‘Persistent abuse’ in support sector


Liam McNally

The Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) released its community visitors annual report, reporting an overall increase in abuse, neglect and violence for the people they visit including in Melbourne’s west.

The (OPA) is a human rights organisation which promotes the diversity and inclusion of all people.

In 2022-2023, 384 OPA volunteer visitors and their 117 trainees conducted 3793 visits at 1270 Victorian facilities where people with disability and people with mental health issues receive support.

The report recorded 596 reports of abuse in the most recent period, up from 458 in 2020-21.

One instant included the story of Reign, a northern metro resident in mental health accommodation who uses a wheelchair and values their independence, encountered significant barriers to basic needs and respect within their living environment.

Issues ranged from physical threats and discriminatory remarks from a co-resident to inaccessible facilities that hindered their freedom to navigate their home comfortably.

This situation was further exacerbated by stalled NDIS funding reviews, leaving Reign in limbo and unable to move to a more suitable and safe accommodation.

Community visitors supported Reign to crucial support and information about advocacy services, leading to improvements in their living conditions, however, Reign’s situation remains far from resolved.

The report also highlighted some positive stories, such as that of Melton-Brimbank region resident, Megan.

Living in a shared home with three others, Megan has embraced a busy and independent lifestyle, thanks to the unwavering support and encouragement from her house supervisor and community visitors.

In an empowering move, Megan was involved as an interview panellist in the recruitment process of support workers for her home.

This opportunity provided the space for her to actively participate and create questions for the individuals who would work in her living space.

Combined Board and Public Advocate of Victoria chair Dr Colleen Pearce said Megan’s story is a shining example of how the right support and opportunities can foster a sense of agency and self-worth among residents

“Megan’s involvement in the recruitment process for her home is a powerful illustration of self-advocacy in action,” she said. “It’s crucial that we continue to create opportunities for individuals like Megan to exercise their rights and make choices about their care and support.”