The abuse of children in Indigenous communities is an issue that was highlighted long before Lateline’s report in May 2006 initiated the Northern Territory Government’s report into the protection of Aboriginal children from sexual abuse. Below is a timeline of how the issue of sexual abuse in Indigenous communities has been publicly addressed.
1989: Judy Atkinson writes a report for the National Inquiry on Violence naming sexual abuse in Indigenous communities as endemic and epidemic.
1991: Ms Atkinson writes a similar report for the Prime Minister and cabinet.
1999: Aboriginal academic Boni Robertson leads an inquiry of 50 women, representing all indigenous communities in Queensland, to look into alcoholism and abuse of women and children in remote communities.
2000: Ms Robertson’s report is tabled in the Queensland parliament.
2002: The Central Aboriginal Congress prepares a paper showing the number of Indigenous women being treated for domestic assault at the Alice Springs hospital more than doubled from 351 cases in 1999 to to about 800 cases in 2002.
7 July 2003: Prime Minister John Howard calls a summit on violence in Indigenous communities in response to statements by a number of indigenous leaders. The summit begins on 23 July 2003.
5 August 2003: Cape York community doctor Lara Wieland hands John Howard a 10-page letter outlining incidents of abuse, and claiming that child sexual abuse and neglect are out of control in the community.
26 November 2004: NT Chief Minister Clare Martin reports to a cabinet colleague that “social dysfunction” at central indigenous community Mutitjulu is driven by chemical addiction and passive welfare, and that two-thirds of its children are malnourished or underdeveloped.
15 May 2006: Lateline obtain a confidential briefing paper written by Nanette Rogers, Crown Prosecutor for central Australia. The paper — originally intended for only a small number of senior police — details endemic sexual abuse of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory.
22 June 2006: The Northern Territory Government announces an inquiry into child sex abuse across the Territory’s Aboriginal communities.
8 August 2006: NT Chief Minister, Clare Martin, officially appoints Rex Stephen Leslie Wild QC and Patricia Anderson to the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sex Abuse.
30 April 2007: Little Children are Sacred, Report of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse is presented to the Northern Territory government.
16 June 2007: Little Children are Sacred report publicly released.
21 June 2006: Prime Minister John Howard and Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough hold a press conference to announce a series of reforms directed at indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. The Prime Minister calls the situation “akin to a national emergency”.