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Overseas child abuse.



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MEDIA RELEASE

ALEXANDER DOWNER MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

April 12 2005

Overseas Child Abuse Allegations raised in today’s media that the Government has somehow “ignored” the issue of alleged child abuse in Bali is wrong and grossly misleading. It is outrageous that some media outlets can attempt to paint the Government as not taking such allegations seriously when simple research would confirm this is not the case.

Of the two cases of alleged child abuse in Bali hotel child care centres mentioned in today’s Australian, and apparently to be raised on the ABC’s Lateline tonight, the Australian Federal Police co-operated with their Indonesian counterparts on both investigations, neither of which has led to charges being laid. The investigations never established who was responsible for the abuse.

The allegations relate to correspondence in 2004 between myself and the Justice Minister, Senator Chris Ellison (attached). The correspondence demonstrates that we took seriously the concerns raised by one family. It also outlines important steps the Government was taking to try to prevent incidents of child sexual abuse in child care centres.

Since these allegations were raised, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued general information on Children’s issues suggesting parents planning to place their children in child care facilities overseas should research the standards of child care provided, and lists Child Wise’s website as a source of further information.

Additionally, DFAT’s consular booklet “Tips for Travelling Parents”, also encourages parents to research the standards of childcare provided in their country of destination, saying standards of childcare may vary considerably from those provided in Australia. The booklet also asks parents to also consider the following factors: qualifications of staff, ratios of staff to children, hiring and screening procedures for staff and accreditation standards of childcare providers.

The suggestion that Australian travel advisories could list all child care facilities around the world that don’t meet Australian levels of standards, while understandable, was found to be practically impossible to implement. With hundreds of thousands of such facilities in existence around the world, parents need to be advised to check the credentials of any facility they consider using.

Reflecting the particular concern about sexual exploitation of children in Bali, DFAT is working with Child Wise on risk minimisation strategies to prevent child sexual abuse occurring at childcare centres

in Bali, involving training to assist hotels to improve screening and recruitment procedures for staff and developing codes of conduct. On April 1 2005 the Government announced funding of $590,000 to Child Wise to conduct training in 35 popular Asian tourist destinations over the next two years to educate local people about child sex tourism.

Media inquiries : Ministerial 02 6277 7500

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