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Last Updated: Friday, 15 June 2007, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Aborigine child sex abuse 'rife'
Aboriginal people gather in a street in Alice Springs (file image)
Many aboriginal communities suffer from severe poverty
A high-profile inquiry into child sex abuse in remote northern Australia says it found cases in every Aborigine community researchers visited.

The report, commissioned by the Northern Territory government, also found a "disturbing" trend in child-on-child abuse.

Investigators said high levels of alcohol and poverty were to blame.

Australia's Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough described the findings as a "national disgrace".

"It's a disaster and it's something that should never happen in this country," he said.

The Northern Territory's government - which commissioned the inquiry after allegations of similar cases were reported in the media last year - said it would begin implementing some of the report's 97 recommendations.

'Landmark report'

The report's authors said they had found incidents of child sex abuse in each of the 45 communities they visited as part of their inquiry.

One alarming finding was that young children were being exposed to pornography and imitating the sexual behaviour among themselves, they said.

A river of grog is killing people and destroying our communities
Pat Anderson
Report co-author

The 316-report report found that children were being abused by both indigenous and non-indigenous adults.

Children as young as five were found to have contracted sexually-transmitted diseases.

Girls were being prostituted for drugs - including for petrol, a substance reported to be commonly sniffed by youths in Aboriginal communities.

Co-author of the report, Pat Anderson, a well-known Aboriginal health specialist, said there was a strong link between the abuse and the alcoholism that is rife in many indigenous communities.

"A river of grog is killing people and destroying our communities," she said.

"Spiritually, socially, psychologically, there is a total breakdown in families where people are drunk most of the time - the children are not safe."

Northern Territory's Chief Minister Clare Martin described the report as a "landmark", and said it would "sadly expose the great pain and unhappiness of many people".

"It is clear that not enough has been done to tackle the abuse of Aboriginal children," she said, adding that the government would begin implementing the report's key areas of action.

The recommendations include improving education services, appointing a children's commissioner, greater co-operation with the police and awareness-raising campaigns on issues such as pornography, alcohol and gambling.

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