing dated 31 January 2022.

MS CUMMING:  Yes, that's correct.

MS FRASER:  Commissioners, you will find Ms Cumming's statement is document STAT.0507.0001.0001.  It is found at tab 3 in Tender Bundle B.  Ms Cumming, you were employed by Anglicare as the Service Manager, Community, Aged and Disability for Brisbane North region?


MS FRASER:  And you have held this role since March of 2019?


MS FRASER:  The Royal Commission has just heard the evidence of Niky and Niky's Mum, and you were present during the time that that evidence was played weren't you?


MS FRASER:  Anglicare provided services to Niky from August 2016, didn't they?


MS FRASER:  And those services were for an average three days per week.


MS FRASER:  And, during that time, Niky would participate in a range of activities.

MS CUMMING:  Correct.

MS FRASER:  Ms Cumming, on 17 September 2018, Niky and her father met with Anglicare staff to report that Niky had been sexually assaulted, didn't they?

MS CUMMING:  They did, yes.

MS FRASER:  And you agree that a report of sexual assault at that time should have been addressed under Anglicare's Incident Management Procedure and Harm Prevention and Response for Adults with Disability Procedure.

MS CUMMING:  Yes, it should have.

MS FRASER:  You have a copy of that procedure with you for your reference at tab 11 of volume 1 of the Tender Bundle.  And, Commissioners, that is document ASQ.5005.0001.119.  And to repeat, that's tab 11, of Tender Bundle B.  Ms Cumming, I won't ask you to look at that document just yet.  You were familiar with that procedure and what is required under that procedure?

MS CUMMING:  At the time, I wasn't aware of that procedure.

MS FRASER:  Are you now aware of that procedure?

MS CUMMING:  I am now aware.

MS FRASER:  And you would accept, wouldn't you, that in relation to Niky's assault and Anglicare's subsequent response, that the procedure was not followed in a number of respects.


MS FRASER:  Could I ask you to refer briefly to paragraph 58 of your statement.  I will give you a moment.  That's on page 13 of the documents.

MS CUMMING:  I've got that now.

MS FRASER:  You will see there that it records:

"Service manager directed staff to refer the matter to police in accordance with the incident management procedure."

You can see that?


MS FRASER:  But that isn't what happened, is it?

MS CUMMING:  No.  The service manager told the staff to get the parents to call the police.

MS FRASER:  Yes.  So the service manager directed staff to tell Niky's father to report to police.

MS CUMMING:  Yes.  Yes. 

MS FRASER:  You say at paragraph 61 of your statement that it was Anglicare's practice to recommend that clients or their families report to police, but you accept, don't you, that that is inconsistent with the procedures that were in place at the time.

MS CUMMING:  I do, yes.

MS FRASER:  Specifically, it's inconsistent with the Harm Prevention and Response for Adults with a Disability Procedure.

MS CUMMING:  Yes, it is.

MS FRASER:  Could I ask you to turn to the document at tab 12 of your Tender Bundle.  Commissioners, tab 12 at Tender Bundle B.  The document is called Quality Indicators Report   August to October 2018.


MS FRASER:  Ms Cumming, can you tell me who prepares this report?

MS CUMMING:  I believe it's someone from our Governance, Risk and Assurance.

MS FRASER:  And where does this report go to?

MS CUMMING:  To the community services   no, the Community Care Governance Committee.

MS FRASER:  So is this a document that is prepared for the purpose of compliance?

MS CUMMING:  I think so.  I'm not sure.  It's    

MS FRASER:  Could I ask you to turn to page 36 of that document.  You will see there's a table there.


MS FRASER:  The second entry to the table has a date 11 September 2018.  And you accept, don't you, that while Niky and her father reported the incident on 17 September, the incident ultimately occurred on 11 September    


MS FRASER:     2018.  And the reference to [REDACTED] is the centre in which the assault occurred.

MS CUMMING: Yes, it is.

MS FRASER:  So we can see there in the second column from the right that there's a number of notations made there, including as the second last notation:

"Incident reported to police." 


MS FRASER:  But it is not clear on that document, is it, that the incident was ultimately reported to police by the parents.

MS CUMMING:  No, it's not.

MS FRASER:  Anglicare's formal documented procedures, such as the document that we referred to earlier, the Harm Prevention and Response for Adults with Disability Procedure, has that document been amended in any way to provide that families now report incidents to police?

MS CUMMING:  No.  Not to my knowledge.

MS FRASER:  So it continues to be the responsibility of Anglicare?

MS CUMMING:  It does.

MS FRASER:  You record at paragraph 71 of your statement that Anglicare staff recommended to Niky and Niky's family that they seek an appointment with Niky's GP as soon as possible.


MS FRASER:  And you then go on to say the reason why that recommendation was made by Anglicare.  Ms Cumming, it's not correct, is it, that the recommendation to attend the GP was one made by Anglicare?

MS CUMMING:  Our Lifestyle Lead at the time did recommend that they see the GP, and I followed up with her to make sure it was for those reasons.


MS CUMMING:  Then the police did as well.

MS FRASER:  So can I ask you to turn to paragraph 77 of your statement.


MS FRASER:  And you see there it reads:

"It appears from a dated note on 17 September and confirmed by the Lifestyle Lead that the detective who subsequently spoke with Niky's dad also advised Niky to take her to the GP."


MS FRASER:  Ms Cumming, could I ask you to have a look at document number   sorry, document at tab 23 of the Tender Bundle.

MS CUMMING:  Yes, I've got that.

MS FRASER:  Just going back a moment, you mentioned to me earlier that Anglicare recommended in the first instance that Niky be taken to the GP.  Could you be mistaken with respect to that recollection at all?

MS CUMMING:  I could be.  It   I wasn't there at the time and it was what was reported to me later on.

MS FRASER:  And specifically if we have a look at this document which is at tab 23, we see there that it is a progress note    


MS FRASER:     dated 17 September from the Lifestyle Lead that talks about a phone call between Niky's dad and the Progress Lead, and it records there:

"He was also advised to take Niky to the GP for check up and to be tested for any sexually transmitted diseases."


MS FRASER:  Ms Cumming, do you accept that the only document that Anglicare has produced to this Royal Commission that relates to an ultimate referral to the GP is this document?


MS FRASER:  And you would accept, wouldn't you, that based on this document it appears that it was the police who ultimately referred Niky to the GP.


MS FRASER:  And that there's no other    

MS CUMMING:  It appears that way, yeah.

MS FRASER:  Sorry, I cut you off there.

MS CUMMING:  Sorry, yeah, no, it does, yes.

MS FRASER:  And you would accept that there is no other supporting documentation that supports the suggestion that Anglicare also made that recommendation.


MS FRASER:  The procedure that we have referred to earlier, the Harm Prevention and Response for Adults with Disability Procedure, provides that if a victim has experienced sexual assault, that, with the victim's consent, they should be referred to the nearest sexual    acute sexual service for the purpose of initial counselling and medical examination.  Ms Cumming, that didn't occur in this instance, did it?


MS FRASER:  The document also records   sorry, if we could turn to your statement, paragraph 79.  Your statement there records:

"The Anglicare Incident Management Procedure does not refer to post incident supports  "

Other than those referred to in a previous paragraph.


MS FRASER:  Ms Cumming, the statement that is recorded there at paragraph 79 is not correct, is it?

MS CUMMING:  For the Incident Management Procedure?

MS FRASER:  Yes.  I can take you specifically to page 12 of that procedure.

MS CUMMING:  Oh, yes.

MS FRASER:  At item 15.


MS FRASER:  And we see it provides for follow up and support to client and parent carer.

MS CUMMING:  Absolutely, yes. 

MS FRASER:  Yes.  And we see there that the first bullet point is:

"To provide or arrange for additional support, follow up or debriefing for the adult with a disability and/or their parent carer."


MS FRASER:  So accepting that the statement says that there was no requirement, that paragraph there would indicate that there was.

MS CUMMING:  It does, yes.

MS FRASER:  And that didn't occur in this instance, did it?


MS FRASER:  Ms Cumming, it's the case, isn't it, that prior to July 2020, Anglicare didn't provide any follow up to Niky or her parents, did they?


MS FRASER:  Between the time   sorry, it was not actually until there was an NDIS audit in July of 2020 that Anglicare ultimately identified that that follow up hadn't been provided to Niky or her family, wasn't it?

MS CUMMING:  That's correct, yes.

MS FRASER:  And there was then subsequently a letter sent by you on 20 July 2020.


MS FRASER:  Almost two years after the incident.


MS FRASER:  And a copy of that letter, Commissioners, appears at tab 44 of Tender Bundle B.  Ms Cumming, you had a meeting with Niky's mother on 31 October 2021?

MS CUMMING:  I think it was earlier in October but, yes.

MS FRASER:  If we have a look at   sorry, 20 October.  My apologies.

MS CUMMING:  20 October.  Yes, yes.  Yep.

MS FRASER:  If we have a look at the document at tab 31 of the Tender Bundle   Commissioners, for your reference   you accept, Ms Cumming, that that is a note of your meeting with Niky's mum?


MS FRASER:  And you have noted in that file note, from that meeting, that an apology for the incident was extended by you to Niky's mum?


MS FRASER:  Before you made the apology, did you ask Niky or Niky's Mum what they were ultimately   what they would consider to be an appropriate apology?

MS CUMMING:  No, I didn't.

MS FRASER:  Ms Cumming, just a couple of final questions.


MS FRASER:  Has Anglicare considered providing Niky with any form of redress?

MS CUMMING:  Not to my knowledge.

MS FRASER:  Is this something that Anglicare would consider?

MS CUMMING:  I would think so.  As part of this process, we are learning quite a bit, and I can take it to our executive.

MS FRASER:  Thank you, Ms Cumming.


MS FRASER:  Nothing further, Chair.

CHAIR:  Yes.  Thank you.  Ms Cumming, when we go to the document behind tab 44, what were you intending to apologise for?

MS CUMMING:  Unfortunately, it was an apology for me taking so long to provide an outcome to the investigation.

CHAIR:  Given your answers today, there were a lot more things to apologise for, weren't there?

MS CUMMING:  There are.

CHAIR:  Has an apology been extended in respect of the other failings by Anglicare to which you have agreed today?

MS CUMMING:  I haven't yet.  I was going to provide an apology here and we would follow up with the family.

CHAIR:  Why has it taken so long?  We are now at the end of March 2022.

MS CUMMING:  In going through this process, we have been able to identify a lot of gaps with how we have managed this particular assault incident.

CHAIR:  Yes.  When did you identify the gaps?

MS CUMMINGS:  We started with looking through for the statement and then in the last couple of weeks doing even a deeper dive with the lawyers in preparation for the hearing.

CHAIR:  So do I gather from that answer that the process of trying to identify where gaps were in the procedures for dealing with this particular case were   that procedure that you followed was prompted by the statements that were produced by Niky and Niky's Mum for the purposes of this hearing?

MS CUMMING:  Yes.  There were some   some gaps identified with our incident and complaint management and investigation through a Deloitte review from 2019 and then a followup in 2021.  And our executive have started that process of improving that area of Anglicare.

CHAIR:  By the time you wrote the letter of 20 July   and I will come back to the form of the letter in a moment   by the time you wrote the letter of 20 July 2020, you were aware of a number of the defects in the procedures that Anglicare had adopted in addition to those for which you apologised in the letter.  That's correct, isn't it?

MS CUMMING:  I wasn't aware of a lot of   a lot of those in what was happening in our head office with our incidents and complaints investigations at that time.

CHAIR:  Who wrote this letter?


CHAIR:  Why didn't you trouble to check with head office as to what was going on and what gaps had been identified?

MS CUMMING:  I agree I should have, and I regret that I didn't follow up.

CHAIR:  Who do you report to   let me start again.  In July 2020, who did you report to at Anglicare?

MS CUMMING:  Our Group Manager.

CHAIR:  Located where?

MS CUMMING:  She manages all of the different regions within Community, Aged and Disability.

CHAIR:  In Queensland?

MS CUMMING:  In Queensland, yes.

CHAIR:  Why didn't she write this letter?

MS CUMMING:  I   I can't answer that.  I don't know.  I   

CHAIR:  Does she   sorry, does she   

MS CUMMING:  I didn't refer to her.

CHAIR:  Right.  Does she still hold that position today?

MS CUMMING:  Yes, she does.

CHAIR:  Why isn't she here?  Why are you here and not her?

MS CUMMING:  Because I was the person who wrote the letter and the Commission asked that I be the person to appear.

CHAIR:  Was the person to whom you reported had any involvement in this case at all, to your knowledge?

MS CUMMING:  Do you mean like at the moment preparing for the hearing?  Or in 2018?

CHAIR:  Let's start with 2018.  Then we will go to 2020 and then we will come to the hearing.  As at 2018?

MS CUMMING:  So in 2018, yeah, she   Sue   sorry our Group Manager was aware of the incident, yes.

CHAIR:  So that in 2020, she was also aware of the incident?

MS CUMMING:  She was and copied into the email requesting the outcome.

CHAIR:  And she was aware at that time that there had been at least one review or possibly two conducted, that is, in 2020, into the circumstances of this case and, in particular, gaps that might be identified?

MS CUMMING:  Yeah.  The review was of all of our incident management and complaints investigations, and I think that the Group Manager may have been aware.

CHAIR:  What was the exact date of that review?  And if you don't know, Ms Fraser might be able to tell us by identifying the document.

MS CUMMING:  I don't know the exact date of the review.

CHAIR:  Are you able to help us, Ms Fraser?

MS CUMMING:  I didn't get that, sorry.

MS FRASER:  I will just take a moment to attempt to source that, Chair.

CHAIR:  And, Ms Cumming, you have said that the Harm Prevention and Response for Adults with a Disability Procedure was a document you were not familiar with in 2018;  is that correct?

MS CUMMING:  That's correct, yes.

CHAIR:  When did you first become aware that there was such a document?

MS CUMMING:  When we were preparing my statement.

CHAIR:  That is a document which, on its face, says the effective date is 31 October 2015, and there was a review date of 31 October 2017.  If you go to the document behind tab 11, you will see that on page 1.

MS CUMMING:  Yes, yes.

CHAIR:  How is it possible for someone in your position not to be aware of that procedure?

MS CUMMING:  I probably should have been aware of that.  I knew of the Incident Management.  I was not aware of the Harm and Prevention.

CHAIR:  Say that again.  I'm sorry, I didn't quite    

MS CUMMING:  Sorry.  Yes, you would think that someone in my position would have been aware of that particular document.  In searching for documents, it was difficult at that time.  You had to have the name of the   sorry, the specific name of the document to find it on our system.

CHAIR:  Have you ever raised with senior management what the point of having a procedure would be   is, sorry, the point of a procedure is if it's not distributed to staff who should be responsible or are responsible for implementing the procedure?

MS CUMMING:  I   I haven't.  I have alerts now that will send through any updates of documents or new documents.

CHAIR:  What have you done to ensure that members of staff who are answerable or report to you or to people under you, what have done to ensure that they are familiar with this procedure?

MS CUMMING:  I have the coordinators as a level underneath me in my role as Service Manager and they have got the alerts where they receive updates for documents through email and policy updates.  And then they need to be distributing that to the team leads or be aware of it in case it's ever required.

CHAIR:  And what have you   what have you or Anglicare have done to ensure that the procedure is actually read and understood by everybody who may be responsible for giving effect to it?

MS CUMMING:  Again, I rely on the Service Coordinators and the Multi Disciplinary Team Coordinator to ensure that they have read that.  And I have learnt that's   when we do have something happen, we will go and review the policy or the procedure.

CHAIR:  I suppose you might think that the person to whom you reported to assumed that enough would be done to ensure that you had seen the procedure in 2018 to 2020, yet apparently you hadn't.

MS CUMMING:  I   I can't   I can't answer that.

CHAIR:  No.  So can you just, please, assist me once again.  Could you tell us exactly what you, personally   because I understand you can't answer for those who   to whom you report   but what do you personally intend to do by way of an apology to Niky and Niky's parents for the failures of the systems which have been identified today and any other failures that may come to light?

MS CUMMING:  Okay.  Yeah, look, in this forum, I personally and on behalf of Anglicare we acknowledge that what happened to Niky and the impact on her and her family is devastating.  And I would like to work with my Group Manager in formulating an apology and trying to meet with Niky and her parents to discuss and apologise.  We didn't manage it very well.  We didn't have the policies and processes in place to support Niky and her family, and we regret that.  That   I carry that regret.  And we   we also didn't engage openly as per our values of care, love, hope, and humility.  Sorry.

CHAIR:  That's all right.  Take your time, Ms Cumming.  If you want to have a break, that's okay.

MS CUMMING:  No.  I know that Anglicare and me personally have learnt from this, and I just want to offer my deepest apology to Niky and her family for not fully engaging and supporting them as they required or needed.  Sorry.

CHAIR:  That's all right.  I have got another question that I want to ask you.  So if you do want to take a break that is perfectly all right.


CHAIR:  Do you prefer me to go on?

MS CUMMING:  Yes, please.

CHAIR:  All right.  In your statement, question 22:

"Has Anglicare provided any form of redress to Niky with respect to the incident?  If so when and what was the redress?  If not, why?"

And your answer was:

"To the best my knowledge, no redress has been provided to Niky and this has not been requested."

What did you mean by saying, "This has not been requested"?

MS CUMMING:  That the family haven't approached us, which I realise it's something that we should approach them about.

CHAIR:  Well, that was what I was going to ask you, because if that is what you were conveying   and I just wanted to clear up the possible ambiguity   then it implies that somebody in your care who has suffered something which, in your words, is devastating, is expected to come to you to ask for redress rather than Anglicare taking the initiative and offering some form of redress.  That's, in fact, what happened, isn't it?

MS CUMMING:  Yeah, and that's not correct.  Not right.

CHAIR:  All right.  Thank you very much.  I will ask other Commissioners if I may   yes.

MS FRASER:  Chair.  Sorry, Chair. Sorry, Chair, just before we move to the other Commissioners, you did ask whether there was any document that gave a particular date for the review that had been referred to.

CHAIR:  Yes.

MS FRASER:  The document that I would best identify for you is the document at tab 30, which is   has a date of 8 July 2020 and refers to   or the subject of which is NDIS Audit   Feedback from Participant Interviews.

CHAIR:  Yes, and that is a document I see that   at   tab 30.  My document is a one page document.

MS FRASER:  That is the only document, sorry, Chair, that bears any   or has any reference to a particular review date.  That is the best that I could point you to.

CHAIR:  So we don't have, as far as you are aware, the document that constituted the review.

MS FRASER:  That is correct.

CHAIR:  I see.  Commissioner Bennett, do you have any questions of Ms Cumming?

MS BENNETT:  Yes.  Ms Cumming, I would like to just briefly discuss some of the information that you have provided in page 26 and 27 of your statement.  And this is particularly requesting that staff be mindful of relationships between clients.  And it lists what staff need to do about monitoring, doing a risk assessment, informing parents. Have you got that in front of you?

MS CUMMING:  Yes.  Yes, I do.

MS BENNETT:  We have heard over the last few days about how that people with disability are often not given adequate information or understanding about respectful relationships, about consent and choice and the right to make their own choices.  Do you think that those strategies should also be staff talking with those people about what constitutes respectful relationships and consent and choice in having those relationships?

MS CUMMING:  Absolutely.  And I see it's not here but we have a Lifestyle Lead at the respite centre in question who does try to incorporate that into her program of being   having, yeah, respectful relationships and we need to work with the staff as well.  So, yes, absolutely.

MS BENNETT:  Because at the moment it reads very much like action to be taken against, with the monitoring regime, and that, as I said, time and time again that good information and education and support    


MS BENNETT:     would you agree, is a critical part of mitigation?

MS CUMMING:  Yes, yes, and we   I didn't mean that to sound like that, because I understand that everyone has a right to a relationship, and it's teaching people the best way to have   no, not the best, but, you know, how to have a safe relationship, boundaries, etcetera.  And   

MS BENNETT:  And you say that does occur?

MS CUMMING:  Our Lifestyle Lead has told me that she does try to work with the people there, the participants at the respite centre, what are appropriate boundaries and social behaviour.

MS BENNETT:  And is there a professional way in which that information has been developed that is accessible in various forms of communication?

MS CUMMING:  No.  So that's something that we will have to work on.

MS BENNETT:  And drawing on the expertise of advocacy groups and people with disability?

MS CUMMING:  Yes.  Absolutely, yes.

MS BENNETT:  On how those conversations can be held and supported.

MS CUMMING:  Yes.  That's an improvement that we can   we can have.

MS BENNETT:  No further questions, Chair.  Thank you.

CHAIR:  I am sorry.  I was on mute.  It seems to be a repetitive fault on my part.  Commissioner Mason, do you have any questions for Ms Cumming?

COMMISSIONER MASON:  Thank you, Chair.  I just have a quick question, and thank you, Ms Cumming, for your evidence today.  We referred to this document behind tab 12, the Quality Indicators Report   August to October 2018.  And the   on page 36, the incident was identified as “major” in that table.  And just looking at pages further into the document, I'm not quite sure if I've looked at the right page, but I was interested in other categories which are minor, moderate, major and extreme.

And I would imagine moderate and minor and major would probably get categorised much more often than "extreme." And my question is, is Anglicare perhaps considering in re looking at these categories given your evidence today, because there seems to be a gap between action and prioritising against this category of "major" in relation to the assault   sexual assault.  Just was interested in your view.

MS CUMMING:  Yeah, I've had a recent discussion with our Executive Director and, yes, we will definitely be reviewing that.

COMMISSIONER MASON:  Thank you.  Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:  Commissioner Galbally, do you have any questions of Ms Cumming?

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  No, thank you very much for your evidence and just to follow up Commissioner Bennett's question about primary prevention, do you envisage undertaking a review to ensure that whether there is a strong enough emphasis on education and involvement and, you know, the   a review, potentially, with   led by an organisation of people with disabilities who may be able to assist?  I just wondered if you think the “lifestyle” area for this is adequate.

MS CUMMING:  Yes, and that's been another discussion point that we will definitely be looking at a review and more robust education for staff to   to be across Lifestyle and to prevent this happening.

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  It wasn't the staff so much as the participants as well ,that they be really involved in this.

MS CUMMING:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  And we, are across the organisation, looking at more client participation in these teachings and learnings.


CHAIR:  Yes, thank you, Commissioner Mason.  Mr Andreatidis   I'm sorry, have I pronounced your name correctly?  I hope I have.

MR ANDREATIDIS:  You have.  Thank you very, Chair.

CHAIR:  Yes, do you have any application to make any questions to Ms Cumming?

MR ANDREATIDIS:  I do, if I could be given leave to ask Ms Cumming about two matters   or at least one.

CHAIR:  And what would that matter be?

MR ANDREATIDIS:  In relation to the question about whether or not Anglicare suggested to Niky's family that Niky see a doctor.

CHAIR:  All right.

MR ANDREATIDIS:  And, secondly, whether    

CHAIR:  Go on.

MR ANDREATIDIS:  My apologies.

CHAIR:  No, no.  Go on.

MR ANDREATIDIS:  And, secondly, a hypothetical, assuming   on the assumption that Niky and her family were here whether there is anything Ms Cumming would like to say to them.

CHAIR:  I will give you leave to ask the first question.  I will ask Ms Fraser, do you have anything to say about the second question that Mr Andreatidis proposes to ask?

MS FRASER: Chair, it would be my position that Ms Cumming has, in fact, already addressed that in the responses that she has given to the Commission today.

CHAIR:  Mr Andreatidis, is there anything about that second question that you wish to ask that could add to what has transpired today?

MR ANDREATIDIS:  Other than perhaps the tense in which it was answered, instead of it being prospective, what would she actually do right now.  But I won't take it   I won't press for that, Chair.

CHAIR:  Yes, I think the answer to that, Mr Andreatidis, is for the matter to be taken away and given serious consideration and appropriate steps taken.


CHAIR:  So I will give you leave to ask the first question or first one of two questions arising out of the reference to   referral to a doctor.  So go ahead.

MR ANDREATIDIS:  Thank you, Chair.


MR ANDREATIDIS:  It's a document referred to in paragraph 32 of Ms Cumming's statement.  Operator, the Doc ID is ASQ.5006.0001.0209.  Thank you.  Can you see that, Ms Cumming?

MS CUMMING:  No.  Yes, I can now.

MR ANDREATIDIS:  And do you recognise what that document is?

MS CUMMING:  Yes, it's our incident report.

MR ANDREATIDIS:  And could I ask the operator to please go to .0209, which is the   down the bottom of the page, please.  If you can keep scrolling down for me.  Yes.  Could you stop there.  Can you see the words "service coordinator" then something has been struck out?

MS CUMMING:  Can that be a bit larger for me, please?  I can see "service coordinator." 

MR ANDREATIDIS:  Could you read the rest to yourself?  Could you read that sentence, please.  Can you see it?

MS CUMMING:  Which one are you looking at?

MR ANDREATIDIS:  "Describe immediate action:  Service Coordinator..." Then there's a black line.

MS CUMMING:  Okay.  Sorry, I was looking at the wrong thing.

MR ANDREATIDIS:  No, that was my fault, sorry.

MS CUMMING:  Okay, yes.

MR ANDREATIDIS:  Can you   for benefit of the Commissioners, just briefly explain what that is intended to be?

MS CUMMING:  The immediate action is what the staff who had the incident reported to them took as a response, the immediate response to the action.

MR ANDREATIDIS:  And is it a record made when?  Do you know?

MS CUMMING:  At the time of adding the incident into the system, if any   because immediate action should have been taken as soon as we knew about the incident.  So that would be put into   or entered into the incident at that time.

MR ANDREATIDIS:  And does that note help you with your recollection as to   

MS CUMMING:  It does.

MR ANDREATIDIS:  It does.  Thank you.  I have no further questions, Commissioners.

CHAIR:  Ms Cumming, just arising out of that, I noticed in the document, in the left-hand column it's referred to as "elder abuse."  Can we bring that document back up?  Why was it referred to as "elder abuse? "

MS CUMMING:  I wasn't there at the time when that was done.  But I   I would have to   I haven't   I can only surmise so I don't know.  It's either   

CHAIR:  If you don't   if you don't know.


CHAIR:  All right.  Thank you.  I take it that no other counsel has an application to ask Ms Cumming any questions?  We will pause for a moment to confirm that that is the case.  Thank you.  In that case   and, Ms Fraser, I take it there's nothing else from you, as far as Ms Cumming is concerned?

MS FRASER: No, thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:  Thank you, Ms Cumming, for coming to the Commission in order to give evidence today.  We appreciate the assistance that you have given to the Royal Commission and your evidence.  Thank you.

MS CUMMING:  Thank you, Commissioner.


CHAIR:  Ms Fraser, we should now adjourn, I take it, until what time?

MS FRASER: Until 2 pm Sydney and Hobart time, 1 pm Brisbane time, Chair.

CHAIR:  Yes.  Thank you very much.  Well then we will adjourn until that time, that is, 2 pm Sydney Hobart time and 1 pm Brisbane time.  Thank you.

MS FRASER:  Thank you.



CHAIR:  Yes, Ms Eastman.

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Chair, and thank you, Commissioners.  This afternoon I'm very pleased that we have a panel of advocates and experts from Women With Disability Australia.  Our panel members have given their affirmations, and I will briefly introduce them.  So Carolyn Frohmader joins us, Mali Hermans joins us and Tess Moodie.  Right.  Chair, I just think you might be   okay, you are off mute.

CHAIR:  Yes.  Thank you.  Ms Frohmader, Tess Moodie and Ms Hermans, thank you very much indeed for, first of all, coming to the Royal Commission in Hobart, even though, in Sydney, we can't actually see you on the screen at the moment, but I'm sure you will emerge very shortly.  We are also very grateful to WWDA for all of the very, very considerable assistance you have provided in the   assisting in the preparations for this hearing.

We are very grateful for those contributions which have made for a very important hearing and a hearing that has covered a very large range of issues.  So we want to thank you both for your attendance at this panel and for everything you have done to assist the hearing that has been held this week in Hobart and in Brisbane.  Yes.  Thank you.  I still can't see the panelists.  I don't know if others are in the same position.

MS EASTMAN:  I think we might just press on and I hope, Chair, that you will be able to see them.

CHAIR:  Now, it has been remedied.  Thank you very much.  Now we can   at least I can see you.  I hope everybody else can as well.  Thank you.

MS EASTMAN:  I might start by just making some introductory comments.  So Women With Disability Australia   I am going to refer to as WWDA, if that is okay with you   is a national Disabled Person's Organisation, a DPO, and a National Women's Alliance member, and you represent girls, women, feminine identifying and non binary people with all types of disability in Australia.  The key purpose of WWDA is to promote and advance the human rights and freedoms of women, girls, feminine identifying and non binary people with disability.   WWDA uses the term "women and girls with disability" on the understanding that this term is inclusive of, supportive of women and girls with disability along with feminine identifying and non binary people with disability in Australia.

WWDA's goal is to be a national voice for the rights of women and girls with disability, and a national force to improve the safety, lives, life chances of women and girls with disability.  You represent more than 2 million disabled women, girls, feminine identifying and non binary people in Australia.  You have affiliate organisations and networks of women with disability in most states and territories in Australia.  And you are also internationally recognised for your global leadership in advancing the human rights of women and girls with disability.  And as a DPO, WWDA is managed and run by women with disability for women and girls with disability.  I hope that gives the Commissioners and those following this session a sense of what you do and your reach.

Now, I was going to start with some formal introductions, and it might be helpful for the Commissioners and those following to know from each of you a little bit about what your role is at WWDA.  It doesn't have to be long.  Ms Frohmader, we have met you in Public hearing 17.1 back in October, and you and Linda Steele spoke to us about sexual violence, but really looking at issues concerning sexual and reproductive rights for women and girls with disability.  So a warm welcome back to you.





MS FROHMADER:  Thank you.

MS EASTMAN:  This time we are in person.  I said to you I can't promise that the fire alarm won't go off again but you won't have to walk down the 16 flights of stairs that Dr Steele had to do mid hearing   and still managed to be on the line and engaged and giving evidence while that was happening.  So shall we use first names?

MS FROHMADER:  Yes, please.

MS EASTMAN:  So, Carolyn, over to you.

MS FROHMADER:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you for having us.  This is an extraordinary opportunity for us.  My   I have been the executive director of WWDA for nearly 25 years, and so there was a lot of that 25 years where I was it, had no staff.  Now I feel a little bit spoiled because we have a few staff, which is fantastic.  But, yes, so that's my role.


MS HERMANS:  Yes, hello.  Thank you for having me as well.  My name is Mali Hermans, and I am a Policy and Project Officer at WWDA.  So that means I work across both some of our projects that are targeted towards our members, including WWDA LEAD project, as well as in our policy work, particularly as a newly established and funded National Women's Alliance by the Federal Government.

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you.  Tess?

TESS MOODIE:  Hi.  Thank you for having me.  I'm Tess Moodie.  I'm a fairly recent addition to WWDA but feel like I've been here for 10 years already because it just feels so wonderful to be part of the organisation.  I'm also a Policy and Project Officer, predominantly working on our Disability Royal Commission work and engagement, but more recently pitching in and helping out with the Women's Alliance work.  So   yeah.

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you.  You wanted to start, before we have the discussion, to give an Acknowledgment of Country.  Who would like to do that?  Mali?

MS HERMANS:  Yes, so before we begin, WWDA would like to acknowledge the Muwinina peoples of the Nuenonne nation of Truwana Lutruwita the traditional owners and custodians of Nipaluna, the land on which we are meeting today.  We pay our respects to the ancestors and Elders of this place, both past and present, and we also acknowledge and pay our respects to First Nations people appearing at this hearing and to those who may be joining through the live stream.  Violence against women with disability will never be fully addressed in this place without first reckoning with systemic racism and ongoing colonial oppression.  WWDA will always stand in solidarity with First Nations women with disabilities.

Today, every WWDA staff member providing evidence to the Royal Commission is also a victim-survivor of gender-based violence.  Like many of our colleagues who work in advocacy or the gender-based violence sector, we know that embedding our lived experience in prevention, early intervention, and responses to gender-based violence is vital to ensuring the principle of “nothing about us without us”.  We acknowledge past advocates, activists, and change makers who have come before us, including WWDA's founders, and those who continue to tirelessly work towards ensuring women, girls, feminine identifying and non binary people with disabilities can live their lives free from violence.

In acknowledgment of Trans Day of Visibility today, we draw particular attention to and celebrate the leadership of trans disabled people and that leadership that they continue to demonstrate in our community.  Finally, WWDA extends our respect to the many women, girls, and gender diverse people with disability who have lost their lives as a result of violence and to those who continue to live with lifelong impairments as a direct result of the violence perpetrated against them.

Sitting in front of me right now is a photo of my mum, Julie.  My mum was a victim survivor, having experienced multiple intersecting and ongoing forms of violence throughout her life in a range of settings, including hospitals, and a disability group home.  My mum was murdered by a healthcare system that decided her life as a disabled woman had no value.  Those who perpetrated this violence took away her right to speak, as they do every day to countless other women and girls with disability.

The elders and mentors around me have always taught me to bring a human face to our advocacy and struggles for justice.  Today, as we sit in what can often be a cold and clinical setting, let my mum Julie serve as that human face.  Tess, Carolyn and I are not alone as we sit here today at this bench because we carry with us my mum's memory and the memory of every other disabled victim-survivor in here with us.

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Mali.  Condolences for your loss.  We've heard this week about the strength of mothers, grandmothers, sisters and, as Commissioner Mason said yesterday, that notion of sisterhood   doesn't necessarily have to be the blood sisters, but it can be the unity that women bring to supporting each other.  So welcome, Julie, and I'm very pleased your mum has joined you on the panel in spirit, and that we also can see her.  So thank you, Mali, for that.

I want to start by asking you about WWDA's work and advocacy that is relevant to this hearing.  Our focus on this hearing is women and girls who experience violence and abuse in family, domestic settings and also sexual violence.  WWDA's work extends into a wide range of areas touching on women and girls, but this hearing has got a particular focus.  So Carolyn, would you like to speak briefly about the history of WWDA's work advocating for the rights of women and girls with disability to be safe from all forms of violence?

MS FROHMADER:  Yes, thank you.  I'm conscious that we don't have a lot of time and we have a lot of things to get through.  So I wanted to speak somewhat briefly to this.  I guess for those who don't know much about our organisation, we were formally incorporated in 1995, but operated as an unfunded network within a   then national peak disability organisation.  One of the reasons that our organisation came to be was because, back in those times, the   most of the peak disability organisations were run by men and the issues that women with disability wanted to speak about were ignored and trivialised.

So, initially, we just started off as just a very small group of disabled women who came together to give each other support.  And we have grown a very lot bigger since then.  But even back then, the right to live free from all forms of violence and to sexual and reproductive rights were the two pressing issues that women with disability wanted to speak about and wanted to be on the agenda.  And, unfortunately, things haven't really changed.

It doesn't   so it doesn't matter how many times we ask our members to identify their priority issues, it doesn't matter the ways we ask the questions, how we ask questions.  The right to live free from all forms of violence is always the priority issue.  And sexual and reproductive rights and freedoms comes pretty close with that.

I think it's outside the scope of this hearing to talk about all the work that WWDA has done over a very long time in this space.  I think   you know, our organisation has undertaken research, published books, we have written more submissions than I would ever, ever be able to count to governments, to, you know, regulatory bodies, to Parliamentary inquiries.  We've given evidence at   as witnesses to, you know, Parliamentary and Senate inquiries.  We have fought, actually, to be included in national advisory structures on disability rights and also on gender equality.  And I think, over the last three decades, we've unapologetically forced our way into the mainstream women's movement and also to be better recognised within the disability rights movement as well.

We have fought for   over our history for   and we continue to fight for basic recognition, rights and respect.  So we are accredited with the United Nations.  We have special consultative status, which means that we can actually engage and support the work of the United Nations in this space as well.  We have undertaken a lot of critically acclaimed national projects and also international projects.  We've won national awards for our work in preventing   working to prevent violence against girls and women with disability.  We've provided a number of detailed, evidence-based, very rigorous submissions to this Disability Royal Commission.

MS EASTMAN:  You have.

MS FROHMADER:  And we will be providing more.  And I also need to say that we will also be providing submissions where there are no issues papers.  And one that we are close to finalising is specifically on sexual and reproductive rights.  So I think that it's critical that this Royal Commission   a once in a lifetime opportunity that many of us and many who came before us have fought for over a long time   understands fundamentally that violence against us doesn't stop at the door.

And this brings us to the scope of this hearing.  Whilst I understand that the focus is on family, domestic and sexual violence, there are some very important things we need to say up front.  So, first of all, how do we define domestic settings?  How do we define family?  How do we define family violence in the context of women and girls with disability?  So is a domestic setting understood as   as a house with a door?  Is family understood as family of origin, or family of choice?  Is domestic and family violence understood to mean violence between, essentially, spousal and/or intimate partners?

MS EASTMAN:  Can I jump in there because that's a topic that I want to ask you about as we go on in looking at some of those definitions and   yes.

MS FROHMADER:  Yes.  Exactly.  So I'm going to skip through there.  Because I was just about to say, we are going to speak about that more.


MS FROHMADER:  But I think I need to make it very clear that, for many of us, our domestic setting can indeed be a typical home with a door.  But it can also be a group home, a licensed or unlicensed boarding house.  A hostel.  A prison.  A tent.  A semi supported accommodation facility.  A respite centre.  Aged care facility.  Hospital.  Just to name a few.  But it can also be the street.  It can be a park bench.  So I think that we   we will talk later about the many forms of gender-based violence we experience, and so I hope that that gives a bit of a sense of how our organisation perceives family and domestic violence.

MS EASTMAN:  So we have got to take a broad approach, and we have to really think about where women will be and where there is that risk in terms of sexual violence or family and domestic violence.

MS FROHMADER:  Yes.  And violence against women and girls, should never depend on where they live --


MS FROHMADER:  -- ever.  Violence against women and girls is violence against women and girls.  And to put a hierarchy on forms of violence in the context of women and girls with disability is problematic.

MS EASTMAN:  Right.  I want to turn to human rights and particularly drawing on international human rights conventions.  As you are aware, the Royal Commission conducted its Public hearing 18, and that was to examine how the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the CRPD, applied in it Australia, how was it implemented and how important it is to have those human rights frameworks in our thinking around policy, development of laws and practice.

So the CRPD does make reference to women and girls with disability, and there is also a general comment published by the committee.  The Royal Commissioners have heard about the concept of cross-cutting articles in the CRPD, but your work is not limited to the CRPD, and you've shown that we need to look at a suite of human rights.  When we are talking about women and girls, it is also drawing on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW, but also looking at other   what might be called the “mainstream conventions”, so the, you know, torture convention --

MS FROHMADER:  Am I allowed to interrupt?

MS EASTMAN:  Carolyn, did you want to talk about   yes.


MS EASTMAN:  You can ask the questions today.  We will swap.  But my question for you is, taking a human rights approach, how does WWDA incorporate a human rights approach into your work?  But what should we be looking at when we think about analysing and thinking about policies and practices in Australia?

MS FROHMADER:  Yes.  Okay.  So when we talk about   well, first of all, as you know, Australia is a signatory to seven international human rights treaties and also has endorsed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2009.  It   those   those international human rights treaties that we are a party to are not meant to be viewed in isolation.  They're actually meant to be looked at and considered as a suite, a holistic package, if you like.

MS EASTMAN:  Yes, sometimes international law language is "interdependent, interrelated and indivisible."

MS FROHMADER: That's right.

MS EASTMAN:  So we use that language in international law.

MS FROHMADER:  So   and they're not mutually exclusive.  Each one of these international human rights treaties we are a signatory to or a party to, each of them have obligations on Australia to   around reducing gender-based violence and also promoting disability rights.  And so   and the concluding observations that come from the monitoring of Australia's performance under those international human rights treaties that we are a party to, there is an expectation that they are to be implemented.  So   in the domestic setting.

And so, you know, it's like   as I said, those recommendations are expected to be implemented.  So I want to give just an example of   I know that this Royal Commission is framed essentially by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability and that's critically important.  It is an international human rights   intersectional human rights treaty.  But, for example, six out of the seven treaty monitoring bodies of the seven treaties that we are a signatory to, for the last 18 years have made very clear and specific recommendations to successive Australian Governments about the need to enact national law to prohibit forced sterilisation.

I could, you know, go on about that but I won't.  And so it's not just the CRPD.  Of course that monitoring body has made that recommendation many times, but the committee that oversees the Convention against Torture   I will just use the short term, if that's all right   has made, again, very strong recommendations around this.  And so it's not just about looking at the CRPD and what it says we need to improve on.  It's about looking at the recommendations from all those international human rights treaties, because, as I said, we have international human rights obligations under all of those seven.  And hopefully soon the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well.  Is that enough?

MS EASTMAN:  Yeah, that's fine.  But I might ask Mali, because one of the issues is to understand multi-layered experiences or intersectionality.  So I wanted to ask you about how does the human rights approach address intersectionality or a multi-layered experience for women and girls with disability?

MS HERMANS:  Yeah.  I also don't want to get, I guess, too tied up in definitions, but I think it is worth defining intersectionality because it is quite a common term that's used in mainstream feminist movement and also increasingly in public policy and I think that there isn't a consistent understanding of what intersectionality is.  So I just wanted to kind of briefly, you know, give a little bit of context that intersectionality was theorised by a black scholar named Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989.

And intersectionality, it grew out of black feminist voices who had been making this analysis for decades, if not hundreds of years.  And so it's a tool that's used to, I guess, reveal and transform the interconnectedness of the ways that power and oppression work for people.  So I know that Crenshaw when she first theorised intersectionality as a concept said that intersectionality reveals the conceptual implementations of single-issue analyses.

And, as you can tell, that's very important for women and girls with disabilities, because we're not only oppressed on the basis of our gender, but also on the basis of our disability and, for many of us too, on the basis of our race and many different other parts of our Personhood.  So, yeah, for women and girls with disabilities, intersectionality is really important because it serves to reveal the really grievous human rights violations that we're subjected to and that I'm sure we will talk more about today, not only on the basis about gender, but on the basis of our disability.

So it's a good tool, I guess, to understand how ableism and sexism aren't separate drivers of violence;  they actually compound one another.  And so we often experience gendered ableist violence, which is a different form of violence than, say, men with disabilities would experience.  And the importance of intersectionality as a conceptual framework is that   I think it challenges the way that Australian law and public policy attempts to really neatly compartmentalise different forms of discrimination like sexism and ableism, rather than recognising the really   the complex interplay between systems of oppression and power structures.

So, again, really critically, intersectional analysis serves to demonstrate compounding oppression for specific communities of women and girls with disabilities.  For example, again, specific forms of violence that First Nations women with disabilities face in the colony where First Nations women with disabilities are subjected to not only racism and ableism but sexism as well, and that results in very specific forms of violence.

So if we look at the context of forced sterilisation, if we look at how forced sterilisation has a very eugenicist history behind it, and consider that in the context of Australia as a settler colony, I think intersectionality is a quite useful tool to understand that.  But, unfortunately, most states, including Australia, don't recognise or really adequately address at all intersectional discrimination and its aggravating or compounding effects within human rights implementation.

So often equality and anti-discrimination laws and provisions categorise identity and require each protected characteristic or each part of your identity or personhood to be dealt with in isolation.  So this type of approach, I think we can all agree, is quite divorced from our own experiences as humans.  I can't divorce my gender from my race, from my disability, from any of those aspects of myself.  And, yeah, in some jurisdictions, for example, victims and survivors of discrimination and violence can only bring a complaint of discrimination with respect to one ground because intersectional discrimination is not provided for in the law.

So, for decades, WWDA has advocated for an intersectional human rights approach, urging both the Commonwealth as well as State and Territory Governments to embed   and I mean embed   intersectionality, not silo, not have one or two pages on intersectionality, but embed intersectionality within anti-discrimination laws and all, I guess, legislative implementation of UN human rights treaties and instruments Australia is a signatory to.

Because as Carolyn touched on before, human rights treaties and instruments like the CRPD, like CEDAW, like UNDRIP, they were never designed to be considered in isolation from one another, and they need to be viewed and implemented in tandem in order to fully protect the rights of cohorts like women and girls with disabilities who, as we are aware, are frequently subjected to violence and abuse based on intersection of experiences of oppression.  And women and girls with disabilities deserve the right to address and prevent violence on the basis of these specific forms of violence rather than having to choose or prioritise one part of our identity over the other.

MS EASTMAN:  Okay.  Tess, can I ask you that in the case of women and girls with disability who experience violence and abuse in their families or domestic settings, how does a human rights approach help us to understand the causes of violence and abuse?  Do you want to take that question?

TESS MOODIE:  Yeah, sure.  So before we talk about the causes or the drivers of violence we need to really just place responsibility where it predominantly lays, and that is with the perpetrator.  It's a perpetrator's choice to use violence.  When it comes down to the   the drivers, understanding these causes and drivers can improve the way that we identify risk and respond to violence.  However, this doesn't lessen the abuser's responsibility for their choices.

Like Mali said, the main root cause of violence against women, whether they have a disability or not, is gender inequality.  And gender equality is a fundamental human rights principle that underpins every major international human rights instrument.  Gender drivers   I won't go into too much depth, but the gender drivers are mostly condoning of violence against women, the men's control of decision making and limiting women's independence in life, the rigid gender stereotypes that we see in society, and the male peer relations and cultures it of masculinity that emphasise aggression, dominance or control.

And like what Mali said, in addition to gender inequality for women with disability, ableism compounds this violence against women, but it's also a driver in itself.  So it's interconnected but also can be separate.  Recently Our Watch released a resource called Changing the landscape, which WWDA was part of consulting and contributing to, and that really unpacks that combination of the ableist and the gendered inequality drivers.

MS EASTMAN:  Can I jump in there, that document is available online.


MS EASTMAN:  So if people want to have a look at that, they can search that up.

TESS MOODIE:  Yep.  And it is on Our Watch's website.  So ableist drivers are the negative stereotypes about people with disability, accepting or normalising violence, disrespect and discrimination against people with disabilities, controlling their decision making, limiting their independence and also social segregation and exclusion.  So segregation in itself facilitates the use of violence, abuse and exploitation as well.  So gender inequality and ableism intersect and compound to create this landscape in which women and girls with disability have violence perpetrated against them.

And in some cases, you know, it's lawful or encouraged.  So, like Carolyn said, in the case of sexual and reproductive violence, restrictive practices and guardianship orders.  Also like Mali said, in addition to the gender drivers of gender inequality and ableism, intersectionality.  So that all intermeshes within that as well.  The segregated settings, like Carolyn said, such as group home, hospital, prisons, boarding houses or, you know, settings on the street which don't neatly fit into that definition of family or domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, that also fosters the environment for the violence to occur.

So in my opinion that's a driver as well.  We need to look more closely at the environment as a driver, not just a setting.  Often, violence in segregated settings is behind closed doors and hidden.  So the drivers of violence in those settings, I believe, still remains unaddressed and really quite neglected.  When we're talking about human rights, so consistent with the recommendations from several of the human rights treaty monitoring bodies, our Australian Government and the state and territories, we think that they should review, amend and repeal law, policies, and practices that don't comply with the CRPD.

I really think that we can never, you know, prevent specific forms of violence if the law is saying they're acceptable and we continue to have segregated settings that continues to drive that.  The United Nations conventions to which Australia is a signatory recognises that women and girls with disabilities have the same rights   human rights and fundamental freedoms.  And Article 6 in the UN convention, the CRPD, explicitly states that.

So, overall, I think unless we address that combination of the gender drivers, the ableist drivers, really embed the intersectional lens   like Mali said, not just have a two-page document in major frameworks   and address the drivers of violence in our lawful settings, then we're really neglecting to comply with human rights conventions.  It's absolutely vital that human rights frameworks are embedded across all aspects of primary prevention, or I don't think we will ever fully combat gender-based violence for women and girls with disability.

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you.  I'm going to have to keep an eye on the time because I don't want us to miss out on some of the things I know are coming up that we need to talk about.  But, Mali, can I ask you about restrictive practices as a form of violence and abuse against women and girls in their family or their domestic settings?

MS HERMANS:  Yes, of course.  So I guess, again, I want to come back to definitions.  So I know the Royal Commission defines restrictive practices as “any action, approach or intervention that has the effect of limiting the rights or freedom of movement of a person”, and that this is very similar to how the NDIS defines restrictive practices.  However, the way that WWDA conceptualises restrictive practices is a lot broader and extends to interventions that are exclusively or primarily perpetrated on women and girls with disability.

So the type of restrictive practices that I'm talking about include non-consensual and coercive sterilisation, menstrual suppression, forced use of contraception and forced abortion.  The forced removal of children, denial of support for sexual activity, and denial of support for intimate relationships.  So I want to be clear that we are also assuming that restrictive practices include the non-consensual and coercive use of psychotropic medication.  So even if this medication is prescribed by a medical practitioner for a diagnosed mental health condition, we do know that psychotropic medications are regularly used as restrictive practices to control the behaviour of women and girls with disability.

Yes, but in whatever context setting, reason for use, WWDA very strong believes that restrictive practices are violent and are in violation of human rights.  I think there are a multiple conceptual levels on which restrictive practices should be understood as form of violence.  So on one level, on the, I guess, very interpersonal level, the use of restrictive practices is a form of interpersonal violence against women and girls with disability.

Because they are often non-consensual and they're coercive interventions perpetrated by an individual, like the support worker, on to another individual that causes harm, takes away that person's autonomy, takes away that person's decision making and often, yeah, causes long term and ongoing trauma.  But most importantly, restrictive practices need to be understood on the structural level, and I think this is what WWDA has been advocating for a very long time, is that restrictive practices need to be understood as gendered ableist violence and that understanding of ableism is really central to understanding restrictive practices. 

I want to be clear that the use of restrictive practices is not just simply about stigma or negative feeling towards people with disability.  Restrictive practices are part of a larger project of maintaining specific hierarchies between able-bodied people and disabled people. 

We know as well that the use of restrictive practices is very severe and very commonplace in institutional and segregated settings, so coming back to that definition of family and domestic settings.  That's why WWDA thinks it's really important to be considering places like disability group homes, prisons, psychiatric wards, hospitals, because we know, in these settings, restrictive practices are often used with ambivalence.  Every single day for organisational reasons, restrictive practices are factored into how, for instance, disability group homes work and operate because they make it easier for support workers.

MS EASTMAN:  Can I jump in there.  Because I think this links very closely to the question that I was going to ask Carolyn next, which is WWDA's view about closed settings and about the Optional Protocol on the Convention against Torture   the OPCAT, as it's called   and when we are talking about closed settings, you would look at group homes as a form of close setting.  What's WWDA's view about OPCAT and whether you think that would make a difference for women and girls with disability in close settings who experience violence and abuse?

MS FROHMADER:  Absolutely.  I think one of the first comments I'd make is about the Australian Government's apathy towards its obligations under OPCAT.  The   we still have, you know, OPCAT   being a signatory to OPCAT means that   that we require what's called National Preventative Mechanisms. So at a Commonwealth Federal level, but also by each state and territory government, to be established.  OPCAT   it is clear from the text of OPCAT and Article 4.1 of the Convention against Torture, that   that it's about being able to visit and monitor, review any setting where someone is deprived of their liberty    as in can't leave.

Now, unfortunately, the National Preventative Mechanism at a Commonwealth level   here the coordinating point is the Commonwealth Ombudsman.  And it is very regrettable that we still have some states and territories who are yet to even work out how their National Preventative Mechanism is going to operate.  I'm not an expert on where everything is up to at the moment.

MS EASTMAN:  No, I think my question was really reflecting you take a very broad approach and you encourage a broad approach in understanding domestic and family settings, but particularly domestic settings, as you you've said at the beginning.  And so if we look at these requirements of the OPCAT, which is the opportunity to go in and visit and see what's going on, and respond to allegations that breach the Convention --

MS FROHMADER:  And it's meant to be a proactive process, not a reactive process.  It's a very important safeguarding process.

MS EASTMAN:  -- but you would like to see the principles of OPCAT apply in Australia, but also have a gender lens to them so that   


MS EASTMAN:     incidents of violence and abuse for women with disability in closed settings it going to be picked up.  Is that    

MS FROHMADER:  Yeah, absolutely.  And it is very disappointing to see that the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the National Preventative Mechanism has   or the Australian Government, sorry, has only agreed to allow OPCAT to operate in what's called “primary places of detention”.  Traditionally, like prisons and settings like that.  Whereas from the Consultation Report and the Australian Human Rights Commission report released in 2020 that was a result of widespread consultation on the implementation of OPCAT in Australia, it was very, very clear that disability settings must be included.  Disability specific and mainstream settings and people with disability are often deprived of their liberty.

And that is the position of the states and territories at the moment who are setting up their   so there will be no aged care.  So residential aged care isn't included, group homes, other forms of segregated and closed settings. And I think that's really disappointing.

MS EASTMAN:  Do want to see a sort of see a broader view taken in terms of what the settings are to which the    

MS FROHMADER:  Well, it is an obligation under the CRPD, and it has been in Australia's 2019 Review under the CRPD.  It was specifically mentioned.  The other thing is that   I would like to say quite strongly is that there is a National Advisory Group, that committee, that is set up   has been set up to advise on the implementation of OPCAT in Australia.  It is very regrettable that there is no disability representation at all on that advisory group.

And, again, that's in breach of, you know, Articles 4 and 33 of the CRPD.  So that's a real problem because we have a right to be able to participate and be engaged in decisions about our lives.  And so even in those primary places of detention, there is overrepresentation of people with disability anyway.  So has that answered your question?

MS EASTMAN:  Yes, that has certainly answered my question.  I want to move now to where there are gaps in legal protections for rights of women and girls with disability in Australian laws.  And I mentioned in opening on Monday the work the Royal Commission has done with an issues paper on violence and abuse of people with disability at home.  And we have recently published earlier in March the responses.  And WWDA provided a submission to the Royal Commission in response to the issues paper.

And you identified a lack of consistent legal definition of violence against women and girls in state and territory legislation, and that then led to a varying degree of protection.  We spoke about this at the beginning of this Public hearing, back in October, and you might recall Jacoba Brasch, the then President of the Law Council, spoke about those definitions.  And Ms Ryan took us through the sort of hypothetical case of Lily, depending on where she lived, what her protections might be.

So I don't think we need to go and cover the same things that we did in October, but in terms of what WWDA has been working on, I'm listening to women and girls with disability. You've called for the development of national legislation on gendered-based violence against women.  So, Carolyn, can I ask you about that.  But also at the same time is where can we look to in terms of others countries that have got an appropriate and comprehensive definition of domestic and family violence that may be something that the Royal Commission might want to consider in terms of different models.  Can I do those two questions in one?

MS FROHMADER:  I will try.

MS EASTMAN:  Because I'm conscious of the time.

MS FROHMADER:  First of all, yes, we have argued for a very long time about the development of national legislation on gender-based violence.  Because if you think about it, we have eight different   you know, states and territories who define domestic, family violence in different ways, and again, I'm not   up to date with yours

MS EASTMAN:  I'm not asking you to be a lawyer.

MS FROHMADER:  Thank you.

MS EASTMAN:  It's just really the importance of the protection.

MS FROHMADER:  So the   I mean, it is absurd when you think of it that in Australia, you know, gender-based violence perpetrated against a woman with a disability in Tasmania may be completely differently conceptualised in law in New South Wales.  We have inconsistent definitions.  We don't even have a national agreed definition of what constitutes gender-based violence against women.  And the reason that I say that is the form of violence we experience are excluded in law in these Acts many times.  And   and we're just   and so why should somebody get a certain amount of protection in one state or territory but not somewhere else?

MS EASTMAN:  Would you like to sort of see a national consistent definition   

MS FROHMADER:  Yes.  So I think the   

MS EASTMAN:  So there's a mechanism for doing that.

MS FROHMADER:  Sorry, I did it again.  I interrupted you, sorry.

MS EASTMAN:  That's all right.


MS EASTMAN:  I'm going to do protective interrupting so we can get through everything.  But   

MS FROHMADER:  Now, we are a signatory to CEDAW.  And in 2018 under Australia's review around our compliance, CEDAW has been calling for Australia to establish a national law on gender-based violence for a very long time.  And in 2017, the CEDAW committee published a general comment   General Recommendation 35 to update the thinking around violence against women and have given very clear authoritative guidance to states, parties on what needs to happen and what we need to   so there are   so we need   we need a consistent national   national definition that incorporates us.  That includes the forms of violence that we   that we experience and are at much higher risk of.

So I know you asked about other countries.  So it is   I wanted to point out just a couple of things.  So the Istanbul Convention, which is 45 European countries are a signatory to that.  Now, one of the things about the Istanbul Convention is that it does actually name up things like forced sterilisation, you know, sexual slavery.  Other forms of, you know, gender-based violence. The South African legislation, there were three new bills introduced only a couple of weeks ago.

It's not only about the definition, it's about the implementation.  So, for example, the new law   South African law  has provision within it to, for example, to be able to apply for an apprehended violence order 24 hours a day online.  So it's not just the definitions.  And the other thing is, that if we look at the United States Violence Against Women Reauthorisation Act, that, again, was only signed off a couple of weeks ago, one of the things that   and I'm not saying it is perfect by any means   but one of the things that that does is it mandates things.

Sorry, it mandates training of judges and, you know, people who work in all sorts of fields.  It mandates Native American women's rights. It mandates grants programs.  And so it's a five year Act, but for those five years, it's   I mean, there's a lot of things in it that I think we could learn from.  And, again, I'm not saying it's great.  The best one I would say is probably the Istanbul Convention.

MS EASTMAN:  So if we could look to some of the international conventions.

MS FROHMADER:  But general comments   General Recommendation 35, CEDAW, of which we are a signature to, clearly spells out the definitions and updates the thinking around what we mean by gender-based violence against women.  And it includes things like our sexual and reproductive rights. It includes women with disability.  It's so   the definition is actually there and so   yes, so   and I guess the other thing   and it might be   well, I also wanted to say that how   having national legislation is also about leadership.

It's about this country saying, "This is what we agree is gender-based violence against women, and this is what we are going to do about it".  It is ridiculous to think that we have eight different definitions and what constitutes a relationship and what constitutes and then we also have   and then at the Commonwealth level we have got a definition in the Family Law Act.  And that's it.

MS EASTMAN:  So it's part of getting a national approach but integrated in the sense that just sort of having a legal definition might not be enough.  But how you support the protection of women, which is, as you said, training, awareness, funding, all of those elements that go into it.

MS FROHMADER:  Yes, yes.

MS EASTMAN:  Okay.  I am going to keep going.  I have got to be tough on the time here.

MS FROHMADER:  Sorry.  I talk too much.

MS EASTMAN:  One issue is that WWDA's raised concerns about lawful forms of violence.  And, you know, Rosemary Kayess has also spoken to us about lawful violence and the law sometimes as a tool of violence.  This might arise in the context of guardianship for sterilisation and substituted decision making.  I think, as you know, we are planning on having a hearing later this year looking specifically at the issues of guardianship and substituted decision making.  Did you want to say something?  And really go briefly on the topic.

MS FROHMADER:  Okay.  Because   and I will answer as briefly as I can.  Because, to be honest, we could do a whole hearing on that.

MS EASTMAN:  Well, we are   I think so.

MS FROHMADER:  Not just   but, you know, the lawful forms of violence.  Now, how is it okay?  How is it okay that we live in a wealthy country like Australia and it is still lawful to sterilise our young girls with disability and our adult women with disability without their full prior and informed consent.  How is that okay?

MS EASTMAN:  And we did talk about that back in October,  so that   

MS FROHMADER:  Yes. So that's   so it's not just forced sterilisation.  How is it okay that in a wealthy country like Australia we can forcibly make women with disability and girls with disability take contraception.  And often injectable contraceptives that in some other countries have been banned years ago.  How is it okay that we see our First Nations women with disability indefinitely detained without conviction?

How is it okay that women with disability don't   aren't allowed to have legal capacity?  So I could go on and on and on about this for an eternity, but it is Australia's shame that   to think that   as I said, it's 17 years now that every one of those treating monitoring bodies, including the Convention against Torture   the Committee against Torture, has said, "Stop it.  You cannot sterilise.  Stop the menstrual suppression.  Stop the forced contraception.  Stop the segregation."  Until this country is prepared to address segregation, seeing people with disabilities as 'other", then we will never, ever stop this epidemic that is violence and abuse against women and girls with disability.  I'm sorry.  Is that too   is that too much?


MS FROHMADER:  Right.  Okay.

MS EASTMAN:  It is not.  Law is one thing.  Policy and strategies is another area.


MS EASTMAN:  And we have seen last year in December the release of Australia's Disability Strategy, a Draft National Plan to End Violence against Women and Girls to replace the current plan.  Carolyn   and you might, if you want to, share with this the others.  It is up to you.  But have the national policy approaches to addressing the experience of women and girls with disability been based on a shared understanding of what constitutes violence against women?  I think based on what you've said earlier   all of you are shaking your head.  I think the answer to that might be no.

MS FROHMADER:  I can answer that really quickly for you because, no.  And how they can they, when we can't even agree as a country on what it is?  So if we don't have nationally agreed definitions and conceptual understandings how policy framework   and this is why national legislation is so important, because it's the legislation that sets the scope of policy frameworks that then set the scope of funding and service responses.  And it's that trickle down stuff.

So if we look at just things like, in the previous national plan   and I would say that we have worked very, very hard on the new draft of the national plan to reduce violence against women and children.  But that is not yet released or    

MS EASTMAN:  Still in the drafting stage, isn't it?

MS FROHMADER:  That's right.  Yes.  But in terms of Australia's Disability Strategy we did the same thing there.  We were very upset that we weren't able to get a stand-alone outcome area on safety and safety from all forms of violence.  And it is problematic that we still don't have ways of measuring properly   you know, how can you measure something when you don't even have an understanding or an agreement on what it is?

And the other thing I wanted to say is, it is from my experience, having been in the job for 25 years, that these policy frameworks that you talk about have largely focused on intimate partner and spousal violence.  And even if we look at things like perpetrator intervention programs, I defy anyone to find me a perpetrator intervention program that actually includes and focuses on the perpetrators of the violence that we experience or the other   sorry, the other forms of violence.

So perpetrator intervention programs are largely focused on, you know, the intimate partner relationship.  So we get excluded in so many ways.  Because it's not   it's not well understood.  The multiple forms of violence that we experience are not well understood.  And so, yes, we are often excluded.  So   and, again, how can you have something   you know, national frameworks that aim to reduce, you know, violence – gender-based violence against women when you have laws that actually allow it.  So    

MS EASTMAN:  So sorts of issues aligning the laws and policies together.  I think the clear message I'm understanding today is not to have narrow definitions that then will exclude disability   women and girls with disability because they are outside those mainstream senses of what relationships are for family or domestic settings.  Is that right?  Yes.

MS FROHMADER:  And I think even something like forced and coerced marriage.  Now, typically in Australia, that's understood to occur in faith-based communities.  When, in fact, that is a big issue with some women with disability.  And so   but it's never   there's no research; there's no interest.  So we have so far to go and so, yeah, I hope that's answered your question a bit.

MS EASTMAN:  Yes, it definitely has.  So I just have to look at our timetable and say we are  going to press on for another 15 minutes or so.  I think we have got a little bit of time there.  I will just check with those assisting me just to let the others know that we might go on a little more.

I want to come back to Mali and to Tess and turn our attention to the NDIS.  And one of the issues which has come up for you in the work you do and the women and girls who you engage with is an effective gender strategy within the NDIS.  And so there is a concern from WWDA that there's not an effective gender strategy.  Mali, do you want to take that question and tell us what the nature of the concern is and what needs to be done?

MS HERMANS:  Yeah, of course.  I might be a little bit cheeky and actually say not only is there not an effective gender strategy, there actually is no gender strategy at all. So I wanted to make that very clear.

MS EASTMAN:  Right.  So a starting point is a gender strategy.

MS HERMANS:  Exactly.

MS EASTMAN:  And then, secondly, you would want it to be an effective strategy if is is there. Okay.

MS HARMAN:  Exactly.  Exactly.  So, you know, we know, I think, the most recent participation rates in the NDIS that were released by the NDIA.  It was 30 per cent   37 per cent, sorry, of all participants were women and girls.  Absolutely no data on the participation rates of trans or gender diverse people as well, which is important to point out.  And  there are heaps of reasons for this.  So we know that women and girls with disabilities are often socialised and encouraged not to speak up for the support that we need.

Different diagnosis processes,  so, for instance, for women and girls who are autistic, we know that they are way less likely to be diagnosed, therefore, to be able to apply to the NDIS.  And then there are lots of different types of disabilities and chronic illnesses that predominantly women experience compared to rates of men.  And these are the types of disabilities that the NDIS doesn't consider.  So all these things kind of compound each other and ultimately, you know, kind of enforce this gender inequity within the scheme.

MS EASTMAN:  So what would a gender strategy look like for the NDIS?  Has WWDA thought about that?

MS HERMANS:  Yeah.  So we have.  We think about it every day.  So I think, as a gender strategy, it needs to include mechanisms to ensure that the processes to both access the NDIS, as well as maintain funding, they're accessible to women and girls with disability and that they are sensitive to the fact that many of us have experienced different forms of trauma.

So, you know, for many women with intellectual disabilities, cognitive impairment, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in particular, there is a really specific risk of trauma associated with telling, for instance, a local area coordinator your story.  So that needs to be part of an effective gender strategy for the NDIS.

And there also needs to be some really clear supports related to health, in particular reproductive and sexual assault health for women and girls with disability.  Because too often women and girls with disability, we're denied a right to sexual expression, and we're denied our right to bodily autonomy, based on really ableist attitudes about disabled women being either hypersexual or asexual.

And, again, coming back to that human rights frame, the CRPD has said over and over again that women and girls have a right to access services, equally to everybody else, but, unfortunately, that's not the case because the NDIS has not prioritised a gender strategy and hasn't seen it as important, which is really concerning, considering the importance of implementing a really effective gender strategy to address things like gender-based violence.

MS EASTMAN:  I think we have got some representatives of the NDIA coming to give some evidence tomorrow, so that's a question I will ask them to think about.  We will explore that with them tomorrow.  Tess, can I ask you about what WWDA has heard about screening processes for violence in the NDIS and are there processes or assessments in place for support workers or even for NDIA staff so that one might identify the issue?  You were here in the hearing room when Nicole Lee spoke about on Monday.  Can I   that's a huge topic.

TESS MOODIE:  It's huge and I've just cut down what I've written to half.

MS EASTMAN:  I think, in some senses   could I ask you   and I know you have got some notes up there, but it is really what, having listened to Nicole Lee's evidence and what you have heard during the week, what needs to be done in terms of the screening process in terms of how   WWDA has always heard a lot of stories from women on this?  What needs to be on the screen?

TESS MOODIE:  Yeah.  Well, NDIS workers and staff, they're in prime positions to be able to identify when women with disabilities are experiencing violence. But we don't believe that they're currently equipped to do this effectively or properly.  There are no, at the moment, substantial screening processes or assessment tools in place for them to use to be able to detect that.  A standard question, you know, by an NDIS worker of, "Are you experiencing domestic or family violence" might not be useful for women with disabilities because our experiences of violence are so broad, diverse, complex and in different settings.

And those sort of questions might not identify the more hidden forms like coercive control, all the restrictive practices, or things like, you know, restricting food or neglecting care.  So we really think, at WWDA, that it's important that there's a regular routine screening process to detect this, whether that's during the application process, whether it's during planning meetings or coordination of supports or service provision, or plan review meetings.  So at any stage in that NDIS process.

So we recommend the development and implementation of an NDIS violence assessment and response framework and/or toolkit.  And that would encompass what I think should look like identify, respond, and refer.  So going across all the levels.  It can also   we feel strongly that if that framework and toolkit is going to be developed, it has to be with women with disabilities.  So, you know, in co-design.  So not just making it for us and think that they know it will be okay.  We dream about that all the time at WWDA. Don't do it for us.  Do it with us.  And that toolkit needs to have that intersectional lens as well.

When the development of the assessment toolkit is done, we feel that that should be made mandatory for NDIS workers, and appropriate training   like, comprehensive training.  Not just an online module you go through at, you know, one hour at the end of the day.  Something that's really comprehensive.  We also think that   also along with the   you know, the mandatory appropriate training is that we would like some consideration to be given to the establishment of a dedicated NDIS specialist disability gender-based violence assessment team who can do that as well.  And overarching the toolkit and the assessment tool, like Mali said, we need the gender equity strategy that's, yeah, overarching with everything.

MS EASTMAN:  So, again, that integration that a gender strategy would also identify what screening tools might need to be applied.

TESS MOODIE:  Absolutely.  So that's part of the whole process.  It just doesn't   the assessment and tool kit shouldn't just sit as a   just this separate thing by itself.  It needs to be addressed.  The whole NDIS needs to have a gender lens.

MS EASTMAN:  And, Mali, this fits in to, I think, the question you were going to take, which is about the NDIS providing   or the NDIA, probably, providing accessible information and resources to women participants about violence so they can access assistance if and when required.  What would you like to say about what needs to be done in terms of information and resources?

MS HERMANS:  Yeah, so to date, to our knowledge, we haven't had anything being offered by the NDIS in regards to women participants about violence, and we would hope that this would be something that would be covered by a really effective NDIS gender strategy.  Like Tess said, any type of accessible information and resources needs to be co-designed from the start with women and girls with disability and their representative organisations.

And WWDA actually has some incredibly useful, award-winning, groundbreaking resources on safety and violence, including our site, which is a website that people can visit that NDIS local area coordinators, for instance, could be promoting to their participants.  There's also the 1800 RESPECT Sunny app which is similarly co-designed by and for women and girls with disability.  And these are the types of resources that speak to our community because they're the types of resources that actually reflect our stories and reflect our experiences.

And I think one final part of the puzzle here is not just creating these accessible resources and information.  There needs to be better integration between the NDIS and specialist women services because there needs to be really clear pathways for referrals.  And, yeah, the responsibility there is on the NDIS to be creating those pathways and understanding that addressing violence experienced by women participants in the scheme, particularly from NDIS service providers, is the responsibility or the NDIS, and, therefore, there is responsibility to be able to not only give women with disabilities information on their rights or on violence but also to be able to effectively refer them on to those specialist services.

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you.  Carolyn, I was going to finish by asking you about the 26 recommendations in the   in WWDA's submissions to the Royal Commission's Issues paper.

MS FROHMADER:  You changed your mind.

MS EASTMAN:  If you are agreeable to the Royal Commission publishing that part of the paper, if we haven't already done so, those   they are very strong and integrated recommendations.  So I'm just sort of mindful of the time, that I'm not going to do justice to asking you about all of those recommendations today.  But any final words from you?  And we will make sure that we can share, with your permission, the recommendations that you've made.

MS FROHMADER:  Yes.  Of course.  Absolutely.

MS EASTMAN:  So any final words and then I can see the Chair is giving me a look as if to move it on.  But    

MS FROHMADER:  I will be brief, because   

CHAIR:  The Chair is his usual benign self, Ms Eastman.

MS EASTMAN:  We can see you very acutely.  Thank you, Chair.

MS FROHMADER:  I just want to say   

MS EASTMAN:  But I'm conscious that the Commissioners might have some questions that can pick up themes I haven't covered.

MS FROHMADER:  Yes.  So I guess as a final comment   and that would be great, if you could make those recommendations available.  I would like to say as a final comment, I think, is that we can't   there's no such thing as a little bit of human rights.  You can't cherry-pick.  You can't say, "Well, we will have that one but not that one."  As I said before, we have the framework in terms of the treaties, the general comments, their recommendations, our concluding observations;  all those sorts of things.

And that provides the framework for us, you know, to have a holistic response.  So I think it's, you know, we   just quickly   we want to see repeal of laws.  We want   that enable lawful forms of violence.  We need to see an end of segregation in all its forms, and we need a transition plan.  Not saying do it overnight, but, you know, we need that.  And one thing that has   I would like to just quickly say, because it's come up in every hearing almost, is the critical role of independent advocacy.

It is   you know, there is   it is under-resourced.  The model is not great.  The funding model is not great.  And I think that that seems to have come through.  I don't know if that's your impression, but it's certainly something that I think, you know, we really need to see much more focus on.

MS EASTMAN:  I will say, Commissioners may be aware, that this hearing has taken us almost a year to prepare.  We've had the stops and starts, initially hoping to have this hearing in August.  Then October.  And we started a little bit in October and we are finally here.  We are indebted to WWDA's advice and consultations with us along the way, suggestions for witnesses, and it has been a privilege to collaborate with you, and for the assistance that you've given us to ensure that the rights of women and girls with disability who experience family and domestic violence can be heard, that we will hear directly from women, but also for the support in bringing these threads together to help us understand what needs to happen in the areas of law and policy reform.

And just reminding us of the importance of taking a strong human rights approach and how we do that.  So I know that we could probably talk all day, but our discussions will continue not only in the hearing rooms but outside the hearing rooms, and I wanted to thank you all, particularly Tess, who has come to lots of meetings with us, and we are really indebted to your support for the preparation of the hearing.

Thank you, Chair.  Thank you, Commissioners.

CHAIR:  I will ask Commissioner Galbally whether you have any questions or any comments you wish to make to the panel today?

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Look, I would just like to start by thanking you very much.  It is a really   it is so important that this hearing has become so central to us.  So thank you so much for all your effort.  The   I have got many questions, but in the   but there is so little time.  But I did want to ask about the national policy instruments on the topic of violence against women and girls and whether they include closed settings such as group homes, whether those mainstream policy   whether they are including closed settings too?  Because Tess   well, everyone, really, has identified them as being very important.  So that's just one question.  And whether you think it's possible to get that view into them.

MS FROHMADER:  Well, obviously, we are represented on the national advisory group to develop the new National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.  And I would just like to say how hard we have worked.  And it's not out yet.  It's not   so   but I am very, very confident and hopeful that those closed settings and   that you talk about will be in there.  Certainly, we have fought very, very hard.

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Yes.  And can I ask just a quick one more.  And that's about the whole issue of sexual rights especially.  And I wonder whether you have got some thoughts about the greater risk to women and girls.  Because sexual rights are not part of the agreement in Australia because they are often denied.  And somehow that puts women and girls at much greater risk, you know, and whether you have got any comment on that.

MS FROHMADER:  So, Commissioner, are you talking about in the context of the national policy frameworks?

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Just in general that we've heard throughout this hearing and many other hearings how sexual rights are almost often, you know, right on the backburner, if there at all.  And then women and girls with disability become even more vulnerable because they are not addressed.  And there is no attention given to that in terms of education, understanding, you know, anything to do with consent.  Like, everything is sort of almost like   it is like a vacuum.  And I just wondered about the connection of those two.  You know, the denial of sexual rights for women and girls and then the much greater risk.

MS FROHMADER:  Yes, that's a very good point and I think when I referred before to CEDAW General Recommendation 35 published in 2017, it actually makes very explicit around the sexual and reproductive rights violations, including denial of access to education, to information, to sexual and reproductive health services, as well as the things that I talked about, forced sterilisation, forced conception, etcetera.

And it goes even further than that.  It actually says that those can actually amount to torture, cruel inhumane punishment under certain circumstances.  And so that's why I would be really hoping that the Commission would take a really close look at that general recommendation, because it does give a more holistic definition and conceptual framework around what constitutes gender-based violence.  And it does go to those things that you've just mentioned, Commissioner.


CHAIR:  Dr Galbally, thank you.  Commissioner Mason, do you have any comments or questions?

COMMISSIONER MASON:  Like Commissioner Galbally, I do have a lot of questions.  But we ran out of time.  But what I am really pleased about is that WWDA has given really incredible quality evidence today. And that our First Nations leaders, particularly women, in the development of the National Plan in the work that is done with the Women's Alliances, it really sets the scene for important conversations.  So this is not about anything to do with any surprises.  WWDA has really laid out a very clear clarion call for change.  So I will leave that there and I just want to say thank you and particularly to Tess for your leadership.  It has been really invaluable and timely.  Thank you.

CHAIR:  Thank you.  Commissioner Bennett?  Do you have any questions or comments?

COMMISSIONER BENNETT:  I just want to say thank you as well.  And also I found your response to the paper and the 26 recommendations, and I'm glad they are going to be available for others to see as well, because it's important that they get that information out.  And just building on Rhonda's, we have heard so many times today and yesterday, I think probably also from slightly older women than Mali, but about not knowing   not feeling they had rights in the sexual violence, and hopefully that that can   the reforms can be made so that it doesn't go on to another generation.  Thank you. 

CHAIR:  Thank you.  Let me reiterate what Ms Eastman has said and endorse her comments about the contribution have you made to the preparation for the hearing and for this session.  One of the things that has really been quite remarkable, actually, this week is the range of issues that have been addressed within the framework of domestic, family and sexual violence.  And, clearly, the issues that have been addressed and the way they have been addressed owe a great deal to the contributions that WWDA has made to the organisation for hearings.

And that, no doubt, will be the subject of comment later on as well.  But thank you very much for that.  And thank you very presenting your ideas so forcefully and clearly today.  Thank you.

MS FROHMADER:  Thank you.


MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Chair, and thank you to everybody with a little extra time.  As I said, we could probably spend a whole day in discussions but our discussions will be ongoing.  If we can have a short break, 15 to 20 minutes, and then our evidence this afternoon will conclude with Nikita and the Yellow Ladybugs.

MS EASTMAN:  Yes.  Make a choice, Ms Eastman, 15 or 20.

MS EASTMAN:  I will take 20 because I think everybody here in Hobart, Chair, we have had   we probably need a little cup of tea, this afternoon I think.  So we will take 20 minutes, with your agreement, thank you.

CHAIR:  With my benign agreement.  Yes, all right.  We will come back at 3:48 Hobart time, 2:48 Brisbane time.  And no doubt you will take that into account in our last session for the day.

MS EASTMAN:  No doubt I will.  Thank you.



CHAIR:  Yes, Ms Eastman.



MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Chair.  We turn now to the Yellow Ladybugs.  You can see on the screen in yellow is Katie Koullas, who is the founder and CEO of Yellow Ladybugs.  Katie has made her oath and affirmations before coming on screen and so too has Nikita, and we will hear from Nikita in a moment.  So, Katie, I have introduced you, and you are going to give us some opening remarks.

MS KOULLAS:  Thank you.

CHAIR:  Sorry, just before you do, can I thank you for coming to the Royal Commission to give evidence.  You are giving evidence from Melbourne, as I understand it. Is that right?

MS KOULLAS:  Yes. Correct.

CHAIR:  Just to let you know where everybody is.  It may have been explained to you, but Commissioner Galbally is also in Melbourne, and you can see her on screen.  Commissioner Bennett and Commissioner Mason are in the Hobart hearing room, and they are waving enthusiastically to you.  And I am in the Sydney hearing room, and I shall refrain from waving, but that tells us where we are all.  So thank you again for coming to the Royal Commission.  And please proceed with your opening statement.

MS KOULLAS:  Thank you, and I would like to thank the Disability Royal Commission for the opportunity to talk today on the experiences of autistic girls, women and gender diverse individuals, with a particular focus on family, domestic and sexual violence.  So thank you.  So Mandela says, "Education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world" and today I really do hope we can educate everyone listening through our stories.

Stories that are sadly not particularly remarkable, because they happen far too often.  And by that we hope we can start beginning to create change for our community.  So Yellow Ladybugs is an autistic led non-government charity with a strong mission to create opportunities for connection, learning and promotion of autistic pride for autistic girls, women and gender diverse individuals. We also have a really strong advocacy mission to address the many challenges, barriers and disadvantages we face, which is why today is so important.

We are often the overlooked minority within the minority, within the minority.  And we have so many cross intersectional layers of disadvantage, including LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, homelessness, poverty and violence.  We are invisible, as our disability is largely hidden.  Being autistic and female or gender diverse carries with it so many risks.   A significant and known vulnerability for our community is being taken advantage of in relationships, often due and to our own adaption of social skills, our often high ability to mask.

It is sadly no surprise that, as a result of this, we find our community is at much higher risk than the general population of experiencing abusive relationships.  There are many complex layers to these stories, and we are here today to give our community the voice and attention they deserve.  Compounding this, is living in a world not designed for us.  We are the neurominority.  So often the expectation is that we must learn to fit in, change who we are, mask our identity, act normal.

This societal expectation is often reinforced by the intensive compliance-based therapies some autistic children receive in their early year, which goes on to have such an impact on how they experience the world as adults.  It is generally known as ABA.  This is the type of therapy that emphasises compliance, and in doing so, it reduces the ability of autistic people to trust themselves.  Compliance training, akin to grooming, is a gateway to being manipulated by adults to do as they tell you without question.

It is safe to say there is no corner of this Royal Commission where the specific vulnerabilities of autistic girls, women and gender diverse individuals, or I guess it could be called our community, are not an important part of the conversation.  But today we will talk about some of the protective measures we think will help reduce our community's vulnerability to experiencing such violence.

So I think it might be worth spending a bit of time to revisit what Yellow Ladybugs means to our community and why we came about.  Because by building a strong autistic network where we help each other better understand our identity, where we connect with our peers and where we promote and develop pride, we believe that's an important area we need to focus on.  We believe it's a shining example of a user-led organisation stepping up when the system has failed us for generations and the importance of that system investing in user-led organisations such as Yellow Ladybugs. 

It is dangerous to be an autistic woman who does not have access to her community, who feels alone, misunderstood, shamed and not worthy.  I want to share a quote that illustrates this point perfectly:

"He beat the shit out of me and nobody stopped him.  I didn't report him to the police.  And I didn't take myself to hospital, and I should have.  But I didn't.  Because that's all I thought I was worth. That's what happens when you soak one child in shame and give permission to another to hate.” 

That quote is from Hannah Gadsby a Yellow Ladybugs ambassador and autistic woman.  Worth.  It's such a powerful word.  So let me tell you a little bit more about the Yellow Ladybugs story and how it connects to worth.

I remember back to the first event we ever held, I created this event together with my 6-year-old daughter just so she could meet other kids like her, girls who were autistic.  They were hard to find.  She had already begun questioning her self worth, feeling isolated and alone, and so she asked me to help her.  Our first event we had 20 autistic girls come along, some travelling as far as three hours away;  that's how desperate they were to find their peers.  And when I saw the parents watching their little ladybugs, all in their yellow T-shirts, wearing it with pride, playing and laughing together, I saw the parents have tears streaming down their face.

I knew this was our calling.  I knew we could make a real difference.  And what I saw was the beginning of autistic pride.  A beginning of belonging.  A beginning of community.  A safe place, an opportunity to educate against the many vulnerabilities and disadvantages they, unfortunately, most likely would face.  And, therefore, I began to see the beginning of change.  Since then, when we have hosted thousands of ladybugs at events.

We have evolved to online events so we can reach every corner of Australia and in the process we have uncovered the most difficult stories we have heard, autistic women and autistic gender diverse adults who have experienced such disadvantage.   And this has helped us evolve our mission and widen our reach and our impact.  We have also educated the very people that should already know, but doctors, teachers and professionals, on what autism so often looks like in gender diverse and autistic females.  We have provided a platform for education, and we have amplified autistic voices.

What this story doesn't highlight is how grossly unprepared the system is at recognising the diverse presentation of autism within our community.  My family, as well as thousands more, have experienced a disproportionate number of barriers to getting a diagnosis for autistic females and gender diverse individuals.  And this is important, and it does link to the risk of violence.  Because if you don't know who you are, you don't know how to protect yourself.

Currently, there are no official consensus around the ratios, but I will say that one in four autism diagnoses in Australia is male to female.  But a growing body of research and strong anecdotal evidence suggests the actual prevalence rates to be closer to 1:1.  In fact, a recent study pushed the ratio at 4:3 and notes that 80 per cent of females remain undiagnosed at the age of 18.  We have been overlooked for many reasons, including prevailing stereotypes of what autism looks like, the gender bias of standard diagnostic tools and the way girls are socialised and viewed in our society.

More generally, we know that many autistic females and girls and gender diverse individuals are missed or having their needs invalidated because of their hidden presentation.  So why is this important?  Well, the impact of this oversight extends beyond access to diagnosis and exposes so many layers to vulnerabilities, including economic disadvantage; inequality in healthcare, especially in a realm of mental health; restricted access to education; and limited access to communities and their peers.  Importantly for today, it exposes the specific vulnerabilities our community face in relation to violence in all its forms.

There are so many more factors that contribute to our particular vulnerability.  Grace Tame says perpetrators typically target children with added vulnerabilities.  These include tenuous family circumstances, mental illness, self-esteem issues, prior trauma and isolation.  In Grace's case, she was 15, anorexic and we now know she was an undiagnosed autistic female.

What we know from our community is that we find it difficult to identify when abuse is occurring.  We may experience difficulty reading people's intentions.  We have communication differences, which put us at a disadvantage.  We have limited access to peers, so getting advice is hard.  When reporting, it can be difficult for those of us with alexithymia, as we struggle to identify how we are feeling.  We may have executive functioning challenges so the logistics of navigating an already difficult reporting system is overwhelming.  One of our members says:

"I'm a 33-year-old autistic woman who has faced violence in many forms throughout my life.  Going through the process and getting involved in reporting was overwhelming for me.  Even going to the police to report family violence is bad, let alone going to court, which is not set up at all to support my needs as an autistic woman."

As I said today, Yellow Ladybugs is committed to changing the system, and we decided to have a survey to better understand our community.  And the responses confirm just how broken the system is and how autistic girls and gender diverse individuals are currently being failed.  Reading through the responses broke my heart.  It made me sad, but it really did make me mad.  We have to do better.

So like I said, at the start of the year, we did put out a survey.  We asked questions about domestic, family and sexual violence.  The structure of the survey was a mix of qualitative and quantitative responses.  I must admit we didn't have a lot of time to promote it, but we did get 235 responses, which I think shows how important this is to our community.  I will not have a chance to go through all the observations today.  I will table that in our report, which lays out a very bleak future for our community unless things change.

Our survey results did confirm that our community experience a particular set of vulnerabilities that put them at risk of becoming victims of violence and abuse.  We are typically undiagnosed and late-diagnosed, as I said, and have a lifetime of experience of low self-esteem.  And that's where we see people think there is something wrong with them.  75 per cent of our respondents have experienced physical violence.  76 per cent of our survey respondents have experienced sexual violence.

And 95 per cent of our respondents with physical or sexual violence was from someone we knew, someone we trusted.  We know these results are not alone and there's many more studies that paint a similar picture.  In one overseas study, researchers found that autistic women had nearly three times the odds of having experienced sexual abuse compared to non-autistic women.  While these statistics are shocking, it is the personal stories shared by our survey respondents that deliver an even more powerful message.

We have drawn on these stories in the recommendations we have developed.  As you can see, autistic   this was one quote:

"Autistic females need to be validated and recognised and supported to live an authentic, meaningful life.  While our identity continues to not exist in the eyes of society, we continue to degrade and bury all of who we are.  We become so empty and confused and traumatised that most of the time we don't even recognise if we are being mistreated by someone.  Even if we do recognise the violence, we usually believe we are overacting because we have been told our entire lives to suck it up and stop being so sensitive."

You can also see there's another quote on screen from another member, but there are so many other ones similar to this, and that's what I mean about the overwhelming consistent message that is coming across from our community.  I'm going to finish up, now, this part of the conversation and head over to our case study.

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Katie.  It's Kate Eastman here.  I think, Commissioners, we will now ask Nikita.  Nikita has prepared some words she would like to share with you, and you may not see Nikita on the screen, but you will hear from her.  So, Nikita, when you are ready.  There is no rush.

NIKITA:  When a man enters the room, the girl looks up with a curious smile, though if she knew his intentions she would have run a country mile.

He crosses the room, a strange look on his face.  Like a starved carnivore spotting some steak.

It's true her short life had been far from ideal, but nothing could prepare for the coming ordeal.

The man snatches up the girl and tears at her clothes.  Hard hands bruising soft untouched flesh.  Insistent moist lips press into her face while stale breath and whiskey leave her senses amess.

Her cry of fear is cut off with a blow.  The ground rushes up.  She lets out a moan.

In confusion, she looks up at the one she should trust, but all she could see was his treacherous lust.

The tears of the innocent stain the ground, and her world becomes black as he covers her like a burial shroud.

This is my earliest memory, being sexually assaulted around age 4.  Luckily, I had disassociated for most of it, a clever trick our brain does to allow us to survive the unthinkable.  I completely shut down afterwards and when I was unable to tell anyone what happened.  I do remember getting in trouble for destroying all of my dolls.  The man had called me a little doll and I knew they weren't safe, so I cut off all of their hair and drew all over them with black markers.

My parents are good people, but they had no idea what to do with their strange first child.  I met none of my mum's expectations of what a daughter should be.  I remember being punished for things that I didn't understand, being forced to wear clothes that set off all of my sensory sensitivities, being smacked in my sleep for grinding my teeth, being made to feel like whatever I did was not good   that I was never good enough, no matter what I   sorry.  Being made to feel like I was never good enough, no matter how hard I tried to make them happy.

When I was around 10 years old, my dad's charismatic best friend assaulted me.  He had always been nice to me and gave me positive attention, something I severely lacked.  So I thought nothing of it when he took me to the back of his property in the dead of night.  There he raped me.  After he finished with me, he made it very clear it was all my fault and that my parents will be very upset with me if they ever found out what I did. I had no one to turn to so I suffered in silence.

When I was 13 I was groomed by my 30-year-old sporting coach.  I was very lonely at the time, didn't fit in at home and was bullied at school.  He knew just how to take advantage of that.  The relationship lasted until I was 17 and followed a typical narcissistic abuse cycle.  The abuse I faced became more intense and degrading over time, but I struggled to leave and had no one to turn to for help.

Unfortunately, stories like mine are all too common amongst the autistic community.  It's no wonder that so-called “high functioning” autistic women are 13 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.  Years of abuse, neglect and having to mask constantly to be deemed socially acceptable takes a large toll.  At the age of 17 and a half, I finally broke away from my long term abuser and went on to have a seemingly successful life to those on the outside.

But the truth is I have only had one other intimate relationship since that time and that too was abusive.  Other than that, I have emotionally separated myself from the world, all in the name of self-preservation.  I bounce between perfectionistic overachieving to not being able to achieve the most basic of life skills.  I trust no one apart from my children and my very patient therapist   or most of the time.

I'm very good at what do I professionally but have faced discrimination and bullying in the workforce on numerous occasions.  Currently I work with a very good team that is completely accepting of my and my quirks, but often that is not the case.  I have resorted to substance abuse and other unhealthy coping mechanisms throughout my teens and a lot of my adulthood.

My past traumas affect my ability to be the mother I want for my wonderful children.  They are awesome but sometimes trigger my trauma responses, leading me to react in ways that they do not deserve.  I'm currently working hard to heal from my past traumas and learn how to cope more healthily as an autistic adult in a neurotypical world.  It's a long slow and often painful process, especially given my inability to trust people.

I would like to think things have gotten better for people like me since I was a child, but I hear too many   from too many of my autistic peers that are still being mistreated.  Personally, I have had to fight every step of the way to get my own autistic children's needs met, particularly in the education system.  In year 7, our public school repeatedly threatened to kick my daughter out of the academic extension program due to her inability to meet their minimum 90 per cent attendance rule.  This was despite her maintaining a B average, them knowing her diagnosis and us getting letters of support regarding her anxiety from multiple medical practitioners.  At the end of the day, we managed to keep her in the program but the process almost broke me.

In the last month alone, I have heard too many stories that make me want to rage and weep.  A friend whose autistic daughter is so overwhelmed by the system she has resorted to giving himself third-degree burns with aerosol spray and, despite that, her parents are still unable to find adequate medical or psychological help for the child.  Another child was left mute for days suffering from sunburn and heatstroke after being left lying in the sun at school all day.  They had shut down after being screamed at by the EA employed to help them.

Things must get better.  Too many people are hurt and neglected, all for the crime of being neurodiverse.  The string of letters I've accumulated after my name aren't the type that are admired by society, but I am still a person with rights, needs and dreams.  “Nikita Williams”, ASD, ADHD, CPTSD.  Human Being.  Thank you.

MS EASTMAN:  Nikita, thank you very much for sharing your poem, sharing your experiences.  We know this has been very difficult, and we greatly appreciate you having the courage to share with us.

NIKITA:  Thank you.

MS EASTMAN:  You have also got some recommendations that you want to make and the Commissioners will have the opportunity to read the recommendations.  Thank you, Nikita.  And for anyone listening, I will put up on the screen our content warnings and the telephone numbers.  If anyone wishes to seek assistance or speak to somebody the numbers are available on the screen.  Thank you, again, Nikita.


Katie, I think we are coming back to you.  Nikita may stay on and listen in the background, So, Commissioners, you will have an opportunity to thank both Katie and Nikita shortly.  So, Katie, as you know we've seen the results of the survey which shows some quite startling statistics in relation to the experience of women and girls living with autism and what they report in the survey of both physical abuse but also sexual abuse.  The survey has been important in the work that you do to advocate for people living with autism, and particularly the experience of girls.  Can I ask you about the importance of the advocacy work that you are doing?  Do you want to talk about that topic now?

MS KOULLAS:  Yeah, thank you.  Thank you so much for that.  Yes, and thank you Nikita for sharing your story.  It was   I'm very grateful to all the autistic individuals who have contributed to that submission and it was very powerful.  So thank you.

The advocacy work we are doing covers the lifespan of our community, and as we get deeper and deeper it is getting more and more evident that it's generational trauma that we are seeing because of so many unmet needs amongst our community.  We have   like I said earlier   layers of vulnerability but also a minority within a minority within a minority.  And it's really taking the impact.  And it's formed some of the recommendations we have got for you today which I would like to talk to about this particular inquiry.

MS EASTMAN:  Do you want to speak to those recommendations now?

MS KOULLAS:  Yeah, I've got three recommendations I would like to bring up and the rest we will table.

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you.

MS KOULLAS:  So the first recommendation we've got is that we do need to see commitment to fund, develop and deliver a wide range of preventative education programs and resources for our community, specifically as a protective measure against a particular vulnerability to family, domestic and sexual violence.  These programs need to be co-designed by the autistic community throughout every phase of the development and their delivery, and programs need to be covering topics such as safety, consent, healthy boundaries, healthy relationships, coercive control, understanding the different types of abuse.  And I do have one of our survey respondents that gave a quote on this topic saying:

"Given we are vulnerable in the first place, preventative safety education is paramount.  And given we are often not identified as children it is important to offer this education to our community and make it autistic friendly."

So, more education and support helping our community recognise toxic relationships, giving them the support they need to leave toxic situations is critical.  Our second recommendation again is preventative, but I know I spoke from the heart when I talked about Yellow Ladybugs and what it means to help us feel worthy and recognise our autistic identity.  But we think that we need to fund peer support programs and events that enable social connections for autistic girls, women and gender diverse individuals.  We identify this as a key protective measure, reducing their experiences of isolation and loneliness and the vulnerabilities to abuse that come with these experiences.  And, again, I've got another quote from one of our respondents saying:

"Going to a Yellow Ladybugs event has been a lifesaver - literally.  I did not want my daughter to experience the same lonely isolated life I did as an autistic woman.  She has developed friendships, a sense of pride in her autistic identity, and this is the biggest protective factor I believe which can cancel out all those vulnerabilities she may experience down the road."

And the third recommendation we have got is further research combining lived and professional experience is needed to understand any link or risk between compliance-based autism therapies, including ABA, which can set autistic children up for a future of manipulation, exploitation and abuse.  And this is a quote from the Therapist Neurodiversity Collective:

"The purpose of pairing is for the ABA provider to associate   ie pair   themselves with activities and objects that the child enjoys developing a relationship with them.  The crucial difference between therapeutic rapport building and pairing is this: During pairing the ABA provider using their relationship with the child to later increase the child's willingness to comply with demands that they find aversive.  Grooming and pairing are essentially are one and the same.  Both processes are intended to develop a relationship that an adult then leverages to encourage a formally unwilling participant to do something that they may not have originally felt comfortable consenting to."

So that is taken from a third party source but I do have another direct quote from an autistic woman who was a previous ABA therapist named “Inappropriate Possum”:

"ABA therapy has resulted in teens who comply with the demands of any authority figure.  In short, we are allowing our children to mature into easy prey for predators by acquiescing to their submission to a compliance award structure that can be perverted and abused to harm them.  We are so caught up in extinguishing behaviours in our offspring that we erase their ability to say no or defend themselves.  This system of autism behavioural management doesn't teach recognising and avoiding predators, bullies and abusive people and it has to change."

So in conclusion, all the recommendations and protective measures in the world will not be effective unless society addresses the issue directly with the perpetrators.  We are here today talking to the lived experience of autistic females and gender diverse people.  But we cannot ignore that as Victoria's Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius has previously said:

"Violence against women is absolutely men's behaviour."

So, we need to shift the narrative away from the focus on victims and ensure there is justice in a system that has sadly many times in the past served in favour of male perpetrators.

Let me first   let me finish up by bringing it back to our ladybugs.  We   and for those listening at home   we do not deserve to be invisible anymore.  We do not deserve to be overlooked.  We do not deserve to be ashamed of who we are.  We do not deserve to be isolated, so we urge you to listen.  We urge you to make real substantial practical changes.  Our lives might just depend on it.

Thank you so much for listening today and I'm available to answer any questions if you have them.

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Katie.  The Commissioners may have some questions for you.

CHAIR:  Yes, thank you very much.  I shall start with Commissioner Mason.  Do you have any questions you would like to put to Katie or any comments?

COMMISSIONER MASON:  No, I don't have any questions but I would like to thank you for the evidence that you've provided today as well as Nikita.  It's been really excellent and wonderful that the voices of women and girls has come through right through the evidence you gave today.  Thank you.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much.  Commissioner Bennett?   Is there anything that you would like to ask?

MS BENNETT:  I would also like to say thank you, Katie, to you and Nikita, and particularly your ability to draw on your own experience, and other women and girls, and think about changes that need to be made and the suggestions that you've made to us.  Thank you very much.

CHAIR:  Thank you.  Commissioner Galbally?

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Yes, I would like to add my thanks to Katie and Nikita and ask a quick question about the peer support and how incredibly valuable and important it is, but also as protection against risk and just wondered if you could expand on that.  That was   that was really important, I think.

MS KOULLAS:  Thank you.  Yes, so we heard in some of the stories that with people talking about their experiences of isolation and not having peers to get advice from or just generally feel like you've got a community around you is powerful.  But then on top of that when you're in a world that's not designed for you do feel like you’re the outcast, you’re the odd one out and it affects your worthiness.  And as we heard in Hannah Gadsby's quote, even if you are then in a position of being abused you might not feel worthy enough to report it.  So having that ability to connect with people that understand you and are like you is incredible, because you start beginning to build pride;  pride about who you are and know who your community is.  We've seen it in other amazing revolutions such as the LGBTIQA+ community and this is where the autistic community is really starting to recognise how important it is that we unite and we connect with each other and we know that we aren't the outcasts, we are just the minority.  And when you provide that social connection you are protecting the future generations.  I mean, the current, but the future generations to empower them to know that they are worthy, to know that they are different, they are not less.  And this is what we need to do.  We need to connect our community.  And the fact is autistic gender diverse girls are particularly at risk of this because we are hidden and isolated and it's hard to find our peers.  So this is why Yellow Ladybugs is so important, because when I first found out my daughter was autistic, everywhere I went it was just autistic males and boys.  And this is the point, we are creating a world where now we are connecting it.  And there's demand globally but we just can't keep up.  There is just this need out there.  And we   we deserve it.  We deserve to feel connected and that will protect us.  And very important.  So thanks for the question.

COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:  Thank you very much.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much, Katie, and thank you also to Nikita, to both of you for the thought and care you've put into your presentation.  We know it's not necessarily easy to do that in an environment such as this.  We very much appreciate your contributions to the hearing this week.  Thank you very much.

MS KOULLAS:  Thank you.


CHAIR:  Ms Eastman, does that mean we adjourn until tomorrow at 10 am?

MS EASTMAN:  I just want to tender some material from Libby Crawford's evidence and then the Niky case study.  I want to do that and then we can adjourn until 10 o'clock tomorrow.

CHAIR:  Yes.

MS EASTMAN:  So could you take into evidence the video recording of Elizabeth Crawford and also the transcript of the video recording with Elizabeth Crawford and mark those two items Exhibit 17.26.1 and Exhibit 17.26.2.

CHAIR:  Yes, that can be done.  The video recording and the transcript of the video recording of Ms Crawford will be admitted into evidence and they will be given the markings indicated by Ms Eastman.



MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of what we will describe as the Niky case study, could you receive into evidence the following items:  The video recording of Niky and Niky's Mum and the transcript of the video recording of Niky and Niky's Mum, and mark those items Exhibit 17.27.1 and Exhibit 17.27.2.

CHAIR:  Yes.  The video recording and the transcript of the video recording of Niky and Niky's Mum will be admitted into evidence and given those markings.



MS EASTMAN:  Then the statement of Carolyn Cumming dated 18 February 2022, if you could receive that statement into evidence and mark it Exhibit 17.28.1.

CHAIR:  Yes.  The statement of Ms Cumming will be admitted into evidence and given the marking of 17.28.1.


MS EASTMAN:  And, Chair, there are some additional documents with respect to the Niky case study, as the Commissioners and parties with leave to appear will be aware of, Tender Bundle D.  What we propose to do in the directions that the Commissioners will make tomorrow is to make provision for discussions to occur about what additional documents need to be tendered following the oral evidence today.  So it's just Ms Cumming's statement at the present time and then we can deal with the balance of the tenders at a later date if that's convenient to the Commissioners.

CHAIR:  Yes.  Thank you very much and that, perhaps, can include consideration of whether the report that was referred to in evidence of 2020 might be included in the bundle because, apparently, it's not presently in the bundle.

MS EASTMAN:  That's right.  I think I said Tender Bundle D but I meant to say Tender Bundle B.  I apologise for that.  The transcript can be corrected accordingly.

MS EASTMAN:  Commissioners, that concludes the evidence for today.  Thank you.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much.  Thank you once again to all of the witnesses who have given evidence today.  We will resume at 10 o'clock tomorrow Hobart time and 9 o'clock Brisbane time.  Thank you very much.