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Horror year of state care abuse justifies intervention

  • 27 January 2017


Allowing the Catholic Church to investigate itself was once described by an abuse victim as akin to 'putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank'.

The Church now largely accepts the value of outside scrutiny, and has even endorsed a national redress scheme that would subject it to independent examination of its complaint handling and treatment of victims.

But there is another institution — plagued by rampant child abuse in 2016 — where the vampires in charge are still trusted to mop up the haemorrhage.

Like the Catholic Church, state foster care providers often do a bad job monitoring themselves, and will only take child safety seriously if subject to external oversight. The federal government must urgently step in to support thousands of children who feel they have nowhere to turn when harmed in state care.

Children enter state care if removed from their birth parents due to abuse or neglect. They are either placed with foster carers or in an institution, with their placement managed by a state department or private agency.

Multiple scandals throughout 2016 suggest the word 'care' be deleted from the description 'state care'. Deaths of foster girls in Queensland and NSW were exposed shortly before an ABC Four Corners profile of foster group homes, which highlighted incidents of children assaulted in care, and lured for sex by predatory outside adults.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse revealed that there were 2600 reports of sexual abuse in foster care — government and private — between 2012-13 and 2013-14 alone. State care now seems a bigger threat to child safety than paedophile priests.

While many carers and caseworkers do an incredible job with limited support, there are those who inflict further trauma on already traumatised kids. When they do, the children have no option but to report the abuse to the same organisation that employs the abuser.


"The federal government encroaches on many areas of state responsibility, but are curiously aloof on child protection, where decades of mismanagement have inflicted immense trauma on generations of children."


Victorian man Russell Mulry spent his childhood being shuffled between 87 foster homes across three states. In one placement, he was badly bashed by his carer's husband. When he told his agency, they moved him to a house just 750m away from his abuser. The agency allowed the carer and her husband to continue fostering kids, and failed to provide Russell with any counselling. 'I also wanted