Heiner inquiry victim to give evidence in Canberra


Nick Xenophon: Inquiry will delve into serious issues surrounding government systems for protecting children.

A woman who claims she was paid $120,000 'hush money' over her alleged pack rape while in state government care could give evidence to a Senate inquiry in Canberra to be called as early as this month.Nick Xenophon wants inquiry into the Heiner Affair

Independent senator Nick Xenophon said the woman, who last year was awarded compensation from the state government that she described as "hush money", wanted to come forward to give evidence to the inquiry.

"It is quite significant because it raises questions about our child protection system," he said.

The woman's alleged rape at a state government-run youth detention centre in 1988 triggered Queensland's controversial Heiner inquiry.

In the 1988 incident, a 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped by two youths while another three looked on during a supervised bush outing at Mount Barney with five John Oxley Youth Detention Centre staff members in May 1988.

In 1989, retired Children's Court Magistrate Noel Heiner conducted an inquiry into issues relating to the detention centre.

Documents from the inquiry were shredded by the Goss government in 1990 over fears centre staff may have taken legal action.

The John Oxley centre is now closed. Nobody was ever charged over the incidents.

In July last year, the woman received a $120,000 payment from the Queensland government.

Now all these issues will be examined by the federal government.

"The idea is to open a Senate inquiry and we will get support for the terms of reference this week," Senator Xenophon said.

The inquiry is likely to cover four main areas: the 1988 allegation; the processes involved in investigating the original grievance; any law reform to prevent documents being "shredded" in any further inquiry; and setting a "best practice" model for dealing with child protection.

Senator Xenophon said he would have talks with Family First senator Steve Fielding, along with Greens senators, this week.

A call for the Senate inquiry will be raised in Federal Parliament next week.

"There is unfinished business here," Senator Xenophon said.

"These matters have not been bought to a satisfactory conclusion and the victim believes these issues have never been resolved."

Senator Xenophon said he believed the issue raised many broader law reform issues.

"This is about a system that failed and has broader implications of law reform and the protocols where you can use the Cabinet process to withhold information," he said.

"So it raises a lot of much-wider law reform issues as well."

Police re-investigated the incident between 2006 and 2008, but concluded there was "insufficient evidence" for charges to be laid.

The woman at the centre of the allegations, now 37, told last year that she still wanted the truth to be told, describing the payout as "yucky, dirty money" to prevent her discussing the case.

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