Widespread child sex abuse haunts WA town
Young victims of widespread sexual abuse in Western Australia’s Pilbara region are being closely monitored, the state’s child protection minister says, but it is impossible guarantee they have zero contact with perpetrators.
It emerged last year 184 children had been sexually assaulted in the Roebourne area, with police laying 300 charges against 36 men as part of Operation Fledermaus.
The revelations “almost destroyed” the tiny community, Simone McGurk said in an opinion piece last week.
She confirmed on Monday police had told her there was no evidence of victims having regular contact with charged or convicted offenders but they could not guarantee there was no contact at all.
“All of these qualifications, I guess, do make people nervous,” Ms McGurk told 6PR radio on Monday.
“You might have an assurance on one night of where people’s fixed address is but people are very transient so that’s what we’re working with – that’s been one of the big challenges in the operation.”
She said in one case, a 14 year-old boy who faced allegations and was probably a victim himself had been removed from a town because he was in contact with other children.
He had been attending school and playing basketball, so the move was “incredibly heartbreaking”, the minister said, “but necessary”.
“If there’s any sort of risk to other children, people will be removed and … either not given bail or strict conditions put on their bail.
“We’re tying to give people confidence at the centre of our response is child safety.
“But we do know that children are best off with their family and their community, so that’s the sort of balancing act that occurs in child protection all the time.”
She said some people were concerned that too many children were being taken away from their parents and put into care but others believed too many were left with their families and potentially at risk.
Opposition child protection spokesman Nick Goiran said he was repeatedly fobbed off when asked about the issue in parliament but has only started to get answers by piling on pressure through the media.
“If … the government reverts to the evasion and obstruction it displayed in the past eight months, the opposition will not hesitate to expose these matters,” he wrote in an opinion piece on Monday.