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ABC Four Corners – a personal response

On the same week that the Disability Royal Commission released its final report, ABC’s Four Corners program showed that people with disabilities are still experiencing abuse, neglect, violence, and exploitation.  William Ward-Boas shares his thoughts on watching the show and some of the issues raised in the program.    

Like many people in the disability community, I found last week’s Four Corners episode on the NDIS very difficult to watch.  

It was horrifying to see people with disability being abused by people who work for services that are meant to provide support. In this case, all were service providers under the NDIS.   

As a disability advocate, I was shocked at the footage, but not surprised. We know that many people experience this kind of treatment, even in 2023. There have been many similar stories told to the Disability Royal Commission over the past four years.    

Self-advocates, families, disability advocacy organisations, academics and others have been fighting for the stories of participants on the NDIS to be heard since the scheme started.  

It was disappointing to see the awful treatment of people with a disability turned into a dispute between providers and the NDIS Commissioner. The response felt like watching a tennis match of people blaming others and accountability being avoided. Instead, we heard repeated lines that processes exist where in truth they are letting people down. This is not acceptable.  

As a person with a disability, I have witnessed firsthand similar acts of control and violence in the disability system. To me there was very little understanding of what showing such content would mean to people with first-hand experience of services not meeting the safety of those they are supporting. I also thought about the significant impact on families who put their trust into respite, accommodation, and day services.   

As a viewer the overall purpose of the Four Corners episode was not clear. Having spoken to friends and colleagues in the disability community, the way this information was delivered has instilled fear into a lot of people, and opened trauma for people with disabilities and families. 

I believe that a more trauma-sensitive approach was needed for the level of abuse and neglect that was shown. It felt like it was about victims being weaponised for the sake of holding systems to account. 

This was tokenistic and disempowering to watch as someone who has exposure to these kinds of scenarios. 

I hope that the NDIS Commission and government alike think about and consider the Royal Commission’s recommendations carefully and in a meaningful way. People’s lives and those of their supporters are going to be affected by your decisions and processes.  

See us as people living, not as people receiving. Think carefully.  

William Ward-Boas is a person with a disability from Melbourne/Naarm.  

He works as the Communication and Engagement Assistant at Inclusion Australia.