The scandalous abuse at Adelaide’s Oakden nursing home will be front and centre at the royal commission into aged care in Australia, but family members say they’ve been insulted at the opening hearing.
The inquiry heard from commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs at its opening in Adelaide on Friday, with both pointing to the issues confronting the sector across the country.
Their investigation was sparked in part by the abuse of dementia patients at the state government-run Oakden home, which has since been closed down and described as a “shameful chapter” in the state’s history.
But Oakden whistleblowers Stewart Johnston and Clive Spriggs, who both had parents mistreated at the facility, said they were “dumbstruck” to be forced to watch the proceedings from a separate room.
Mr Johnston said they were denied seats in the hearing room for the lawyers and representatives of industry and advocacy groups.
“The ones with lived experience, with the dead family members who were beaten up are ushered into a side door because we aren’t anything special,” he said.
“That just gave everyone the indication that we are dealing with an unbelievable situation that just continues.
“That courtroom was full of people with a vested interest.”
Mr Johnston said he was not questioning the integrity or the intention of those involved in the royal commission.
But he said the inquiry had been called because of a distinct lack of trust across Australia in those caring and advocating for the vulnerable.
“That trust was shattered again by the conduct today,” he said.
Mr Spriggs, whose father overdosed with medication and was abused in Oakden, said he felt “shut out” and described it as “absolutely appalling”
“No-one in Australia should have to suffer like we have,” he said.