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Respecting culture - allowing abuse

By Keith Kennelly - posted Thursday, 31 January 2008

The front page story of The Australian on Wednesday January 23, 2008 - “Abuse Victims become Predators” - contained the allegation that the Queensland Department of Child Safety is still returning children victims to dysfunctional families in remote Queensland Indigenous communities.

In Tony Koch’s pre Christmas articles his sources laid the blame for the repeated return, serial rape and eventual gang rape of the Aurukun child, at the feet of misguided social workers rather than the Queensland Department of Child Saftey. According to one of Koch's sources, a senior departmental official:

“But two new social workers were appointed to the north and they expressed the view, which was repeated many times to the investigating committee, that putting an Indigenous child with white foster parents was another stolen generation.

“They convinced the department with this rubbish and the girl was taken from Cairns to Aurukun - back to where she was being abused previously and where she had contracted syphilis as a little child - and she was unsupervised, with the result that she was constantly raped.”


Koch's article claimed Department of Child Safety workers were responsible for the child's second return after the rape in 2002 at age seven but had no information regarding the child's return after the first rape in 2000 at age five. The departmental official continued:

“The report sets out how every step of the way the Child Safety Department did everything wrong, and all because they were told that a safe, white environment was ‘another stolen generation’.”

But the former Queensland Families Department, not the Department of Child Safety, had jurisdiction over the child's welfare from 2000 until 2004.

Koch's source described the “stolen generation” thinking as rubbish. If Koch's article is correct in the apportioning blame then such terrible repeated abuses should have ceased with the dismissal and suspensions of the lower level social workers. But that’s contrary to what his most recent article says is occurring now. So it is now reasonable to ask: why are these harmful returns still occurring?

An examination of the former Families Department Policy and the Practice Manual of the Queensland Department of Child Safety reveals the more likely cause of the ongoing return of these tiny victims to dysfunctional and dangerous environments.

In 1999 Anna Bligh the Qld Families Minister endorsed the Queensland Child Protection Strategic Plan 2000-2003 and it contained the following statement ;(PDF 170KB):


… child protection services must recognise cultural and ethnic diversity and different values about family life and child rearing. In particular, due to the detrimental effect State intervention has had historically on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family life, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity and cultural practices are respected to ensure that child protection services are supporting, and not undermining, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family and community values.

How close is this statement to the thinking and arguments described in Koch's article as rubbish? But this isn’t the arguments of low level departmental social workers, it is the policy statement issued by the relevant Queensland Minister.

Bligh's strategic plan followed the 1998 Forde enquiry into abuses of children in the care of the Queensland Families Department. That department was superseded by the Department of Child Safety in 2004. The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) had conducted a further enquiry during October 2003 into the activities of the Families Department after further reports children in care had been abused.

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About the Author

Keith Kennelly is a 53-year-old small business operator, resident in Brisbane who raised two childern as a single dad. His hobbies now include swiming, reading, sailing and Texas Hold 'Em poker.

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