You may have seen Brett Collins on the evening news of late. He’s the bloke who’s been standing outside Dennis Ferguson’s house defending the convicted pedophile’s  right to stay in his apartment in the North Sydney suburb of Ryde. Today he tells Crikey why.

The State Government’s legislative solution to dealing with Dennis Ferguson demonstrates a spectacular dearth of leadership.

Instead of trying to deal permanently with the problem, which will recur not only with Ferguson but other child sex offenders released from prison, all they want is the media to go away.

Changing the law to deal with the immediate problem is playing straight into the hands of vigilantism and the sensational media outlets which have capitalized on the coffin and other media stunts which have given them centre stage in the debate.

There are many considered Ryde residents who are lending support to Ferguson, who abhor and feel ashamed of their vigilante neighbours. Yet their comments are not sought because it doesn’t feed the frenzied controversy.

Justice Action became involved in this issue because we see it as the pointy end of a much larger problem.

By whipping up hatred about child sex offenders, it’s easier then to cross the line to hating other offenders who have served their time and are trying to move on with their lives.

We believe Justice Action represents the views of hundreds of thousands of Australians who are appalled and embarrassed by this medieval lynch mob mentality happening in our midst. We have received hundreds of emails of support from around the country.

This issue is not going to go away. It is, in fact, providing a global stage for an issue we, as a society, are in denial about. The whole world is watching what happens here and will take its cue from it.

Monstering pedophiles who offend against children unknown to them deflects focus from the real problem. Intra-familial abuse accounts for 90-95 percent of child sexual abuse and yet Federal and State governments bury their heads in the sand when it comes to protecting children, or even investigating child sex offences within the family.

Justice Action is calling for a comprehensive public health response to child sexual abuse, which will address this issue.

Police involvement as a first step, deters families from dealing with the issue. A community public health treatment response is the only one which has achieved efficacy. Community run child sex offender treatment programs have the best recidivism rates in the world. Illustrating where we stand as a society, is the fact that the program with the best rate in Australia, of 2 percent, was defunded this year.

Refusing this service to families desperately seeking it, would be like refusing to implement AIDS prevention education and policies and expecting to deal effectively with HIV.

Dennis Ferguson may look like a child sex offender from central casting, but in reality, most offenders look like the person sitting in the next office or living in the house next door. They are not, unlike Ferguson, vision impaired with a facial tic.

Ferguson is being targeted, partly because of his disability. Where else have you seen such hostility towards a child sex offender?

Yet to his great credit, his actions are being informed by his desire to make a difference for other families and people going through similar problems. The stigma attached to this crime is worse than that associated with murder. Nobody knows that better than Dennis Ferguson.

This has to say something about our denial that one in four girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused, 90 percent by somebody known to them, before they turn eighteen. If this was any other public health plague, we would be throwing all our resources at it, not targeting one carrier who brought it into the community 22 years ago.

Those in the community who are appalled by this uneducated response need to stand up, be counted and force the government to show leadership and responsibility by doing far more than bringing in a Dennis Ferguson Law.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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