Helpless aboriginal girls continue to be victims of sexual abuse in Australia despite much-touted government interventions.
The problem is particularly rampant in the Northern Territory mining town of Nhulunbuy, community elders have complained. Girls as young as 13 are given cash, drugs, alcohol and taxi rides in exchange for sex.
The elders have also asked police to investigate a group of non-indigenous men in the town who, they say, have been sexually abusing aboriginal teenagers for years.
People are angry that the despicable practice was still on in Nhulunbuy, 650 kilometres east of Darwin, eight months after the $1.5 billion intervention in the Territory's remote indigenous communities.
Bernadette Guruwiwi, 19, told the Sydney Morning Herald it was well known that last Monday two girls went to the house of a retired mine worker. Both of them were given beer and marijuana to smoke before the man took the other girl into his bedroom for sex, she said. The man gave the teenager $500.
Bethany Yunupingu, 20, told how two girls recently went to the house of a non-indigenous man who works for the NT Government. They were both given marijuana. One was paid $100 for having sex with the man while the other girl was given money for introducing her to the man.
A 19-year-old Aboriginal woman who asked not to be identified said she was offered three bottles of whisky to talk with a man in a taxi. "I knew what he wanted ... I'm disgusted that these things are going on here," she said.
The abuse of indigenous teenagers and young women is an open secret in Nhulunbuy.
Aboriginal teenagers often provided sex to be taken to or from the town of Yirrkala, which costs $40 in a taxi, said residents who did not want to be named. They told how teenage girls were often picked up outside the town's hotel late at night.
Galarrwuy Yunupingu, the most powerful indigenous leader in the Territory, gave permission for members of his family to tell the Herald what they knew about sexual abuse in the town.
"We are family so we can talk about these things together," said Yunupingu, a former Australian of the Year and former head of the Northern Land Council, which represents most indigenous groups in northern Australia. "But everybody here knows what has been going on and the time has come for us to put an end to this once and for all," he said.
"We have seven girls who are ready to provide information to the police ... the offenders should be brought to justice, then lock them up and throw away the keys."
Leon White, a former school principal in Yirrkala, said there has been a "conspiracy of silence" about abuse. He said government agencies needed to work more closely to help parents protect vulnerable children and teenagers.
"The indigenous intervention is yet to produce outcomes that prevent these things happening." White said one recent positive development was the establishment of a "remote learning partnership agreement" which helped monitor indigenous children.
The report, Little Children Are Sacred, which prompted the intervention, referred to allegations of a rampant sex trade in Nhulunbuy where non-Aboriginal mining workers gave Aboriginal girls aged between 12 and 15 alcohol, cash and other goods in exchange for sex.