Disability unit defends cultural practices

·2-min read

Management at a forensic disability unit says an Aboriginal man's access to community was a priority despite five months passing between visits, an inquiry was told.

Winmartie, the pseudonym given to an Aboriginal man diagnosed with a brain abnormality, lives at the unit after transferring from jail.

He killed his sole carer at age 16 and the Northern Territory Supreme Court found he was not fit to plead before a jury returned a qualified verdict of manslaughter, the Disability Royal Commission was told last week.

At the end of visits to community, family members typically pretend to pack their cars so Winmartie believed he wasn't the only one leaving and felt more at ease, commissioners heard on Friday.

On one occasion in June 2020 when this did not happen, he became angry and damaged one of the cars.

His next visit wasn't until December, but the forensic disability unit's direct services manager Tom Langcake denied Winmartie's return to community was not a priority.

He accepted that the change in routine was identified as a trigger for behaviour but said there were other contributing factors.

Psychiatrist and psychologist reports, vehicle repair, staffing considerations and organising satellite phones added to the extended timeline, he said in evidence before the hearing on Monday.

"There were also a number of medication reductions leading up to that and there were growing concerns about Winmartie's escalations following some of those medication reductions," he said.

Asked what the definitions of culture awareness and cultural competency were, Mr Langcake said he could not say "off the top of my head" but the unit tried to be responsive to cultural needs.

"They are pretty important terms in creating an environment for First Nations people to have a strong sense of cultural security and to not have a working knowledge, a practical knowledge of those terms, as a leader, is pretty critical,' Commissioner Andrea Mason said.

The Disability Royal Commission is hearing from 33 witnesses over eight days as it explores indefinite detention and the "cycling in and out" of jail by people with disability.

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