A royal commission hearing was informed that government agencies in Queensland were aware of the dangers posed to two brothers with disabilities well before they were discovered malnourished and confined in a bedroom after the death of their father.
Kate Eastman, counsel assisting the Disability Royal Commission, informed the Brisbane hearing that in May 2020, at the ages of 17 and 19, the boys with the pseudonyms Kaleb and Jonathon were discovered naked in a room with the door handles removed.
In her opening statement on Monday, Eastman stated that commissioners could find that Kaleb and Jonathan were subjected to violence and deprived of their rights while in their father’s custody.
Ms. Eastman stated, “Secondly, we will argue that the violence, abuse, neglect, and violation of Kaleb and Jonathan’s human rights were preventable.”
Nothing about Kaleb or Jonathan’s age, disability, or personal circumstances made it inevitable that they would experience violence, abuse, neglect, or a violation of their human rights, either individually or collectively.
A former neighbor explained to the commission that despite having no prior experience with people with severe disabilities, she found methods to communicate with the two adolescents.
When they were confined to their room all day, she would play soothing music and occasionally whistling through the window.
“They are simply exquisite… “I comprehended what trauma and abuse felt like,” she said.
“I understood them.”
She described the general squalor of their home, which lacked hot water and a bedroom with nothing but a blow-up mattress, as she occasionally assisted with the care of the boys.
“In the winter, Kaleb’s legs would be red and swollen from curling up to stay warm,” she said.
The neighbor acknowledged that she attempted to encourage the father to seek outside assistance and recalled her astonishment when Department of Housing inspectors did not enter the home on two separate occasions.
She said, “He did tell me at one point that if Child Services arrived, all I had to do was stock my refrigerator.”
Kaleb was enrolled in the NDIS at the time of their father’s demise, but Jonathon was not.
Commissioners were informed that their father feared he would forfeit a caregiver’s pension if he accessed NDIS funding for Jonathan.
As part of the preparations for the Royal Commission hearing, his financial records were examined, revealing that he relied on government support.
His expenditures included a large number of cash withdrawals used to purchase alcohol, cigarettes, and wagering.
In 2000, when Kaleb was born, government agencies in Queensland were aware of prospective risk factors, according to Eastman.
His parents’ living conditions were deemed “questionable and unstable,” and he was designated as a child at risk of being neglected. He spent approximately two years in foster care.
Later, Kaleb was returned before Jonathan’s March 2003 birth. In 2004, their father was solely responsible for both sons.
In 30 of the dozens of interactions between the family and government agencies in Queensland between June 2000 and May 2020, neglect concerns were either raised or recorded.
The Department of Child Safety received a total of 19 Child Protection notifications, and on three occasions a risk assessment assessed the family’s risk to be “very high.”
Representatives of the Queensland government are anticipated to respond on Wednesday.
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