Child sex offence figures reveal crisis in Far North
A CHILD sex offence was recorded across the Far North almost every day on average last year in horror new figures which reveal the region as among the worst in the state.
A total of 360 charges, including indecent treatment of children, distributing child pornography and procuring children via the internet were laid during 2018, slightly down on the 429 offences recorded the year before.
The rates of offending are about three times higher than the state's biggest police districts including north and south Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said children were even more vulnerable in regional areas like the Far North where there was less support, services and assistance.
And she said the police figures would only just be the tip of the iceberg because many offences were not reported.
"We know police only ever find out about 20 per cent (of crimes) at most," she said.
"(These figures) show that it's an epidemic and a crisis."
Ms Johnston, who is running for the Senate as an independent in this year's federal election, said places like the Far North also needed more police to address the issue.
"We need more first responders because they are our front line," she said.
"They are this country's heroes. If you have a child who has been assaulted you look to the police. We need to support the police.
"We know there is one child every nine minutes sexually assaulted in Australia."
How we compare
Far North Queensland
2017 - 429 (number)
2018 - 360
2017 - 151 (rate)
2018 - 125
2017 - 311 (number)
2018 - 295
2017 - 39 (rate)
2018 - 36
The Far North has Child Protection and Investigation Units based at police stations in Cairns, the Tablelands, Innisfail, Thursday Island and Aurukun.
Far North police detective Insp Sonia Smith said they not only worked with child victims, but their families and were also involved in early intervention if possible.
She said working with children involved significant challenges and police were given special training to assist.
"(The figures) confirm that we need to do more, we can always do more," she said.
"When we're working with families we look at how we can help holistically, not just in isolation."
Insp Smith said the region's high offence rates could also be attributed to community faith in local police to tackle the crimes.
She said they continued to run the "Speak Up Be Strong Be Heard" program across the region with James Cook University, urging people to report child abuse.