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Content Warning: These stories are about violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation and may include references to suicide or self-harming behaviours. They may contain graphic descriptions and strong language and may be distressing. Some narratives may be about First Nations people who have passed away. If you need support, please see Contact & support.

Lew, late 60s, has physical disability and epilepsy.

In primary school, Lew’s seizures increased and the school couldn’t handle him. He told the Royal Commission no-one understood epilepsy at the time, and he was taken from his mum and dad and placed in a home for boys.

‘Mum and dad had no choice,’ Lew said. ‘I was sexually abused and physically abused and we didn’t get an education.’

Lew said ‘the only way out of the system’ was to go overseas.

But when the family tried to return to Australia, Lew wasn’t able to join them.

‘Even though I was born here, I wasn't allowed to come back under mum's passport … because of my disability.’

After some years Lew returned and devoted himself to working with children and adults with disability.

Over the years he has worked as a support worker, team leader, manager and official community visitor.

‘Eighty per cent of group homes are okay,’ Lew says. ‘The problem is they don’t get community visitors like they used to.’

Lew explained that official community visitors report to the public advocate. These days, they only visit the homes the advocate wants them to visit, and ‘they don't visit them enough’.

‘I would come in at 6.30 am in the morning when it's time to get clients up. I would see how handover gets done, then I might come in at 6 pm in the evening and normally that's dinnertime and I would see how many staff were on.’

Community visitors used to be able to access all the files to see where the money is being spent. Lew used to teach them to ‘read between the files’.

‘I showed them how the department write things up. And if they see things repeated too often, it's just a cut-and-paste … I taught them to read the case files and make sure you talk to the clients and, if possible, you talk to them individually because some clients won't open up while the workers are there.’

Lew said some community visitors don’t know how to communicate with people who are non-verbal, deaf or blind.

‘If we don't have community visitors that are trained or senior investigators from the public advocates that know how to do it – I do get annoyed about it.’

Lew believes part of the problem is the public advocate has become ‘more like a private company now than representing those people with disability’.

‘They should really be looking after the people in care a lot more.’

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Disclaimer: This is the story of a person who shared their personal experience with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability through a submission or private session. The names in this story are pseudonyms. The person who shared this experience was not a witness and their account is not evidence. They did not take an oath or affirmation before providing the story. Nothing in this story constitutes a finding of the Royal Commission. Any views expressed are those of the person who shared their experience, not of the Royal Commission.