Inclusion Australia is appalled by comments made by the legal team representing the disability support worker who pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Adelaide woman, Ann-Marie Smith. Ms Smith died as a result of shocking neglect in 2020.
Speaking as part of the sentencing hearing for former support worker Rosa Maria Maione, lawyer Stephen Ey made a series of highly offensive statements suggesting that Ms Smith was in some way responsible for the horrific abuse that led to her death.
As a community we must be very clear: nothing can excuse the neglect and abuse of Ann-Marie Smith by the worker who was being paid to support her. This is pure victim blaming.
“We cannot stand by and listen to these kinds of comments about people with disability,” said Inclusion Australia CEO, Catherine McAlpine.
“It is outrageous that the language of choice and control is being used to justify the appalling neglect and abuse of Ms Smith. When a person with disability is in pain, or is unwell, disability support workers must still make sure they have the vital personal care they need.”
All people with disability have the right to be safe and to get the supports they need, from workers who provide professional, dignified care.
As the late disability advocate Dave Hingsburger famously observed, disability support workers are ‘not friends, not family.’
Many people with disability have good, highly positive relationships with their essential support workers. However, all support workers are still being paid to do an important job. This includes a responsibility to be professional, and to understand and respect personal boundaries.
There can be no excuse for poor care – or much worse as was the tragic case for Ann-Marie Smith – and the disability community will not stay silent when suggested otherwise.