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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 December 2007, 14:02 GMT
Aborigine rape ruling: Reaction
A judge's decision not to jail nine Aborigine males who admitted raping a 10-year-old girl in 2005 has received heavy criticism from all sectors of Australian society, and also provoked debate about life in modern Aboriginal communities.

The following is a selection of opinions from Australian commentators, campaigners and officials.

HETTY JOHNSON
Founder, Bravehearts child protection charity

We just saw [the sentences] as inadequate, unfair and unjust.

It's just outrageous that in 2007 in Australia we can have something like this happen

If that girl had have been a white child living in suburban Brisbane there is no way that nine defendants would have walked out of the court.

So we just immediately saw it as some element of racism in there, which we were appalled about.

There's very little about this case that does not draw outrage - right from the Department of Child Safety's handling of this young girl's life... to the judge and the prosecutor... He didn't even ask for a custodial sentence.

For us, it's just outrageous that in 2007 in Australia we can have something like this happen.

CHRIS GRAHAM
Editor, National Indigenous Times

It very clearly is sexual abuse - a 10-year-old cannot legally or morally consent to sex.

But Australians, whenever stories like this crop up, get into a huge media-driven moral panic about this issue without having any understanding whatsoever of what life is like in these Aboriginal communities.

What did Australians expect would occur in those communities if they are ignored and mistreated for decades...

It is socially-engineered dysfunction created by decades and decades of massive government neglect and mistreatment.

ANNA BLIGH
Queensland premier

When all of this happened two years ago, the government at the time identified that child safety officers had failed to protect her and that their decision-making was seriously flawed.

The government did not turn a blind eye

We had an external review of those decisions and the people involved were subject to dismissal and disciplinary action.

The government did not turn a blind eye to this and we certainly took it very, very seriously.

This little girl is currently in a foster care family, she is receiving medical and therapeutic assistance.

I understand that this foster care family is not in her community, she's away from Aurukun.

EDITORIAL
The Australian newspaper

A big problem faced by the federal intervention to protect indigenous children in the Northern Territory has been a widespread belief that the answer lies in encouraging the divide between Aboriginal and mainstream cultures.

Women and children are paying a terrible price for a romanticised view of indigenous existence

For some people, contact between indigenous communities and the outside world should be discouraged to allow a return to the 'old' tribal ways.

This longstanding separatist view underpins support for the permit system to prevent open access to Aboriginal lands.

The evidence is beyond doubt, however, that this sort of thinking protects the perpetrators of sexual and physical violence.

Women and children are paying a terrible price for a romanticised view of indigenous existence bearing no relation to the facts.

[The] story of a 10-year-old girl who was gang-raped by nine people on the Aurukun community on Cape York is further proof of what can happen when a different standard of care and justice exists for indigenous and non-indigenous people.

KERRY SHINE
Queensland attorney general

I along with the rest of the Australian community are rightfully and expectedly horrified by the circumstances of these offences.

The reason I'm appealing [against the ruling] is that I believe the sentences are manifestly inadequate.

They don't meet the community expectations for a crime of this nature, and it is important to send a strong message that this type of conduct, particularly as it relates to a tender-aged 10-year-old girl is just totally unacceptable.



SEE ALSO
Appeal over Aborigine rape ruling
11 Dec 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Rape case ruling shocks Australia
10 Dec 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Aborigine child sex abuse 'rife'
15 Jun 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia's lost generation
16 Feb 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Australia
04 Dec 07 |  Country profiles

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