A Royal Commission has been told of the harrowing discovery of two boys with disabilities who were found “severely malnourished” naked and locked in a room with no food or furniture.
On Monday, the 33rd public hearing into the Disability Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability shared the horrors endured by two teen boys, who were given the pseudonyms Kaleb and Jonathan, who were found alone and neglected in an empty room.
State’s agencies were “aware” of “potential harm” caused to two teen brothers living with disabilities, but failed to intervene.
In the early morning of May 27, 2020, a friend of the boys’ father called emergency services with concerns over the family.
Upon arrival at the family’s home, the father was found by emergency services dead in his room, with Kaleb, 19, and Jonathon, 17, locked naked and alone in a room with no food, furniture or clothing.
Both Kaleb and Jonathon remained in hospital for two weeks after they were found, having been diagnosed with “severe malnutrition” and a condition called Kwashiorkor.
Kwashiorkor is a disease caused by severe protein malnutrition, and is usually only found in developing countries experiencing high rates of poverty.
The Commissioners heard that Kaleb had already been part of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) before the father’s death, but the father had decided not to claim for Jonathan under fears of “losing his carers pension.”
Counsel assisting the Royal Commission, Kate Eastman SC, said agencies around Queensland had been made aware of the boys’ living situation, but had quickly excused the father’s lack of appropriate care.
“Queensland, through it’s departments and agencies, inappropriately focused on the efforts perceived to be made by the father, and the circumstances of the father,” Ms Eastman said.
“There was no primacy given to the neglect, abuse and deprivation of rights that Kaleb and Jonathon were subjected to.”
She said their neglect was excused with statements like “the father is doing his very best,” and the man was “prioritised” over the boys’ needs.
“The neglect of Kaleb and Jonathon was often attributed to their disability,” Ms Eastman said.
It had been reported that the boys did not like to wear shoes because of their disabilities.
Ms Eastman asked the Commissioners to find that the boys had experienced violence, abuse, neglect and deprivation of rights during June 2000 and May 27 2020 while in their fathers care, and also asked them to find that their experience was preventable.
The family’s neighbour told the Commissioners that when she first saw the two boys at home, they were in nappies, and she believed they were only about 10 years old.
She described finding out they were actually over 17-years-old, saying their age “surprised her.”
Having lived next door to the boys, she described what the home looked like when she visited.
“There was a fold out bed with no mattress, a very, very dirty table that had never been wiped down,” she said.
“There was no handle on the door to the room for the boys, it was just a spoon put in there so that (the father) could open and close it from the outside.”
Ms Eastman asked her if she had seen the boys in her room, as her kitchen window had a direct view.
“On a few occasions, they were locked in their room all day and night? And when they were locked in their bedroom, they were not able to access water, food or the toilet unless their father gave them access?” Ms Eastman asked.
“Yes,” the neighbour replied.
She said she felt like a mum to the boys, and that she loved them like a mother.
“(The father) would just call (the boys) d***head, and f***wit, and just all kinds of names. Pull them around, push them around, yell at them.”
The home’s hot water supply had reportedly been turned off, meaning the boys would shower in freezing cold water in winter.
She also described the moment the father had given the boys a sealed packet of raw sausages to eat.
“He would never open any food that they were given,” she said.
“I believe (the father) knew he was not looking after Jonathon and Kaleb property because one time he freaked out when the painters came around and left a biohazard card in the doorframe,” she said.
More to come.