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A house for Dennis

By Amanda Gearing - posted Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The question of where to house Dennis Ferguson is a vexed and almost insoluble question whilst ever the focus remains on Dennis and his needs.

If however, the focus is placed on the many victims of Dennis Ferguson’s crimes, their wellbeing and their desire that no other children are subjected to being sexually assaulted and sodomised as they were, then the question becomes clearer.

Four Corners provided an excellent background study on Ferguson, outlining his long list of criminal offences including crimes of fraud, stealing, indecent assault and indecent dealing with children before he embarked, with his co-offender, on the 1987 offences of carnal knowledge and sodomy of three children then aged six, seven and eight.


Ferguson pleaded earnestly with reporter Liz Jackson for the public to forget his history of crimes committed “so long ago”, first admitting them, then denying them, then admitting them, all with a few minutes.

Ferguson’s victims however, now aged about 28, 29 and 30 are likely to be married and have children possibly the same age they were when Dennis Ferguson befriended their parents, gained their trust and took the children to a motel in company with another offender, where the two men committed heinous sex crimes against the children.

While I do not know these victims, I would be fairly confident that their sense of trust in other people has been damaged, that their development into adulthood has been affected, that their education may have suffered and that their life prospects for stable relationships and rewarding careers are not as rosy as they would have been, had Ferguson not committed horrible crimes against them.

For the victims, the offences are probably not “so long ago” but rather remain as traumatic memories triggered all too often and that the offences are revisited as if they happened yesterday.

For these victims, to now be aware that criminals of Ferguson’s ilk are abroad in the community would likely be traumatic to them - realising that other children are at risk of similar offences which have affected their lives so deeply but which the authorities seem unable to prevent.

Viewed from this perspective, Dennis Ferguson’s self-proclaimed claimed “right” to live in an environment where he is free to sit on a public beach among young children at play by the water’s edge is ridiculous. For Ferguson to claim he has never “touched” a child he didn’t know is not relevant.


What is relevant is that our society places a very high value on the innocence of children and the protection of children. We do not allow children to be forced to work from the age of four down coal mines, or to beg for food or money on street corners.

Children are protected also by the criminal code which hands out penalties for sexual offences against children, equivalent to the punishments for murder or armed robbery. The reason for these high penalties is that the sexual assault of a child “kills” the innocence of the child and the innocence can never be regained.

In the case of armed robbery, a criminal with a weapon is far more powerful than their victim who cannot refuse the robber’s demands without risking their life or safety.

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First published in ABC's Unleashed on November 4, 2009.

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About the Author

Dr Amanda Gearing graduated with a Masters' Degree from QUT in 2012 and a PhD in Global investigative journalism in 2016. Amanda was The Courier-Mail's reporter in Toowoomba for ten years until 2007 and received several awards for her work including Best news Report (All Media) in 2002. She has written in Australia and the UK for national and state newspapers and has produced documentaries for ABC Radio National. In 2012 she won a Walkley Award for Best radio documentary for The day that changed Grantham. She also won a Clarion Award for her radio documentary A living sacrifice in 2013. Her non-fiction book The Torrent was published in 2012 and an updated edition will be published in February 2017.

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