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More concerns raised over Cape children -

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More concerns raised over Cape children

The World Today - Friday, 14 March , 2008 12:14:00

Reporter: Annie Guest

ELEANOR HALL: In another community plagued by child sex abuse problems, Aboriginal leaders are
calling for a radical solution. Elders from the Cape York Peninsula community of Aurukun in
Queensland have asked for children to be removed so that they can be educated and protected from
abuse.

The community has recently been plagued by rioting and was in the national headlines last year when
three men and six boys escaped a prison sentence despite gang raping a 10-year-old girl.

Annie Guest has our report.

ANNIE GUEST: Aurukun is a community with grave problems, and now some say sending the children away
to school is the only path to a better future.

JONATHON KORKAKTAIN: Our kids need to have their education. Education is important.

ANNIE GUEST: Jonathon Korkaktain sits on the Aurukun Council and supervises the Community
Development Employment Program, or CDEP. He echoes a now familiar concern about Aboriginal
communities - many parents and guardians are too drunk or drugged to ensure children go to school.
Three-quarters of Aurukun's 1,000 residents reportedly faced court last year.

JONATHON KORKAKTAIN: Violence or whether it's alcohol-related, but it's just adults not taking the
responsibility, the parents and the guardians. That's what it all comes down to where the school
not having much children coming in because it's a lack of responsibility that no one cares.

ANNIE GUEST: Aurukun's children are absent more often than they attend school. One in three are
reportedly not even enrolled. Martha Koowarta from Aurukun's Community Justice Group wants children
as young as nine sent away for schooling.

She told the Sydney Morning Herald it's not safe in Aurukun, especially for girls. She wants the
young to learn to read and write English as well as the local language.

Jonathon Korkaktain would rather part with his own 13-year-old grandson than keep him at school in
Aurukun.

JONATHON KORKAKTAIN: But it's not only of getting away from the violence, but instead a future,
that they could take that on board, what they can see and look. What difference from here and what
difference they'll see outside of the world.

ANNIE GUEST: Are you at all concerned that sending the children away could ultimately weaken the
Aurukun community even further with them perhaps not coming back to live out the rest of their
lives in the community?

JONATHON KORKAKTAIN: Well, it's hard to me, but this is what I want to see. It's their choice.

ANNIE GUEST: The World Today tried to contact the mayor and deputy mayor but neither were
available.

The chief executive, John Bensch says the views of Martha Koowarta and Jonathon Korkatain haven't
been canvassed by the Council.

Meanwhile, the proposal to send Aurukun's children to boarding school is supported by the
Indigenous Education Leadership Institute, based at the Queensland University of Technology.

Its director is Dr Chris Sarra.

CHRIS SARRA: What would make sense is to bus children out of say, Aurukun on a Monday morning, have
them boarding so that they can attend the Western Cape College, which is making very good progress
and then have them bussed back on Friday afternoon.

ANNIE GUEST: Chris Sarra is the former principal of the state school in the southern Queensland
Aboriginal community of Cherbourg. He told ABC radio it's not about creating a monoculture.

CHRIS SARRA: I'd like to think that we can get to a time where we stop being so culturally crippled
and so bamboozled by the Aboriginal identity of children to the extent that we forget that these
are actually just kids in schools and they're hungry to learn as anybody else.

ANNIE GUEST: He urges people to abandon concerns about creating another Stolen Generation.

ELEANOR HALL: Annie Guest reporting.