Shame Of Children For Sale
CHILDREN are selling sex for as little as $5 on Queensland's
streets in an epidemic that crime fighters tried to cover up.
Predators are using cash, drugs, a place to sleep or even just
attention to entice the desperate boys and girls, some as young
A major study confirmed more than 100 children were involved in
prostitution across the state, but a detailed report on the issue
was never made public.
"The whole issue of children in prostitution has been completely
overlooked in Australia," Child Wise chief executive Bernadette
McMenamin told The Sunday Mail. "It's been an issue people don't
know how to tackle. These young children fall through the child
The Child Wise charity works to prevent and reduce the sexual
abuse and commercial exploitation of children.
Queensland youth groups say they are helping dozens of children
every week who are selling sex to survive.
"People are getting younger and younger," said Kerrie Counihan,
head of Cairns group Youth Empowered Towards Independence. "They
are 12, 13 and 14. Three years ago it was 15, 16, 17. They'll give
sex to get a bed, to get food, to get attention, clothes, money
The former Crime Commission and Queensland police investigated
child prostitution in 2000 as part of the Project Axis inquiry
into child sex offending.
Their findings were never made public, but The Sunday Mail this
week obtained a draft report which concludes: "Child prostitution
is a significant problem in Queensland."
Those surveyed for the study include more than 30 children involved
in prostitution, 30 police juvenile aid bureaus and 18 jailed child
Children admitted to selling sex to strangers for between $5 and $250,
usually on weekends to middle-aged, drunk men who approached them at night.
The children were usually picked up on the street or at toilet blocks,
skate ramps, shopping centres and parks. Child prostitution was known
to occur in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Ipswich, Sunshine Coast, Bundaberg,
Townsville and Cairns.
Most of the children were involved in "opportunistic" prostitution, but
some were formal sex workers.
One boy said he had "used sex to live" since his mother kicked him out
of the family home.
"He began engaging in sex for favours before the age of 8 and is still
active," the report says.
A "lack of both police and community resources" meant the extent of the
problem was unclear, but 112 children were known to be involved
"The results of the survey would suggest police are unaware of the
extent of the problem," the report says.
The Crime Commission has since become a part of the Crime and
A spokeswoman this week said the report was not released "because
it hadn't uncovered any new information", with other non-government
studies already revealing the extent of the problem.
"The Crime Commission at the time made the decision that there was
no point duplicating information already publicly available," the
The study was mentioned in only a few brief paragraphs of a Project
Ms McMenamin said the report was commissioned to discredit shocking
figures found in non-government reports. When the report instead
backed up the findings, it was "buried because it was controversial".
Child prostitution had only increased in the years since.
"It's definitely worse. More kids are going into care, more are in
vulnerable situations, using drugs and homeless."
Youth organisations say extra funding would allow them to operate
at night and provide company, shelter and food to help break the
cycle that leads to child prostitution.
The Sunday Mail (Qld) (12-02-2006)