• Josephine Cashman is Chairwoman of the Indigenous Advisory Council's Community Safety Committee. (NITV)Source: NITV
Indigenous youth are more than six times more likely to be sexually assaulted in some north Queensland communities, a report shows. Josephine Cashman tells the Point that the justice system is letting victims down.
By
Ella Archibald-Binge

Source:
The Point
16 Mar 2016 - 8:14 PM  UPDATED 17 Mar 2016 - 11:29 AM
    • Children as young as 10 committing sexual assault
    • 85% of sexual assault victims under 17
    • Report made public after three years
    • Taskforce to address youth sexual violence

Police have failed to act over a sex assault crisis which has seen children as young as 10 committing offences, says a community safety leader.

Rape, child prostitution, domestic violence and assault on an alarming scale in the small communities of Aurukun and West Cairns in north Queensland were revealed in a Griffith University study submitted three years ago but only released on Saturday.

The Preventing Youth Sexual Violence and Abuse in West Cairns and Aurukun Report was delivered to the former LNP Government three years ago but only released on Saturday.

It found in the small north Queensland community of Aurukun:

* 103 reports of sexual assault  between 2001-2012

* Offenders were as young as 10, and 85% of victims were under 17.

* Indigenous youth six times more likely to be victims of violence and sexual assault.

Aurukun’s population is 90 per cent Aboriginal and Torres Strait  and the average age is 25.

"The failure is law and order," Josephine Cashman, Chairwoman of the Indigenous Advisory Council's Community Safety Committee, told The Point. 

"Unless the government is going to fund an all-Aboriginal police force and give them vested powers, they actually need if there's a crisis of sexual assault, they actually need to go in there.

"If they don't have the tools in terms of cultural awareness, they need to get equipped and they need to do what they do in every other community."

The Worimi lawyer said Aboriginal victims should be treated "like every other victim".

She said the Northern Territory was leading the way by being transparent about their targets.

“We can do way better than this,” she said.

Watch Stan Grant's full interview with Josephine Cashman: 

Report delivered three years ago

The report’s release was delayed "to give impacted communities time to comprehend the serious issues it raised", says Queensland's Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Curtis Pitt.

 “In the year since election, the Palaszczuk Government has invested significantly in improving early intervention and prevention for children and families and we will increase Intensive Family Support Services in Cairns from May 2016 to improve outcomes from existing investment in Aurukun," Mr Pitt said in a statement responding to the report. 

Watch the full report on The Point:

The Palaszczuk Government has appointed a steering committee to tackle the issues, led by former Queensland Supreme Court Judge Stanley Jones. 

The committee will provide an interim report to government in mid-2016 and a final report by the end of the year.

Community needs strong leadership

Warren Entsch, Federal Member for the north Queensland electorate of Leichhardt, told NITV he was aware of the report's findings years ago, but had already heard anecdotal evidence about youth sexual abuse in the region.

"Talking to some of the carers of some of these kids that had been taken out of the community for their own safety... there was nothing in (the report) that surprised me," Mr Entsch says. 

"In those three years, what worries me is the number of kids that have continued to be sexualised or abused because... the issues haven't been looking directly at the communities that have been impacted."

Mr Entsch says the solutions lie within the community.

"You can't judge the entire community on the actions of individuals," he says.

"We need to be working with the affected communities.

"What we need in Aurukun is not more money, but stronger local leadership."

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Worimi lawyer Josephine Cashman is a member of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council, serving as Chair of its Safe Communities Committee. The following speech was delivered at an International Women's Day event hosted by Doctors Without Borders on March 7, 2016.