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Thursday, 13 September 2007
Page: 199

Senator Murray asked the Minister representing the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, upon notice, on 17 August 2007:

With reference to the Commonwealth-State/Territory Disability Agreement (CSTDA) between the Commonwealth and Victoria:

(1)   Does the Minister recall questions on notice nos 410 (Senate Hansard, 19 August 2002, p. 3289), 1459 (Senate Hansard, 30 March 2006, p. 247) and 1678 (Senate Hansard, 14 June 2006, p. 179) which form the background to this question.

(2)   Is the Minister aware that St John of God Services Victoria continues the tradition of the Hospitaller Order of St John of God (the Order) as a registered service provider for people with disabilities under the current CSTDA.

(3)   Is the Minister aware that: (a) since the early 1990s, members of the Order have been alleged to, or been found to, be responsible for the physical, sexual and emotional abuse of people with disabilities under its care in New South Wales and Victoria; (b) one of the Order’s brothers has been sentenced on three occasions, most recently to 5 years gaol in New Zealand, and (c) another brother and a priest are currently awaiting trial in New Zealand, after contesting their extradition all the way to the High Court of Australia.

(4)   Is the Minister aware that Dr Michelle Mulvihill, a former member of the Order’s professional standards committee stated, in an ABC Radio National interview on 27 June 2007, that this organisation suffers from a culture of paedophilia, collusion and denial.

(5)   In light of these circumstances, and in light of the Minister’s concern to stamp out abuse of a similar kind in Northern Territory Indigenous communities, how is the Minister ensuring that any organisation using Commonwealth funds under the CSTDA has supervision and processes to ensure that, as far as humanly possible, it is free of the possibility that clients or patients in its care could be subject to abuse or assault.

Senator Scullion (Minister for Community Services) —The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.

Responses to the issues surrounding the Hospitaller Order of John of God (the Order) have already been provided in QON 410, 1459 and 1678.

Under the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement (CSTDA), the Victorian State Government has complete responsibility for the policy setting and management of this service.

The Australian Government regards the protection of vulnerable people as a high priority and the current Commonwealth State and Territory Disability Agreement requires compliance with Disability Service Standards. One of the Australian Government’s requirements for a fourth Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement is that state and territory governments commit to implementing an independent third party accreditation system based on continuous improvement for the specialist disability services they are responsible for under the CSTDA.