Children in care suffered years of alleged sexual, physical and emotional abuse after a series of ‘systematic failure’ by authorities investigators found.
Children in care suffered years of alleged sexual, physical and emotional abuse after a series of ‘systematic failure’ by authorities investigators found.

Foster carers still have children despite sex abuse finding

THE physical, sexual and emotional abuse of a dozen Aboriginal children over a period of 16 years at the hands of two foster carers in Central Australia was effectively overlooked and unnoticed because of "systemic failures" by multiple NT government authorities and contractors, a damning investigation has found.

The foster carers, a woman and a man who are related, are still caring for two children to this day. It does not appear that they have been charged with any crimes.

Abuse allegations against the carers include hitting the children, some of them with cognitive disabilities, with metal pipes and sticks including a hockey stick.

It was also alleged the female carer repeatedly emotionally abused the children by using racially discriminatory language, including calling the kids "filthy black c---s" and telling them they smelt bad because they were Aboriginal.

It is also alleged that she locked them in their rooms with padlocks because she had difficulty climbing stairs due to her obesity.

An Office of the Children's Commissioner report released late on Wednesday night revealed successive failures by government departments meant the carers were re-authorised again and again, despite the allegations against them, with the woman even being given the "Carer Excellence of the Year" award in 2011.

They were most recently cleared to be carers again in August 2019 and the youngest child in their care was an infant aged under 2 in 2018.

These failures of process include multiple instances of NT Police's Child Abuse Taskforce not thoroughly investigating, if at all, alleged sexual assault of the children.

An incident in 2005 where a 15-year-old cognitively disabled girl was allegedly sexually abused by the male carer was never reported to police by the child's departmental case manager, the report found.

There were also multiple instances of bungled record keeping by the predecessors of Territory Families and contractor Life Without Barriers that allowed allegations of child abuse to slip through the cracks.

Children's Commissioner Colleen Gwynne said the findings showed that there is "still a lack of rigorous oversight, co-ordination and accountability in order to produce quality safety assessments and out of home care placements for vulnerable children and young people."

In total, the OCC report made 14 recommendations to Territory Families and NT Police.

Territory Families Minister Dale Wakefield confirmed all recommendations made to Territory Families had been accepted and defended the department's current record, dismissing the allegations as being "historical".

Ms Wakefield also defended the head of Territory Families Ken Davies, saying that he should not be sacked in light of the OCC's findings.

But the OCC report found the systemic failures of government authorities had yet to be addressed by Territory Families.

This includes the continual placement of children with the carers despite the history, the fact case managers only saw the two children still in the carers care five time in two years despite the target being once a month, and a startling oversight where an infant was meant to be with the carers for three days but stayed for 6 months.

*For 24-hour sexual or domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.

Originally published as Children in care suffered 16 years of abuse, report alleges