Official Media Statement from DACSSA on the Major Crimes Investigation relating to the tragic and preventable death of Ann Marie Smith
The following statement describes significant harm and abuse leading to death of a person with disability. DACSSA encourages anyone who may be affected by this news to avoid the content and reach out to useful counselling services.
On Monday 6th April, Ann Marie Smith died at the Royal Adelaide Hospital due to a series of serious illnesses that had developed while living in her home in Kensington Park.
Ann Marie lived with Cerebral Palsy and relied on a carer for her daily living needs. Her illnesses and injuries included profound septic shock, multiple organ failure, severe pressure sores as well as malnutrition. A major crimes investigation is being carried out alongside a Coronial investigation to learn more about the alleged abuse and neglect of Ann Marie.
This is an example of extreme and horrific violations of human rights of people with disability. As individuals, a community and a nation we have an obligation to keep people with disability safe. We live in a world where we shouldn’t any longer, have to wait for such a tragic and preventable death, to instigate change. Both State and Federal Governments, the NDIS, and multiple Australian statutory bodies all have a role and function for preventing abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation of people with disability, but we cannot forget the legal and moral responsibilities that a care provider has for the people like Ann Marie with whom they work with every day. Ann Marie deserved to receive quality, safe and trustworthy care, as all people with disability do.
This preventable death demonstrates to DACSSA a profound failure in Australia’s measures for protecting vulnerable people – vulnerable people who may not have family, friends or a way to reach out; those who may not understand abuse is occurring. This is an indication of a system that needs to do more to make sure that services are accountable and supported to provide trustworthy care. It’s an indication that we are still not championing disability rights like we need to, and we’re still not putting the individual at the forefront.
It is for Ann Marie and others like Ann Marie, that DACSSA works and strives to protect every day, by holding systems accountable and collaborating to improve the quality of life for people with disability. More needs to be done as a community to take steps for responding to disability abuse. It is part of our work to hear concerns of abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation of people with disability.
It is with this sentiment, and in honour of Ann Marie Smith, that DACSSA releases our model for Steps For Responding To Disability Abuse.