WA govt investigates kids holiday program

Finding out how staff at a childcare provider could let a 4 and 5-year-old child walk off from a holiday program to be abducted and sexually abused and not notice them missing will be the focus of a West Australian government investigation.


Now that police have charged a 52-year-old man with child sex offences over the horrific crimes that shocked Perth this week, the focus is on the actions of staff and the company that employs them.

Staff at the centre, which cannot be named for legal reasons, never noticed the children missing for an hour and were contacted by police after a member of the public found them wandering in a park where they were dumped.

The provider is under scrutiny for not notifying the parents of other children until the day after the offences, with some angry about being told after they had dropped their children off at the program on Wednesday.

Officers from WA’s Department of Local Government and Communities will investigate what happened with staff.

However the provider passed a standards test when visited by department officers last month, said the department’s director general Jennifer Mathews.

Acting Communities Services Minister Albert Jacob said the provider and the incident would be the focus and not the industry itself, which he defended as highly regulated.

“There is nothing we can take more seriously as a government than this incident,” he told reporters.

“Something has clearly gone very wrong.”

Ms Mathews defended how well the industry was regulated and how well her department policed that.

“In some instances we are more active than other states in making sure standards are complied with and where necessary enforce them through the tribunal,” she said.

A recent report by the State Administrative Tribunal showed 22 WA childcare providers were fined an average $8000 in the decade to the end of 2015.

Offences included leaving a child behind alone at a science museum after an excursion and numerous cases of staff not noticing children wandering off, with a 5-year-old autistic child caught walking among traffic.

The Labor opposition’s spokeswoman for children’s interests Simone McGurk said the review should be independent and not done by the department.

She said it should also look at how holiday programs are often run at community halls and other locations not purpose built for childcare such as schools, therefore making it easier for predators to sneak in.

The North Perth house that police raided as part of the investigation into the crimes was painted with abusive graffiti by vigilantes on Friday.