The killing of Ann Marie Smith
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From Schwartz Media, I’m Ruby Jones, this is 7am.
In April 2020, paramedics found the body of a woman in her home in Adelaide.
She was alive, but only barely. A day later, she was dead.
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“Ann Marie Smith died on the 6th of April 2020, after a substantial period of neglect.”
“Police believe Ann Smith spent the last year of her life confined to a cane chair where she slept, ate and went to the toilet.”
The case shone a light on the abuse suffered by Disabled people and the shortcomings of the care system in Australia.
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Ann Marie Smith lived alone with a single carer looking after her, that carer is now charged with her manslaughter.
Police are also preparing evidence for a coronial investigation desperate to prevent a death like this again.
Last month, Ann Marie Smith’s carer was sentenced for manslaughter. Many in the Disability community believed that charge should have been murder.
Archival Tape -- 7 News:
“There were tears and anger outside a city courtroom as killer carer Rosa Maoione was jailed for six years for the shocking neglect of any Smith.”
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Six years is an absolute insult and a slap in the face, not only to Ann Marie’s memories but to everyone who ever lived with the fear and the vulnerability that they or someone they love might end up in that situation.
Today, Georgia Cranko, a Disability activist and writer for The Saturday Paper, on what happened to Ann Marie Smith, and what the case tells us about how society treats Disabled people.
It’s Tuesday April 5
And a warning: This episode contains descriptions of serious abuse.
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Georgia, thank you for making time to talk to me today - and for writing about this case. I’m hoping you can start by introducing yourself.
I am G e o, Georgia Cranko, and I never G and K and I never know how to describe myself because I do so many things. But I guess the main theme of my life. Is. Disability. Activism. Because. I need to do it in order to just live. Hmm.
Mm. Mm-Hmm. Do you want me to introduce myself as well or?
Yeah, I was just I was just wondering what the best way to do that is. So for people are going to be listening. Obviously, they won't be able to see us. So I think it would be helpful to explain how it is that we're communicating.
Yeah. Um, how do you want me to introduce myself, Georgia? Or just say that I'm Hannah? You do S … so many roles in my life. And how do you want me to describe myself for this? Support person? Yeah. OK. Uh, my name's Hannah and I'm Georgia's support person. During this interview, I'll be translating Georgia's signs which is unique signs that Georgia uses to spell out words.
Great. So, Georgia, for this interview, I'm just going to repeat how how it's running, so you and I have you in conversation and at times you'll be signing and Hannah will translate some of that sign language and then at other times, you're using assisted communication. Could you just explain that, that process to me?
I use that communication device called a light writer. It basically is like an electronic typewriter, but with a second screen facing the person I am speaking to so they can read what I am typing. And it also obviously speaks, but I don't love talking like a robot.
And so, Georgia, you've been writing about the death of Ann Marie Smith, before we talk about specifically what happened to Ann Marie and what led up to her death, I was hoping that you could actually just tell me a bit about who she was and what we know about her life before then.
When I was researching, I was affronted with how little there was about who Ann was. Because with other cases of abuse the media L O loves to explain who the victim was and what they were like.
And I managed to find two articles and also during the royal commission one of S C H school friends, wrote a letter. She was someone who he kept in contact with her friends from primary school and fiercely L O loved her and F fought for Ann to go to mainstream school.
And you have to remember, this was 40 years ago. So you can imagine how hard that would have been. Like, even now people have to advocate and push for P R O proper education, if you are someone with a disability.
She loved A B B… she loved ABBA and her dogs.
She had friends and family who adored her. And her parents tried to safeguard her future by building her a house and leaving her enough money to live comfortably.
And yet this could happen in any nice neighbourhood and it does. And it is right now.
So it sounds like Ann Marie had a very loving, supportive family that she was close to. Do we know then when and how her circumstances changed?
It is so sad. She always really valued being independent and when her parents died she got more paid care.
And for a few years, friends reported her health was good and her home was tidy.
But when her service provider, Integrity Care South Australia, changed management, there seemed to be less supervision of her care and from that time in 2017, things started gradually slipping.
But it was only when Ann transitioned to N … National Disability Insurance Scheme that she went down to one carer…
So, the situation then for Ann Marie was that she was on the NDIS and there was just one person, one carer, in the time leading up to her death. Can you tell me what we know about how she died, Georgia? What happened?
Ann Marie Smith died in hospital from septic shock and multiple organ failure when she was admitted to hospital, Ann Marie was unconscious. She had severe pressure sores over most of her lower body and was suffering from malnourishment that had caused all of her bottom teeth to decay and fall out.
While Ann Marie technically died due to septic shock and organ failure, her condition by the time paramedics were called was horrific. She had yeast infections under both breasts.
Her entire body was covered in bodily fluids and faeces, and her body was decaying down to the bone. Paramedics who attended described the smell in the house as putrid.
Ann Marie literally rotted to death.
And Georgia, what's happened since then, has anyone been held responsible?
Following Ann Marie's death, the National Disability Insurance Scheme fine her care provider, Integrity Care SA, just $12,600.
But this was not for the neglect and subsequent deaths that happened under their care, but instead they were fined for not reporting the death to the NDIS within the appropriate time frames.
The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission also banned Integrity Care SA from operating, citing numerous breaches of the NDIS Act.
However, as no directors or managers of the company have been prosecuted as yet, this does not actually prevent them from operating under a different company or in a different organisation, meaning the safety of disabled people in their care has not been protected.
In mid-March of this year, Rose Maria Maione, Ann Marie Smith's sole NDIS-funded carer, was sentenced to just six years for manslaughter.
We'll be back in a moment.
Georgia, last month Ann Marie’s carer was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to more than six years jail. Can you tell me what you think of the charge and the sentence?
I am outraged at how short the sentence is, because given Ann Marie’s medical condition when she died, it wasn't a case of gradual inattentiveness and inadequate care, like I thought it must have been when I first heard about it.
But reading the graphic details in how Ann was sitting in her own shit and piss with rotting flesh, anyone could have seen she wasn't doing well and needed serious medical intervention.
I don't understand how someone who witnessed another human not showering or moving for years wouldn't call someone. Like, what the hell? Her teeth had fallen out from decay. How could someone not have seen that?
There was medical expert who testified that given the extent of her pressure wounds Ann was sitting off balance in an uncomfortable position for weeks without being repositioned. Rosa Maria Maione would have known and was going to die if she was left in the state she was. But Rosa did nothing.
Georgia. What does Ann marie's death and the way that her death was handled by authorities afterwards? What does it all say to you about the value that was ultimately placed on on her life and I suppose, by extension, the lives of other Disabled people?
I guess because. It's so common, I know how utterly ..DISR… disregarded...
Disabled lives are.
It's interesting because non-disabled people get all righteous about how horrible it is to abuse a vulnerable person. Like, people think it's one of cases of cruelty, but no: if you are outraged at Ann Marie's death, you should be outraged every single day because the list of people who have died in care is horrifically long.
And yet all the social justice activists are not even thinking about the humanity and the civil rights of disabled people, but they are protesting the treatment of refugees who experience the exact same systemic abuse and neglect. And they are also locked in awful living conditions.
So it sounds like what you're saying is that, yes, Ann Marie’s death, it was terrible, it was horrific, but it was in no way isolated things like this, this kind of abuse and neglect, it happens all the time to people in care, and it's a systemic issue and there is a lack of outrage around that as a whole. Is that right?
It's hard. Because as long as there is ableism in societies there are no safeguards that will completely protect us as disabled people.
I get so ... D E S ... despondent at how I foresee my whole life, constantly fighting to just be and exist.
What people don't want to see is that I have had people who loved me.
And fought every system.
So I could get educated and not be at the mercy of these broken systems.
Georgia, thank you so much for having this conversation with me today. I really appreciate it.
Sorry, it took so long. Thanks so much for having me.
You can read Georgia Cranko on the death of Ann Marie Smith at thesaturdaypaper.com.au
Also in the news today,
From Monday, the fourth covid vaccine is available for anyone aged 65 years and older, people who live in aged care or disability care facilities, people who are deemed severely immunocompromised and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and older.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation says there is "insufficient evidence of the benefits of an additional booster dose" for people who don't fall into those categories listed above.
And, Ukraine has accused Russia of war crimes after Ukrainian authorities reported 410 bodies were found in Bucha, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv. The Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that “Russia is worse than ISIS in the scale of ruthlessness and crimes committed”.
Russian soldiers rolled into Bucha in the early days of the invasion and stayed until March 30. Russia has denied the allegations that its soldiers killed civilians in Bucha.
I’m Ruby Jones, this is 7am. See you tomorrow.
Ann Marie Smith died from staggering neglect in her Adelaide home. Her carer was sentenced for manslaughter, but many in the Disability community believe that the charge should have been murder.
Today, Disability activist and contributor to The Saturday Paper Georgia Cranko on what happened to Ann Marie Smith, and what the case tells us about how society treats Disabled people.
Guest: Disability activist and contributor to The Saturday Paper Georgia Cranko.
7am is a daily show from The Monthly and The Saturday Paper. It’s produced by Elle Marsh, Kara Jensen-Mackinnon, Anu Hasbold and Alex Gow.
Our senior producer is Ruby Schwartz and our technical producer is Atticus Bastow.
Brian Campeau mixes the show. Erik Jensen is our editor-in-chief.
Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Envelope Audio.
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