10-year mystery begins to unravel
By Erin O'Donnell

A DOCUMENT that detailed allegations of child abuse has prompted calls for a Royal Commission into an inquiry that was set up to examine the abuse of children in Queensland institutions.

The Dutney document detailed incidents of staff incapacity, disobedience and negligence that placed the lives of children in the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre (JOYC) at serious risk.

The memorandum was written by the acting manager Anna Dutney three weeks before the Heiner Inquiry documents were shredded.

It said JOYC staff:

The memorandum also said the health of some workers meant their capacity to do their jobs was in serious doubt, and that after nine months, John Oxley management had received no advice on what to do about an alleged assault on a resident by one of the staff.

Ms Dutney said in her memorandum: "A number of staff-related issues have been apparent at the John Oxley Youth Centre for a considerable time.

"Although discussion and correspondence has previously been entered into, it appears that no effective resolutions of the issues have been forthcoming."

Ms Dutney outlined problems involving a number of staff at the centre.

In one case she said: "I am of the opinion that certain actions of [the staff member] may have placed the safety of residents at John Oxley at risk . . . ."

Ms Dutney said that against instructions the staff member placed a child who had been "diagnosed as clinically depressed and suicidal, in a triple room with another child who was encouraging [the first child] to kill herself".

The memorandum also said residents had complained about the staff member "making a bed in the living area and sleeping on night shift and they fear for their safety in the event of an emergency".

The same staff member had also been "observed sleeping during training sessions" and her actions "previously placed the residents' safety at risk".

The memorandum referred to the case of another staff member who had said to the management that "he believed he would die at work" and had "further indicated that he was aware that his health was such that he should leave this type of work. However, he felt a need to remain in the department in order to receive long service entitlements".

Ms Dutney was interviewed by the man who conducted the inquiry, former magistrate Noel Heiner, just before Christmas in 1989. She is now Deputy Director-General, Office of Deputy Director-General, Corrective Services.

Her memorandum was addressed to Director of Organisational Services for the Department of Family Services Gary Clarke and copies were sent to Deputy Director-General George Nix and Executive Director Ian Peers.

All three have since left the public service or retired.

Mr Clarke said he could not recall the memorandum or the incidents involved and said he was "off-line" at the time involved in departmental restructuring.

He said if he had seen the memo he would have passed it on to the Director-General of the department and said anyone filling his position would have, or should have, done so.

Former union advocate Kevin Lindeberg, who later represented Ms Dutney and has fought for 10 years to reopen inquiries into the shredding, said two Queensland governments knew what was in the evidence of the Heiner Inquiry and lied to the public.

"The Goss and Beattie governments have attempted to portray the events associated with the Heiner Inquiry, as a mere spat between public servants. The Dutney document shows that to be a lie," Mr Lindeberg said.

Mr Lindeberg also said the Forde Inquiry had ignored the Dutney document.

When approached about the memorandum, Ms Dutney told The Queensland Independent she had "no comment to make on the issue".

The Goss and Beattie governments have consistently defended the decision to close down the Heiner Inquiry and have said that what was occurring at JOYC was "just a spat between public servants".

In mid-1998 the Borbidge government released a press statement saying it had been advised by the Director of Public Prosecutions Royce Miller that he wondered if there was any public interest to be served in pursuing the John Oxley matter any further.

What the Dutney memorandum reveals: