Great Expectations: 35 Years of Community Visitors commemorates the unwavering commitment of volunteer Community Visitors in safeguarding the rights of people with disability in Victoria.
This ground-breaking report underscores their profound impact, tracing their journey from the program's inception in 1987-88, when they were entrusted with the crucial responsibility of being a voice for people living in the closed and semi-closed settings of institutions.
The report looks at their achievements, frustrations, triumphs, disappointments and challenges in carrying forward their role on behalf of the wider community; of being given the authority of Governor-in-Council appointments and the responsibility to report to their fellow-Victorians through annual reports to Parliament House.
The report itself is a journey through time, highlighting watershed moments in the program’s history, including:
- Caloola and the explosive report by Community Visitors to the Minister, Violence at Caloola, which helped lead to its closure
- Kew Residential Services, in which Community Visitors were cited by Premier Steve Bracks and Community Services Minister Sherryl Garbutt in the decision to close that institution
- The Long Stay Project report revealing mental health patients have been locked in Secure Extended Care Unit well beyond their treatment period
- Hambleton House’s closure – “Is anybody out there” – after years of reports, we can say that Community Visitors played an important role in the regulatory oversight of Hambleton house, exposing the appalling living conditions that ultimately resulted in its closure.
Community Visitors led the way in Victoria and Australia in opening the living situations of people with disability living in institutions to the gaze of the community and asking that key question: Would I or someone I care about want to live like this? They listen to residents, they speak to staff, and report on what they see and experience and press for systemic change and improvement.
The impact of Community Visitors extends beyond individual cases, influencing major disability policy reforms. This report highlights their key achievements and contributions, emphasising their role in opening the living situations of people with disability to public scrutiny.
As we reflect on 35 years of Community Visitors, the report acknowledges both the progress made and the challenges ahead.