Even Seven-year-olds in Australian Indigenous Communities Use Marijuana and Have Sex

by Gopalan on  June 21, 2008 at 1:57 PM Child Health News
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 Even Seven-year-olds in Australian Indigenous Communities Use Marijuana and Have Sex
Even seven-year-olds in indigenous communities use marijuana and have sex. There is also widespread evidence of child sexual abuse, says the Australian Crime Commission.

The commission's National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Taskforce revealed Friday that as many as 340 reports of alleged criminal conduct and neglect of young children had been sent to law enforcement and partner agencies for further action.

ACC chief executive officer Alastair Milroy expressed concern that while marijuana had been prevalent in indigenous communities, there was evidence that heroin, speed and ecstasy was now being used, media reports say.

"We are starting to see signs of amphetamine-type stimulants such as speed and ecstasy and heroin being available," Milroy said.

"If these types of stimulants are used by Aboriginals, they are not conditioned to this as some of the white community are, it could be devastating.

"The more these communities are economically stable, and more money is available then drugs will come in. It is an area where we are gathering further intelligence with various police forces."

Speaking to the Bennelong Society conference in Melbourne, Milroy said the intelligence confirmed that earlier reports of Aboriginal teenage girls being targeted by white truck drivers offering cash for sex were not isolated incidents.

He said there instances of child sexual abuse including sodomy and rape, while a high number of sexual assaults, pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections had been reported among children under the age of consent. Intelligence had also confirmed examples of child sex offenders working with children in indigenous communities.

Milroy said children had been gang-raped by teenagers but the crimes were not reported by the victims for fear of retribution.

The taskforce found a high level of sexualised activity and behaviour has been demonstrated by children, including seven-year-olds experimenting with sex and sex toys.

Intelligence also suggested that children as young as seven were actively using alcohol and drugs such as marijuana, or passively smoking the cannabis used by their parents.

Many 12-year-old girls were using contraceptive implants and/or taking injections, making them a target for sexual attention.

Milroy said neglect of children - characterised by poor diet and nutrition, inadequate living and housing conditions, inappropriate clothing and a parental failure to enforce school attendance - appeared to be widespread across most jurisdictions.

He said the absence of parents from households led, in one instance, to a four-year-old child taking a group of younger children to the local police youth club because they were not being supervised.

Drugs and alcohol were also being brought into dry areas by white taxi drivers, truck drivers and pilots using charter planes.

It was important to acknowledge not all indigenous families lived with violence or substance abuse, not all indigenous men were sexual abuse perpetrators and not all indigenous communities were dysfunctional.

Between December 2006 and May this year, the taskforce made more than 177 visits to 142 communities, holding 1200 meetings and producing 800 information reports about indigenous violence and child abuse.

Australia's 460,000 Aborigines make up about 2 percent of the country's 21 million population and have consistently higher rates of unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence as well as a life expectancy 17 years less than other Australians.

It is a year this weekend since former Prime Minister John Howard and his Indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough declared the sexual abuse of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory a national emergency.

One of the first measures to be rolled out as part of their Northern Territory intervention was health check for Indigenous children.

Those health checks are due to finish at the end of this month, but only just over 60 per cent of children in Indigenous communities have had them.

The scheme has split indigenous communities, with some noting that measures under the policy, including alcohol bans and controls on the way individuals can spend welfare payments, have improved life for children. 

Critics say that sending in police and soldiers without consultation is discriminatory and demeaning.

There were several protest rallies Saturday. But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he remained committed to the policy of intervention.

"Important progress is being made, with more police on the ground, people feeling safer, 11,000 health checks for children with follow-up treatment," he said.

"[There has been] a major investment in housing and infrastructure and 200 additional teachers being recruited over the next five years, to teach the 2,000 children previously not enrolled."

Source: Medindia

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