The rape of a five-year-old boy by a group of children in a remote Aboriginal community is the latest sexual assault among a series of crimes to rock the region.
Napranum, on the north-west coast of Cape York, was once considered one of the most deprived communities in Queensland with high levels of crime and unemployment.
The town – which an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of about 95 per cent – is about 40km from Aurukun, where a 10-year-old girl was horrifically gang raped in 2016.
The community is now reeling from the attack on a five-year-old boy, who was allegedly sexually assaulted by four boys, aged between 10 and 13, on a remote beach on July 1.
The group have been taken into police custody, while the 900-strong Napranum community has banned them from returning to the town, The Australian reported.
The alleged attack was so violent the victim required emergency medical treatment and was airlifted to Cairns Hospital, some 800km away.
Napranum is on the north-west coast of Cape York in Queensland
Pictured: Paintings on a public block at sporting fields in Napranum
Community members said the disturbing allegations have torn several families apart and reopened wounds from a shocking sex crime that happened 15 years earlier.
‘There are big arguments about how this happened,’ one local said.
‘It is creating big problems in the town. It is not the first time something like this has happened.’
The July sexual assault comes 14 years after a 10-year-old girl was gang raped by nine men aged between 13 and 25 in the neighbouring community of Aurukun, about 40km south of Napranum, in 2006.
The young girl was born to an alcoholic mother and suffered from a mild intellectual disability.
Although the men all pleaded guilty to a litany of sexual offences, the judge spared them jail time and said the victim ‘probably agreed’ to have sex with them.
She ruled the men were also victims themselves after growing up deprived and subjected to physical and sexual abuse at the hands of others in their community.
Pictured: A child shoots at a basketball hoop at PCYC Napranum. There is no suggestion the children pictured are involved in the case
No convictions were recorded in the horrifying case, sparking fury across Australia.
Then Prime Minster Kevin Rudd expressed his anger at the court’s decision at the time.
‘I’m disgusted and appalled by the reports that I’ve seen in today’s newspapers on this case,’ Mr Rudd said.
‘My attitude of violence towards women and children, including sexual violence towards women and children, is one of zero tolerance.’
Due to the young age of the alleged offenders in Napranum, police can use their discretion to determine how they proceed with prosecution.
Ten is the age an offender can be found guilty of a crime, but if a child under 13 commits an offence police can issue a caution.
The alleged gang rape of a five-year-old boy has reopened wounds from a shocking sex crime 15 years earlier in nearby Aurukun
The four boys accused of the July 1 attack, which allegedly occurred on the north-west coast of Cape York at a remote beach in Napranum (pictured), have been taken into custody
Another option is restorative justice – a tactic commonly used in Indigenous communities – which normally involves extensive counselling, a mediated meeting with the victim’s family and an apology to the victim.
The alleged Napranum gang rape is the latest of a series of horrifying cases in remote Aboriginal communities.
A 27-year-old man was sentenced to 13 years in prison in March for raping a two-year-old girl in Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory while her mother was sleeping in a crime that shocked Australia.
The toddler suffered severe internal injuries in the 2018 attack and had to be flown to an Adelaide hospital where she underwent a blood transfusion.
Such incidents have raised concerns about child safety in remote Indigenous communities.
According to the 2016 Census, there were 907 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people living in Napranum. Pictured: Children of Napranum play. There is no suggestion the children pictured are involved in the case
In 2016, a Griffith University study headed by Professor Stephen Smallbone examined the prevalence of sexual abuse in Indigenous North Queensland communities.
It found sex crimes in Aurukun were occurring at a rate 6.6 times higher than the rest of Queensland, with the average age of victims just 14.
The report also revealed that sexually transmitted diseases were spreading at an alarming rate.
Syphilis infections were detected to be 56 times above the state average.
The report found 29 children younger than 10 had contracted the sexually transmitted disease.
Napranum, which translates to ‘meeting place’, was long known as one of Queensland’s most disadvantaged communities despite being a short six kilometres from mining town Weipa.
Napranum, which translates to ‘meeting place’, was long known as one of Queensland’s most disadvantaged communities despite being a short six kilometres from mining town Weipa
The community engaged a consultant in 2011 to tackle disadvantage over the next 10 years, ABC reported.
One of the key focuses was economic opportunities and the creation of jobs for local town members.
Three years later, Napranum had created more than 40 jobs and built infrastructure including 30 homes, a new supermarket, a daycare centre and a war memorial.
A Facebook group for the community marked their strides in 2016.
‘Hi everyone, we want to show our support for Napranum and the incredible change they have fostered from the ground up,’ the post reads.
‘Five years since deciding to empower their community through creating a community plan, they have seen an increase in employment and community ownership of infrastructure and a decrease in court appearances and domestic violence.
‘They chose to create the future they wanted for their children.
‘Stand with Napranum to show your support… Be the change you wish to see!’
Elder Mary Ann Coconut spoke to the ABC about the community’s transformation and said there had been a significant drop in children needing to stay in safe houses.
‘It’s nice to see the infrastructure, buildings and everything here, but the main thing is building your self-esteem within you – that’s the mindset that changes everything when you start to think differently,’ she said.
Resident Dick Namai, who once found himself in trouble with the law, became a qualified tradesman.
‘Just adds to the whole kind of person you want to be really – responsible at work and home,’ he said.
‘You can see the evidence of our hard work and cooperation together – it’s really good and really fruitful, as you can see.’
Sources said the injuries inflicted upon the alleged victim were so horrific he had to be airlifted to Cairns Hospital (pictured) for emergency medical treatment
According to the Queensland Government website, alcohol is banned in Napranum and residents who break the law can be fined thousands of dollars.
‘The Napranum restricted area is the Napranum Aboriginal Shire including all public and private places. This includes all waterways where both banks are within the shire,’ the website says.
‘No alcohol or homebrew and homebrew equipment is allowed in restricted areas.’
In the 2016 Census, there were 907 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people living in Napranum, representing 95.5 per cent of the total resident population.
About 58 per cent of dependent children in families of Aboriginal people were from jobless families and 26.8 per cent of Aboriginal people aged 15 years and over had completed Year 12.
Remote Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory where the horrific child rape of a two-year-old occurred in 2018