'The Names That Don't Get Spoken': Senator Sobs In Parliament
Jordon Steele-John read out the names of 34 people who have died in institutional and residential care in recent years.
With a white flower attached to his suit pocket, the Greens senator addressed an almost empty federal chamber on Tuesday night, using his parliamentary privilege to honour each person with a disability who had died after suffering abuse and neglect.
"These are the human beings, these are the loved ones, the mothers, the fathers, the sons who need justice, who demand justice, whose lives were worth living... and in whose memory I tonight wear a white flower."
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There was Shellay Ward, a seven-year-old girl with severe autism who was "found locked in a room without sunlight surrounded by faeces". The New South Wales Ombudsman found child protection workers continually failed to act on long-held concerns her parents had kept her as a prisoner in the room where she "died a slow and torturous death".
Isabella Leiper, 9, died from a combination of internal injuries which paediatricans said were caused by "blunt force to the stomach".
Steele-John fought back tears as he read Leah Elizabeth Floyd, who died when a pressure sore she recieved at an aged care home became septic.
Nearing the end, the senator became frustrated and could be heard swearing under his breath.
"These are the names that don't get spoken."
Steele-John became the first senator with a disability to serve last year when he replaced Greens Senator Scott Ludlam who was disqualified over having dual citizenship. Since then, he has campaigned to change how society thinks about people with a disability, with his first act in the Senate being a motion on a royal commission into the sector.
He is among disability advocates now calling for the royal commission into aged care to be extended to include people in disability care.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has all but ruled out investigating disability providers as part of the royal commission. It will be dealing with in-home care and young people with disabilities in residential aged care but won't look at disability organisations more broadly.
"It's important that we keep the focus of these inquiries. If they become an inquiry into everything, they become too broad," Morrison said on Tuesday.
"I want to ensure that this inquiry remains very focused, so it can give us some very clear direction."
Labor's Chris Bowen said the opposition would hold two separate commissions into disability and aged care.
Steele-John said the deaths filled him with an "ironclad determination" for justice.
"I will not stop, I will not rest until they find the justice that is so desperately owed them," he said.