Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts.These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Insight -

View in ParlView

Insight, Sex and Disability


JENNY BROCKIE: Welcome everyone. Marina, you're here tonight with your husband, Vaughn?


JENNY BROCKIE: You've only been married a few months?


JENNY BROCKIE: How's married life so far?

MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: Pretty good, it has its challenges but it's okay.

JENNY BROCKIE: What do you think Vaughn?

VAUGHN AKININ: It has its ups, ups and downs.

JENNY BROCKIE: Now you two were interviewed about your relationship recently for a Sexpo. Let's have a look.


MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: We’ve known each other since primary school and we are getting married in November this year.

VAUGHN AKININ: And I got the ring. As you can see, the ring’s on her.


VAUGHN AKININ: And then she started crying. If I hadn’t had Marina I would be downhill…fast. But I’m with Marina, which I’m happy for.

MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: Yeah, thank you, thank you, darl. We can’t be intimate at my house, so it’s a bit of a struggle for us, but we’re getting there.

VAUGHN AKININ: I recommend, go do it, and don’t be shy with your sexuality.

JENNY BROCKIE: Why did you get involved in the Sexpo?

MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: We wanted to express how we felt to other people.

JENNY BROCKIE: When do you get time to spend together?

MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: Um, at the moment it's like three days a week and once a fortnight Vaughn stays over at my house.

JENNY BROCKIE: And why does he stay at your house?

MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: Because my staff are a bit more accommodating to the sexual intimacy bit where as far as setting up and then we can be…

JENNY BROCKIE: And then you get busy?


JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, when you say your staff are more accommodating, what do the staff do? What sort of help do you need?

MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: Just put the sling on, position us, put, help us with hoisting and things like that.

JENNY BROCKIE: So they get you into positions where it's possible?


JENNY BROCKIE: For you to be intimate with one another?


JENNY BROCKIE: Alicia, you've been one of the carers for these two, what's that been like for you?

ALICIA MELITA, DISABILITY SUPPORT WORKER: I guess it's just an everyday right that people should be able to experience so I think it’s fine.

JENNY BROCKIE: And what do, do all the carers have a similar attitude or do you find there are different attitudes between them?

ALICIA MELITA: Yeah, there's definitely different attitudes towards it and I guess getting the right people to be able to support you, to do whatever you want to do.

JENNY BROCKIE: Kerry, you run the organisation that provides carers for Marina and Vaughn. Just tell us about how this came about, have staff always behaved this way, have they always helped people with disabilities?

KERRY STUBBS, CEO NORTHCOTT: At Northcott we started because we got a lot of questions from our customers about wanting to have both relationships and relationships include sexuality. So we started thinking about and fill the vibe Sexpo how we could run that, how we could help people and how we could give them the information they needed to make their lives, their intimate lives possible.

JENNY BROCKIE: So the demand was coming from your clients?

KERRY STUBBS: Absolutely, yeah, it's really a matter of negotiation with the client and their carer, or the customer and their carer, and we would talk very much to the staff because we have a policy, we have a policy around sexuality, intimate relationships, and we wouldn't be asking staff to do anything that they found offensive or morally wrong.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, and you say staff have different attitudes?

MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: It varies on the person and how they react to it and how we put it towards them too.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. How much privacy do the two of you have about your sex life?

MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: Not very much, not very much.

JENNY BROCKIE: Because you live in a group home?


JENNY BROCKIE: Do you feel like everyone around is sort of knows about what's going on? Is there a sense that people want to know too much?

MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: Everybody senses there's something but they can't describe what it is and then if it's intimate, they're like oh, hell, how do you do it? How do you do this? How do you do that? How do you, you know, action, how do you perform, how do you do this and I'm like ‘easy’.

JENNY BROCKIE: David, you've been married to your wife Jenny for 25 years. You live in Canberra and we visited you there recently. Let's have a look.


DAVID HECKENDORF: Jenni is a wonderful lady, very patient, very kind and insightful.

JENNI HECKENDORF: He is stubborn! But that is what got him ahead in life…

DAVID HECKENDORF: We have been married for over 25 years. Our marriage is quite different in that we get assistance to get dressed, we get assistance to have a shower, to wash, to shave in the morning, to cook, to eat. Sex is really important for any couple because it bonds people together. Our sexual arrangement up until today we have kept relatively to ourselves.

Usually we have sex once a week or once a fortnight. We are becoming less independent in the bedroom. We tried various solutions, and with our level of disability, it just was not working. If we were able to enjoy a sexual relationship with each other it would be incredibly stressful on our relationship and our marriage.

For about three days it helps to reduce my spasms and it helps to reduce any pain that I might have and it also helps me to sleep at night.

JENNI HECKENDORF: And it makes us nicer people to live with.

DAVID HECKENDORF: Life is very short and we can only ever be assured of having one life, so we really want to enjoy that one life.

JENNY BROCKIE: A lot of people liked that sign I think, just judging from the reaction here. David, Jenni couldn't be with us tonight because she can't travel which is, a shame but it was really good to see her there. You said that you hoped that people would keep an open mind about the arrangement that you have and you haven't really talked about it until tonight. What is the arrangement you have so you can have sex?

DAVID HECKENDORF: Going, I've taken the step of engaging a sex worker on a regular basis to assist us to have sex.

JENNY BROCKIE: And you only started doing that when Jenni's health started deteriorating?

DAVID HECKENDORF: Yes, that's right.

JENNY BROCKIE: So how long have you been doing that far?

DAVID HECKENDORF: Approximately five or six years.

JENNY BROCKIE: And what, what's it been like for you as a couple getting used to that, getting used to the idea of having a sex worker helping you?

DAVID HECKENDORF: In theory it's great. In practice, it took a lot of debriefing and selection, finding a, finding a morality that didn't destroy our sanctity of the marriage.

JENNY BROCKIE: The sanctity of the marriage, yeah?


JENNY BROCKIE: And clearly for both of you, I mean Jenny says you're nicer people as a result of that?


JENNY BROCKIE: How often do you hire a sex worker now to help you?

DAVID HECKENDORF: We're going on to the NDIS, since last December we have been able to increase our regular visits to weekly as a general rule. But things get in the way and it might slip to fortnightly.

JENNY BROCKIE: So the NDIS has actually helped you to be able to afford to do it?

DAVID HECKENDORF: Yes, definitely.

JENNY BROCKIE: Rachel, you're a sex worker with the Touching Base organisation in New South Wales where it is legal for people with disability to access a sex worker. What range of clients do you see?

RACHEL WOTTON, SEX WORKER: There's a lot of clients I may see that present with disability and there's a lot that don't. I treat everyone equally.

JENNY BROCKIE: Are you seeing more people and are there many sex workers who do this kind of work?

RACHEL WOTTON: Yeah, there's a broad range of sex workers of all genders, who are seeing clients of all genders, and I think it's becoming not more popular but it's being talked about more and it's being recognised more.

JENNY BROCKIE: David, how have people, do people in your family and around know about the arrangement you have or is this the first time you've spoken about it?

DAVID HECKENDORF: They will after tonight.

JENNY BROCKIE: They'll know tonight, okay. Alright, so I can't really ask you how they've reacted yet. We'll find that out, yeah? Have you told anyone?

DAVID HECKENDORF: Well, we don't go around advertising but like I did submit a submission in to the Senate inquiry into the NDIS sometime ago, suggesting that the NDIS did cover this type of service and have been another YouTube film about this. So whilst I don't advertise it, I haven't exactly been quiet about it either.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. Kelly Vincent, you're a state politician in South Australia, would David and Jenny be able to use the services of a sex worker to assist them with their sex life in South Australia? Would that be possible?

KELLY VINCENT, MLC DIGNITY FOR DISABILITY PARTY: Look, it certainly wouldn't be clear cut here in South Australia. There are definitely some grey areas as to where certain types of work can occur and what kind of work can occur in what setting in terms of sex work in South Australia. What I can say is that does translate to grey areas around the rights of people with disabilities.

For example, I hear stories of disability support workers who are unsure about whether it would be legally okay for them to book an appointment with a worker on their client's behalf or whether they would be able to assist them to go to the place where the appointment was to occur and there is a lot of debate going on here in South Australia where in the event sex work was decriminalised, whether people with disability would be able to use the funding for these type of services. Okay, there are people that, for instance who receive the dole - unemployment payments - there are no checks on what they can spend their money on. There is no moralising that goes on.

JENNY BROCKIE: Kerry, you are nodding your head about that?

KERRY STUBBS: I agree wholeheartedly, from my perspective the issue is that people with disability are adults that have rights and can make choices about their lives. They can make good choices, they can make bad choices according to their own set of moral codes. If it's legal, they are entitled to make those choices. It's not up to us to decide what their choices should be.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, Marina, what would it be like for the two of you if you couldn't have sex?

MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: It would be very frustrating.

VAUGHN AKININ: And it would be boring.

JENNY BROCKIE: I want to talk about some other issues that arise with the whole question of sex, of sex and disability. Nathan, you're 41?


JENNY BROCKIE: And you're single?

NATHAN MCGRATH: Yes, that's right.

JENNY BROCKIE: How do you meet women?

NATHAN MCGRATH: Um, on-line or through Facebook, um, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE: And how's that gone for you?

NATHAN MCGRATH: Very, like, like hard to, like understand the people who like you're talking to, like, and like I can't see you but you can see them like when you're talking to them.

JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah, yeah. So tell me what sort of women you like for a start?

NATHAN MCGRATH: Oh, just people in general, like yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE: Just in general?


JENNY BROCKIE: Can you tell us a little bit about your disability?

NATHAN MCGRATH: Yeah, I've got, I'm a person with an intellectual disability.

JENNY BROCKIE: And how does that affect you, what sort of things do you find difficult?

NATHAN MCGRATH: People who haven't got a disability to understand people who have got a disability.

JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah. In what ways?

NATHAN MCGRATH: Well, it's hard to understand people who have got a disability to hear and speak like with people who have got a disability and …

JENNY BROCKIE: So communication is hard?


JENNY BROCKIE: Joe, your Nathan's younger brother. What sort of challenges have you seen?

JARROD MCGRATH, THE WODEN SCHOOL, ACT: I guess firstly helping Nathan feel comfortable with expressing his desires and helping him trust that he can communicate with us about what his desires are. Then just through him having a lack of knowledge around Facebook and some things that he was doing on-line, things came up on his public wall where he was starting to use maybe what's considered inappropriate kind of communication in some of these on-line situations.

JENNY BROCKIE: So what sorts of things were happening?

JARROD MCGRATH: Are you okay for me talk about some of these things?


JARROD MCGRATH: So as I said, you just, you get on Facebook as you do and up comes a kind of inappropriate sexual communication from my brother who's a lovely guy to a stranger using language I didn't even realise that he knew and then you think oh, my God, what's going on here?

JENNY BROCKIE: Where'd you learn the language Nathan?

NATHAN MCGRATH: Oh, just around people who use it a fair bit.


NATHAN MCGRATH: Or my father.

JENNY BROCKIE: Or your father?

NATHAN MCGRATH: Especially like when you like go around and you hear like parents talk about it all the time.


NATHAN MCGRATH: Yes, yes, like hanging around other guys you hear it talked, they talk about it.

JENNY BROCKIE: So you hear a lot of talk?


JARROD MCGRATH: Yeah. So once I realised that Nathan had this knowledge and then was communicating with people on-line in that manner, then I had to assist him in what's considered one around safety. So okay you're now on-line dating I hear so let's talk about the safety around that, around first meeting people, giving out your address, giving out personal information because Nathan's a very trusting person, you know, very welcoming so I was concerned that he was vulnerable to being exposed in that regard.

JENNY BROCKIE: Nathan, how did you learn about sex, where did you get information about sex from?

NATHAN MCGRATH: On like TV shows and like on the internet, always popping up on like the web pages and yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE: Like porn websites?

NATHAN MCGRATH: Yeah, definitely.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. Dennis, you're Nathan's dad, I know you took him to a sex ed class when he was in year 6 I think, but where do you think he's getting most of his information about sex now?

DENNIS MCGRATH: I just want to go back to that sex class that Nathan went to. I just want to paint a little picture of how they went about it. The guy came out with a big blackboard and he wrote a big V and said that's the female part and he wrote a big P and he put an arrow pointing to each other and that was it.

JENNY BROCKIE: That's helpful?

DENNIS MCGRATH: It didn't enlighten anybody. My paediatrician was sitting over there and he was asleep like that. With Nathan's disability, it's intellectual so you can't go to an open forum and explain it in this big open manner. How they learn literacy and numeracy is in a special ed's type

JENNY BROCKIE: Charitha, where did you learn about sex? How did you find out about sex?

CHARITHA DE SILVA: Um, um, my mum and friends.

MARY MCMAHON: And friends?


JENNY BROCKIE: Mary, your Charitha's mum, what do you think?

MARY MCMAHON: Well I think it's very difficult and I think that Charitha was in a support unit, so in a special unit at school and sex education wasn't something that was important there. So…


MARY MCMAHON: Well indeed, why not, it just wasn't and I don't know whether it's the same in a lot of other schools, it certainly was in his and in that support unit. And I think it's because there's so much else that they think they need to address, sometimes sex, and I think a lot of people like to think that people with disabilities don't have any sex urges so it's not important.

So we have tried by buying books of an appropriate sort at different ages for him which I think, when I was giving them to him, he was finding that a bit embarrassing from time to time that his mum was showing him all these images. I think Charitha has also been looking at television in the middle of the night and looking at gay porn and I would hate, I would hate to think that he thought that every man…

JENNY BROCKIE: Are you trying to shut her up right now? Was that what that was about?

MARY MCMAHON: It was. I think, I think he would be very disappointed if he thought that every man was like the men he's seen on various sites because I've told him it's not like that.

JENNY BROCKIE: So you've done a bit of education about expectations?

MARY MCMAHON: I have tried.

JENNY BROCKIE: Body parts?

MARY MCMAHON: Absolutely and size of various bits and pieces.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, anyone else want to comment on this? Yes, Kerry?

DR KERRY ARROW, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Although Australia is exactly a legal requirement for every student to receive sex and relationship education, the fact is that students with disabilities, particularly intellectual disabilities do not receive this information and I think…


DR KERRY ARROW: There's a perception that either people with disabilities are asexual or that they're overtly sexual. In fact the research shows that the more education you give people, the more likely they are to have healthier, productive and safe relationships. But a lot of parents are very scared about their children expressing the sexuality.

JENNY BROCKIE: Liz, you're a relationship counsellor for people with disabilities, what sort of issues have you had to deal with around this question of a lack of sex education and a void and people picking up information, you know, in other ways if there's a void?

LIZ DORE, RELATIONSHIP AND SEXUALITY COUNSELLOR: There's definitely a void and I've started out as a special educator so with that knowledge and the disability experience and the relationships counselling together I've started sexuality education workshops and sessions. Some parents are very proactive and that's wonderful, but then others are referred when something goes wrong. We've talked about Facebook and my recommendation is get someone else in the family to be friends with you on Facebook. My children have their uncle who they really liked on Facebook with them and teach them safe use and then if they're curious give them all the education because education about sex is safety.

JENNY BROCKIE: So people can get into all sorts of trouble totally innocently, like without any?

LIZ DORE: Yes. If a person that's an adult sends a photo of themselves to a 15 year old, that's a criminal offence. So it's important that they understand and use these simple resources about what's good sex, what's bad sex, what's legal.

JENNY BROCKIE: Janet, your son Alex is 23, he lives in a granny flat at your house and he goes to work four days a week?

JANET TOBIN: That's right.

JENNY BROCKIE: Let's have a look.


JANET TOBIN: OK, so Wollongong will be lots of fun, finishing with dinner at McDonald's. No, you're not going to blow bubbles, you're going to have a big bubble around you and you are trying to kick the ball and play soccer with this big bubble? All right, have a good day, I'll see you later. Bye-bye.

He's been working at KFC at the Sydney Airport basically since he left school. It does involve catching a few trains to and from work and there was a period where we did have a few incidents and I guess a part of me is always fearful when he leaves for work.

Alex is very laid back, he is very happy, he wants to please everybody, he wants to be friends with everybody. He can get quite anxious. So trying to teach him too well, you shouldn't have gone up to her, you know, it's okay to sort of smile at someone but you've got to be careful how you engage with that person.

He takes a lot of pride in his work. But as the manager there has said, they have never had anyone that's just so happy to get to work. He has this big smile on his face and he so wants to do well. I'm always worried that I'm going to get that call. Every time he goes to work, a part of me is, is this going to be the day when I'm going to get a call from one of the police saying you need to come to the station.

JENNY BROCKIE: Janet, tell us a little bit more about Alex.

JANET TOBIN: He's globally developmentally delayed and he has dyspraxia which affects his speech, which makes it very difficult for him to communicate.

JENNY BROCKIE: And why, you said there that you were worried you might get a call from the police, why are you worried about that?

JANET TOBIN: There was a period in his life when there was a lot of disruption and he played out in a sort of sexual way whereby he was, you know, touching himself or being inappropriate on public transport and I was at a client's and I got a call from the police saying we're on our way to your son's work and we're going to arrest him. And I was like oh, please, can you, can you not go to his work? I promise I'll bring him to the station, please don't do that to him. No, we're going to come, we're going to arrest him and you're to come to the station where he will be processed.

JENNY BROCKIE: And what were they going to arrest him for?

JANET TOBIN: For a sexual offence.

JENNY BROCKIE: Has he been charged or has anything like that actually happened?

JANET TOBIN: He was charged. We had to go to Court and that was incredibly stressful because the Court Session kept getting put back as well. Finally he got granted what's called a Section 32, so there was a treatment plan put in place where he had to see a psychologist for a period of time and undergo counselling.

JENNY BROCKIE: And so how's that gone, how long has it been since that?

JANET TOBIN: We actually kept going with it. It was meant to be about six months but we ended up going and seeing her for a number of years because I thought it was be helpful.

JENNY BROCKIE: So this was all quite a long time ago?

JANET TOBIN: So it's a few years ago.

JENNY BROCKIE: So it's been a while, so you've had quite a long time?


JENNY BROCKIE: What do you think it's settled down in those three years?

JANET TOBIN: I think it's helped because his life is stable and I also think the counselling helped as well to teach Alex about boundaries.

JENNY BROCKIE: So it's been a while since those things have happened, but you're still worried, why are you still worried?

JANET TOBIN: I'm still worried because I had a man actually come to my house not that long ago and say look, your son frightened my daughter. My daughter was walking to the train station and your son came up and tried to talk to her and smiled at her and when she walked away, he followed her. She became frightened and she hid. I'm very concerned about that situation.

JENNY BROCKIE: And how did you deal with that?

JANET TOBIN: Um, my initial response was oh, my God, if he gets charged again I don't know if we'll get a Section 32 and my caseworker from ADHC said there are a number of people with a mental, intellectual mental disability that are in gaol that shouldn't be in gaol, this is the wrong place for them, and I can't help them. So my initial thing was I have to fix this.

So I rang my GP and I said Alex, though he might be, you know, 21, mentally he's that of a twelve year old, is there any medication that I can give him to lower his libido until mentally he can catch up to what's going on in his body and the GP was horrified. She said you can't, you can't speak to me about this, this is not your role. You need to speak to the Public Guardian, I wouldn't even know where to start.

And then when I rang the Public Guardian he's like how dare you? How dare you even consider this? This is his right, you are talking about taking away his most basic rights and I said I'm not talking about it, I'm asking you. I'm asking you what is out there?

JENNY BROCKIE: I think that story is a really important story to tell because clearly you're very worried about, about the behaviours and about what to do. I mean Liz, you've worked with clients, as you've mentioned, who've been in trouble with the police. How common is that kind of story?

LIZ DORE: It's too common because as the others have talked about, people want to avoid the subject and if a young person's got pubic hair then they've got sexual feelings, it's just a fact. So I think we have to be careful of saying someone thinks like a child when they're actually a teenager or an adult and have sexual feelings like a teenager or adult, it’s just that people haven't taught them about good sex, bad sex, masturbation in private in a way that they understand. We do it for reading, we do it for maths, we do it for travel training, why not for ways to satisfy your sexual feelings safely and privately?

JENNY BROCKIE: To what extent do you think those problems can be ameliorated by sex education and to what extent do you think they're going to be there anyway in a certain number of people?

LIZ DORE: I think with proper education in the way that my children had and other children without disabilities will actually get rid of the problems. If they have the education and the same access to social activities, then they'll just go on the journey like other people with the same ups and downs but not in trouble with the law.

JENNY BROCKIE: I just want to quickly go back to something that you raised, Janet, about going to the GP. Kerry, you're a clinical psychologist, does that happen where people are given drugs around?

KERRY ARROW: Certainly.

JENNY BROCKIE: Their sexual desires, to dampen their sexual desires?

DR KERRY ARROW: I think it's not done as overtly as that. It will usually be done under the guise of behaviour management strategies so it's unlikely in Australia that you would be granted the power to give someone some sort of drug to reduce their libido. But however, if there was violent behaviour, challenging behaviours, it could be seen as a way to dampen those behaviours and the side effect conveniently can be reducing libido.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, and if people are under 18, anyone under 18, that process goes through the Family Court, is that right?

DR KERRY ARROW: Yes. Certainly with sterilisation that's the way it would go through and what the stats are quite frightening in that is that they show that young girls with disabilities are sterilised for medical, in inverted commas, reasons at a far higher rate than girls without disabilities, and yet there's no evidence to suggest that girls with disabilities have medical problems at a higher rate than girls without disabilities that would that warrant sterilisation.

JENNY BROCKIE: Jarrod, you teach sex education to teenagers with intellectual disability at a high school in Canberra?


JENNY BROCKIE: We visited one of your classes recently.


JARROD MCGRATH: OK, we might now have a look at the private parts of our body. We will do the same game. They are parts we don't see in class. I will get the game ready. Ella, would you like to have a go? OK, your turn. What's that one?

ELLA: Vagina.

JARROD MCGRATH: Is it public or private?

ELLA: Private.

JARROD MCGRATH: Private, good work. Breasts are private. What is that one?

ELLA: Penis.

JARROD MCGRATH: Penis is private. Well done Ella, you are learning quick too. You only learned this yesterday. No way. I'm impressed. When we kiss, do we kiss in public or do we kiss in private? What's this called? Private, excellent. Can I have a hi five. Do you say can I have a high five?

JARROD MCGRATH: Can I have a high five... That's consent, I asked first.

With Andrew, to teach consent we started with the basic example of can I have your drink bottle.

JARROD MCGRATH: What do we do if we want something?

ANDREW: Ask first.

JARROD MCGRATH: Can I have your drink bottle?

ANDREW: Can I have your drink bottle?

JARROD MCGRATH: Please? You can say yes.

Then you expand upon that and have you different contexts.

JARROD MCGRATH: You go first, say "Can I have a hug? ". Can I have a hi five instead? Yes. That is consent.

JENNY BROCKIE: Is teaching consent that simple?

JARROD MCGRATH: No, that came across brilliantly, no it’s not that simple. Yeah, assessing the understanding and I mean, sure, that's been edited, they were there for six hours, and that's what? Thirty seconds and all the best parts. I wish it was that simple. It is, yes, assessing that understanding of consent, putting it into different contexts and repeating that over the years in a variety of contexts is the way to do it. And to start early is the best, that's why I'm proud of the school that I work at we repeat it on every year group.

JENNY BROCKIE: So this isn't just about relationship building and those kind of things, people understanding relationships and sexual contact with other people, it's also protection from abuse?

JARROD MCGRATH: That's right, because a lot of people with disabilities will need personal care support and so there is a variety of workers who are assisting with that personal care.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. Anthony, you run sex education programs in Queensland. It's different there. Why?

ANTHONY WALSH, TRUE RELATIONSHIPS AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: There's also some strange anomalies in the Queensland criminal code that make some people think that it's illegal.

JENNY BROCKIE: Why, what sort of anomalies?

ANTHONY WALSH: So the law basically defines any sex with someone with a disability, an impairment of the mind is the term they use and that's defined very broadly, so that our friends here with cerebral palsy would technically fall under that category regardless of what their actual IQ or intellectual abilities were. So it makes that sex with those people illegal.

JENNY BROCKIE: So what effect does that have?

ANTHONY WALSH: Disability support agencies see that the law is on the book and they go oh, well we won't touch that with a ten foot pole. We don't want to engage in sex education because well, sex for these people is illegal.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. Kerry, getting back to the question of consent how do you establish consent when there's an intellectual disability?

DR KERRY ARROW: So it's, it's not easy, it's certainly not straightforward, it's not something you can sit with someone in one session and go yes, this person, you know, go through an assessment and say I'm going to rubber stamp you, you've got your consent licence now. It's not static either, it changes. We teach about something called the consent continuum, so not to say that consent is yes or no but there's a continuum from enthusiastic consent to maybe, to no, that's a respectful no, to all the way through to pressure, coercion and rape.

JENNY BROCKIE: And what about suggestibility, can professionals actually have too much influence sometimes?

DR KERRY ARROW: Yes, absolutely think particularly with people with intellectual disabilities there's a phenomenon of acquiescence where people are often conditioned to say yes or to try to please.

JENNY BROCKIE: And that would apply to parents too?

DR KERRY ARROW: Of course.

JENNY BROCKIE: Any kind of authority figure?

DR KERRY ARROW: Absolutely.

JENNY BROCKIE: Rachel, as a sex worker, how do you know what consent is in some of the circumstances that you find yourself in, particularly if there's, if you're working with someone who has an intellectual disability, for example?

RACHEL WOTTON: Oh, there's lots of ways to get informed consent. Consent for sex is not just given at the start of night. It's not just yes, I'm going to dinner and I'm going to have sex with you three hours later, and even though you're starting to get undressed, sex is…

JENNY BROCKIE: It's a continual process?

RACHEL WOTTON: Completely, and so you're always giving verbal and non-verbal communication and consent to what you like and what you don't like, and that's the same with my clients as well. But the idea that someone with intellectual disability can't consent, or someone with a communication board can't consent is ridiculous. It's about their education, it's about understanding how they communicate and it's our responsibility to be able to learn how the other person communicates and not just sit them in the box of like you must verbally say yes or no.

JENNY BROCKIE: Janet, did you ever consider taking Alex to a sex worker?

JANET TOBIN: I did. I actually spoke to his psychologist who I think may have even recommended your organisation or one like it. My concern was, and it goes back to, I guess, education. I didn't know that if, let's say, Alex saw Rachel and thought oh, this is lovely, I really like Rachel and I'm having a really lovely time, my concern was will he understand that the next girl that he sees on the train, for example, isn't Rachel? And that was one of the problems throughout seeing a psychologist that we found Alex had with boundaries and she extensively tried to teach him about what they call the circle where the inner circle, yes, you can hug and kiss but then maybe the next circle you just shake hands and we progressed, but he would keep breaking those boundaries. So that was my fear.


LIZ DORE: I don't like the circles program because it, it puts strangers on the outside and then as it goes in you put supposedly the people you trust and the people that are often put in there are family and priests, minister, those sort of things and often they're the people, if someone's abused, it's often…

JENNY BROCKIE: Statistically they're often the people who are the abusers?

LIZ DORE: The family and I have a client who every time she sees her mother is sexually abused by her stepfather. Well not even her mother can go in that inner circle so I don't ever use that program.

JENNY BROCKIE: Russell, you're now looking at how residential homes deal with sexuality and disability. What sort of guidelines are there?

RUSSELL SHUTTLEWORTH, DEAKIN UNIVERSITY: We're looking at certainly policy in Victoria around facilitated sex and there are no policies in terms of disability services around facilitated sex. Some agencies' programs may go into more detail with their policy, but still it's not reaching the kind of depth that's needed in the grey area. I mean what we're finding, because we're interviewing people with disability around their use of facilitated sex with their support workers, there's such a grey area they don't know what to ask for. They don't know what's possible to ask for.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. Moreen, I want to talk to you about this because you were the employee relations manager at Yooralla which was Victoria's, or is Victoria's biggest disability provider I think. What did you find when you first started working at Yooralla?

MOREEN LYONS: There were people that were preying on people in the workplace because of it and the lack of training that had been in place.

JENNY BROCKIE: People preying on people meaning staff preying on people?

MOREEN LYONS: Staff and people in positions of authority and a duty of trust and care were grooming disabled people working in the jobs programs or in accommodation services and grooming them covertly to become their personal sexual partners.

JENNY BROCKIE: There were prosecutions as a result.

MOREEN LYONS: There were prosecutions and all of the prosecutions since 2011, the Judiciary or the person at Fairwork that's made the arbitration has said and criticised the agency for their non-reporting to police or their extended delay in reporting the matters to police.

JENNY BROCKIE: So there was a whole culture?

MOREEN LYONS: Absolute culture.

JENNY BROCKIE: That extended way beyond the sexual abuse that was going on?

MOREEN LYONS: And not believing complaints from disabled residents and employees in the programs when they would accuse senior staff of sexual inappropriate behaviour or sexual assault. There's been a big call across the agency from female, particularly female residents to be able to pick the gender of the person who cares for their personal needs. It's been ignored and when you look at the statistics that are such a high order of a female being sexually assaulted, a disabled female.

JENNY BROCKIE: And what's happened since?

MOREEN LYONS: There's an enquiry, Senate and state enquiry since that looking into the abuse in the disability sector. People are pushing for mandatory reporting. Working with a disabled register so if you're not suitable that you go on that register.


LIZ DORE: Come on in. One woman has had a dress made especially so that's been exciting. The parents' role is to leave.

SHAI DE VLETTER-SONT: I like to talk to people. I met - the thing I met with the lady, you know the one with the pink dress.

MAN: Who is that?

SHAI DE VLETTER-SONT: Her name was Sarah, with brown her, I keep forgetting her name.

CHARITHA DE SILVA: I've actually just started to have a drink and have a chat and every dance club, just a bit nervous.

LIZ DORE: But even if they don't have a long-term relationship, they will get the flutter and endorphins and excitement and who wouldn't want that?

JENNY BROCKIE: Shai, we saw you at the dance there, how'd you go?

SHAI DE VLETTER-SONT: I didn't try to speak properly because I got a bit nervous with the camera. I've been on radio three times.

JENNY BROCKIE: How did you go at the dance, did you get any phone numbers?

SHAI DE VLETTER-SONT: It was, it was trying to be with relationship when we're with Liz Dore but the party thing was, it was a bunch of people and Um, the dance, it was, it was nice, every one, very noisy.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, Charitha, you were there too, I saw you busting a few moves on the dance floor. Did you meet anyone?


JENNY BROCKIE: No? What was it like, did you have a good time?




JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. Liz, why did you set up the dateables dance?

LIZ DORE: I wanted a safe place for people to meet other singles and there are services out there in the mainstream, there's the internet, so I was looking for something that would meet a need that I knew was there and there's people like Natalie and Tim and Shai who had told me that they wanted to meet someone.

JENNY BROCKIE: Did Natalie and Tim meet there?

TIM: Yeah, we met at one of Liz's dances back in 2014.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, so you're one of the success stories?

TIM: Yeah, you could say that.

JENNY BROCKIE: Now Mary, I'm interested that your Charitha's mum and you set up your own event recently. Why?

MARY MCMAHON: Well, Charitha, when he was 15, came to us and said that he was gay and he wanted a boyfriend. So we decided that we would try and find a place that would be suitable for him and having rung various gay organisations, nobody provided any sort of social group for young people with intellectual disabilities who were in the LGBT IQ spectrum and so we decided that we wanted him to be happy, we wanted him to be safe and we wanted him, if possible, at some stage to find a partner so we would have to do it ourselves.

JENNY BROCKIE: Here's Charitha kicking off the event.


CHARITHA DE SILVA: I hope this club goes on for a long time and we all become friends and I hope I get a boyfriend.

JENNY BROCKIE: How did the event go Charitha?




JENNY BROCKIE: How was it good?

MARY MCMAHON: Did you enjoy yourself?

CHARITHA DE SILVA: Yeah, I did enjoy myself.

JENNY BROCKIE: And did you meet anyone at the dance?




LIZ DORE: Have you texted or spoken to them?


CHARITHA DE SILVA: Don't do texting.

MARY MCMAHON: You don't do texting, okay, well we'll work some other way out that you can get in touch.

JENNY BROCKIE: But you met someone?


JENNY BROCKIE: And what's he like?

CHARITHA DE SILVA: He's strong, he's kind and happy, good looking.

JENNY BROCKIE: Sounds good.


JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah, sounds good. Myra, you're 26, are you interested in having a romantic relationship?

MYRA CAMBOURN-GREGORY: No, not really, I think I'm happy where I am living by myself, having my independence and going to the gym, working three days a week and very busy, so I'm happy.

JENNY BROCKIE: So not enough room in your life for a relationship by the sound of it, yeah? Kay, you're Myra's mum, how have you approached all of this?

KAY CAMBOURN: Well I suppose I've always thought that I wouldn't want to pressure her into having a relationship because I think that a lot of people or a lot of parents tend to put their own values onto their children and then want them to get married and you know, have babies and do all of that sort of thing.

JENNY BROCKIE: Is that what happens Myra?

MYRA CAMBOURN-GREGORY: Yeah, I had when I was thirteen I really liked him but the relationship broke up so he went off and met someone else so I was upset, yes, because I really liked him.

JENNY BROCKIE: Can you imagine yourself in a relationship with somebody, what sort of person would you like?

MYRA CAMBOURN-GREGORY: I think about it a lot. I think about what it would be like for me to have a sexual relationship and to be happy and living in a nice home with my partner. But I don't know, I think I'm just too fussy.

JENNY BROCKIE: How are you fussy?

MYRA CAMBOURN-GREGORY: I'm fussy on men because I like men to be like me, like independent and go to the gym and be really muscly.

JENNY BROCKIE: You like muscly guys at the gym?


JENNY BROCKIE: And what about having a family or anything like that, would you like to have kids one day?

MYRA CAMBOURN-GREGORY: Yeah, I would, when the time comes, yeah, not straight away.

JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah, and Kay, how you would feel about that?

KAY CAMBOURN: We went down that road of sort of investigating what the options would be for Myra if she wanted to have a family. I mean sometimes you don't have any options and it just happens and you're confronted with the reality of it. But I guess Myra has an inherited genetic form of a disability.

JENNY BROCKIE: She has Fragile X?

KAY CAMBOURN: She has Fragile X syndrome.


KAY CAMBOURN: She's got a low IQ but she's got very high living function so she's, you know, lives independently and so on.

JENNY BROCKIE: And she knows what she likes?

KAY CAMBOURN: And she knows what she likes is and she's very fussy and so we go into the forum of looking at pre implantation genetic screening if she was to have IVF and what that would involve and I suppose when you know that your child has a genetically inherited disorder, you know that there's a very high chance of them, if they did have a child, that that child could very well have a severe disability.

JENNY BROCKIE: Other people thinking about this in the room, about this issue of pregnancy, babies? Yeah, Kerry?

DR KERRY ARROW: In the Victorian policy about sexuality and human relations something that says very clearly is that pregnancy isn't actually classified as a risk of sex. It's not to undermine what could happen if someone were to get pregnant and the ramifications, but I think pregnancy is actually seen as a very life affirming, generally a very positive event and it's not generally seen as this terrible consequence. Yet you add disability to that and suddenly it becomes very coloured.

JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah. Marina, are you and Vaughn hoping to have kids?

MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: Yes, I very much adore children and we're practising at the moment.

JENNY BROCKIE: You're practising at the moment?


JENNY BROCKIE: And how do you think you'd manage with children?

MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: With assistance from carers and probably not so much family.

JENNY BROCKIE: So that you're really hoping this will happen soon, yeah?

MARINA TADEJ-AKININ: Yes. I hope that in the next one to two years we might have a little Akinin.


JENNY BROCKIE: Well we will come back to you I'm sure.


JENNY BROCKIE: And see how you're going and have a chat to you about that. There's a whole lot of other things we could talk about now but we have run out of time so thank you so much for joining us tonight everybody tonight and sharing such personal stories. It's really been fantastic to talk to you all and that is all we have time for here but let's keep talking on Twitter and on Facebook. Thanks everyone.