......IS A THREAT TO JUSTICE EVERYWHERE." ...MLK
SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Child sexual abuse is widespread in Australia's Aboriginal communities where a "river of grog" or alcohol is destroying indigenous society, leaving children vulnerable to sexual abuse, said a report released on Friday.
The government-sanctioned report, "Little Children are Sacred", found sexual abuse by both black and white men of Aboriginal children, some as young as three, often went unreported.
It said Aboriginal society was being decimated by alcohol, which was "the gravest and fastest growing threat to the safety of Aboriginal children" in the outback Northern Territory.
"A river of grog (alcohol) is killing people and destroying our communities," said the report's co-chairwoman, Pat Anderson.
"There is a strong association between alcohol abuse, violence and sexual abuse of children," she told reporters.
Australia's 460,000 Aborigines make up about 2 percent of the country's 20 million population. They are consistently the nation's most disadvantaged group, with far higher rates of unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse, and domestic violence.
The report rejected the "myths" that only Aboriginal men committed sexual abuse and that Aboriginal law, which allows tribal payback and child brides, encouraged sexual abuse.
Instead, the report laid the blame squarely on a culture of alcohol abuse in the Northern Territory.
"Extreme alcohol abuse has become normal in the Northern Territory and the devastating effects on children are rapidly increasing," said the report. "The lives of Aboriginal children are more important than the right to drink."
DEATH EVERY 38 HOURS
Alcohol causes the death of an Aborigine every 38 hours, with a quarter of the deaths in the Northern Territory.
In 2004-05, 21,863 people were taken into police protective custody in the territory. Between 2001 and 2004, there were 2,000 assaults and 110 sexual assaults per year due to alcohol.
The report said alcohol abuse increased the likelihood that someone would sexually abuse a child, meant children were forgotten by drunken parents and became more vulnerable to abuse. and was used to buy child sex.
"Alcohol is being used as a bartering tool to gain sex from children, either by offering it to the children themselves or in some cases to adult members of their family," it said.
One Aboriginal woman from the Yolngu tribe said "white man's water is a curse" and called for alcohol outlets to be closed.
"Eradicate this curse that is killing us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually," she wrote in a letter published in the report.
The report said banning alcohol sales in some Aboriginal communities had dramatically reduced sexual abuse and violence.
Before the two hotels near the Borroloola community lost their liquor licence in 2006, Aborigines were drinking eight pallets of full-strength beer a day or 8,640 litres of beer.
Now restricted to low-alcohol beer from a nearby store, Aborigines consume two pallets of beer a day and crime has plummeted. There was no annual Christmas riot because many hard-core drinkers had left town, said the report.
The report found that Aboriginal children became sexually active earlier than other Australian children and there was a need for better sex education. It also said pornography in remote communities via TV and the Internet was fuelling sexual abuse.
The report recommended combining traditional Aboriginal law with Australian law as a way of reducing sexual abuse, saying many Aborigines ignore "white fella law".
It said it did not advocate violent punishment, but suggested "modified traditional sanctions". It also said there was room for dialogue on traditional marriages where there was consent and no sexual contact until a wife was 16.
"Many of the Aboriginal people spoken to by the inquiry were not aware of legal issues such as age of consent," it said.