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When the hysteria subsides, what next?

By David Wood - posted Monday, 15 April 2002

As Chairman of the Abused Child Trust, which is the Queensland member of the Kids First Foundation, whose patron until recently was the Governor General, it is timely and prudent that I add comment to the current debate.

I do so, not to criticise or support any particular view, but to refocus the issue on what should be important to all Queenslanders.

The current debate about child abuse is focusing on the Governor General's actions while he was Archbishop of Brisbane. This is both helpful and harmful in a number of respects.


It is helpful in raising awareness of child abuse and forcing individuals and organisations to examine their own actions in relation to suspected and confirmed cases of abuse.

It is also helpful in uniting a community in joint abhorrence against child abuse in all its forms, which we must remember is not just sexual. Just as damaging and insidious are the emotional and physical abuse and neglect of innocent children.

However, the debate also has the potential to do great harm to a great many people.

Since the debate began, the Abused Child Trust has been inundated with phone calls from adults surviving the effects of abuse. In the current climate, these people, many of whom may never have reported nor sought help for their abuse, are daily reliving the traumas of their childhood.

They are a poignant warning of what we could still be facing 20 years hence, if we do not ensure that this current debate achieves some positive outcomes.

When the hysteria subsides, what next?


I challenge the entire community - individuals, politicians, churches, institutions that provide services for children, teachers, doctors, police, parents - to look closely at the way they personally and collectively respond to child abuse in our community.

Without adequate resources, Queensland will continue to fail in its litmus test on how we deal with child abuse.

Queensland still spends 50% less than other States on child protection services.

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This article was first published in The Courier-Mail on February 25, 2002.

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About the Author

Dr David Wood A.M. is Chairman of the Abused Child Trust; Acting Director of Paediatric Health Services, Mater Hospital; Senior Consultant , Mater Children's Hospital Child Protection Unit. He was recently awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for his contribution to child protection in Queensland over the past 20 years.

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