Australia: Claims of child rape in NT Aboriginal community
* Ashleigh Wilson
* February 09, 2007
THE entire Northern Territory should be ashamed over allegations a 12-year-old boy was repeatedly raped by five teenagers and five adults at a remote Aboriginal community, a Darwin magistrate said yesterday.
Refusing an application for a media blackout on the disturbing case, magistrate Dick Wallace said the nation was at last starting to examine the "less palatable sides" of indigenous communities in the bush.
Five teenagers are facing Darwin Magistrates Court accused of sexually abusing the boy at Maningrida, 500km east of Darwin, over five months last year. The five adult men will appear in court later this month.
"I think the people of Maningrida should be ashamed about the matter, assuming there's something in it," Mr Wallace said. "I think we have heard enough evidence ... to assume there's something in it. Equally, everyone in the Northern Territory should be ashamed at such things."
The teenagers have been accused of raping the boy on six separate occasions around Maningrida, as well as forcing him to smoke cannabis and watch a pornographic movie.
The court has also heard that the boy, who was 11 when the alleged attacks began, had allegedly been tied up with shoelaces and raped with a stick. The identities of the boy's alleged attackers have been suppressed.
The father of one of the defendants, described as a respected Aboriginal leader, told the court yesterday that the continuing media coverage of the case was bringing shame on the community.
In an attempt to persuade the magistrate to prohibit reporting of the committal hearing, the man said the publicity would make it harder to resolve tensions at Maningrida and deal with the matter according to traditional law. But Mr Wallace rejected the application, saying it was in the public interest that the case be conducted in open court when possible.
The magistrate said the media should be free to report the proceedings, especially in the wake of last year's debate about violence and abuse in Aboriginal communities prompted by Alice Springs prosecutor Nanette Rogers. He said "echoes of concern" were still present in the general community. "It is an interesting time for the Australian community facing up to what's happening in Aboriginal communities."
However, Mr Wallace agreed that the hearing and accompanying publicity made reconciliation more difficult between families at Maningrida.
"It is, I would think, fairly likely that defendants from one or both proceedings will find their way to the Supreme Court," he said.