Monday, October 20, 2003

Horrific evidence at inquiry into foster child abuse

A Queensland Families Department worker has resigned today, just before giving evidence to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) Inquiry into the abuse of children in foster care.

Hilary Lennon was nearly stabbed to death by a client: she says her decision to quit is not a dramatic public gesture or out of fear of recriminations, but because she feels it is time to move on.

Today Ms Lennon told the CMC of abused children who "self-harm" by cutting themselves or burning themselves with cigarettes.

She also spoke of those who had given up hope.

"Other children as young as 4 or 5 years old try to kill themselves by standing on the road, hanging themselves, overdosing, drinking detergent, or jumping off balconies and bridges."

Meantime, anti-child abuse campaigner Hetty Johnston has accused Queensland's Families Department of being a classic environment where paedophiles could prosper.

Ms Johnston also appeared today at the inquiry.

Ms Johnston, the spokeswoman for anti-child abuse group Bravehearts, says the culture of silence and secrecy within the Families Department, the lack of transparency and deliberate misinformation combined with vulnerable children create an environment where paedophiles will prosper - describing the Families Department as classic paedophile territory.

Ms Johnston says she does not know if there are paedophiles in the department but she would be surprised if there were not.

She has also called for all allegations of child sexual abuse to be investigated by police in the first instance, saying social workers should not be deciding if crimes have been committed.

Ms Johnston also told the commission that schools across Queensland do not actively promote 'White Balloon Day' because there are no resources to follow up any claims of child sexual abuse.

Held annually, White Balloon Day aims to promote awareness of child sexual abuse and Ms Johnston says although many schools support the concept of protecting children against sexual abuse, most do not participate in the day because they know children will come forward and disclose abuse, and there will not be any resources to help the child, leaving the school to try to deal with the problem.

Ms Johnston has described the situation as a horrible indictment on the system.

By Neglect 20 October 03


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