The system is broken in Western Australia.
Earlier in the week we wrote about the disgraceful housing of sexual abusers with victims in Perth government care homes.
Yesterday it was revealed that 11-year-old First Nations girl Annaliesse Ugle tragically took her own life after her alleged abuser was granted bail on the same day he was arrested on child sexual abuse charges.
Her heartbroken mother, who described her daughter as “beautiful, bubbly, outgoing”, says her little girl felt scared and ashamed.
“He walked free, while my girl sat back worrying all the time, whether he’s going to come and get her,” she said. “They let my baby down, the police, the courts…”
Annaliesse died in Perth Children's Hospital on Tuesday after being flown in from a regional town in Western Australia. She was farewelled by more than a hundred grieving family members and loved ones – some who slept in their cars overnight to be with her as she was taken off life support.
National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project director Gerry Georgatos, who supported the family in hospital, said "so many failures" had occurred in the lead up to this tragedy, both in terms of the legal system, as well as social services. He said children as young as six from impoverished families in WA were attempting to take their own lives and that more support is needed.
Police have conceded that it was a mistake to release the 66-year-old man who was accused of raping the young girl over a period of six years between 2014 and 2020, since she was just five years old.
"For someone so young to take their own life is unacceptable and tragic and many questions need to be answered," Regional WA Assistant Police Commissioner Jo McCabe said.
"An early assessment of this case and the seriousness of the offences tells me that police bail should have been opposed and not considered in this instance. I’m here today to say that WA Police take ownership of any issues where we can prevent something like this from occurring again.”
Yet the alleged abuser remains on bail in Perth.
Annaliesse’s devastated family have given permission to picture and name her in the hope that bail laws are changed so that accused repeat child sex offenders cannot roam free while awaiting trial.
"We need tougher bail laws” and “I believe rural places need more services for young people,” Annaliesse’s mother said.
The current system is failing young people in WA, especially young girls. We stand with Annaliesse and her family in calling for urgent change to legal and social support systems in the state.
If you or someone you know needs crisis support, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.