Image: Australian tourists revel in Bali
Australia’s recently-revived Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, is due to visit Indonesia this week, and will likely be placing the issue of the “boat people” high on the agenda. The asylum seekers from places like Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, pay people-smugglers to get on boats to Australia. It is perceived as a real problem, domestically, for the Australian government, which claims Indonesia is not doing enough to catch the people-smugglers, and stem the flow of the boats washing up on Australian shores.
Indonesian commentator, Iqhbal Sukokiman says that “Australian paedophiles keep washing up on our shores and it is time to do something.” Perhaps, if the Australian government did more to stem the flow of Australian paedophiles to Indonesia, and Bali in particular, the Indonesian government might be more sympathetic to the Australian government’s position on the people-smugglers.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has reported that Bali is the most popular destination for Australian paedophiles. It is also the most popular destination for Australian tourists in general, despite the two Bali terrorism incidents. Fixing the problem of the flow of paedophiles to Bali would go a long way towards fixing relations with Australia’s largest, and most important, neighbour.
The Royal Commission must look at this issue as a matter of priority.
Bernadette McMenamin, national director of Child Wise, Australia’s peak child protection lobby group, is scathing about what she describes as inaction by AFP against Australian child sex offenders in Indonesia, where Child Wise has been working for 12 years. The AFP traveled twice to Bali a few years back, to assess the level of child sex tourism, a crime that carries a maximum jail term of 17 years for Australian offenders.
Commenting on the outcome, an AFP official said that “The AFP has not seen any anecdotal or official evidence to suggest a surge in child sex offenders from Australia traveling to Bali.” Ms. McMenamin says that “The Australian government will not take responsibility for exporting sex offenders.” Project Childhood, designed by Child Wise, and funded through the Australian government’s foreign aid agency, AusAid, was dropped in Indonesia, even though AusAid had identified Indonesia as the biggest destination for Australian child sex tourists.
Foreign pedophiles have infiltrated schools, orphanages, street kids’ centres, and other development agencies overseas, McMenamin says. Previous postings have covered the dangers associated with these institutions, and the lack of protocols within Australia to minimize those risks.
UNICEF estimates that 40,000 to 70,000 children are victims of sexual abuse in Indonesia, and that at least 30% of female sex workers there are under-age. CASA has estimated that as many as 3,000 local children have fallen prey to tourists in Bali. Normal Australian tourists on their way to Bali need to know that the person sitting next to them on the plane could be going there to exploit local children.
Australia sends two types of child molesters to Indonesia. There are the paedo-tourists who tend to use trafficked children. They are very difficult to catch. The least Australia could do would be to refuse a visa to ones who have had previous convictions here.
The other type is the one who settles in the country, ingratiates himself with the locals, and them abuses their children. A few of these have been caught, after long periods of activity. Usually, Indonesian authorities have no warning from Australian officials.
Take the case of Paul Thompson, who was arrested in 2006 following visa irregularities by Indonesian authorities. He had been traveling extensively in S. E. Asia on multiple fake passports, and it is believed he also left a trail of victims. It turned out he was wanted in Australia, and subsequently extradited from Bali. Thirteen years previously, he had escaped from an Australian prison where he had two years left to serve of a sentence for child sexual abuse.
When he faced the court in Australia, he made a plea for compassion. Magistrate Robert Burton accepted that Thompson was “a changed person” who had “done it tough.” Mr. Burton then sentenced him to a further four months for escaping.
Leon Mark Melzack and David Allen Shom were charged in 1997 with child sex offences but, two days after being granted bail, fled to Thailand and then Cambodia, after which the trail went cold. Sixteen years later, they are still on the run, and believed to be living in Bali under assumed names. However, the Australian child abuse squad spokesperson says that “we have no idea where they are.”
One who was caught was Paul Francis Callaghan. He had skipped bail in 2003 on a charge of abusing a 10-year old boy in Australia. He had been living in Bali for several years, where he operated a surfboard business. Indonesian authorities said that, while Callaghan lived in Bali, they had not been given any evidence, by Australian authorities, to suggest Callaghan’s involvement in any crimes.
The Australian Government has budgeted $40 million to cover its own interests at the Royal Commission. Some of this could be well spent on drawing up protocols and legislation to stop paedophile bail absconders going to Bali to set up business anew. It could also spend something on setting up a paedophile register and passing information to child protection authorities in other countries.
It could also fund child protection organisations to produce submissions to the Royal Commission on the issue of Australian paedo-tourism. Finally, it could contact such organisations in other countries to gain an input from them. A submission from the Indonesian Government could be very revealing.
The last word can be given to Iqhbal Sukokiman: “Life’s not all about winning Olympic medals, Australia.”
[Postscript: In one of the worst cases of child sexual exploitation ever recorded, two Australian men were sentenced to 40 years prison in the U.S. They had “adopted” a baby boy for $8,000, and taken him around the world for exploitation. Evidence of videos they produced was found when Queensland police raided their property in Cairns. The institution, and country, where they obtained the boy was not revealed.]
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TOMORROW: More on Bali
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)