They were given criminal records for being neglected kids. Now, they're fighting for justice

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 07:49:40 AM. Until the early 1990s, Victorian wards of the state were charged with needing protection. Now, there are calls for their criminal records to finally be expunged.
Photo: Nell Butler was charged with being exposed to moral danger, and put into state care. (ABC News: Stephanie Anderson) Nell Butler was 13 years old in 1989 when she was repeatedly sexually abused after fleeing family violence. When she reported her rape to the police, they did not go after the offender. Instead, they charged her with being exposed to moral danger and sent her to Winlaton Girls' Training Centre. "They put me in a prison called Winlaton, on a care and protection order, and every week they took me out of that prison and took me to court, and asked me — would I go home?" she said. "They knew I was being sexually abused at home because I had told them, so they were giving me a choice between a prison where I had already been so badly beaten I threw up all night, and a home where they knew I was being sexually abused." Until the early 1990s, the Children's Court did not differentiate between the child protection and criminal matters it handled. RMIT academic Professor Bronwyn Naylor said it was not clear that the child protection charges such as being exposed to moral danger, or being charged with needing state protection, had the same status as criminal charges. But she said in having to face the police and the court, children felt that they were treated as criminals. For Ms Butler, the charge and her treatment by the system compounded her suffering. "I was asked to admit that I was promiscuous," she said. "No child who is sexually assaulted is...Read more
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