An inquiry into child sexual abuse in Tasmanian government institutions has stressed concerns that alleged perpetrators are still working with children right now — despite complaints — and noted the current risk children face in the state’s youth detention centre.
According to the disturbing report (all 3,500 pages of it), the state’s failure to fully review allegations of child sexual abuse may have led to alleged perpetrators still working with kids.
It revealed that allegations of abuse against staff and carers in the schooling, hospitals and the “out-of-home care system” — which includes foster care and residential care of kids — were not acted upon, leaving some children to be preyed upon by alleged abusers.
“There has been no reconciliation of information received about people who may be carers in the out-of-home care system or working in other government institutions,” the report said, per SBS News.
“As a result, we are concerned that there may still be people working with children who are the subject of child sexual abuse allegations who have not been investigated.”
The report said that at times, “children were simply disbelieved, with school authorities being unwilling to accept their accounts of abuse”, and slammed authorities for “supporting and protecting the alleged abusers, rather than the children involved”.
It made particular mention of the case of James Geoffrey Griffin, a children’s ward nurse who sexually abused multiple children throughout his 20-year-career. It found that there had been many “missed opportunities” to stop Griffin, and accused Dr Peter Renshaw, the former head of medical services for Launceston General Hospital where Griffin worked, of misleading the inquiry through “omission and fabrication”.
It even went so far as to accuse him of not demonstrating “even a modicum of self reflection”. Fkn scary stuff.
The report also listed failures across health, education, and youth justice sectors, and made particular note of the “systemic” abuse at Tasmania’s only youth detention centre, Ashley Youth Detention Centre, has inflicted and continues to inflict on children stuck behind its walls.
One of the survivors of child sexual abuse at the institution, who was detained in the 2010s, told the inquiry she was forced to perform sex acts on other male inmates while staff watched.
“Ashley made me feel like it was normal and it was OK for men to treat me like that. It made me believe that it was what I was used for,” she said in a heart-wrenching statement, per ABC News.
“I have had horrendous things happen to me that I have just thought I deserved.”
The report stressed that there is a “live and current risk” of sexual abuse to children detained in the centre, and called for it to be closed immediately.
“We remain particularly concerned about the safety and welfare of detainees,” it said.
It made 191 recommendations for child safety reform, including urgently closing Ashley, and at the very least making all the staff re-apply to their jobs. In one case, a long-term staff member at Ashley had sex abuse allegations against them dating back to 2017 (six fkn years ago, folks) and yet they still hold a Working with Vulnerable People registration.
It also called for a ban on strip searches where people are fully naked (as if we allow this for children anyway!) and for the criminal age of responsibility to be raised to 14 years old.
While Tasmania Premier Jeremy Rockliff has “committed” to shutting Ashley Youth Detention Centre down, we have no idea when it’ll actually happen. He says a new trauma-informed facility needs to be built first, but construction on that hasn’t even started.
Instead, he’ll be introducing body cams and more CCTV cameras into the facility — despite the fact that surveillance didn’t stop the abuse before, did it?
To put it this way: what’s more harmful? Releasing youth detainees (FYI, detaining young people does not reduce offending), or allowing them to stay in an environment where they are actively being sexually abused?
Research upon research has revealed that we need to abolish youth prisons because they do nothing for us. Let’s hope exposing the sexual abuse that goes on within them finally gets people taking these calls seriously.