The aunt of a young girl who took her own life after the man accused of sexually abusing her was released on bail, says the abuse her niece allegedly suffered mirrors that experienced by many children in Western Australia’s Indigenous community.
- Investigations are underway into the suicide of an 11-year-old girl
- The girl had allegedly been abused by a man who was later released on bail
- Her aunt says too many Indigenous children are being sexually abused
Life support for the woman’s 11-year-old niece Annaliesse Ugle was turned off earlier this week.
The man accused of abusing Annaliesse, Peter Frederick Humes, is due to appear before the courts in early December. He is yet to enter a plea.
For legal reasons, Ms Abraham cannot speak about the details of that case because it will soon be heard in court.
However she said she wanted to break the cycle of silence within the Indigenous community around child abuse generally.
“We are still not dealing with the real issue, the real issue why all these young kids are taking their own lives is because we have had family thinking they can touch you, abuse you, sexually, molest you,” Ms Abraham said.
“The shit like that we had to grow up with it becomes normalised and you get told to ‘hush hush’ and not make trouble because you will start a turf war within families.”
Ms Abraham said she was sexually abused as a child, by a different man, and did not report her own assault until her early twenties.
“My cousins who were also victims couldn’t come forward with me, they were either too scared or had been talked out of it,” Ms Abraham said.
“It wasn’t until my other cousin got the courage to come forward that we got justice, but when you’re that one voice on your own, you don’t get justice.”
‘Fly-in fly-out approach’ leaves victims vulnerable
Noongar woman and Curtin Law School Associate Professor Hannah McGlade said previous investigations into sexual assault within Indigenous communities had done little more than left victims vulnerable.
Ms McGlade said findings of the 2002 Gordon Inquiry were initially viewed as a watershed moment for the Indigenous community, but it was still waiting for the implementation of many of its recommendations.
She said one of those key recommendations which had not been implemented was the creation of a ‘one-stop shop’ department to deal with reports of abuse.
“This fly-in, fly-out approach where non-Indigenous police come in and bring out the abuse in communities and then leave does nothing to improve safety for victims,” Ms McGlade said.
“The primary support needs to be the investment into community-based response and the one stop model. We have not been assisted by our state governments to take those appropriate responses.”
WA Police vow to take ownership
Regional Assistant Police Commissioner Jo McCabe said on Wednesday that an early assessment of Annaliesse Ugle’s case indicated police bail should not have been granted to her alleged abuser.
“In general, bail is considered on a case by case basis and aligned with the bail act, however an early assessment of this case, and the seriousness of the offences, tells me that police bail should have been opposed and not considered,” she said.
“This will ultimately be a matter for the coroner, but I’m here today to say that WA Police will take ownership of any issues where we can improve to prevent something like this occurring again.”
Communities Minister Simone McGurk said it was a priority to find out what supports were in place for the girl and what went wrong, while Health Minister Roger Cook said the Government was likely to review the handling of the case.