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Report - Public hearing 20 - Preventing and responding to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in disability services (two case studies)

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Report on Public hearing 20 – Preventing and responding to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in disability services (two case studies)


The Disability Royal Commission held Public hearing 20 in December 2021. We have written a report about this hearing. This video is a summary of the report.

The hearing looked at the experiences of people with disability living in group homes in Lismore, New South Wales and in Melbourne, Victoria. The homes were run by a non-government service provider called Life Without Barriers (LWB).

Lismore homes

A woman who lived in one of the Lismore homes gave evidence at the hearing. She lives with a cognitive disability, cerebral palsy and other health conditions.

In 2017 she met up with a man who she met online. She wanted to date and have relationships. LWB created rules about who she was allowed to invite to her home, what time they could visit, and did not let her close her bedroom door when she had a male visitor. The man picked her up from the home and took her to a park where he sexually assaulted her. He was later charged, convicted and went to jail.

Another woman was living in a different Lismore home. She has a cognitive disability and high support needs. During 2012 to 2014, staff were concerned that a male support worker would inappropriately touch her when she was getting personal care. But nothing was done until staff raised serious allegations in February 2015. The worker was charged with indecent assault but eventually acquitted.

Melbourne home

The Royal Commission also heard about violence between residents at a home in Melbourne. The violence included yelling and screaming, objects being thrown or used to hit others, and physical assaults that resulted in cuts, bruises and a fracture.

Findings and recommendations

The report made 34 findings and six recommendations.

Lismore homes – In relation to the first story, the report found:

  • LWB ‘relationship rules’ (which applied only to the woman involved and not the other residents):

    • did not respect her rights to intimacy, privacy and to take risks

    • could have created unsafe situations for her

    • took away her sense of having a real home.

  • after the woman’s sexual assault, LWB staff did not provide her enough support

  • LWB staff should have recorded her sexual assault and investigated it.

The report recommends that LWB review it policies, procedures and training so staff can support residents to enjoy intimate relationships.

Lismore homes – In relation to the second story the report found:

  • LWB managers failed to report the inappropriate touching by a male worker to LWB’s senior leaders

  • Following the inappropriate touching, LWB allowed male carers to continue to provide personal care to her after assuring her mother her personal care would not be given by male workers. This made the trauma suffered by the woman and her mother much worse.

  • LWB failed to apologise to her or her family for the conduct of the male worker.

The report recommends that LWB consider giving the woman involved money to compensate for the conduct of the male worker.

Melbourne home – In relation to the Melbourne home the report found that LWB:

  • failed to let the families of the residents know when violence occurred

  • did not do anything to reduce violence in the home.

More information

To read the full report, visit our website. Search ‘Public hearing 20’.