Children are being raped and raping others in Victoria’s residential care system every day.
In the past 14 days alone there have been 23 sexual harm incidents involving 43 children.
An emotional and frustrated Children’s Commissioner Bernie Geary has launched a landmark report into the state’s residential care system, which he said was creating opportunities for sexual abuse.
The “… as a good parent would…” report included cases in which older boys raped younger children, a 13-year-old girl put sexually explicit videos of herself on YouTube and teenage girls were abused by their care workers.
A 15-year-old girl who reported being raped had a miscarriage and was offered Panadol. Three months later the Department asked someone to take her to a doctor but there was no evidence she seen by one.
“A little girl said to me last year, she said: `look Bernie, I know I’m not special in anyone’s eyes’,” a tearful Mr Geary told reporters on Wednesday.
“And that’s a pretty horrible thing for a kid to think, isn’t it?”
Mr Geary said he was sick of sitting at his desk every morning to get fresh reports of children in state care being hurt.
“Over the last two and half months (there were) 120 (sexual harm) reports relating to 206 children,” he said.
Last year police shut down a cartel of men who were targeting children in state care but Mr Geary said it was still happening.
He said there were more than 500 children in state care but that number should be halved within two years and more children placed in better-supported foster homes.
Children’s Minister Jenny Mikakos said the report made for distressing reading.
“There is no quick-fix. The system is under immense pressure. I know that and I knew that the day I became the minister,” she said.
“I want to see residential care used as a last resort. We need to ensure that as many children as possible have access to a loving and supportive family environment.”
Ms Mikakos accepted the report’s recommendations “in principle”, as did the Health and Human Services Department.
Mr Geary said after serving under five premiers, five ministers and four department secretaries it was time for someone to actually change the system.
“It’s not difficult, it’s just about changing a system,” he said.
“Drawing a line in the sand that says “no more”.”
VICTORIA’S CARE HORROR
– Two older boys sexually abused a 12-year-old disabled boy
– Older boy raped an eight-year-old boy
– A 13-year-old girl who had a 24-year-old boyfriend, had also been raped by a care worker.
– 14-year-old disabled boy abused by older men
– Staff refused to pick up a 14-year-old girl from a train station, where she was later raped
– CCTV cameras were placed in a girl’s bedroom with departmental approval.