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Marise and Amoura

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.

‘It was just horrendous. She would ring us up and just swear at us, and tell us that she wanted to get out of that place, that it was like a prison.’

Marise is in her 60s. She has an intellectual disability and epilepsy.

‘Mentally she’s like a child,’ her sister Amoura told the Royal Commission. ‘She’s never gone past the teens.’

About five years ago, a disability service provider offered Marise a place at a new purpose-built accommodation.

Soon after moving in, Marise ‘started to get some behaviour disorders’. Amoura learnt that a housemate was ‘harassing’ her.

‘He would take her belongings and hide them in places. And then he wanted to sit where she sat and, you know, all of this sort of thing.’

He was ‘the alpha male’ and Marise the eldest resident.

‘And there came a bit of toing and – yeah, conflict about who was in charge.’

Marise was refusing to go into the bathroom she shared with the man, because he was leaving ‘faeces and urine everywhere’. Management wouldn’t put a lock on the bathroom door to stop the man walking in on Marise.

‘Because her behaviours got a little bit out of control, and we had never seen this behaviour … we took her to the psychologist,’ Amoura said.

The psychologist suggested a variety of signs and visual aids that would help the two residents manage their interactions with each other.

The provider again said no.

‘Because they said that it would look tacky in a brand-new house. They were given information to fix some of the problems for both of them and they – they ignored them.’

Amoura believes many of the problems in the house came down to staff not being trained, particularly in behaviour support plans. They let things escalate, and eventually Marise hit the man.

‘She walked past him and had her knuckle out, and she just hit him on the back of the neck. [His sister] went to police and laid an assault charge.’

The home tried to evict Marise. During a lengthy tribunal process, Marise spent most of her time with her parents. The provider continued to charge her full rent.

‘Until today we still have not got any of those arrears,’ Amoura said.

‘Unfortunately, when you’re vulnerable with disability, to take an organisation on you’ve either go to know someone, or you’ve got to be really strong-willed to just stand up to them.’

Marise is now in a new home with a new flatmate and a new service provider. Her support worker has ‘a huge background in disability’ and is ‘well known for her training ability’.

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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.