Additional “safe houses” in north west Queensland could help more abuse victims come forward, a traditional owner says.
A safe house provides refuge and support to abused and neglected children.
Gangalidda traditional owner Barry Walden said the Act for Kids Doomadgee Safe House has helped many children since it opened almost 10 years ago.
“I have witnessed the benefits from these safe houses,” Mr Walden said.
“They are the best things since fried rice.”
His comments come after the Public Guardian admitted it does not have enough resources to make regular visits to children in rural settings.
The Palaszczuk government claims there is no problem and all service standards are being met with one Mount Isa based community visitor, and one FIFO worker.
But Mr Walden said the problem is very real and the government should invest in more safe houses around the north west rather than funding FIFO workers from Townsville to advocate for at-risk children.
Doomadgee has the only one safe house in the north west with four more lining Cape York.
Mr Walden said sporadically sending strangers into communities is like “putting your left shoe on your right foot – it does not work”.
“If a child is being abused they are more likely to tell an aunty, grandmother, cousin or sister, not some stranger that has no connection to the community,” he said.
“Because of our cultural connection to the children in our community, we know who to employ and why they should be employed.”
Mr Walden said these safe houses were set up from the perspective of people living in the community.
“Not what the government or department thinks will work,” he said.
“Our cultural laws bind us to look after children whether they are ours or not, that is why people living in the community are the best people to be advocating for these kids.”
The Blue Card and Foster Care review highlighted this problem in November last year.
The review said the people advocating for vulnerable children should culturally “match” the young people they are protecting in order to “build trusting relationships with children”.
The review recognised there were “practical limitations” in achieving this because they are not enough staff.
Mr Walden said at least five children seek refuge at the Doomadgee safe house each month.
“It varies depending on if there is Sorry Business happening. There is definitely a need for these safe houses,” Mr Walden said.
“There is a huge amount of financial resources that flow into remote communities, but the people sending this money have no real understanding of the structure of a community.
“They can say they are spending the money, but what are the outcomes?”
“I do believe the best program that has ever come out to address child safety are these safe house – they work.”
Contact the Doomadgee safe house on 4033 8500.