Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Allegations may re-open case into youth deten -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Allegations may re-open case into youth detention centre

Reporter: Andrew Fowler and Renata Gombac

KERRY O'BRIEN: Allegations of sexual abuse are likely to force the re-opening one of the most
intriguing cases in Queensland's turbulent political history. It's now nearly 18 years since a then
14-year-old girl complained she had been gang raped while in the care of a government youth
detention centre. Annette Harding has carried the scars of that experience all these years. Now
she's gone to the police to lodge a formal complaint. Others, too, are now finally coming forward.
Their actions will bring into focus events surrounding an extraordinary case of document shredding
by the Queensland State Government, a move seen by many as an attempt to destroy incriminating
evidence. This report from Andrew Fowler and Renata Gombac of the ABC's Investigative Unit.

ANDREW FOWLER: It's a journey that's not easy to make, to return to the scene of a crime,
especially when you're the victim and the crime is rape. And you were just 14 years old when it
happened. Annette Harding is retracing the steps of that fateful journey 18 years ago. At times, it
seems too difficult.

ANNETTE HARDING: I don't like coming here. It's nasty. I don't like coming here. I don't like it.
It's nasty here.

ANDREW FOWLER: What drives her on despite her bad memories is a desire for justice. There's never
been a full inquiry into what happened when Annette Harding and five other offenders, all teenage
boys from Brisbane's John Oxley youth detention centre, came here on a day outing. But by piecing
together documents obtained under freedom of information, we've managed to verify much of Annette
Harding's harrowing story, including the fact she was sexually assaulted. High on the slopes of
Mount Barney near's Queensland's New South Wales border, the tracks nears its end and the stones at
the creek crossing are as slippery today as they were all those years ago. When Annette Harding
fell in, she says she was ordered to take her jeans off. She was left to walk around in just her
underwear and a T-shirt.

ANNETTE HARDING: There was a male inmate that was there at the time and he ended up following me,
where I was going. I remember some of the boys climbing on the side of the cliff, so they could
just look. I was asked to pull my pants down and have sex with this fella. I refused to until they
kept on asking me and bothering me and asking me and asking me to keep doing it and I said, "No, I
don't want to do it." And then...yeah...got up against the rock and he just penetrated me. And
that's it. All I remember is the first one doing it. I don't remember anybody else. I was 14 at
that time. They would've been about 16 - 15, 16, 17. Yep. I remember it like it was yesterday.

ANDREW FOWLER: Distraught and anxious, the young girl returned to John Oxley later that day with
the other members of the group. There were already fears among the centre staff that she'd been
sexually assaulted. The centre manager, Peter Coyne, said in a report that he visited Harding the
next day and she confirmed she'd been raped.

ANNETTE HARDING: The manager came into my cell and he asked me if anything happened and I told him,
yes. And he asked me if I wanted to press charges and I said yes.

ANDREW FOWLER: Yet it wasn't until three days later that still protesting she'd been raped, Annette
Harding was taken to a doctor.

GODRON HARRIS, LAWYER: Essentially, when you have a sexual assault, what you have is evidence of
the person on the person. What should've happened was she should've been medically examined the
moment she was brought back to John Oxley. That did not happen.

ANDREW FOWLER: Another 24 hours passed before the police arrived, a full four days since the
attack. Her lawyer Gordon Harris says the delay in bringing in the police represented a huge
failure in the centre's responsibilities as the child's legal guardian.

GORDON HARRIS: What they should've done was reported the matter immediately to the police and in
reporting the matter immediately to the police, the police should've come in, taken forensic
evidence, and then prepared a case to either charge the culprits who have committed the offence.

ANDREW FOWLER: By this time, in an attempt to silence her, Annette Harding says she was bashed by
one of the friends of the boys who raped her. Bruce Grundy has detailed knowledge of the case.

BRUCE GRUNDY, SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM, QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY: The girl was 14 years old and she was in
the custody of her guardian, and there is just absolutely no doubt who had the responsibility. The
guardian had the responsibility. In other words, the people responsible for that institution. In
other words, the State had the responsibility. But they allowed a 14-year-old minor who wasn't of
an adult age to say after she'd been physically beaten up and assaulted that she didn't want to
press charges.

ANDREW FOWLER: It would be partially reassuring to think that bad as the crime was, it was a
one-off for John Oxley. But that's not the case. Over the past two months, the ABC's investigative
unit has been told of other bashings and sexual offences, including rape inside John Oxley, some
committed by the inmates, others committed by the very people who are supposed to defend them -
members of the staff. Partially deaf Shelly Farquhar was perhaps one of the most vulnerable in the
centre. In 1991, she and several other children were taken swimming at Wivenhoe Dam near Brisbane.
Shelly Farquhar lost an inner tube she was using as a floatation device. A member of the staff
jumped in, she says, and swam up to her.

SHELLY FARQUHAR: I felt him grab me around the waist because I went under the water and he brought
me up above the water and then that's when he raped me.

ANDREW FOWLER: What did you do at that time?

SHELLY FARQUHAR: I couldn't do anything. I froze.

ANDREW FOWLER: Did you recognise that person?

SHELLY FARQUHAR: At that time I knew who was doing it.

ANDREW FOWLER: Did you say anything to him at the time, or afterwards?

SHELLY FARQUHAR: No, I didn't speak to anybody. I just washed myself, when I got to the shore, I
washed myself, got out, wrapped the towel around me and got straight in the van and stayed there.

ANDREW FOWLER: Shelly Farquhar says the staff officer who raped her visited her later in her room
and threatened her if she spoke out. The staff officer left the John Oxley Centre a few weeks later
after being confronted with the allegation. Later, internal John Oxley documents show a decision
was taken not to pursue the case because Shelly Farquhar didn't want to press charges and the
person had left the organisation. Another victim of the centre, Ryan Hallam, is also speaking out
about the abuse he says he was subjected to. His first experience at the John Oxley regime
terrified him.

RYAN HALLAM: A senior staff member came into the observation cell and proceeded to threaten me. He
placed his knee on my chest, he choked me. He slapped me. He called me a little bitch and he told
me that I shouldn't bother fighting. I was petrified that night. I'd never experienced fear like
that until that night and it was terrible.

ANDREW FOWLER: But there was worse to come. Ryan Hallam says officers told him he didn't fit in and
he needed to toughen up. One night inmates and an officer confronted him in his room.

RYAN HALLAM: I was in my cell and laying down ready to go to bed and I heard the key turning in the
lock to my door. Moments later, several inmates come running into my room and threw a blanket over
the top of me and held me down on my bed. They proceeded to punch and to kick me and then I felt
something similar to a lubricant being smeared around my arse and they proceeded to stick their
fingers inside me and I couldn't stop them from doing it. I tried to fight. I couldn't get out from
underneath...I couldn't get out from underneath the blanket and I didn't know who was doing it to
me.

ANDREW FOWLER: The Queensland Department of Communities said in a statement it was concerned about
any allegations of abuse at government facilities and urged victims to make a complaint to the
police. Ryan Hallam and the others say the decision to speak out was forced on them because of what
they describe as the ongoing cover-up about John Oxley and the effect it has had on their lives.

SHELLY FARQUHAR: I completely went off the rails. I got into more crime. Started the drug usage and
wanted to die. I just wanted to be gone. I felt like I was isolated and nobody cared and I felt
dirty and useless.

ANDREW FOWLER: What do you feel now?

SHELLY FARQUHAR: Hate, hurt, revenge. And at times, I still go on my depressions, like I'm on
medication now. And I've been through DVT, which is intense therapy to try to help me try and get
over it, but I still have nightmares and I constantly think about it.

RYAN HALLAM: I was a child and I didn't entirely understand what was going on. I didn't think that
me telling anybody would actually get me anywhere.

ANDREW FOWLER: Several investigations have touched on the problems at John Oxley, which was finally
closed in 2001. But the only specific inquiry had its evidence shredded on the orders of the then
Goss Labor government in 1990. A spokesman for the Queensland Department of Communities said the
destruction had been ordered on legal advice, not an argument accepted by Bruce Grundy.

BRUCE GRUNDY: I think the answer to that is pretty obvious. If there was nothing in those documents
to worry about, why shred them? The obvious conclusion that one can draw is that people did not
want the contents of those documents to become publicly available. It's as simple as that.

ANDREW FOWLER: The person who probably knows more than anyone else about what went on at John Oxley
in the late 1980s is its former manager, Peter Coyne. He accepted a $27,000 relocation payment from
the Queensland Government when he left John Oxley. One of the conditions stipulated that he
wouldn't discuss any matters relating to the centre. Annette Harding has lodged a complaint with
the Queensland Police. And after nearly 18 years, they are finally investigating. For her, it's not
about the money. Her compensation will be that the truth will finally come out.

ANNETTE HARDING: You can't put something behind you when you have nightmares and dreams and visions
about the incident. And I've got to do this so I can get closure in my heart.