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Sharp Rise In Woomera Child- Abuse Allegations

The number of child abuse allegations at Woomera Detention Centre rose sharply this year despite a reduction in the number of inmates, newly released testimony reveals.
The SA Department of Human Services received 130 notifications of abuse between January and June this year, 92 of which warranted investigation. Katrina McNeil, a child protection investigator with Human Services, said the increase was "absoulutely huge".
Ms McNeil was giving evidence to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's inquiry into children in detention- in Adelaide on July 1. Her testimony was suppressed then, but has now been declassified.
Ms McNeil said the State Government had repeatedly expressed concerns to the Immigration Department about the welfare of children at Woomera. "Between January and June this year, the notification rate has risen hugely. Ninety-two of those 130 (reports) met our mandate for an investigative approach, 41 involved families and 21 involved unaccompanied minors," Ms McNeil told the commission.
She said most allegations involved physical abuse or neglect- including stitching the lips of children and urging them to take part in hunger strikes. There were also cases where parents did not act to prevent their children from drinking shampoo or slashing their arms. "There have been very few sexual abuse notifications..." she said.
At one stage Woomera housed nearly 1000 detainees but by June there were only 212 inmates, including 43 children. Many had been moved to Baxter Detention Centre near Port Augusta. Many of the abuse reports were made by doctors, teachers and social workers who had regular contact with the detainees.

Adelaide Advertiser (24-12-2002)
Michael Owen-Brown

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