The death of NDIS participant, Ann Marie Smith, in South Australia is absolutely shocking and the circumstances that led to her death must never be allowed to happen again.
As is appropriate, the circumstances of Ms Smith’s death are being investigated by the independent bodies established to do just that. These independent bodies include the South Australia Police, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS Commission) and the South Australian Coroner.
Today, NDIS Commissioner, Mr Graeme Head AO, announced the appointment of former Federal Court judge, Hon. Alan Robertson SC, to lead an independent inquiry into the adequacy of the regulation of the supports and services provided to Ms Smith, including regulation in relation to quality and safeguarding pursuant to the functions and powers of the Commissioner of the NDIS Commission.
It is important to note the review is to be conducted in a manner that avoids prejudice to any pending or current criminal or civil proceedings.
I welcome and fully support the actions of the NDIS Commissioner and the comprehensive terms of reference established for this inquiry.
I was first briefed on the tragic death of Ms Smith on 14 May 2020. Since this time, the NDIS Commissioner has kept me informed of the proposed course of action. In accordance with Section 181K of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013, it is not possible for the Minister responsible to direct the NDIS Commissioner in relation to a particular individual or provider. The independence of the NDIS Commissioner is an integral component of the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework (the Framework) fought for by people with disability and their representative organisations.
The Framework was agreed by all states and territories via the Council of Australian Governments Disability Reform Council in December 2016. This followed three years of consultation with people with disability, carers and providers, and was informed by numerous inquiries into abuse and neglect of people with disability.
The Commonwealth legislated and provided funding of $209 million over four years in the 2017-18 budget for the establishment of the NDIS Commission from 1 July 2018.
The Morrison Government is committed to taking action to respond to any systemic failures or shortcomings of the Framework identified by the multiple independent investigations and inquiries into Ms Smith’s death. This includes any recommendations by the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.
As a community we all have a role to play in keeping people with disability safe from harm. I encourage anyone who knows of or becomes aware of any violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation of a person with disability to contact the NDIS Commission on 1800 035 544. Submissions can also be made to the Royal Commission by contacting 1800 517 199.
Anyone with information relating to Ms Smith’s death should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or report online at crimestopperssa.com.au.
Emotional support for people with disability that have experienced violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, as well as their families and carers, is available from the National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468 (Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, Saturday to Sunday 9am to 5pm).