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Vigil for Ann Marie Smith anniversary

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Mourners and disability advocates gathered on the steps of Parliament House Tuesday night to mark the one-year anniversary of Ann Marie Smith’s death, vowing to ensure no other disabled person suffers the same fate.

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Smith, who had cerebral palsy, died in hospital in April last year from septic shock, multiple organ failure, severe pressure sores and malnourishment while under the care of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Smith was stuck in a cane chair in her Kensington Gardens home for 24 hours a day.

Her former carer, Rosa Maoine, has since been charged with manslaughter, while care providers Integrity Care SA has been suspended from providing care under the NDIS.

The names of 15 disabled people who have died from abuse or neglect were read out at the vigil, where an empty cane chair marking Smith’s presence in the crowd.

People with Disability Australia President Sam Connor said she hoped the vigil would spark action.

“Annie was supposed to be cared for, Annie was funded to be cared for, and Annie didn’t have anybody who cared for her in the way that was supposed to be provided,” Connor said.

“I want to make sure we all send really clear message to government, and on this – the date of her death – that we actually commemorate her life but we also say this is never ever going to happen to another disabled person.”

Opposition NDIS spokesperson Bill Shorten told the crowd that Smith’s death was “a shame on the whole country”.

“Annie’s death was avoidable, it was preventable,” Shorten said.

“All we can try and do, … is try and make sure it doesn’t happen to other people.”

Shorten told the crowd he would oppose the federal government’s plan for individual NDIS packages to be distributed and funded on the basis of independent assessments provided by companies.

Disability advocates say the changes will erode the integrity of the NDIS and undermine the ability for participants to exercise choice and control of their lives.

-with AAP

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