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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4613 ..

MRS CARNELL (continuing):

In response to the serious concerns and in line with the program's duty of care to clients, the following actions have been taken: One, advice was sought from the Community Advocate, who is the guardian of two of the residents concerned, and at the end of this answer, I will read the Community Advocate's response into Hansard; two, it was agreed that police should be informed in order that these allegations could be professionally investigated; three, police interviewed a resident; four, police then sought the cooperation of the disability program in asking staff members to attend for an interview; five, staff met with the accommodation support manager, who offered support and access to the employee assistance program; six, only one staff member attended for a police interview, and HSUA assistance was sought by the rest of the staff. In view of the refusal by staff to be interviewed by police and because of the need to safeguard clients and staff until this situation was resolved, management arranged for staff to work at other houses as a temporary measure. These proposed arrangements do not involve any changes in rosters, other than to sleepovers, which are not required in the other house. Last, staff members refused to comply with directions to work in another house and a picket line was put in place at the house. This is a residential house. It is out in the suburbs in Canberra. It is the home of the people with disabilities who live there.

Some allegations of abuse which are made in direct care circumstances are unfounded - we do not doubt that - but it is very important that whenever there are allegations of abuse they are properly investigated. We must make sure in these circumstances that everybody is treated fairly. However, many program clients are extremely vulnerable. They are not in a position, often, to say what they believe. They are not in a position to stand up for their rights. I believe very strongly that in this situation management in Disability Services did exactly the right thing. But what happened? What is the situation? As of lunchtime today, we have a picket on a residential house, the home of people with disabilities in this city. We have a situation where the professional nursing service that has been questioned, at least by Ms Tucker, is having to staff that house at this moment because the people who work for Disability Services are unwilling to do so. Those people are having to cross the picket line to get into the house to make sure that the people with disabilities have appropriate care.

Mr Berry: You are pathetic. Why do you not sort out the industrial problem instead of revving it up?

MRS CARNELL: Mr Berry might think this is not important, but I can tell you that I believe that this is important. These people have the same rights as anybody else, and they have the right to live in a residential situation without a picket line at their front door. It simply is not acceptable.

Rather than my making comments on what I think, it would be appropriate to answer Mr Kaine's question by reading the letter from the Community Advocate, Heather McGregor. She wrote a letter to the Health Services Union on 9 September, in which she said:

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