donderdag, februari 06, 2014

Governments have failed children in need, royal commission told

A former child welfare officer has launched a stinging attack on state and federal governments, telling a public inquiry they have historically failed to properly provide for children in need.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is currently examining four boys homes operated by the Salvation Army in New South Wales and Queensland.

Former residents have cried as they recalled years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Salvation Army officers and older boys in the 1960s and 1970s.

Janice Doyle was a supervisor at the Queensland Department of Children's Services in 1975 and observed conditions in Salvation Army homes at Riverview and Indooroopilly.

The chairman of the royal commission, Justice Peter McClellan, asked Ms Doyle why the problem of child abuse was so extensive.
He then adjourned the hearing for 20 minutes to help the former public servant gather her thoughts.

"We have historically provided a poor service for poor children," Ms Doyle told the commission when it resumed.

"No government has ever really paid the money that it really requires to care for someone else's child."

Ms Doyle told the hearing governments have historically felt they "owned" a child and could do anything they want.

"From my own personal experience, having been a public servant and a senior public servant in the Queensland public service, the political influence of  'Don't have an incident. If you do, keep it quiet, manage it well' was quite real for all workers," she said.

"I think the political influence that has occurred from both governments in recent years has been horrendous."

In reference to the Riverview Training Farm in Queensland, Ms Doyle was asked whether the department felt it could not seek the removal of the Salvation Army licence to operate the home, because there was simply nowhere else for the boys to be put.

"I think that's putting to too strongly," she replied.

"You have to look at the whole political thing of the time.
"We were a government department and we were controlled by a minister, and ministers are very much aware of who they are going to upset.
"The churches at that time, in the early 1970s, were very powerful.

"I don't think any politician wished to read about themselves on the front page of the daily newspaper."
The Riverview home closed its doors in 1977 and the Alkira home at Indooroopilly was shut in 1980.

More evidence of 'child prostitution racket'

The inquiry has previously heard that a large number of boys in Salvation Army care ran away before authorities were made aware of a child prostitution racket.
The commission has been shocked by claims that boys from the Alkira home in Indooroopilly were being flown to Sydney and sexually abused in the 1970s.

One boy reported his experience to an Salvation Army officer in 1975, saying he was forced to hitchhike home and was sexually abused by a truck driver on the journey. Another boy never returned.

Police could confirm the home was involved, but they believed the boys were in state care, and were being picked up across the road

Former police have come forward saying they believe the boys' flights to Sydney were paid for by a businessman.
They were sexually abused in Sydney by a man identified as a chef.

It is unclear how many children were involved, but counsel representing the Salvation Army, Trish McDonald SC, has quoted a memo dated September 26, 1973, saying about 12 boys had absconded up to 30 times.
"This was considerably higher than the previous absconding rate," the memo reads.

The memo blames the absconding on various factors, including a "high incidence of boys with school difficulties, insufficient staff numbers to settle boys after they have absconded and the high intake rate".

Ms Doyle was today asked whether she knew about the prostitution network at the time.
"I was aware that the Juvenile Aid Bureau was suggesting that to us, yes," she told the hearing.

Ms Doyle says it was a police matter and not for the department to investigate.

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