February 15, 2007 01:22pm
AT least 300 street children in Adelaide and "large numbers" in regional cities and country towns are vulnerable to sexual abuse, the head of the Commission of Inquiry into Children in State Care said today.
Former Supreme Court judge Ted Mullighan, QC, says there has been "a long history" in Adelaide of street children – many of them runaways from state care – being exploited for sexual favours.
He lists well-known haunts as Veale Gardens, the banks of the Torrens River and a public lavatory near Jolley’s Boathouse restaurant.
At a media conference to release a 71-page report on issues raised with him so far, Mr Mullighan said "a considerable body of evidence" had been put before him indicating "a widespread lack of adequate supervision of children in state care and foster care over many years".
He says those abused "felt powerless" to disclose their treatment.
Mr Mullighan has heard evidence that welfare, police, prosecutors, churches, sports and social organisations have in the past disbelieved children who reported child sexual abuse.
"There has been a culture that sexual abuse was not significant or important," he said.
Mr Mullighan believed "these attitudes still exist", although conceded probably to a much lesser extent.
His latest report into child sexual abuse highlights 40 key themes that have been repeatedly raised during submissions to the inquiry.
It includes sections on foster care, disclosure of child sexual abuse, the sexual abuse of Aboriginal children and children with disabilities, street children, prisoners, deaths of children in State care and Government response to past sexual abuse of children in State Care.
The report will be made available for public comment, with written submissions welcomed by Friday, March 30.
Mr Mullighan said he hoped that the report would raise further discussion about sexual abuse of children in State care, and help identify ways and methods of preventing it occurring in the future.
"Many issues have been identified during the course of the Commission, and we can now put them out to the public and seek their comment, which will all assist in the preparation of the final report and recommendations later this year," he said.
The report also reveals that 1849 people have contacted the Commission regarding sexual abuse of children so far. To date, Commissioner Mullighan has conducted 783 hearings, and is expected to continue taking evidence until the middle of 2007.
Mr Mullighan urged interested people and organisations to visit the Commission website on http://www.statecareinquiry.sa.gov.au to download the report.
Anyone who is unable to access the website may request a copy from the Commission office at 33 Franklin St, Adelaide, or freecall 1800 258 668.