Centre inmate, 14, pack raped

Bruce Grundy

The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 3 November 2001, p. 3


A YOUNG Aboriginal woman has confirmed claims by several former staff members of a Brisbane youth detention centre that she was gang-raped while being held in the centre as a 14-year-old.

The woman, now in her mid-twenties, said she was gang-raped twice on a supervised outing from the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre in the late 1980s.

Former members of staff at the centre also have claimed the matter was "swept under the carpet" and "hushed up".

One former youth worker said if what had happened to the girl in question had happened to a white girl, "there would have been hell to pay".

The woman, who cannot be identified, said she was taken on a bus trip with a group of Aboriginal and white male inmates to an isolated spot in the country.

One staff member accompanied the inmates into the bush and left her with the boys. The woman said the boys demanded sex and started arguing about who would "go through her" first.

She said she told them to leave her alone but they forced her on to a large rock and raped her.

The woman said that what had happened to her on the first walk was repeated later in the day.

When contacted about the incident Families Department public servant Jeffery Manitzky, who was allegedly in charge of the excursion, said: "I'm not interested in talking about that."

Mr Manitzky then denied he was aware of the incident.

Karen Mersiades, who also supervised the excursion, said she would prefer not to comment.

"I know that the manager of the centre informed (the girl's) mother of the allegations, and she came in to the centre," she said.

Ms Mersiades said the mother decided not to pursue the matter because she had been told the boys involved were "indigenous".

Former leading criminal lawyer and Director of Public Prosecutions at the time of the incident, Des Sturgess QC, said "unless the story was incredible the outcome of the matter was not one for the mother to decide".

"That would be for the police to investigate and determine," Mr Sturgess said.

However, the girl's parents strenuously denied ever being told of the incident.

They said the first they had heard of it was when asked by The Courier Mail why they had decided not to take any action over the matter.

Peter Coyne, the then manager of John Oxley, said anyone with allegations about the abuse of children at the centre should take them to the Families Department, the police or the Criminal Justice Commission.

"I would encourage anyone with such allegations to do so," Mr Coyne said.

Former assistant manager of the centre, Jenny Foote, also declined to discuss the matter. She works in the Families Department.

The Courier-Mail has been told by former members of staff they had "no doubt" the matter of the gang rape had been raised with the 1989 Heiner inquiry into the John Oxley Centre.

Following the closing down of the inquiry the manager of the centre was paid more than $27,000 for "entitlements" and required to sign a secrecy agreement.


 Inquiry boss 'knew of rape claim'

Bruce Grundy

The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 8 November 2001, p. 2


THE former Children's Court magistrate who conducted the aborted 1989 inquiry into the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre was told of claims that a 14-year-old Aboriginal girl in care was gang-raped.

But the inquiry by former magistrate Noel Heiner was terminated by the Goss government whose cabinet directed that all of Mr Heiner's materials be shredded in 1990.

Allegations that the centre's management knew of the rape, for that it had been covered up for 12 years, were raised in The Courier-Mail on Saturday.

A former centre youth worker said yesterday that he had been interviewed in 1989 by Mr Heiner, who had specifically asked about the rape.

He said the interview "was about Peter Coyne (the manager of the centre) basically" but the rape "was one of the incidents that came out."

When asked if he had volunteered information about the rape claim or had been questioned about it, the man said; "He (Mr Heiner) asked...he knew about it already."

The man said everyone in the centre knew about the rape allegation.

A former minister in the Goss cabinet, Pat Comben said on television in 1999 that "in broad terms" the cabinet had been aware that the shredded documents had contained information about child abuse.

The next day Mr Comben said that his comments had been taken out of context.

Mr Heiner declined to comment on the matter yesterday.

A move by Families Minister Judy Spence to refer the pack rape cover-up allegations to the Criminal Justice Commission for investigation was strenuously opposed yesterday by a Queensland member of a Senate select committee which examined the shredding of the Heiner documents.

Former Democrats senator John Woodley, a member of the 1995 Senate Select Committee into Unresolved Whistleblower Cases, said it would be inappropriate for the CJC to investigate the matter because at the time of the Senate inquiry the CJC knew about cases of child abuse, but failed to disclose them to the Senate.

"That was an incredibly serious omission, and one can't have confidence that they will deal with it properly if it is referred to them again, " Rev Woodley said.

According to former members of staff and the girl concerned, the gang rape took place when she was taken on a supervised excursion with a group of male inmates to a remote location in the bush.

The state Opposition yesterday called for a fresh public inquiry into the Heiner shredding. Opposition Leader Mike Horan said he was shocked to learn of the rape allegations.

"This latest allegation of pack rape indicated the seriousness of the allegations that were covered up by the members of a Labor cabinet, some of whom still sit in this House," Mr Horan said.

"Nothing short of a full and open inquiry into this matter will ensure that justice can finally be given to victims of abuse."

Premier Peter Beattie said police and the CJC were examining the allegations.


These articles are located on the

Suppression of dissent website

in the section on Documents

relating to the shredding of the Heiner documents