Revealing investigation into Australia’s residential homes

A revealing Four Corners investigation to air tonight reveals widespread levels of abuse and neglect occurring against children in Australia’s residential care homes.

In Broken Homes: On the frontline of Australia’s child protection crisis, reporter Linton Besser highlights how “resi kids” are not only subject to abuse but also widespread neglect.

Besser said the “resi kids”, called after the group homes they live in and run by private operators and charities, faced a series of problems with many coming from abusive backgrounds themselves.

But Besser told he was shocked at just how much neglect and abuse these kids faced.

“I’ve never seen a more unjust scenario than this,” he said of his three-month investigation.

“Children through no fault of their own are taken from their parents, which can be traumatic in itself, and are then placed into a residential home where they are subjected to neglect and abuse.

“It’s really confronting and unfair.”

Besser spoke to more than 50 people involved with, or who lived in the system across Australia, and said it was clear the system was failing.

While recognising many of the children were troubled, he said most never received the adequate levels of help and care they needed.

While residential care is designed to help these children where foster care or their own parents couldn’t, Besser said he found a system in place which was run by third party operators, either by charities or for profit companies.

“These staff are often poorly trained, low paid and ill-equipped to cope with these kids and give them the help they need,” he said.

Alarmingly, Four Corners also found many abused children often went on to become abusers themselves.

“One psychiatrist described how a child he treated for years went on to become a perpetrator after coming into a group home,” Besser said.

Just last year, Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People Bernie Geary called residential care homes “barns for children” and told the royal commission into child abuse they should be phased out.

Besser said children often didn’t receive the psychological help they needed and indigenous kids were still over represented within the system.

“Around a third of these kids end up homeless, the girls end up pregnant and losing their babies and the guys end up in jail,” he said.

“They face a grim future.”

While stopping short of calling for the system to be shut down altogether, he said it wasn’t working and that it was a complex issue which needed better trained staff and a funding overhaul.

One child protection worker told Four Corners Australians would be shocked by what takes place.

“I walked in there and I just thought ‘wow’. I didn’t even know kids lived like this. I just couldn’t believe this was happening in Australia.”

Another said children are often told they in “resi” because nobody wanted them and a foster family or home couldn’t be found for them.

Broken Homes, reported by Linton Besser and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday November 14 at 8.30pm on ABC iview. The digital feature will be published on ABC News Digital at 8.30pm AEDT. Continue the conversation @newscomHQ | @lb_online | @4 corners

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