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Care Leavers Launch Police Protest


11 October 2016 at 11:16 am
Wendy Williams
A national peak organisation for people who grew up in Australian orphanages, children's homes, and foster care is launching a protest calling on police across the country to apologise for their “historic failure” to protect children from institutional abuse.


Wendy Williams | 11 October 2016 at 11:16 am


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Care Leavers Launch Police Protest
11 October 2016 at 11:16 am

A national peak organisation for people who grew up in Australian orphanages, children’s homes, and foster care is launching a protest calling on police across the country to apologise for their “historic failure” to protect children from institutional abuse.

Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) claim police played a significant role in the institutionalisation of vulnerable children and they must “own their history”.

Members of the not-for-profit organisation will be holding a protest outside Queensland Police headquarters in Brisbane on Tuesday, ahead of a string of protests around the country, as part of a campaign for a formal apology from all Australian police commissioners.

CLAN executive director Leonie Sheedy told Pro Bono Australia News they hope the Queensland commissioner of police Ian Stewart listens to the concerns of care leavers.

“Police often removed children from their families and transported them to child welfare institutions. Sometimes the children were placed in jail cells prior to their placement in child welfare,” Sheedy said.

“When children ran away from abuse and cruelty, police would round them up and return them to the orphanage, no questions asked, ignoring or not believing their claims of abuse. We also know of cases where children were assaulted by police.

“Many of our members still don’t trust police because of the treatment they experienced as children.

“The current police are not responsible for how we were treated all those years ago but it’s really important that the leadership, all the police commissioners of Australia, issue this apology to us because we weren’t believed as children and when we did go and try and report our crimes as adults, we still weren’t believed then as well.”

Sheedy said the Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse showed nearly half the people giving evidence in private sessions lived in the child welfare system, yet they represented a small percentage of the population.

“It tells us just how vulnerable these children were and how much they relied on help from police that they never received,” she said.

“Imagine being a small child begging a policeman to take you to safety but instead they take you back to the people abusing you.”

CLAN has written to all Australian police commissioners asking for a formal apology and has been told to wait for a response until the royal commission has finished.

“That’s totally unacceptable to care leavers, they’re elderly, they’re dying, and they want that apology now, not when the royal commission is finished at the end of 2017,” Sheedy said.

“A formal apology would help ease some of the pain felt by care leavers about being abandoned, abused and betrayed. It might even help rebuild trust in the police.

“This is an issue of national importance.”

Queensland Police confirmed they were aware of the protest but declined to comment on the issue.


Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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