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Downer 'Refused' To Warn Of Child Abuse In Bali Creches

FOREIGN Minister Alexander Downer refused a request from Justice Minister Chris Ellison to issue a travel advisory warning parents about the dangers of sexual assaults in childcare centres at two exclusive Bali resorts.
Senator Ellison sent a request to Mr Downer that travel advisories about Bali be changed to include warnings about the safety of childcare facilities in the popular holiday destination after a three-year-old girl was sexually abused - contracting gonorrhoea - while being minded in a creche at the Sheraton Nusa Indah and a five-year-old boy was orally raped after attending a "kids club" at another nearby resort.
However, Senator Ellison's request, made on behalf of the families of the victims, was not acted on.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will tell the ABC's Lateline program tonight it had given careful consideration to reviewing its travel advice for Indonesia, given the seriousness of the allegations.
It concluded it would not be appropriate to make a specific reference in its travel advice because of the lack of conclusive evidence. This was despite the girl's family receiving a $60,000 out-of-court settlement from the Sheraton Overseas Management Corporation, after they sued the resort chain for negligence in the Victorian Supreme Court.
In the case of the five-year-old boy, his mother alleges that in 2003 a man entered the childcare centre and told their son he had broken a slide and he had been a very naughty boy and had to go to jail.
She said the man took the boy into a nearby room where he orally raped him.
The boy's family had written to Senator Ellison seeking a change to travel advisories to list the Bali hotel resorts whose childcare facilities did not meet Australian standards.
In correspondence, obtained by Lateline, Mr Downer advised Senator Ellison there were too many hotels to list in such an advisory.
"While I appreciated the purpose behind the suggestions, it is unfortunately not possible to compile a global list of childcare centres that do not comply with Australian standards," Mr Downer told Senator Ellison in April last year.
He said DFAT did provide specific advice to Australians who wanted to use childcare services overseas.
"Our consular travel booklet published in January 2004 now includes specific advice on arranging childcare services overseas," he wrote.
The girl's parents allege their daughter was sexually assaulted at the Little Star Club children's creche at the five-star Sheraton Nusa Dua resort during a family holiday in January 2001.
The parents did not know about the attacks while they were in Bali, but on their return to Australia they noticed their daughter had a heavy discharge from her genitals and a temperature of 40C.
Tests conducted by a family doctor showed she was suffering from gonorrhoea.
The parents then sued Sheraton Overseas Management Corporation, which did not admit responsibility and denied the allegations. In July last year, the parties reached an out-of-court settlement involving a payment to the girl of $62,000 and some legal costs.
During their own investigation of the matter, the parents discovered the carers on duty at the creche during their stay at the resort had applied for jobs including pool and laundry attendants, apprentice pastry chef and gardener.
In April 2003, the Australian Federal Police told the parents that Indonesian police had closed the case after reporting that Sheraton creche workers had tested negative for gonorrhoea.
In November 2003, the child protection advocacy group Bravehearts said alerts and warnings to parents should be standard. The group called for a general alert notice to Australians travelling overseas that there was a reasonable concern about childcare centres.
The father of the girl accused the Government of ignoring their plight, saying he had written two letters to Mr Downer before he replied.

AAP (12-4-2005)
David King/ Elizabeth Gosch

Warnings Of Abuse

THE Federal Government would issue a travel warning if it had evidence of child abuse in an overseas childcare centre, Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said yesterday.
Mr Downer, however, said there had not been sufficient evidence to do so in the case of two families' complaints to him on childcare facilities at Bali resorts.
After reports a two- year-old girl was abused in a Nusa Dua creche in 2001 and a five-year-old boy in a playground two years later. Justice Minister Chris Ellison sought a travel warning from Mr Downer. Mr Downer said the request was considered but there was no evidence to warrant a warning.
Child protection campaigner Hetty Johnston said: "Clearly there's a genuine and reasonable concern for children out at these creches."

AAp (13-4-2005)

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