The Queensland state government kept a report secret for 16 months which made widespread recommendations to protect young people from sexual abuse.
The report was produced by former Supreme Court judge Stanley Jones and a steering committee of Indigenous leaders, police, local mayors and public officials.
It was delivered to the government in March 2017 but only publicly released on Tuesday.
The report, which includes previously unpublished data, said that “violence has become almost normalised” in some of Queensland’s most disadvantaged locations, particularly in the state’s far north.
Areas with an average of 50 or more victims each year included Cairns, Toowoomba, Kirwan, Caboolture, Logan Central and Bundaberg.
Mr Jones said that although youth sexual violence and abuse could occur in anywhere, Indigenous communities were disproportionately affected.
“Like many other social problems, it is concentrated in the poorest, most disadvantaged neighbourhoods and it is in these areas that support is most required,” he wrote in the report.
“The evidence also reveals a greater impact on young women and girls, highlighting a deeply entrenched gender inequality and the imperative for change in the norms and values in our society.”
Girls were most likely be sexual abuse victims, the highest rates experienced by 13 to 16-year-old girls.
Indigenous children were twice as likely as non-Indigenous children to experience sexual violence.
Schools were identified as one of the places where abuse was most likely to occur outside of the home.
The steering committee recommended a “whole of government” response to the issue including more comprehensive data collection, a designated phone hotline and making “respectful relationships” programs a compulsory part of the primary and secondary school curriculums.
“The cycle of disadvantage needs to be broken and a new cycle established, particularly in Queensland’s Indigenous communities that experience entrenched disadvantage,” the report said.
Child Safety Minister Di Farmer released the report at 5pm on Tuesday as she faced a parliamentary estimates hearing.
The move was criticised by the LNP but she defended the delay on the need to ensure its response took into account the findings of the royal commission into the sexual abuse of children.
“We have been, since 2016, very aware of this issue and in fact have an extensive timeline of initiatives which we’ve been putting into place since that time,” Ms Farmer said.
She announced $12 million in funding over four years in new and expanded initiatives to reduce sexual violence.
The Youth Sexual Violence and Abuse Steering Commmittee’s final report was commissioned in an earlier report by criminologist Stephen Smallbone which exposed a sexual assault crisis in the small communities of Aurukun and West Cairns.
That report revealed that Indigenous youth were more than six times more likely victims of violence and sexual assault.
It was commissioned in 2013 and only made public in 2016.