QC calls for inquiry into child abuse

October 2000

Documents obtained by The Queensland Independent have shown that a Royal Commission into child abuse appears to have disregarded vital evidence. ERIN O'DONNELL reports:

A PROMINENT Sydney QC and a Queensland senator have called for a Royal Commission to examine the conduct and findings of the recent Forde Inquiry into the abuse of children in Queensland institutions.

Bob Greenwood, QC, and Senator John Woodley said they believed a document gathered by TQI - that detailing allegations of child abuse - seemed to have been ignored and cover-ups had been made to save political reputations.

Mr Greenwood said there should be an inquiry.

"Obviously some independent person should be appointed as a Royal Commissioner on a short-term basis to be given all the Forde Inquiry materials and with terms of reference sufficient to investigate further if need be and also to review the finding of the inquiry in light of what now seems to be the case," he said.

"You can't but criticise an inquiry which apparently. . . seems to have ignored or swept under the carpet something which is obviously, on its face anyway . . . material for the proper inquiry," Mr Greenwood said.

Senator Woodley was a member of a 1995 Senate inquiry into the shredding of the Heiner documents and said he was sure that the inquiry would have drawn different conclusions had they seen the Dutney document [see "10-year mystery starts to unravel", p.8] "along with a number of others".

"It seems . . . another inquiry is called for . . . I think the problem is that there is little political will - and has been for many years - to tackle some of the perpetrators," Senator Woodley said.

"The real problem with child abuse is . . . that within institutions for which the state government was responsible child abuse has been occurring over many years.

"It seems as though very little was done about it and when an attempt was made to actually probe that the evidence of that probe was destroyed.

"It seemed to be political reputations were at stake rather than following up something that seemed to be quite endemic in terms of child abuse in that particular institution [the John Oxley Centre]."

Senator Woodley said the subsequent Senate Privileges Committee inquiries also may have drawn different conclusions if the documents, including the Dutney memorandum, had been revealed at the time.

"There is systematic child abuse in government institutions in Queensland, has been for many years and I don't think we've yet got to the bottom of that or solved it," he said.

Chair of the 1999 inquiry Ms Leneen Forde declined to comment on the inquiry.

"I had a job to do. I did it. I don't talk about it now," Ms Forde said.

Dr Jane Thomason, commissioner on the Forde Inquiry, refused to comment.

She said it was "inappropriate" for her to comment without speaking to Ms Forde.

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