Child gang rape claim is ‘soul destroying’: Safety advocate
CHILD-safety advocates have labelled allegations of at least three boys gang raping another boy in Cape York as "soul destroying" and "heartbreaking".
They have vowed to increase their efforts in finding stronger ways to deal with such behaviour.
Police have charged three boys aged between 10 and 13 who would be dealt with under the provisions of the Youth Justice Act, after the alleged rape on a remote beach at Napranum.
The five-year-old was flown to Cairns for treatment.
Another child, less than 10 years, the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Queensland, is also alleged to have been involved in the offending.
A Queensland Police Service spokesman said the attack allegedly happened just after 7pm on July 1.
"Three boys aged between 10 and 13 will be dealt with under the provisions of the Youth Justice Act," he said.
The alleged offenders were said to have been "good kids" with no criminal history.
It is understood police will attempt to use the restorative justice program rather than laying criminal charges.
Hetty Johnston, founder and executive director of child-protection organisation Bravehearts, said the uncomfortable truth was that unless issues that lead to child sexual assaults were addressed, the issue would continue to be learned behaviour.
"We need to get serious about listening to children and responding to their disclosures and not ignoring them," Ms Johnston said.
"We need to also get into serious, early and meaningful intervention - these are things we're missing.
Ms Johnston said that while relevant stakeholders were "all doing their very best with what they have, the system needs to change".
"We need to introduce a child and family advocacy model to Australia in the same way that's been introduced to more than 900 places in the US and most of the world now," she said.
Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the alleged attack was a "tragedy".
"Sadly, yes, we did investigate that," Commissioner Carroll said.
"As you would see, it appears to be a group of teenagers (allegedly responsible).
"It's a tragedy, it's been dealt with. We're working with the community and it shouldn't happen.
"We're working with the victim, the families and obviously the (alleged) offending children as well."
In 2016, the Smallbone report, a study about sexual abuse in two Far Northern Indigenous communities, was released that found sexual offences in Aurukun were reported at a rate 6.6 times higher than the norm in the state between 2001 and 2012.
A steering committee led by retired Supreme Court Justice Stanley Jones and included Cairns Mayor Bob Manning made numerous recommendations.
It led to the government in mid-2018 dedicating $12 million across Queensland, including $1.2 million for West Cairns and Aurukun, to address the issue.
Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer on Friday said sexual violence was never acceptable.
"It is heartbreaking to learn of the Napranum incident," Ms Farmer said.
"Programs continue to be funded in Aurukun to prevent youth sexual violence to build on the work occurring in the community for the past three years."
Since the release of the Smallbone Report and the subsequent steering committee report, the government has completed acted on several recommendations, including additional youth sexual violence services.
*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.
Originally published as Child gang rape claims 'soul destroying'