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Wednesday, June 9, 1999 Published at 03:03 GMT 04:03 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

Australian orphanages 'abused children'

Report recommends A$100m be spent to reduce risks to kids

Orphanages and juvenile detention centres in Queensland, Australia, have subjected children to serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse for more than 80 years.

An inquiry into child abuse in 150 government institutions from 1911 to 1999 found many children were "demoralised and brutalised" by the system.


Anna Bligh: "Queensland has a long way to go until it can say it is caring for children properly"
The report was delivered to parliament by Queensland Youth and Community Care Minister Anna Bligh, whose department commissioned the report.

"The report concludes that significant numbers of children in Queensland institutions suffered serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse," Ms Bligh told the Queensland state parliament.

"In many other cases there was a failure to provide for the basic needs of children -- emotional warmth, food, clothing and education."

Continuing abuse

The catalogue of ill-treatment includes flogging, sexual assaults, and at one institution, allegations of murders.

In some cases children were found to have been given food containing weevils and being forced to eat on cockroach infested tables.

As recently as the 1980s, children who wet the bed at night were routinely made to sit with the wet sheets on their heads at breakfast the following day.

Queensland now relies less on large institutional care facilities and more on fostering, but Ms Bligh says children could still be at risk because adequate monitoring is still not in place.

But the report recommends the government of Queensland spend another A$100 million (US$65 million) to develop options other than juvenile detention centres to house children.

Queensland state premier, Peter Beattie, issued a formal apology to children who had been abused while they were in care.

"You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this report and I give an immediate and heartfelt personal apology as premier to those children today," Mr Beattie said.

Criminal investigations

The inquiry found 14 allegations of possible criminal conduct which the police will investigate.

Details of conditions in two homes were not published in order not to prejudice future criminal proceedings.

Ms Bligh said the report, which she delivered to parliament on Tuesday, "shines a light into a dark and shameful episode of our history".

In the report, one man who had been in care as a child described "many, terrible floggings," which often left the subject with blood running down their backs.

In another part of the report, a 12-year-old boy is alleged to have been sexually assaulted by a priest on 14 occasions over two and a half years.



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