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Inquest begins into petrol sniffer's suicide -

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Reporter: Alice Brennan

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: In Alice Springs, an inquest into the suicide of a 15-year-old girl in
Mutitjulu was underway.

A nurse who worked in the community has told the Northern Territory Coroner she thought the girl
was being given petrol in exchange for sex. She also told the Coroner the director of the health
clinic instructed her not to report her concerns unless the girl's family give permission to do.

The death occurred just months after Lateline first reported on instances of petrol being exchanged
for sex in the community. Alice Brennan reports.

ALICE BRENNAN, REPORTER: Despite Mutitjulu being firmly in the media spotlight over allegations of
sexual abuse and paedophilia in 2006, Northern Territory authorities missed the plight of a
15-year-old girl, according to an inquest in Alice Springs today.

In December, 2006, Kumanara Forbes hanged herself from a tree outside the community. She was a
troubled teenager, a chronic petrol sniffer who had tested positive for several sexually
transmitted diseases. She had already attempted suicide some months before.

At today's inquest, the question was raised: how did a case as severe as this go unnoticed by
relevant authorities?

ROB ROSEY, PAEDIATRICIAN, ALICE SPRINGS HOSPITAL (male voiceover): "Reading through the girl's
medical records was almost like watching a horror movie and knowing what you are going to see at
the end."

ALICE BRENNAN: Nicole Sutterby is a registered nurse who worked in Mutitjulu in 2005. She told the
Coroner today that she had grave concerns about the girl. She said she'd seen the girl sniffing in
a house with a group of men and was concerned sexual activity was taking place there.

HELEN ROBERTS, COUNSEL ASSISTING (female voiceover): "You formed an opinion that Kumanara Forbes
had sexual involvement with adults in relation to her petrol sniffing."

NICOLE SUTTERBY, REGISTERED NURSE (female voiceover): "Yes, I did."

ALICE BRENNAN: When she approached the director of the health clinic, Bob Randall, he told her not
to go to Family and Children's Services - or FACS - straight away.

According to Ms Sutterby, he said, "Don't tell FACS; deal with the family, and if they give
permission, then tell FACS." But, she reported it anyway.

Months later, Ms Sutterby was sacked by Mr Randall. No reasons were given for her dismissal.

Today, the inquest heard that the confidential notes she had made about Kumanara Forbes have gone
missing.

Following Lateline's report in June, 2006, an intensive police operation interviewed hundreds of
people and found persistent rumours of petrol being exchanged for sex, but there was no hard
evidence. When interviewed by police, the girl denied she'd been abused.

The Coroner, Greg Cavanagh, expressed concern about this.

GREG CAVANAGH, ALICE SPRINGS CORONER (male voiceover): "This is a girl who ended up with syphilis
and gonorrhoea and wouldn't say that anything had ever happened to her."

ALICE BRENNAN: Police procedure has also been called into question by the Coroner. Investigations
into the death were only completed last December, two and a half years after Kumanara Forbes
committed suicide. When challenged by the Coroner, police conceded the delay was unacceptable.

CARMEN BUTCHER, CHILD ABUSE TASK FORCE, NT POLICE (female voiceover): "There was lots of different
information in the hands of different groups making it difficult to pull evidence together."

ALICE BRENNAN: The inquest continues until Friday. Alice Brennan, Lateline.