Willow and Ann Marie

28 May 2020

For the second time in two months, hearts are breaking around Australia at the news that a person with disability has died, allegedly after a prolonged period of neglect and abuse in their own home.

On Tuesday a Brisbane man was charged with murdering his 4-year-old daughter, Willow Dunn, who reportedly was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Willow was severely malnourished and had suffered horrific injuries.

While on April 6, 54-year-old Adelaide woman Ann Marie Smith died in hospital after being allegedly left in a cane chair 24/7 for 12 months. Ann Marie was unable to bathe, use the toilet, or seek help without support.

Nobody wants to be described as vulnerable.

But the distressing deaths of Willow and Ann Marie remind us that some people living with disability are indeed vulnerable.

Authorities and service providers must do everything in their power to prevent harm, but the wider community can also step up.

People living in the same street said that they hadn’t seen Willow or Ann Marie outside for years, if ever.

So you can start by saying hello to your neighbours.

Without being intrusive, why not knock on the door once in a while, to ask how they are doing?

Admittedly it may be hard to catch your neighbour at home if they have a disability. Outside of Coronavirus restrictions many people have busy lives between education, work, sport, cultural activities and community volunteering.

If, on the other hand, you never see your neighbour outside, putting aside your embarrassment to knock on their door may even save someone’s life.

Andrew Donne
CEO, Endeavour Foundation


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