Our Trucks In Kalgoolie WA Australia

Our Trucks In Kalgoolie WA Australia
Mays Haulage WA Australia

Friday, April 11, 2008

Me. mulligan inquiry

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Wednesday, 28 September 2005 at 2.06 pm
MR A. COLLETT, counsel assisting
PROF F. BRIGGS, assisting the commission
Transcription by -
33 King William Street
Telephone: 8212-3699
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COMMISSIONER: Ladies and gentlemen, this is an official
occasion of the children in state care inquiry. I think
it's appropriate that we have an occasion such as this
from time to time about different important topics as they
arise, so that as many people as possible can have the
opportunity to make a contribution. This is the first of
them, except for the opening of the commission which was
back on 9 December last year.
Some of you may not know precisely what
the commission is doing, so I'll very quickly just say
that the role of the commission is to inquire into and
examine allegations of sexual abuse of state children and
deaths of state children caused by criminal conduct. One
function of the commission is to report to the parliament
as to any measures which should be implemented to provide
assistance to state children and also to prevent these
sorts of things happening.
The commission has received considerable
assistance already. Nearly 900 people have approached the
commission and about 700 of them are persons who wish to
make allegations of child sexual abuse.
Various issues have emerged already in
the course of taking evidence from people who have come
forward, and this hearing is to address one of those very
important issues, which can be described in a shorthand
way of what to do with children who run away from
This hearing is to address that problem.
Why do they run away? Where do they go? What happens to
them when they are away? Do they return? What can be
done to assist them? What should be done to protect
children who are in situations of danger?
How can the children be assisted and - if
I can use this expression without causing offence - be
recovered? Should there be changes to the law? What is
the role of CYFS in this area? What is the role of the
police? What should their roles be? What other questions
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should be posed, considered and answered? The purpose of
this hearing is to inquire into all of these issues and
receive the benefit of the experience and knowledge of all
of you here.
Just looking around the room, I'm
delighted to see so many people here. I believe that
persons present are the experts. They are state children
past and, hopefully, some present. There are carers,
youth workers, police, members of the public, officers of
CYFS and academics.
I'm not pointing the finger at Freda
Briggs when I call her an academic, because I think she's
just about everything except I don't know that you were a
runaway child, were you?
PROF BRIGGS: Not quite.
COMMISSIONER: No, not quite.
PROF BRIGGS: I just threatened it.
COMMISSIONER: But she has been providing very great
assistance to the commission and has written me some very
important notes about her experiences over the years,
including the work that she did in England.
The people who are standing around or
sitting down who have badges like this are people who work
with the commission, and hopefully you'll have the
opportunity later when we have some refreshments to talk
to them.
What I have in mind to do today - and I
hope it meets with your approval - is that we would be in
this circumstance till about 4 o'clock and then we would
go outside and have an opportunity for informal
discussion, with me and with others, and I can speak to
people who want to talk to me.
During the course of the afternoon, I'm
going to ask people who want to speak to stand. I will
indicate whose turn it's to be. I would ask them to
introduce themselves, if they choose by name, and their
reason for being here. By that, I mean not just that
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they're interested but if they come from a particular
organisation or place. I don't ask that people give their
names if they don't want to.
You'll see that there are some television
cameras here. They are not here to record anything of
this hearing. The media, with its usual cooperation with
the commission, has agreed to remain at the back and not
film people's faces and thereby identify them in that way.
We have a recording system here. I want
a transcript of the contributions that are made today so
that I can use it in the course of the work of the
commission, so I tell you that what will happen will be
recorded. If anybody wants to make a contribution and
objects to being recorded, please tell me and the system
will be turned off.
I'd ask people to be as brief as they can
so as many people as possible can have a say. On the
seats there are two documents, one which gives some
information about what we're doing - what the commission
is about and the issue that's been raised - and another is
for people who would like to make a contribution but to do
so without being public about it, and they can simply fill
it out and we'll work on it.
Another couple of issues that are
considered in this context are these: should there be
secure care for children in extreme cases, with
therapeutic assistance?
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If so, should there be judicial
supervision at all times, and should there be a focus on
predators who harbour children who run away from care and
should the law be changed to create a criminal offence
relating to those people, or should we look at a model of
restraining orders in relation to those people, or
something else?
You might think that the focus needs to
shift also to those sorts of people and not just to the
children themselves. So that's an opening. If I may say
so, it's your meeting and I'm looking forward to what you
have to say. When you want to say something, if you would
just indicate and a microphone will be given to you, if
you are prepared to be recorded. I now ask Andrew
Collett, who assists me, just to make a few observations.
MR COLLETT: Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen. I
just want to make one observation and inform the meeting
about one important ground rule for our public hearings.
As most of you will know, we are governed by an act of
parliament, which is the Commission of Inquiry (Children
in State Care) Act. That lays down the way in which we
One of the provisions of the act is that
parliament has required the commissioner to hear all
evidence in private, except where the commissioner
considers it to be in the public interest to have an open
session; and this is obviously one such session.
The reason why parliament has stipulated
we proceed in that way is because parliament is obviously
very keen to encourage people who have suffered sexual
abuse to come forward and to feel comfortable about coming
forward, and being able to come forward and tell their
stories to the commission in a situation where they are
not facing a normal courtroom environment, so they are not
facing cross-examination, publicity or the scrutiny of the
As the commissioner has said, so far
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approximately 700 people have felt sufficiently encouraged
to come forward on that confidential basis. But the
parliament has imposed other requirements on the inquiry
to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of what is said.
The main one is in section 9 of the act,
and that requires the inquiry in its hearings, including
this public hearing and in all its other work, to avoid
the disclosure of information which may lead to the
identification of, firstly, any person who is the victim
of a sexual offence; secondly, any person who may have
committed a sexual offence; thirdly, any person who has
provided information about a sexual offence. We are not
allowed, and this meeting is not allowed, to give
information which tends to identify those people.
Of course the purpose of this public
hearing, as the commissioner has said, is for a more
general purpose in any event, but what that does mean is
that in this hearing we ask you to be very careful not to
give information which would tend to identify victims,
perpetrators or people who have come forward with
information about sexual offences.
On the other hand, we are very keen to
hear that information. That is what the inquiry is all
about and so, if anyone here has information about
offences or offenders, the inquiry wants to hear about
them and the inquiry will make the appropriate
arrangements to hear that information in private sessions.
The way to deal with that today, if
people have that information - as I say, we welcome it but
not in the public aspect of this hearing today - is for
people to give that to the investigators who are here and
who will make the arrangements then to take statements and
organise for the private and confidential hearings that we
Can I just ask the investigators to
identify themselves? I was going to ask them to stand up
but they are already standing up anyway. Can I just ask
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the investigators to raise their hands, so we can identify
them? Going from my left, the first is Megan Philpot and
next to Megan is Danny Hyams. Immediately in front of me
is Deslie Billich, who has a particular responsibility for
Immediately behind the camera is Ian
Thompson and to my right is Liesl Chapman, who has a
particular responsibility for investigating allegations of
deaths of state children, and you'll see on the documents
in front of you that that's an issue we've sought
information about.
COMMISSIONER: Thank you. We don't have to pick out a
topic in any particular order, but why do state children
run away, I ask? Would anyone like to - yes?
MR TERNEZIS: My name is John Ternezis. I'm on behalf
of Parents Want Reforms. We formed a group about five
years ago. We had problems with our teenagers. When they
reached the age of 12, 13 years old, they decided they are
old enough to do whatever they please, and leaving home,
mixing with undesirables, drugs and crime. What we've
noticed is that the state authorities in South Australia
in particular, they don't care less about the parent, they
don't recognise the role, the duties and responsibilities
for parents.
Our group has made several submissions to
the previous government and to this government at present,
and we want changes in the law, we want a reform to our
child welfare laws: give responsibilities and obligations
both to parents, children and to the state.
What we have noticed recently - and this
is more important than anything else - that before the
parliament there is an amendment bill in there indicating
that they want to keep them safe. The current legislation
cannot protect the child; neither the legislation nor the
court in the current format.
One of the politicians put two amendments
in the legislation. When the chief executive is of the
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opinion that a child is at risk - have formed the opinion
that that child is at risk - at present it's up to his
discretion to investigate the mother. The politician
stated that there should be an obligation on the chief
executive to send somebody to have a look if the child is
safe, and the minister rejected it. There should be no
obligation on the chief executive or the department to
investigate the mother.
The other thing that was more disturbing
is that if the minister, in the current format - if the
minister has come to the conclusion that the child is at
risk, has no means of support, has no parents - the
parents die or don't want to look after them - the
minister - at present it's up to his discretion to take on
the parental role by applying to the court for an order.
The minister rejected it: should not be
obligated to protect the child, should be no obligation on
the state. So how can we protect children when the
government is openly telling us - the parliament said,
"There should be no obligation on the state, neither to
investigate the mothers and neither to protect the child
when it has no means of support."
COMMISSIONER: Thank you very much for that. I'd like
at some stage to see you and if you'd be willing to give
some evidence to the commission so we can consider, in
more detail, the sorts of matters you've raised today.
Thank you for that contribution.
MR JENKE: For those who know me - and there would
be quite a few that don't - my name is Neville Jenke. I
guess quickly, to sum it up, 10 years ago I reckon I was
talking about the Welfare Department and what they don't
do for the children in this state, on radio. No doubt I
would have been the first person in this state that had
the guts, on radio, to state deaths in care and that there
are heaps of children buried that do not have headstones
that have either been under the guardianship or under
notification to the Welfare. I say "welfare" because
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every time something like this comes up, they change their
name, they change the issues.
Every government has been the same. But
I want to be for the future of this state - and I don't
care who films me - to make sure our future children do
not have to go through what many people in this room have
today. Enough is enough.
I did a DVD earlier this year because
foster children came to me that ran away from an
institution. Legally, for privacy reasons - as these
gentlemen have said - I can't say who they were or what
was on that tape. I can tell you that in my hand I have a
letter from Jay Weatherill, the minister, that states I'm
unprofessional. Why? Because I'm a whistleblower, that's
why. And I have it on DVD.
Earlier this year there were issues about
a DVD putting up the proof. Well, I have the proof if the
media would like to have a look at that. But how much can
you show of that DVD because of privacy issues? Why is it
written in files that the children should be removed and
they never do - that leads to deaths?
Why are we going to continue to allow
children to run away, that are under the Welfare, and
nothing is done, when children are taken from the parents
for the same reason and are told they can't control them?
Mr Weatherill, you are responsible for the people that
work for you. If the Welfare cannot do their job, then
stay away from our children.
COMMISSIONER: Thank you. Yes, who else would like to
say something?
LYN: Hello, my name is Lyn. I'm the mother of a young girl who
chose to run away. I think the question the commissioner
was asking was, "Why do they do it?" Because they can.
It's as simple as that. The way the laws are, the lack of
assistance given by Family and Youth Services when a
desperate parent calls - 34 times I called - to be told,
"We'd love to help you. Your child is not a priority 1
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matter. We only deal with kids under 10." Those under 10
are at risk; there are a lot of them. But there's a lot
out there that are at more risk that are older. I
challenge Mr Weatherill to look at this.
MR OWEN: My name is Gabriel Owen. I'm a member of
the Richard Hillman Foundation. My concern is that back
in the mid-80s through to the early 90s there were studies
done into sexual abuse of very young minors. Those
studies uncovered that there was a massive percentage of
those sexually abused young minors who were in fact male.
Now, subsequent studies that have been
done into the prison population have shown that those who
have been sexually abused by females effectively do not
consider themselves to have been sexually abused but
rather consider themselves to have been really lucky.
Unfortunately, findings have also been
that those who have been sexually abused by females go on
to behave in a socially unacceptable manner, without
really necessarily realising that what they are doing is
in fact socially unacceptable.
I am questioning whether there is any
intent to first of all address males who have been
sexually abused but do not consider themselves to have
been sexually abused but rather consider themselves to be
really lucky, and, secondly, whether or not there is any
effort at all to address the aspect of that whereby their
subsequent behaviour results in them being perpetrators
themselves of sexual abuse some years later? I'm just
looking at whether or not there's any real effort to
address what's coming up in years to come, the number of
abusers from that type of source?
PROF BRIGGS: I have undertaken three lots of research
with boys, which confirms what you are saying. Boys are
much less mature than girls. They don't know what
constitutes abuse. Abuse is what happens to other people.
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They can't report it because they are afraid of violent
retribution from offenders.
I've done this research here and in New
Zealand and the results are always the same. They don't
even know when it's okay to force girls to have sex. You
are dead right about the number of boys who are sexually
abused by adult women.
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We found in the prison system,
interviewing child sex offenders, that 50 per cent were
first sexually abused by a female and they didn't think it
was harmful, but it was harmful. Because of the early
sexualisation process itself, they then behaved in a very
sexual way that was recognised by the perpetrators.
To cut a long story short, I think there
is a responsibility on schools, and I'm trying to make
parents more aware. There is a new child protection
program going to be introduced to schools. In fact, it is
being trialled at the moment, and it's going to be in
schools next year, much more widespread, and the message I
am trying to get through is that boys need special
attention because what they've told me repeatedly is child
protection doesn't concern boys because, "Only girls and
poofters get raped, and poofters deserve it".
So there's a big education job to be done
and boys need permission to be able to report, because of
course they often think they were chosen because they were
gay and there's a stigma associated with that in the
school environment.
COMMISSIONER: Thank you. The commission is going to
look at, and is looking at, the matters that you've
raised, particularly in the area of what assistance can be
given to people who have been sexually abused when they
are children. As confidence is developing, we're hearing
more from people, some of whom are perpetrators, and the
information we receive from them will be of great
importance, I think, in looking at how to improve our
child protection systems in the future.
But also I'm very keen to see if we can
do something to prevent children who are sexually abused
from getting into that progression from minor crime to
more serious crime to very serious crime and to lives in
prison. In short, the answer to your question I hope is
going to be "yes". Yes?
MS JENKE: Hi, I'm Cynthia Jenke. I'm a third-year
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bachelor of social work student, plus I'm a survivor of
child abuse. What I'm actually speaking about is that
there's a fair few patterns where the children are
actually in residential care units. The careworkers use
physical punishment where parents aren’t allowed to even
use punishment.
This punishment is actually done in
figure 8s, they're actually locked in their bedrooms for a
certain time or so, no food, no nothing. Now, if a parent
actually done that, I'd say they'd be in heaps of trouble.
Besides they actually say to get the children back to
their families. That doesn't happen. No reunification is
actually done with families at all. Extended family and
members and everything is not included. Any processes or
so - they say interested parties are actually supposed to
attend, but that doesn't even happen in family care
MS BONNAR: I don't come from the government and I
don't carry a big stick, but I do know a little bit about
residential care facilities and what the people that work
in them are up against. What I would really beg of
anybody in the community who was listening to this sort of
thing and wanting to take any measure of responsibility
for the way society is for young children in care or any
other form of lifestyle is that it is a community
responsibility, and bashing the government, which is what
a lot of people do out of ignorance, fear and any other
number of drivers, it's really not worth it to not know
the realities of what residential care is like.
We get referred, in my humble little
UnitingCare Wesley Port Adelaide, young people who the
care system in government cannot take care of, and I've
said it on talkback radio, and I'll say it to anyone who
will listen: these young people leave home for very good
reasons, and you don't always know what those reasons are
and you don't know what the reservations are about the
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government in entering into the care of these young
But in those residential care facilities
people are not mistreated, by and large. Any kind of
restraint that's used on them, honest to God, you'd have
to work there to know what it's like. You'd have to work
there to know that that is the best that this society can
offer at this point in time, and if it's not good enough,
then that's perhaps what we're here for - to do something
about that.
But don't sort of down what you don't
really know about. Find out about it and then have a
strong opinion and an informed opinion.
MS CAMPBELL: My name's Amelia Campbell. I was born on
Point McLeay Aboriginal Mission. The years I was up
there, I seen the Aboriginal Protection Board taking a lot
of families away, my relations. I see mothers cry and
hanging onto the cars going through that cattle pit of the
mission. There's no need in 2005 this would be happening
to our kids.
With me, I've been sexually abused. My
life is an open book. There was a cone of silence. I
wasn't taken away. I got raped on that mission and, you
know, it wasn't reported or medical stuff, but in my heart
and head that just drove me to drink, it drove me to gaol,
it drove me to all the crimes I've done, and all them kids
that was taken off the mission, as they've grown up
they've all been abused in the welfare system, and they
was taken off by Marjorie Angas.
What's the Welfare going to do with
Aboriginal kids today? My grand-daughter, I paid a lot of
money for her to go to Catholic School. Brother John,
Brother Michaels is a cardinal, Judy from the Salvation
Army supported me with my grandchildren because I had
nobody to help me on the mission.
I slaved my guts out working for
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overseers officers, help my mother with 13 kids - sorry,
12. My brothers was taken away in McNallys Training
Centre. I was the oldest one to work to keep my brothers
and sisters together with my mum while Alan Campbell was
out shearing. I don't know what he done with his money
but my money kept - and the work I did running traps
4 o'clock in the morning, day and night. Washing: I had
no washing machine. My hands had to do everything.
Chopping wood.
Look at the kids today. It's a drug
scene. My grand-daughter, I ran away from Darwin with
her, and when I got to Adelaide here I put her in Mary
McKillop School. She was good going to school until I
send her away. Because the Aboriginal people today are
hurting, they also hurting their own people, they
destroying one another. What's the Welfare going to do?
When I asked the Welfare, Megan Waters,
the one that destroyed me with my grand-daughter, Welfare
from Enfield destroyed me. What about my grand-daughter's
education which I never had? David Chinaipan pleaded for
the churches - my grandfather - Tully's my father, his
son, he's my real dad.
I grew up with Grandfather David on the
mission. He pleaded for the churches to help the
Aboriginal people. He pleaded for his race, and what did
the churches - they turned their back. He say to the
white man, "Don't leave the Aboriginal people, don't leave
us. It's like us leaving you in the middle of the bush in
our world. You leaving us with your education in your
world. You destroying us. The Welfare destroying us."
Please help me get my grand-daughter
back. I want Tanilee back.
COMMISSIONER: Thanks Amelia. That's a very powerful
story that Amelia has. Just a moment. I'd like to get
the benefit of your experience, if I can, about the next
question I posed, and that is that, when children do run
away, where do they go? Can anyone help me with that?
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ROXANNE: I'm Roxanne. I was a ward of the state
in New South Wales and South Australia. There was a
longitudinal study done in New South Wales on children and
young people leaving care, and I think it's really
important today to focus on children who have been in state
care. This isn't about all children. This is about
children that specifically need to be taken care of by the
wider community because their families can't do it.
So the question before about why do
children run away, then where do they go? I think that
looking at where do they go, what are their contacts, like
Amelia was talking about. What's going on in these
people's worlds can give us lots of hints about why they
do it.
In that longitudinal study it says that
50 per cent of homeless 14 to 17-year-olds have a care
background, so these people aren’t running away to
glamorous lives. We know they're not running away to
housing because there is no housing in South Australia,
and if we look at 25 per cent of the prison population has
a care background, I think we need to be looking at where
are these people, what are they doing, and that will give
us hints about why they're doing these things. I don't
think they're trying to hurt anyone. I think they're
hurting themselves.
MS WESTON: Nina Weston from Children in Crisis. I'm
also a foster carer and have been around for quite a long
time. Residential care facilities generally are not a
good place for children to be. We believe that that is
the case.
When children come into alternative care,
our organisation likes to think that they would be put in
a family based care placement. When those placements
don't work for the child, and often they don't - a lot of
the time they do, but sometimes they don't, and that is
because foster carers are volunteers. They have limited
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knowledge and skill in some instances in being able to
help very disturbed children.
So if you have children coming into a
family based placement where a foster carer is not able to
meet their needs - very special needs sometimes - we have
a system that advertises to people in our community that
anybody can open up their house and their home and their
hearts to children and make a big difference. Sometimes
that's true, sometimes it's not.
When a child has very special needs,
comes from a very abusive background, may be an older
child, it's easy in some ways to look after a baby and a
toddler in a long-term situation, but we've got children
that are coming in at eight, nine, 10 years of age that
have very complex needs. They may have been reunified
with their birth family, and then are coming back into the
system when that hasn't worked.
We've got to have foster carers who have
the skill and the knowledge to help these children, and
it's not just about foster carers. It's about social
workers, support workers who are also in train with that
knowledge. So we have a team of people that are working
together to help that child.
Now when that doesn't happen, we have
children going through multiple placements. What happens
at 12, 13 years of age? There's nowhere for them. What
are the options? Residential care? Children run away.
The street? Independent living?
I've heard a story where a 13-year-old
was in a residential care unit, and she was told that she
needed to think about independent living and a home of her
own because that was going to be the next option for her.
In fact, she went on at 15 or 16 to live in independent
living. So they're the options that we have for our
children, and then we wonder why they run away?
I mean, it's not rocket science to work
out why they are feeling so devastated in those
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situations, and we do need to have a much better option
for them at that point. If we fail them in the foster
care system, we need to have something in place where
their needs will be met.
They're very traumatised and we need to
have homes where they can go, where they can pick up the
pieces, and somebody is going to be there, not just for a
year or two years in a Resicare unit and out on your own,
and then what? And 16, and then they're linking up with a
male or female who's older than them, and then the cycle
begins again.
I think there's good evidence out there
of what can work. It's just a matter of people putting
their hands up to get together and talk about how we can
make this system work, and where the resources need to go.
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KATE: Hi, I'm Kate and I entered the foster
care system at 13. I grew up in a totally dysfunctional
family. My first memory of my proper foster placement was
I was dumped and there was nobody home other than another
foster child. I had no clue. I felt like I was
abandoned. I had no idea why I was there. I didn't feel
like I fit in, I didn't feel loved, I didn't feel wanted
and so I ran away. I ended up getting into crime, I ended
up getting into prostitution, drugs. You name it, I've
done it.
As far as to where kids go, back when I
was a kid - and I'm 36 now, so we're talking years ago -
before Centrelink actually started giving out money to
young women and young boys, we had nothing until we were
18. So we ended up squatting in abandoned buildings,
sleeping under railway stations, going with the nearest
person that would give us a feed or a bed for the night,
and that meant you had to sleep with them to be able to
get that reward.
These kids that come into care, they need
to know that they're wanted, and to be wanted you need to
be there for them, not for five minutes but for a long
time. You need to let them know, "Hey, you are special.
Hey, you can be proud of yourself. We can be proud of
you, because you're unique, you're you." There's nothing
else to be proud of. You've just got to learn that you're
You've got to give them what they need
and, most of all, children need praise. They need to know
that they're special, they need to know they're loved. If
that isn't given, in the home or in the care system,
they're not going to grow up believing that. They're
going to end up like me. I've got five children, all
removed because I'm dysfunctional, completely.
I've started to turn my life around, and
I'm grateful for the people that have helped me do that,
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but it's taken a long time to get to that point. It's
taken a long time to learn that I am worthwhile. If
somebody had have done that for me at 13 years of age, I
wouldn't be the person I am today. I would be somebody
spectacular. I would be fighting for rights, because I'd
have a place to fight for rights.
For me, you can all sit there and dog the
system, but until society stands up and says, "Enough is
enough" - and it takes voices. The system isn't going to
change unless we sit down and we say, "Okay, this is what
children need, because this is what they're telling us
they need." We as social workers, we as carers, we as
people that work in the system - we hear it. Put it down
on paper. Get people to start signing different documents
and putting up petitions to get people to notice. You
don't do those things. Children don't have a voice. We
are their voice. We've got to do it for them, not for us.
It's not about my generation, because my
generation is over. It's about my children in care now
and it's about their children, who could possibly also end
up in care. I don't want to see that happen. I want to
see society stand up and say, "Enough is enough." We
provide them with money, we can provide them with housing,
we can provide them with foster placements. But foster
carers, you've got to realise, if you're going to have a
kid, it's not a five-minute placement; it's a lifetime
commitment. It doesn't stop when they turn 18.
What happens to them? They're in the
middle of their education, they turn 18 and you go,
"Sorry, I don't have to have that responsibility any
more." They need that responsibility of the parent to
love them. In loco parentis is what they call it, I
believe. They stand in as your parent. They are supposed
to be there supporting you. If you don't have that
support, you're not going to grow up and be functional.
You're going to grow up and be dysfunctional. You're
going to grow up and be an abnormal member.
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COMMISSIONER: Thanks very much. I just say to the two
cameramen that this is an example of a lady who has
identified herself as having been a victim, and the
commission wouldn't allow publicity of that fact. So will
you keep that in mind when you do your work?
LAUREN: Hi, my name is Lauren. I'm a
psychologist. I work with CYFS. One of the issues, I
think, that's very difficult is the early removal of
children. I have done many assessments on children and,
whilst I've been working with alternative care, many of
the children that are in care now have entered care late,
and so they're very very damaged.
As some of the speakers have already
said, they need opportunities to be nurtured and loved in
their very formative years, because once we move on from
that it's very difficult. They have such a pervasive
sense of shame and worthlessness inside that there is so
much that needs to be undone. Children need permanency.
They need permanency early on and they shouldn't have to
live through, you know, 11 years before someone starts to
come and intervene in their lives.
COMMISSIONER: We've heard some information about where
children go when they run away. Does anybody else have
something they'd like to say about that?
KY: I'm an ex state ward. I'm 40 years of
age. I've been moving for a long time with the help of a
whole load of other people to try and get reforms in South
Australia to do with child protection and state wards in
I've written a small piece on this. It's
coming straight from my heart. I'm not a professional to
do with sociology or psychology or any of these other
professions, but I'm just going to give my opinion from my
view and I hope I don't offend anybody whilst I do so.
Like I said, I live in Housing Trust at
the moment and it's basically in shelter away from harm's
way. As an ex state ward who was abused - allegedly
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abused and allegedly harmed, which basically instantly
gave me no choice but to run away from that danger.
No matter what got in my way or what was
in my way, I still ran away. There was nowhere to
actually give my complaint. There was no tribunal that
had any judicial powers to investigate my complaint
properly that operated separate and independent and run
away from under the direction and control of the minister.
The government does have the power to
legislate and now create a children-adult judicial
tribunal in such a fashion so any child, state ward,
foster parent, carer, respite worker or volunteer has the
option to have their complaint investigated properly by a
body that is independent from the department, with a fresh
new approach, with the ability to hand down balanced
decisions with fair and appropriate outcomes for all
parties concerned.
I personally believe that our society and
the system can do better by finding out exactly what
happened to each child way back in the beginning - that
upset that child - and, as a result of being upset, made
that child run away. A children and adult judicial
tribunal is not beyond the government's wit or capacity to
act and lead by example and work in with the victims of
abuse to enable this.
The government has the power to also make
sure that no-one can use the tribunal as in a way or means
to use for any illegal practice or dishonest purpose,
whilst it could also protect children from adults who wish
to manipulate the system to their own advantage and also
protect adults from children who wish to manipulate the
system to their own advantage.
Finally, a permanent child and adult
tribunal with judicial powers, I believe, would benefit
all parents and children in the broader community by just
dealing with complaints properly, whether lodged either by
a child, teenager or adult.
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I thank Today Tonight, Channel 7, Justice
Ted Mullighan and all the staff, and the state, for being
totally committed to alerting the public and community to
matters of public interest that for years have gone
undealt with but are now being brought out in the light so
everyone can see what has been going on. Once a mistake
has been made, that mistake must be admitted. Then that
mistake must be corrected and then, by making that
correction, it never weakens the system; it can only
strengthen it.
Basically, I'd like to finish up by
saying it is time for everybody to get together and
basically just fix this.
PROF BRIGGS: There is one group of children not
mentioned so far. In 1997 I wrote a book called Child
Protection. It was a guide for teachers and other
professionals. I wrote it with Prof Russell Hawkins. For
that, I went around to schools and spoke to secondary
school counsellors, who told me that - for example, one
school in the north had 48 children, who were street kids,
enrolled that they knew about. There was also one in the
eastern suburbs, where they had exactly the same number
but in a survey the school principal put a nil return,
saying that, "If the public found out, we might lose some
of our middle-class enrolments."
What they told me was that a lot of their
cases involved marriage breakdown; mum getting a new
boyfriend that the kids didn't like, so the children then
misbehaved to try to break up the mother's relationship.
Eventually the boyfriend says, "Enough is enough; you
choose between the child and me," so mother, often not
understanding what the long-term consequences might be and
given that the child has misbehaved and isn't a pleasure
to live with - she chooses the new partner for emotional
or financial reasons, and the kid goes out.
First of all, these children think they
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can live with their friends, but of course a month goes by
and the other family gets fed up because they have no
money towards food or anything and eventually they run out
of friends and end up on the street.
The children I've interviewed said that
they were raped whilst they were living on the street, so
you might just as well be paid for sex. At least you get
a comfortable bed for the night and food. And they could
not see that down the track there were risks in relation
to alcohol and drug abuse. They made the mistake of
thinking that they were in control of these silly old men,
who were prepared to pay for it when others had been
getting it for free. But family dysfunction is obviously
one of the problems.
COMMISSIONER: Once the children have run away and are
on the streets, what can we do for them?
ROXY: Hi, my name is Roxy. I've been in care
since I was probably seven, and I never found out till -
I've just turned 18 and left the system. I never found
out why I had left my mum and never understood what had
happened or caused it.
I've been in foster care, I've been in
CRC and now I'm in a different youth worker project. I
admit I've run away quite a lot. When I left foster care
and I went into CRC and that, I didn't understand - I was
in a place where they couldn't - where I knew I was
staying there. I've always fought the system, I've fought
FAYS, I've fought the placement I'm with now; I've fought
I think the reasons I fought them was
because I wanted to know that they were going to be there
for me and they were going to love me and that. I've
pissed numerous people off in my time being in the system,
but I never knew why. I think the reason - it's not just
coming from me, but I've got a couple of friends who are
also in CRC still or in other projects and they've also
said to me they used to put - I still kick now and I will
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kick and scream, because I never understood - I wanted to
make sure these people were going to stay by my side and
they were going to love me until I left.
I've lost quite a bit of contact with
quite a few placements I wrecked or I stuffed up, and that
was because I wanted to know that they would still love
me. And I believe some people here run away - yes,
sometimes we run away to piss off the youth workers or
whoever we live with, but it's also just because we need
to know that we're loved and that if and when we come back
we know we're not going to get in too much trouble; we're
still going to get told that people still cares about you
and you are someone special.
I've had youth workers who tell me that,
and I still don't believe it. I still kick and scream at
them and say, "No, I don't," but one thing I've learnt is
that, yes, CRC was not good for me. It stuffed me up when
I turned 18, because I lost the stability I had back then,
because I knew that I was always staying somewhere and
people weren't going to stuff me around. But I'm still
even learning now and young people - I believe people who
are youth workers or work with young people - like, even
if they're older, till 25 or whatever - should know that
they need to be loved.
When the young people go off at the
workers, it's not because they hate you, it's because
sometimes they don't understand why they're in care and,
because youth workers are put in the parental role or
caregiver role, they will - just for them to know that
you're still going to be there to love them when they come
back from being missing or whatever.
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Yes, you may be annoyed with them for a
day or two or just do whatever, but as long as you still
tell them when they come back that they're loved and
they're still special even though they did a wrong,
because I learned that running away always messed me up
more because I was scared to go back to my placement.
I got brought back by police quite a lot,
because I was scared that if I returned to my placement I
would get screamed at by who I lived with. They just need
to be told that when young people come back from being
missing that they still are loved.
Yes, you're going to get loss of
privileges or whatever happens and that, but still you've
got to know that they are going to be loved by everyone
because they're too - when you're not living with your
parents, you sort of go and look for other roles that can
sort of take that spot in your heart where you don't know
who to turn to, and quite a lot of youth workers actually
take that place.
Quite a few youth workers I've got in my
life have taken the spot of being a mum or a dad or an
auntie. I still call some youth workers now my auntie,
because that's where they've taken me to and put me in a
place where I know they'll love me and I kick and scream
at them and tell them where to go and tell them I hate
them and that, and I maintain - and I still do it, but at
least I know that they're going to love me.
The system does need a change because so
many young people will run away because they know that if
they come back they might get yelled at. You're running
away from the problem there. So many problems happen.
COMMISSIONER: Thanks very much. Yes?
MS BONNAR: I absolutely couldn't move past without
acknowledging that young woman and saying that on behalf
of all youth workers that's what we do; why we do what we
do. We talk every day about the difference between love
and punitive consequences and, if that's what love does
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and you're still like that at 18, well, I think we're not
doing too bad a job.
The real thing I wanted to say in terms
of where kids go and what are we going to do about it is,
there are places kids go and everyone in South Australia
should know where they go, and one of those boils on the
bum of society is Veale Gardens.
To this day, we cannot understand - and
we are here from our agency speaking on behalf of at least
one young person in that situation - why is there still a
Veale Gardens to go to? Why are these haunts and these
beats still there to go to? If that was my backyard and
my child was in that backyard, I would go down there and
stop it. I would do something to stop it. I beg of this
community to be loud and be heard about that.
TRACEY: My name is Tracey. I'm a former child
from care. I was at a support group this morning and I
was invited along today. I had my own question and that
is, "What's the definition of who a runaway child is?"
The group that I was with, I asked - because we're all
former care leavers. I said, "How many of us here have
actually run away?" be it from our own parents, our
natural birth parents, or from care.
We all commented that we had all run away
from care, myself included. I chose not to run away from
home; my mother chose to leave me. If I chose to move
with her, it would have been going into a sexually abusive
situation, and Welfare were then eventually involved. I
was eventually placed in foster care, and it was a very
emotionally and mentally abusive situation.
I just would like to say that history has
a way of repeating itself and, if you look at the 700
submissions that you've got, you'll probably find out why
we do run away. People here have been saying that, as a
community, we need to be looking after our children and I
really think it is individual attitude that people should
be looking at within themselves.
.28/9/05 Public P-28 5/PP
Just recently I was studying youth work
at TAFE and, driving home one day, I saw a little girl
being abused on the side of the road, and I chose to drive
around the block to stop and intervene. I actually asked
my counsellor would she have stopped and intervened and
she said she would now.
I went back to TAFE the next day and I
asked one of the youth work lecturers there what I should
have done in that situation - the situation had actually
stopped by the time I drove around the block; the person
had gone - and she said, "Take down the numberplate and
report it to DOCS."
I'd like to ask this group - I've got
probably 200-plus people here - who in this room would
actually do the same as what I did and stop, and show that
little girl that someone cares enough to stop and
COMMISSIONER: All right. We'll have a show of hands.
Who would stop? Who wouldn't stop?
TRACEY: It was just interesting that I asked my
counsellor that and, having heard what I told her, she
said she probably wouldn't have but she would now, having
heard what I just said.
COMMISSIONER: We ought to just note on the transcript
that no-one said they wouldn't stop. Yes?
MR JENKE: I've got to try to think what I was going
to say now. Firstly, someone earlier said "government
bashing". This is not about government bashing. It
doesn't matter whether it's the Labor Party now or past
governments; they're all at fault. We don't go ahead. We
need something set up, like Ky has said, for everybody -
whether it be a parent or a foster parent; that if we go
with a legitimate complaint, it is investigated and
investigated thoroughly and not wiped off and written down
and nothing done about it, because if we don't, we're
going to have trouble.
As far as the street kids, it's simple:
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we've got to go there; find where they are; get them out
of danger; take them and have a set-up that they're looked
after. But let's do it for parents, too, because if we
can help the parents that are suffering - I'm talking
about the good parents, not the parents that have abused;
that they're in care in the first place.
Let's support the good parents that go to
the police and say, "We can't do anything. They'll run
out the back door" - don't do anything different for
parents - because if you help the parents as well, then
just maybe we'll have less children that need foster care
in the first place. I think that's one of the main
important issues that you need to remember in looking into
AMANDA: My name is Amanda. By the time I was 21
I'd had 22 different addresses. I need people here to
know that our babies, our children, are going to grow up
to be community leaders and responsible people and, for
them to be able to do that successfully, we need to equip
the current foster carers and homey people - whatever you
call them; the people that look after the kids at home -
adequately, so that they can do this job to a certain
standard, like a normal person would do for their normal
family and their normal children.
I think that it's going to take a lot of
effort on the government and a lot of money, so they need
to be willing to stick their hands in their bloody pockets
and fork out the bloody money so that people can be
trained properly.
PAMELA: My name is Pamela. My main interest here
is, a few years ago when I was a social work student I met
a man who I later married, and he'd been through the state
care system in Tasmania, and I've learnt a great deal from
him. I have worked as a foster care support person and I
also worked for a brief period at the department as a
social worker. My position was actually terminated
because they weren't ready for a social worker like me.
.28/9/05 Public P-30 5/PP
I think some of the things that we've
heard today from people that have been or are in the state
care system, it's clear to see that we're not getting it
right, and I thought after the Robyn Layton report that
maybe there was something that was actually going to be
done. It isn't being done and, hopefully, with what is
happening here today and the stories that we're hearing,
and with the commission inquiry, things are going to
COMMISSIONER: I just want to ask my question again: we
know there are a lot of children on the street. I don't
know how many. I suspect at any given time - I suspect
no-one knows that. But what can we do to help them whilst
they're living on the streets?
ROXANNE: I think we do need all of these long-term
strategies that people are talking about, but also, until
we get them and while people are on the street, there are
things to do with - a couple of little suggestions that
I've got, because I've been supporting at least one person
for a long time living on the street.
One suggestion is, in terms of trying to
get some kind of stability for people in that situation,
they need to be able to send their mail somewhere. They
get breached from bail all the time because they don't
know where to be and no-one is able to get in contact with
Also, they get cut off Centrelink because
of those sorts of things, and when you're homeless and
you're cut off Centrelink - and it's extremely difficult
to get put back on - you have to commit crime. So one
thing, I think, if we could have somewhere where people
can have their mail sent.
These programs that are for offenders or
people on bail or runaway young people bring people
together. When someone is trying to live outside of that
system, I think that that sort of mail thing should be
located with your local post offices, because then all
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people in the same situation kind of - having to mix in
circles if they don't want to.
Another thing is young people's feet are
in real trouble when they're on the street, and it's very
painful to see. I haven't experienced it myself, but just
seeing some young people, what they put up with - the pain
in their backs from sleeping on the concrete; you know,
give them bloody massage vouchers.
This is not a handout, okay. This is
keeping people healthy. Give them stuff for their feet,
and that is an ongoing issue. Maybe that could be located
with GPs. We know that the health of young people from
state care is not brilliant. I know of one GP who has
just calmly been there over the years and has just simply
been available for the various things that happen. I
think a GP education thing would be really useful.
MR OWEN: Thank you. This inquiry, by my
understanding at least, is effectively into the issue of
sexual abuse. It's not specifically into the issue of
homelessness. I do appreciate the connection.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that views homeless
youth as potentially being people who are dangerous,
people who are potentially criminal by nature.
It's an unfortunate outcome, because it
doesn't seem to have sufficient depth in its judgment, if
you will, to appreciate that most of the homeless youth
aren't so much homeless by choice as by circumstance.
They are homeless because they have effectively been
abandoned by those whose position it was to care for them.
I'm in the process of putting together a
community service announcement to go to air on both
television and radio. It's a two-part community service
announcement and it shows one individual who has been
sexually abused, who lives in a supportive environment
under a supportive family and goes on to achieve their
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The second variation shows someone who,
likewise, has been abused, but who is in a more aggressive
and oppressive environment, and who goes on to be a street
kid, and unfortunately does not achieve their potential.
It needs to be understood by our society,
by our community, that unless you respond to people who
have been abused in a supportive manner, the potential
consequence for those people will be that they will not
achieve their full potential and will see themselves as
outcasts of society. They will grow to see themselves as
outcasts of society, rather than as effective participants
and contributors to the social wellbeing and social
future, social structure, of our community.
Where it all leads to is that our views
on street kids, I believe, are not helpful. I don't
believe they're helpful to the street kids and I do not
believe that they are helpful to our society as a whole
either. Thank you.
.28/9/05 Public P-33 6/WN
MS ..........: In response to your question of what can
we do for the homeless youth, we need programs where
children can get a free feed. I'm sorry, but you go to a
church and they say, "Yeah, $2.50 or $2.00 and you can
have a feed." Kids don't get money if they don't have a
place to live. That's the first thing - they need to eat,
The second thing they need - we have a
lot of buildings in Adelaide that are empty or floors that
are empty: why doesn't the state government or the
business that owns the building give that floor or that
empty building that they're not going to use to the
children for shelter? That's what's needed.
We need shelter for the kids and more of
it. We have some. When I was growing up on the streets
we had nothing. We had Teen Challenge and that was it.
Hello. These days we have a few more programs, but we
need people to start to give.
You give and you give for no other reason
other than to give somebody something. You feel good, so
why not? You're helping these kids. These kids need it.
They're going to grow up and they're going to remember:
"I used to go over here and get a free feed."
I remember Teen Challenge way back when
they were in Hindley Street, and they floated to a few
places, but we always used to go Friday and Saturday night
for a free feed; somewhere warm in winter and a chit-chat.
That's all we need for kids.
That's all they need sometimes - is that
somewhere safe to go where they can hang out with their
peers; they can have a feed. They have got a dry place
over their head for a few hours if they can't get into a
shelter. Open up some buildings that are empty.
We've got plenty in Adelaide. Housing
Trust: they're another organisation that can do the same
thing. I've seen buildings - like houses, three-bedroom
houses - empty for 12 months or more. Why not open that
.28/9/05 Public P-34 6/WN
up? You can put five or six kids in a three-bedroom
house. If they have got somewhere to go they can get
money. They can get on their feet and they start to move
forward and become productive members of society. That is
an answer to your question.
COMMISSIONER: You would say, though, wouldn't you, that
also what children who are on the street need is someone
they can trust; someone they can talk to; someone like a
MS ..........: If you're going to feed them and they get
used to the idea - and word of mouth spreads, trust me.
That's how I learnt about Teen Challenge - was word of
mouth. Somebody said, "Hey, I know where to get a free
feed." "Yep. Take me."
That opens the door to that trust. You
don't get trust unless you give something first because
kids that live on the streets, they become sceptical, they
become hard and they become - "I can't trust anybody.
Everybody is out for themselves. None of them is going to
give me a free ride. Who's going to look after me? I've
got to do it myself." So if we start teaching these
children by giving without expecting anything in return we
are going to have these kids learn trust and it builds
over time. It's not going to happen overnight, trust
me. It won't. Like the Pantene ad says, "Don't happen
overnight." Well, it don't. You've got to build on that.
You've got to be committed to those programs. We have
enough churches out there that have money that can do
We're supposed to look after the
homeless. We're supposed to look after the fatherless.
Religious teachings teach you that, so why not start doing
what we get taught on a Sunday morning - or on a Saturday,
depending on what religion you are?
Why not start saying, "Okay. We've got a
church. We know we can open it four days a week and feed
them on a regular basis." Word of mouth: they'll come
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and they'll start to trust because it becomes a regular
thing. That's how you earn their trust.
COMMISSIONER: Thank you. Yes?
TRISHA: Hello. My name is Trisha and I'm a bit
different here because my child is not in state care, but
my daughter was 14 years of age and was raped. She didn't
report it and her way of reacting to it was to start
running away, which became an ongoing event.
There were some times when I could find
her and I could get the police to return her. There were
many times when the police would ring me and say, "She's
in a safe place. We're not bringing her home." I found a
lot of parents were harbouring my child and wouldn't bring
her home and nobody would check to see if the story she
was telling was true.
I was probably very lucky that she never
accused her father or her stepfather of any sexual abuse,
otherwise I probably would never have seen her again. She
did make some accusations as to us bashing her, but we got
away with that. We weren't bashing her. She's 15 now, 15
and a half, and she still doesn't reside with me.
She resides with a 19-year-old man, who
is abusive and bashes her. I've had the police there on
numerous occasions. The police have seen her black eyes.
My question is - I'm trying not to cry here - I've read
the act and it talks about the police being able to - a
sergeant going to an inspector to get your child out of
that environment.
I'd like to know what determines a child
at risk. The stories I've heard to date here are
terrible. Mine is almost nothing. What does determine a
child at risk? My daughter is 15 with two black eyes.
The guy is having sex with her and, as far as I thought,
that was illegal because she could ultimately leave that
relationship and have him charged.
I have no way to get my daughter back.
Now, my daughter has been in the Magill detention centre
.28/9/05 Public P-36 6/WN
and I see somebody I know from there and the support from
them, the support from the home detention office, the
support from CYFS has been absolutely fantastic. There's
just no action, absolutely none.
I've been to Jay Weatherill; he tells me
I'm a rare case. He now refuses to speak to me. I'm a
proactive parent. I have been to places where I've not
wanted to be with people I don't want to associate with.
I've had to walk into drug houses to pull my child out,
with no help from the police, from an officer from FAYS.
I also would say, looking at the whole
big picture, I've never seen a more unresourced system in
my life. From the police to the top rank, it's just
absolutely disgraceful. I've had dealings with the
truancy board because my daughter hadn't been to school
for eight months before I heard from them, only to find
out that the woman running that - she runs 150 schools in
the north on her own.
Now, they don't just ring you up and
check on where your child is; they get very involved in
trying to get your child back to school. But how can she
do her job properly? So from everywhere I've been I've
just - it's just ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, and I
still can't get my daughter back.
COMMISSIONER: Thank you. I want to grasp the nettle
and see what your views are. I want you to imagine this
lady's daughter, but younger and living with middle-aged
men who are known drug dealers. I want you to imagine
that situation for a moment - a runaway.
Whenever the child comes back to the unit
she runs away. Is there any circumstance in which you
would support a child like that being taken into a system
that involved short-term judicially-supervised, intensely
therapeutic, secure care? One at a time. Yes, please?
TERRI: Hi. My name is Terri. Similar to
Trisha, my son was 14 and he was raped and he ran away
from home and something that has not been discussed - or I
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don't feel like it has been discussed today - is, yes,
these kids have been through trauma, and this is it.
I was trying to find somewhere - where
could I put my son for a couple of months where he could
get treatment every day and get through his post-traumatic
stress disorder that I knew was the problem for him
actually going through running away and self-harming and
suicidal thoughts and all that other stuff that goes with
that kind of trauma?
There is nowhere for us to send our
children where they can actually be made to get
counselling and get the therapy that they require so that
when they come back out and come back home their life does
look different. They do have a future because they have
had some therapy to help their brain get through the
trauma they have experienced.
COMMISSIONER: Yes. I don't think you have spoken yet.
MR MARONEY: Steve Maroney from Magill Training
Centre. Before you go getting too enthusiastic about
locking kids up under these circumstances, you should
probably know that if a kid gets locked up at the moment
with placement issues they're likely to be in care longer
than somebody who has actually had like minor criminal
things. It's not something that we would support.
COMMISSIONER: I'm just trying to hear from people who
haven't spoken yet. Yes?
MR LAPHAN: Sean Laphan from CYFS. I think it's
worthwhile considering what the intention of securing a
child's welfare would be, because much like Steve has
alluded to, locking up kids isn't always going to be the
answer. You're not going to lock up kids for a short
period of time and resolve their issues.
Kids are going to come out of their
secure placements and are likely to go straight back into
the situation they came from, but this time it will be
harder for them. This time it will be more difficult to
connect with the people that love them and who have
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supported them and I certainly would advocate for a system
where the people who harbour these kids are the ones who
actually get some consequence and not the children
themselves, who are really the victims in these
COMMISSIONER: You wanted to speak?
MR OWEN: Yes. I'm aware that at the moment if a
child leaves the care of their parents and they are 12, 13
years of age, and the parents go to the Welfare
authorities and basically seek that the child be returned
to their care, what the Welfare authorities will
frequently tell them is that the child is now of a
sufficient age where they can choose where they wish to
However, when the child leaves the care
of the state, a foster placement, quite often the child is
returned by force. Now, if you are going to be basically
preaching one particular perspective to do with the child
being cared for by their parents, by their legitimate
parents, I fail to see why that exact same perspective
should not also apply to the state where, if the child
does not wish to live in that foster placement, likewise
they have the same right to live where they choose.
I am also aware, however, that it is
really a requirement of our society that a minor has a
guardian. I see that as being very very important and, as
a result, where I am really taking this is that, rather
than there being this ongoing push to place children in
state care, there instead be a push to reunify children
with their families.
We keep talking about children being
removed from their families, placed in state care; state
care being the answer. I'm saying we perhaps need to look
at it from the other perspective - that the families need
to be assisted and supported more in care and parents need
to be assisted and supported more in caring for their own
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Currently, really that is not happening,
even though it is written into the protocols and
guidelines of the child protection authorities - that they
will follow a family reunification process. They don't,
and that is certainly backed up in relation to what
happened with my own family.
When you asked do we feel that children
should be placed under an order, placed in some sort of
retention, my view is that that is heading in the wrong
direction. We need to be looking more at a family
reunification process and getting children back into their
families more than pulling them further away from their
families and putting them into some less connected,
potentially less loving environment.
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COMMISSIONER: I think you misunderstood me. I'm not
for a moment suggesting black-and-white solutions, or this
or that. What I asked was could there be any
circumstances in which a child could be put into a highly
therapeutic, secure situation. I'm not being critical,
but it's very easy to say there should be a policy of
reunification. It's in the legislation. Of course there
should be. What if the family is incapable or abusive?
What do you do then? I think we started something.
ANGELA: I'm Angela. I'm from SPARK. I'm a
social work student. I personally have been a runaway kid
and I wasn't in state care. I would like to address the
issues of parenting. My parents didn't have skills -
parenting skills - but in our age we have lots of
resources as far as if you have any problem with
parenting, you go for parenting education.
For those parents who are very courageous
and admit that they have bashed the kids up - I certainly
have been bashed by my mum and I ran away from home. You
know, I didn't have anywhere to go. You know, like the
police wouldn't sort of really - in the 50s, they wouldn't
really take the children seriously and hitting was
allowed, you know.
I would think that like the developmental
stage of a child has got lots to do with a sense of
safety. It actually stems from there, you know. Like
it's not just parenting skills, there's relationship
skills, you know. Our society has just gone backwards,
you know, in terms of - well, people are just wanting to
stay on their own. They just get together and just
cohabitate because there's a lot of losses in terms of
legalities and stuff like that. There's no such thing as
family. The family doesn't exist, you know.
I mean, there are things that we can do
and there's lots of things that we can do, and we've just
got to hit at it at every issue. We have to confront
every issue. Thank you.
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COMMISSIONER: Yes, I think you've been waiting for a
LAUREN: I'm Laurel. I'm a psychologist with
CYFS. One of the concerns I have about a locked facility
is that it's a bit different. You take some things away
with something that's highly therapeutic. As someone who
has done therapy, it's difficult to do that when you take
all the rights away from a child.
Whilst they might not be running, they're
also very angry. Just the environment itself, it ends up
being more like Magill, or Cavan that we have now. You
end up possibly with large numbers of children. It's very
difficult to then do the relational stuff and to build
The other issue is that for children that
need to, you know, overcome the issues that are inside,
it's about a long-term process and about building trust
and building relationships. If we go and lock children
up, that's a short-term fix, but it doesn't really fix the
ongoing problems underneath.
I think what children need happens at
lots of levels. It happens at being able to find children
and to bring them back to places, and to be able to do
that quickly, so police powers. It also is about having
intensive resources so that you can generate that into
children, particularly children who are at risk, and you
can start addressing some of the underlying issues for
You can build trust and you can build a
relationship, and those people can be constants in their
life. You have far more impact in the long run than just
locking them up, which is going to be short term.
COMMISSIONER: How do you keep them there for all the
very sensible things you've suggested?
LAUREN: In my mind one of the things - and I
think it's highly complex, but I think one of the things
that would make a difference would be being able to
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retrieve children quickly and bring them back. That means
the children that start experimenting that way, you can
intervene quickly. It means that they don't then develop
a network of people and contacts outside. I think that's
one issue that has to be addressed.
I think giving children a sense of safety
and placement early, and not leaving it until they are 11
or 12 would make a huge difference. That's around, you
know, how we identify children in dysfunctional families
and how we intervene quickly, and how we give them a sense
of permanency.
A lot of people have talked about, you
know, children that have lots and lots and lots and lots
of placements. It's about making sure that we have
well-supported placements, whether they're foster care
placements or group homes; that those people have the
skills they need to work with really highly complex
I think also being able to follow
children, so that they don't have to relate to lots and
lots of different people, but they get, you know, a team
of constant faces and they get very clear messages that,
"We care about you and we don't want these things for you,
and we really want, you know, better outcomes for you."
MS HARVEY: Hi, my name is Karen Harvey and I'm
representing Anglicare South Australia today. One of the
things we have been talking about is the issue of
detaining young people. We've been discussing that. From
our experience we're suggesting that young people that
choose to live in risky situations do so for many complex
A common theme seems to be that the young
person has in their younger childhood been subjected to
all sorts of abuse by another perpetrator. Although we
acknowledge that it is not and should not be assumed to
always be the case, the abuse appears to make the young
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person particularly vulnerable to the skilled and
manipulative approaches used by abusive adults or other
people. That's during the young person's adolescence.
Another factor for the young person might
be the absence of safe, flexible and acceptable housing
for the young person. Sometimes when this housing is
unavailable, the young person makes a choice between
living with an older person who places them at risk and of
course they don't have access to suitable housing. In
other words, they are presented with no reasonable choice
at all.
We work with young people who have lived
with an older adult in abusive relationships. In most of
the incidences they have ended those relationships usually
after a period of several months, so the young person has
often - with the assistance of professionals - then come
to the understanding that the relationship is not in their
best interest and usually either at that time or at some
later date, they've categorised the relationship as
abusive or exploitative and often may seek legal redress.
Our experience with young people who live
at risk suggests that the majority are, for at least a
short period of time, utterly convinced that they want
this relationship more than any other. While they are so
convinced that the form of detention that would be
successful in the short term is a facility which prevented
young people having any unsupervised movement 24 hours,
seven days a week, such a restriction of freedom and civil
liberties is clearly a very serious step that requires
significant debate and discussion in the wider community.
Anglicare suggests that it would seem
that any proposal to forcibly detain young people in these
situations has a number of very significant risks for
young people. Forcible detention may create long-term
mental health problems. Forcible detention for young
people with existing mental health problems has the
significant risk of creating additional diagnosed mental
.28/9/05 Public P-44 7/DJ
health problems.
Forcible detention comes with it a social
and psychological stigma. Forcible detention places young
people in close proximity to other young people with
similar profiles, which presents a high risk of
perpetration and abuse to and from each other, and that
forcible detention will prevent the young person from
making a choice to leave the abusive relationship
voluntarily, which places them at a very high risk of
returning to the paedophile, the abusive person or
connecting with another paedophile or abusive person after
their release from detention.
MS JENKE: Hi, I'm Cynthia Jenke. My first 10 years
of my life was running from axes and knives with my dad
trying to kill me, so I've actually had post-traumatic
stress disorder all my life. For me to be empowered, I
went through four years of intensive psychotherapy to
actually empower me to get me where I am today.
As I wrote in my child protection review
submission, I said we could actually do with a lot of
children, a lot of parents, in a mentoring program to get
the children to face these problems and the parents to
face these problems, and to empower people to move on.
MR GARRETT: Hi, I'm Leigh Garrett from Offenders Aid
and Rehabilitation Services. I have a number of things to
say, but in particular, Ted, I'm not sure I could support
the forced detention notion that you have raised, for some
of the reasons that we've already heard, not the least of
which is that what I see in the world of adult criminal
justice is a continued reduction in funding and services
whenever any environment is labelled as secure.
That happens in the adult correctional
system. It also happens in the juvenile detention system.
Most people do not want to be on the streets and most
people do not want to become offenders. Another important
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thing I would like to say today, I think, is that whilst
we have a commission looking into children in state care,
as has been admitted and discovered today and on many of
other occasions many of whom end up in prison and in the
criminal justice world, we have a government in dissonance
because we are continually hearing cries about, "Well,
let's punish the nasty people again," without dealing with
the issues of the causality of the offending.
We have had heard many, many, many
stories today about the causality of offending. I would
hope that we might get some coherence in government that's
prepared to put up a commission such as this, but also to
stop talking about getting tough on crime and labelling
people as crims, scum and dirtbags publicly, because that
is absolutely not what these people are in my view. Thank
MR TERNEZIS: Thank you. I'm John Ternezis from
Parents Want Reform. The question here is, when is a
child in need of protection? What should we put first:
the welfare of the child or the rights of the child?
You've got a 12-year-old or a 13-year-old child who uses
drugs of dependence. He's got brain damage. Shouldn't we
secure the child's safety first? Should we or we
We should say, "No, do not arrest the
child. Don't use any force. Just ask the child." The
child might not even understand what we're talking about.
Should that be the paramount consideration: the safety of
the child? If that is the case, then we should support
first of all that we're taking the child in care and
provide assistance for the child; but the safety should be
the number one. There should be provisions in our
legislation for that. At present there is none.
If you have a 12-year-old child which
uses intravenous drugs and collapses, walks and two metres
down collapses again, wouldn't you like to put that child
in a residential treatment? Who would say no? I want to
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see any one of you - I would like my child to be taken and
being forced treatment. This is what we're talking about.
If you've got a 10-year-old in the middle
of Hindley Street at night, shouldn't that child be taken
in a safe place? Arrangements need to be made in respect
of the child's welfare. Thank you.
MR HARVEY: Good afternoon. My name is Jadynne
Harvey. I work with the CREATE Foundation, which is a
body I guess that promotes the rights and voices of
children and young people in the care system. Just to
start off, I guess, really I think that this is an "all of
community" responsibility. We have been talking a lot
about how foster carers maybe could do things differently;
how other community members could be doing things
differently; how governments could be doing things
differently; how communities could be doing things
Ultimately this system is a system that
relies on every single one of us, not just government, not
just foster carers, not just workers, not just young
people. It's everyone's responsibility to look after
these children, which are all of our children.
.28/9/05 Public P-47 8/DLC
Now, having got that off, I think we've
had lots of other bits and pieces today that make a lot of
sense. Earlier on we had Nina Weston say, "It's not
rocket science," which I think is very true. Really, we
know what a lot of the issues are that promote people
ending up in care in the first place and then the ongoing
issues they have: things like systemic poverty, things
like people not being appropriately supported through
services, adults. Yet we still live, even with all those
supports, I guess, in a situation where our society is not
a perfect one.
We live in a world where maybe not
everything quite goes the way we'd like it to. My car
gets broken into, I wouldn't like it. Port lose, don't
get into the grand final, I certainly didn't like that. I
guess, to get a bit more serious really, what we are
looking at is a situation where these things are going to
continue to happen, irrespective, I think, of what we put
into place. There are always going to be situations where
these things do happen and it's up to us to try and do the
best things we can to try and reduce these.
It is about early intervention. It's
about trying to, as early on as possible, assist families
and provide supports for children and young people. That
may well mean removing children at early ages and placing
them into alternative care placements. It may well mean,
in some situations, family reunification - and there's
always going to be a struggle between both of those
If I can say one thing today, I think
it's very very dangerous to even suggest the notion of
placing people in any kind of mandated detention, even if
that's seen as therapeutic. It's a situation where we
have so many existing situations where we can draw upon
experience, where detention has been shown to have a whole
variety of negative consequences.
Looking at Baxter, looking at other
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situations in secure mental health facilities where really
mandated detention has been shown to not really be in
people's long-term benefit.
I guess just to finish off I'd just like
to say that really, I think this is something we all need
to look at, and we all need to be willing to look at some
flexible approaches. The thing that Sean mentioned
earlier, where perpetrators tend to take advantage of our
children and young people in this state, placing
constraints against them and trying to enforce laws so
that they are held responsible for the things that they do
to our children and our young people is one of the first
Really, I think we all have a
responsibility in whatever ways we can to support children
and young people, to try and move that little bit extra,
to move a bit further and try and provide some consistency
and continuity in people's lives because we do know that's
what makes a difference. Thanks.
MS MITCHELL: I'm Michelle Mitchell. I'm a mother, I
work for Lifeline, I teach personal skills at a community
college and I also work for CYFS, and CYFS knows about all
those other things. It's legal. I've jotted down a few
things and I just want to make a few comments on them.
I've also been a foster carer with SOS Children's Village
before its financial demise.
What I've noticed in the kids, what works
is consistency, as you were saying, and love and care -
lots and lots of love and care. While people can be paid
to provide lots and lots of love and care, it can't be
forced; it needs to come, it needs to be part of what a
person is doing. That's why I think that professional
foster care and paid foster carers, are a great option. I
think that programs like the Flinders Operation, which is
a residence out in the sticks where they take children,
teach them basic life skills, teamwork, very much back to
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basics. I haven't actually participated in one but I've
heard great results about it.
There are other inspiring and
motivational programs as well, such as one that is in
hiatus at the moment because it doesn't know where to get
funding, called Discovery for Teenagers. I've worked as a
team leader on that 10-day residential program where kids
from tricky backgrounds come, and I've seen their lives
turned around by the love and the consistency and the
trust that they have been given in just 10 days. They
take away new skills, new friends and phone numbers with
I'd like to see lots and lots of input
into inspiring and motivational programs for kids. I
think as well as consistency, high support for carers is a
must. As an ex-foster carer and as a senior youth worker,
I know how important it is to support the people who look
after the kids. If they are not supported they are not
able to do their job as well as if they did have high
I'm an advocate to comb Vale Park every
night, all night, except that I'm too scared to go on my
own. I would love to get a posse together and just scare
the people out of there every night.
COMMISSIONER: Where is this?
MS MITCHELL: Veale Gardens. I'm sorry, I'm from New
South Wales so I'm still - - -
COMMISSIONER: You said Vale Park, I wondered what was
going on up there.
MS MITCHELL: It's a suburb. No, sorry, Veale Gardens.
So anyone who wants to comb Veale Gardens every night,
I'll be there to help. That's all I have to say.
COMMISSIONER: Thank you. Yes, Amelia.
MS CAMPBELL: I've been around Australia, I've seen
everything. My family brought deaths in custody out and
all the people that died when they killed my brother in
Long Bay Gaol. All my nephews have died in Yatala Prison
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because they were taken away as well, by Welfare. It's
Welfare's responsibility what carers they put little
Aboriginal black kids into. They are supposed to go and
check on those children who are in their care but they
never. The foster carers that got Aboriginal kids only
want money, money, money, money.
I do street work. I lived up in Sydney.
I've been to Kings Cross. I did work up there for
churches. I've been in back alleys and all, like I do in
Adelaide. I've got Mary, and many other girls like Mary
are homeless; children in state welfare. Who will look
after the Aboriginal children? Who will look after Mary,
being homeless herself and many others I've got out there?
I ask for a safety house many a times for
years, put it to the government, or getting the girls,
dealing with mothers, because we are the bear carriers, we
are the ones that are fathers to our children when our man
is in goal. Who helps the mothers? That's why a lot of
girls turn to speed and heroin. Their children are taken
away from them, and they are children in foster care. The
Welfare don't even check on those little black kids, don't
even check on them.
I've seen a lot of kids who are drug
addicts who have got the kids. As long as they got money
for their next fix. We should work together. I'm glad
for the commissioner putting this meeting on. You fellows
shouldn't leave us. Who is going to help Mary and many
other girls like Mary?
Mary asked me to speak for her. Who is
going to help her to get a home, to give her life-living
skills, starting from the mothers that have been fathers
and grieving counsellors, grieving because she lost her
little baby; her baby died. Who is going to help Mary and
many other mothers out on the street that got their kids
taken away and died in foster care, or died under the
Welfare guidance? Who is going to help them?
I've been all over Australia; I've worked
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for many churches doing voluntary work. I've seen what I
had to see. This is genocide on Aboriginal people. Come
on, you fellows, come and start supporting with a bit of
love, a bit of kindness and a bit of sharing. You know,
come together and help the Aboriginal mothers today
because we've got funerals every week: funerals,
funerals, funerals, all over Australia. Please, I beg you
and I pray to God every night, "Send your angels down upon
Australia. Send your angels down upon us Aboriginal
The white man shouldn't leave us. They
should learn to understand our way, not just to be a
standover tactic - "You listen to me. You sit down here
and do what I tell you to do" - and rip your kids off you.
That's all, commissioner.
COMMISSIONER: Thank you. Yes, Sean.
MR LAPHAN: I guess today we are focusing on a lot of
the kids where the system hasn't worked. I think there
have been lots of instances where the system is working or
has worked for young people. I think maybe a starting
point is going back to those cases and having a look at
what made the difference. I think what we'll note from
those situations - and I've been having a little look into
that in recent times - is that it was a relationship with
somebody that made a difference to that young person's
life, a relationship that stuck through there and was
continuous throughout that young person's development, and
it crossed over - transitions from one placement to
another, or whatever life situations those young people
found themselves in.
I'd just like to again stress the
importance of, I guess, the relationship with these kids
and if we are going to build trust with these young people
then it's about maintaining as much continuity as
possible. If there was going to be an intervention that
looked at the safety of these children, then it's no good
taking them to another very foreign situation; we need to
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involve the people that are in a relationship with those
COMMISSIONER: We are getting close to the time where we
are going to close. I just want you to very quickly give
me an idea of what you think about this. There will
almost certainly be a focus on perpetrators - and by
"perpetrators" I mean adults who get hold of street kids
or young people and put them in the sorts of circumstances
that we've been talking about.
It's very easy to say, isn't it, "Well,
let's devise a crime that's easy to prove and can be done
by something like a reverse onus situation, such as
harbouring, and take those people out of the game and
discourage other people from doing the same thing," as
though that's a solution to the problem. What about the
child who is in a dangerous situation with those people
but chooses to be there?
The difficulty that the police have, of
course, is that the child won't give evidence of sexual
offending and therefore the police can't - if they do
arrest - bring a case. It could be possible to have an
offence like harbouring which could be elevated to a
serious crime and dealt with in a higher court. What
effect would that have on the child? Would it be worse or
less than taking the child into some brief, secure
I think we would all agree, and what's
confronting me in this commission, is that we can't do
nothing; we have to do something. We have to recommend
something. I accept the full force of everything that has
been said here today about the devastating effect of
terminating, even briefly, the liberty of a child. But
what do we do for that child? How do you get to intervene
in a realistic way?
It has been suggested that you get rid of
the perpetrator, as though there are no other
perpetrators. What do we do? Very quickly; we've only
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got a few minutes.
MS WILSON: Hi, I'm a youth worker with CRC and we
work with lots of young people who choose to leave the
environment that they are living in. We attempt to
provide them with a warm, secure and loving environment
and in some cases it works really well because young
people will form a commitment with us and a relationship
with us, which we carry on for lots of years after they
have left.
The problem we have is that there are a
lot of young people who run away. People seem to pick
them up off the street as if they are lost puppies and
take them home and attempt to keep them, or they will go
to Veale Gardens or other places that we choose them not
to go.
From my experience, if we keep them and
prevent them from going, and we prevent them from going
for as long as we think we possibly need to, they will
still go back. The same thing happens in a secure care
environment, where young people may be mandated for a
three-month term there. Then once they are out they go
straight back to their old behaviours, to the same people,
to the same environment and continue to do the things they
are doing.
We also don't want to be in a position
where young people are being detained because of the
behaviour of the adults in their life, who choose to keep
them or provide better options for them, like drugs or
alcohol or cigarettes or sex for money, sex for favours,
et cetera, so that they are getting their needs met that
way, and the adults are taking no responsibility for that.
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So I think that if we dealt with the
perpetrators, and of course there will be more
perpetrators and they'll find another one. But in my
experience, after a while they start to lose contact with
that community and then they don't go back any more.
But I know in my experience that times in
secure care doesn't prevent them from going back again;
that those people are still waiting for them when they get
out, and often are trying to maintain contact with them
while they're in.
COMMISSIONER: One last comment. Anyone like to? Yes,
KY: I've been listening to a lot of this
today, and I'm really pleased by all the different
interpretations and different views and opinions from all
different angles. But there is one thing that I believe,
that when you join the army they've got a psychological
test that they go through, and with that psychological
test it means that they can interpret exactly how you're
thinking, which way you're going to think, and what you're
going to do next.
Now in the sense to me, if they had such
criminal profilers in positions of areas to actually
ascertain whether these alleged perpetrators are
perpetrators, by giving them the right questions and the
right actual screening messages and all that sort of
stuff, I believe with a criminal profiler in position to
actually check these people, we'll get to the bottom of
TRACEY: Sorry, I just wanted to say one thing. I
think that there's two things that need to be done. The
perpetrators need to get punished, and there needs to be
residential care facilities for all of the young people to
either drop in just to get food, or just to be open so
that they can go there for housing if they want it.
COMMISSIONER: Perhaps have a shower.
TRACEY: Good idea.
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COMMISSIONER: All right. Well, I'm just going to ask
Freda - you'll be interested to know I've had a message
from our manager, Angel Williams, to get me to wind up at
4 o'clock. I think she means wind down, so we'll do that
at 4 o'clock, but Freda, would you just like to make a
PROF BRIGGS: Just a quick word. For those who don't
understand the boys who go to Veale Gardens, a lot of them
have told me that first of all they are meeting their
emotional needs because they've been so sexualised,
believing that sex equals love; that they're actually
going there looking for love. But at the same time it's
also self-hatred; they actually hate what they're doing.
Some have told me that they go only when the weather is
bad and they vomit all the way home. It's sort of a selfpunishment.
But I'd like to put the cat amongst the
pigeons. You may recall last year that a New South Wales
politician suggested that where you have severely damaged
families and you know that children are going to be in and
out of foster care, that they should actually be adopted,
and I wondered what the view was about that because nobody
has suggested it here today.
COMMISSIONER: Yes, off you go.
MR JENKE: No, I completely disagree with that.
MR JENKE: A lady at the back has said about losing
her children. My wife doesn't deserve that. She deserves
a government that will listen and a government that will
help them all that have been through hell. Give her a
chance in life. For 43 years she has not had rights.
Children have got rights, but in her day she copped a
hiding. There was no rights. Today she's got no rights
as a parent. You do that, you give her no rights. Just
take a gun and shoot her now.
COMMISSIONER: I don't think we'll do that. Now, I want
to thank you all, ladies and gentlemen, for coming along,
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and just to tell you this: as the commission goes along,
it will identify important issues. This was one today.
It won't be the last time, of course, that this issue is
At some stage we'll want to talk about
the good things about foster care and the problems in that
system. I had in mind that we’d have a meeting like this
to discuss that as well, and the ideas that might help.
We're about to embark upon trying to get
information from people with disability, including
intellectual disability, and that's a challenge. We hope
to make a lot of progress in that area over the next few
months. I invite any of you who have got anything you'd
like to say to the commission to come and see us, and we
do want to hear what you've got to say. There is a form
on your chair, and if you'd like to fill that out, those
of you who do want to come, and provide a way, telephone
or otherwise, that we can contact you, then we'll do that.
MS COWELL: I'm caring for four intellectually
disabled children from IDSC.
MS COWELL: IDSC made a report to Family and Youth
Services one month ago with a thing that's happened to one
of my boys. I haven't heard a word. They have made three
reports, mandated reports to Family and Youth Services, or
whatever they're called today, and I haven't had a word
back from them, and this child is 16 and a half years old
with a big problem.
COMMISSIONER: Right, well if you do leave those forms
on the chairs if you do want us to look at them, and thank
you very much for coming. Refreshments are outside.