NT plan takes in children on Cape

THE federal intervention into the Northern Territory indigenous communities has spread in part to Queensland, with an Australian Crime Commission taskforce taking over the investigation of alleged child abuse and neglect.
A preliminary, unannounced visit to 17 communities on Cape York last month by members of the National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Taskforce resulted in 130 reports being compiled and 15 referrals to state police for possible prosecution.
The NIITF was established last year under the auspices of the ACC to run the policing and criminal investigation arm of thefederal government's intervention into 73 Northern Territory communities.
Serious physical and sexual abuse of children has been rife in many Cape York communities for decades, and neglect of the basic health needs of youngsters has become a paramount issue.
The Australian has been told of concerns about young teenage girls in communities who ``just go missing'', with government agencies and police now conducting checks to establish if they are being encouraged or forced to go to cities to work as prostitutes.
Queensland Child Safety Minister Margaret Keech yesterday confirmed she had met in May with ACC officers at Aurukun in western Cape York.
``We had a valuable discussion about the types of issues facing the people of Aurukun and other cape communities and how we could work together to address them,'' Ms Keech said.
``Last year, the Cape Torres child safety service centre received more notifications about neglect than any other type of abuse.
``These children deserve better. Their parents need to send them to school, they need to take them to health clinics and ensure that any illnesses are properly treated.''
ACC chief executive officer Alastair Milroy yesterday said the NIITF was helping to build a national, state and territory picture of violence and child abuse issues affecting the communities.
``The NIITF team stayed in Cape communities in May and was well received, and invited to return,'' Mr Milroy said.
``The findings were consistent with other NIITF deployments where violence and/or child abuse has been identified.
``The deployment also encountered issues such as child neglect, child sexual abuse, alcohol and other drug misuse, and the abuse of power.
``Neglect was the most common form of abuse.
``It was found within the communities that alcohol was a key contributor towards violence. Statistics for alcohol-related assaults may be inaccurate due to under-reporting for fear of prosecution.
``There was no indication to suggest organised criminal enterprise within these communities.''
A major problem in the communities is the lack of appropriate carers for abused or neglected children, and Ms Keech yesterday said her department could not fix the problem alone.
``Addressing the issues which cause neglect -- alcohol and drug addiction, overcrowding, poor parenting skills, mental illness, lack of healthcare and education -- requires a whole-of-government response,'' she said. ``We are working closely with the mayors of indigenous communities and with non-government organisations on the ground to establish the types of services needed to help make communities safer places for children and young people.''
The Queensland Government has previously said it does not want the Northern Territory intervention to extend into Queensland, although blanket health checks and follow-up specialist treatment of children would be welcomed by medical practitioners, who are just too few and too stretched to provide an adequate service in the region.