News from the front

Monday, 2 July 2007 

Given that the issue of health checks shows up the clearest gap between the threat as posed by the government and their political inability to act on it, any interview with Tony Abbott was always going to be a bit of a disaster although the interview on Nine’s Sunday probably exceeded expectations. In trying to avoid the political difficulties of directly dealing with the child abuse problem through compulsory checks, which they themselves raised, the government is getting dragged where it does not want to go, down to more infrastructure funding.

Where he was more comfortable was when Oakes started to ask why they had not done this before. This may make the government look pushed into this by the election but if the problem really exists, what is wrong with that? Isn’t that what elections are for?

Of course the question that there actually is a child abuse epidemic is the real problem of this intervention. Following on from the previous post looking at the NT report, someone else has found a better quote that highlights the weak evidence behind this panic:

As no attempt has been made to create a national study of the prevalence of child sexual abuse in Australia, nor (more importantly for this Inquiry) to effectively estimate the extent of sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities, the Inquiry has had to rely on the national (and NT) child protection datasets and NT criminal justice statistics. These can only provide information on reported cases of sexual abuse and are not able to provide an in-depth analysis of the nature and extent of sexual abuse in the communities.

However, when taken together with the high rate of STIs in children, and the clear anecdotal evidence of children’s early involvement in sexual activity and of sexual abuse in NT communities (see Part I), the Inquiry has concluded that the prevalence of sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities is a pressing problem that has been significantly under-estimated. However, a better estimate of the actual size of the problem is highly desirable.

Yet as the report notes, actual criminal cases are rare, while the reliance on STIs is questioned by Victorian child abuse experts quoted in the Sunday Age who note:

Detection of STIs among sexually active juveniles says nothing about the level of abuse, or the perpetrators.

The same article gives fairly believable responses from the women of Yuendumu, who like those of Mutitjulu, keep asking for basic services but instead get a government “obsession” (as they call it) with child abuse. All just anecdotal, of course, like the report on which this intervention is based, but to this blog more believable as the typical situation in these communities than the lurid tales we have had for the past week.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Monday, 2 July 2007.

Filed under The Australian state

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