The first day of the Melbourne hearing listened to the experiences of four people who are living (or had lived) in group homes. Each witness related incidents of violence, abuse, neglect and/or exploitation. Strong themes included a lack of individualisation of support and experiences of struggling against an unresponsive system. Commissioners Sackville, Atkinson and McEwin were in attendance.The first witness related his experiences of living in a group home, and his concern that standardisation of support “leaves no room for individual support needs”. He also reported that a support worker sexually abused him on more than one occasion. He chose not to have the offender charged, leaving it instead to the service provider to deal with. The inadequate response from the provider has him believing it was a “huge mistake” to not press charges.Witness AAI spoke about her daughter’s experience in two group homes. At one, her primary concern was the provider not involving or informing her when something happened to her daughter; at the other it was the provider’s overreliance on regulatory compliance. Her evidence included an example where her daughter’s burn injury was downplayed by a provider; her daughter was subsequently airlifted to a hospital and spent a week in a burns unit.In the afternoon, Witness AAG spoke about her daughter’s negative experience in government-run group homes – which she described as having “an institutional attitude transferred to a suburban home”. Her daughter had been subjected to a cycle of punishment which exacerbated her behaviours of concern. She is very concerned about the high use of casual staff, which upsets her daughter. The recent transition from government-run accommodation to a non-government provider has resulted in greatly improved living circumstances.The final witness was a woman who had lived in an institution, a group home and now lives by herself in a unit. She spoke of sexual and domestic abuse, and being treated as an inferior person – for example, being told to sit “four seats away” from other community members when in church. From “being treated like sheep”, the witness says she is now “free as a bird” – but that her abuse will affect her for the rest of her life.The Commission explained its focus for this hearing was based on the consideration of inquires undertaken in Victoria over recent years and the number of charges which had proceeded through the courts, including the prominent case of Johnny Kumar, employed by Yooralla. Counsel noted that Yooralla had provided a submission on improvements which have been implemented since that time and will present to the inquiry.The hearing resumes at 10am tomorrow, when evidence will be heard primarily from academic experts. The witness list for the week is now available.