Sex Abuse Was Subtle, Court Told
Sydney Morning Herald/1992-08-04
By COL ALLISON
A proposed NSW parliamentary inquiry into the religious sect The Children of God did not proceed in the mid-1970s because the families involved "disappeared", the NSW Department of Community Services claimed in court yesterday.
In the second week of hearing into a child care application involving 65 sect children, the department's Campbelltown manager, Miss Pauline Rockley, said she found from reading Immigration Department files in May that the former NSW Minister for the Environment, Mr Tim Moore, had pushed for the inquiry.
"Some parents whose names are in those files are part of these proceedings," she said.
Ms Rockley said the immigration file notes were just one of the many reasons the department had raided three community houses of the Christian fundamentalist sect in Sydney's north-west on May 15.
They seized 72 sect children, all of whom were later released by the Cobham Children's Court magistrate Mr Ian Forsyth .
The department gathered a large amount of information from former members of the Children of God sect, which changed its name about 1978, from the police and immigration files and later, from documents seized from the sect homes when the children were taken temporarily into departmental care.
The department alleges the children have been brainwashed and sexually abused, though Ms Rockley said yesterday it did not necessarily mean the children had been molested.
"We're talking of subtle sexual abuse in some cases," she said. "I'm not implying that all these children have had sexual intercourse with someone. We're saying it begins with children being taught at an inappropriate age of sexual contact and sexual practices, and this can lead up to other forms."
Asked by the leading counsel for the parents, Mr Rob Cavanagh, how the department determined what was an appropriate or inappropriate age for sexual practice, she said: "If I told you that a 12-year-old child was considered to be an adult and now allowed in indulge in sex practices, then that would be inappropriate."
She said if a child was put on a roster to have sex with adults, that would be of concern. Teaching children to masturbate would constitute inappropriate conduct in the department's view, as would children being allowed to watch their parents having sex with each other or anyone else.
She said she could not say whether these allegations from former sect members applied to the children before the court.
When asked to specify which children had been sexually abused and by whom, Ms Rockley said the department was saying that the sexual beliefs and practices of the sect (now known as The Family, or The Family of Love) meant that all the children had been sexually abused and it would continue.
She admitted that when the department decided at a meeting on May 14 to seize the children, it only had available general information, nothing specific.
Ms Rockley said members of sect households moved freely between Sydney and Melbourne and had a system of fleeing when questioned by authorities.
The case continues today.