October 9, 2018 - Comment

CHRIS GRAHAM, former editor of the National Indigenous Times analyses ABC Lateline’s program aired on 21 June 2006, which triggered the ‘Little Children Are Sacred Report’. This in turn triggered the military NT Intervention into Aboriginal communities a year later. Filmed at the New Way Summit, Trades Hall, Melbourne on 2 July 2010. Background: THE

CHRIS GRAHAM, former editor of the National Indigenous Times analyses ABC Lateline’s program aired on 21 June 2006, which triggered the ‘Little Children Are Sacred Report’. This in turn triggered the military NT Intervention into Aboriginal communities a year later.

Filmed at the New Way Summit, Trades Hall, Melbourne on 2 July 2010.



The story so far

1992: Gregory Andrews, the man who will later become the central figure in the Mutitjulu saga, joins the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He later tells people he’s known within the department as “the baby-faced assassin”.

1996: Mr Andrews is posted to Beijing. He reaches the rank of First Secretary Economic in the Australian Embassy

1999: Mr Andrews joins AusAID

2001: Mr Andrews is promoted to Director of Governance at AusAID

2003: Mr Andrews takes up a position as regional coordinator at the Northern Land Council (NLC)’s Jabiru office in West Arnhem land. His job was to coordinate the office and manage around five staff although a resume posted by Andrews on a conference website claims he manages the NLC’s operations in West Arnhem land (inferring he was in charge of billions of dollars of uranium mining).

August 2004: Mr Andrews begins a managerial position on the Working Together project at Mutitjulu. The project aims to help coordinate all levels of government – local, territory and federal – to better deliver services to Mutitjulu. In its early days, the project is very successful, with Andrews regarded as an effective and enthusiastic coordinator.

August 2005: Mr Andrews testifies before the NT coronial inquiry into petrol-sniffing deaths held in Mutitjulu. Mr Andrews appears before the inquest as a private citizen. His appearance sparks major media interest after a petrol sniffer walks into the inquest while Mr Andrews is testifying. The evidence Mr Andrews gives causes anger throughout the Mutitjulu community. After the inquest, Mr Andrews conducts numerous interviews with media outlets.

October-November 2005: The alleged paedophile depicted in the June 2006 Lateline story is run out of the Mutitjulu community by local residents and Parks Australia, the alleged paedophile’s former employer.

February 2006: Gregory Andrews begins work at the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC) in Canberra. He holds the rank of Assistant Secretary and manages the Communities Engagement Branch.

February 7, 2006: A five page, unsigned, anonymous fax is sent from the OIPC to the NT police alleging men in Mutitjulu are engaged in paedophilia, drug and petrol running. The author of the document later turns out to be Mr Andrews.

April 27, 2006: Mr Andrews and OIPC chief, Wayne Gibbons, appear before a Community Affairs Senate committee to give evidence to the Inquiry into Petrol Sniffing in Remote Aboriginal communities on behalf of Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough. Mr Andrews tells the Inquiry he lived in Mutitjulu for about nine months and that NT coroner Greg Cavanagh did not recommend the universal roll-out of non-sniffable Opal fuel across Central Australia. Mr Andrews also claims that:

• as a result of his work in Mutitjulu with the Working Together project, “four or five people” from the community gained employment at the nearby Ayers Rock Resort in Yulara. This claim later proves to be false.

• Mutitjulu youth were “hanging themselves off the church steeple on Sunday” and that “their mothers were having to cut them down”. This claim is strongly refuted by community members.

• “Many of the elders” of Mutitjulu “had been driven into the sand dunes” behind the community because “they could not stand the stench of petrol, the violence or the dog faeces and urine in their homes”. This claim is also strongly refuted by community members.

May 15, 2006: Lateline broadcasts a story about a leaked report from Central Australian prosecutor, Nanette Rogers about sexual violence in Aboriginal communities. It sparks a massive media interest in Indigenous affairs.

May 16, 2006: In response to the Lateline story, Mal Brough claims paedophile rings are operating throughout Aboriginal communities. He backs away from the claim the next day, but re-adopts it a month later.

June 2, 2006: Mr Andrews is interviewed by ABC Lateline at his home near Canberra. Lateline and Mr Andrews agree that his identity will be concealed and that his face will be filmed in shadow. However, the statements he makes easily identify him to numerous people and he dons a hat which people also recognise.

June 5, 2006: Mr Andrews embarks on a trip to Mutitjulu. On his way, he emails his boss (Wayne Gibbons) promising he has “a source” in Central Australia who can provide the criminal records of a Mutitjulu council official. Mr Andrews promises to forward a “physical copy” of the criminal records to Mr Gibbons if he can obtain them. Mr Andrews, despite not yet having visited the community, also tells Mr Gibbons that “preliminary research” by telephone reveals the situation on the ground in Mutitjulu is grim. Mr Andrews alleges that “marijuana and petrol consumption, child neglect, intimidation, violence, corruption and mismanagement have escalated in the past few months in particular” .

June 6, 2006: Mr Andrews attends a Mutitjulu council meeting. One of the men at the meeting was previously the subject of a police complaint by Mr Andrews (which Mr Andrews subsequently withdrew). The meeting is tense, but passes without incident.

June 21, 2006: ABC Radio’s PM program airs a story promoting a Lateline story that is to be aired later that night. Lateline tells PM that Mal Brough’s claims about paedophile rings have been “substantiated”, and plays an excerpt of a statement by an “anonymous youth worker” which claims children are being used as “sex slaves”.

June 21, 2006: Lateline airs its story headlined ‘Sexual slavery reported in Indigenous community’. Mr Andrew’s identity is concealed – his face is filmed in shadow and his voice is digitised. Lateline variously describes Mr Andrews as a “youth worker” a “former youth worker” and a “former youth worker (anonymous)”. In the story, Mr Andrews vindicates Mal Brough’s earlier claims that paedophile rings are operating in remote Aboriginal communities. The story also claims that Mutitjulu residents protected a paedophile who was allegedly exchanging petrol for sex with young girls and that the same men were running grog, drugs and petrol into the community.

June 22, 2006: The national media again focuses on sexual violence in Indigenous communities. Mutitjulu residents are convicted of “widespread sexual abuse” in the court of public opinion.

June 22, 2006: Mr Brough tells reporters that a child abuse whistleblower was almost identified by NT deputy police commissioner Bruce Wernham during a press conference, and that the whistleblower has been placed under police protection for his own safety. The man later turns out to be Gregory Andrews, although he tells Lateline on August 1 that he “sought” police protection. Mr Brough has consistently refused to comment further on this claim.

June 23, 2006: Lateline broadcasts a follow-up story claiming “…police say a man fitting [the description of the alleged paedophile] has recently arrived in the tiny community of Amata”, in South Australia. The story leaves viewers with the false impression the alleged paedophile fled as a result of Lateline’s investigations.

June 27, 2006: Mr Brough backs his claims of widespread substance abuse in Indigenous communities by stating on radio that police had found $1 million in cash in an Aboriginal community. He claims that the money was made through “the proceeds of sale of illicit substances into one small community”. Questioned by media, Mr Brough’s office declines to provide any further information.

June 29, 2006: Mal Brough publicly retracts his statement, admitting he had “failed to check his facts”. His office tells News Limited that the $1 million was an accumulated value of the drugs that were “dealt in the community over an extended period of time” rather than the amount of cash actually seized. The ‘correction’ by Mr Brough is still false – NT police confirmed there had been a drug bust but that it was in Darwin. The man charged was white and had no links to Aboriginal communities whatsoever. The amount of cash seized was around $200,000.

July 2, 2006: The Sunday Territorian breaks a story questioning the identity of the ‘former youth worker’ on the Lateline program. They report, “The ABC loves nothing more than lecturing the rest of us on how to behave. Why then did Lateline not reveal that one of its “anonymous” talents on a program about the Territory community of Mutitjulu was Greg Andrews, who works for the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough? [The Sunday Territorian] asked Lateline if it thought Greg was an appropriate source of information and was snootily told: ‘No comment’.”

July 3, 2006: The Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation is verbally informed that federal government funding to its community has been frozen.

July 4, 2006: OIPC boss Wayne Gibbons writes to the independent Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations, demanding she place the community of Mutitjulu under the control of an administrator. Mr Gibbons’ primary reason is the Lateline story. He does not reveal to the Registrar that the ‘former youth worker’ who appeared anonymously on the program is in fact one of his senior staff.

July 10, 2006: Members of the Mutitjulu community stage a meeting to discuss the way they have been treated by government officials and the ABC. Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, ALP Senator for NT, Trish Cross, NT Member for Macdonnell, Alison Anderson and NIT attend.

July 11, 2006: ABC Radio program PM reports that Mutitjulu funding has been frozen by the government. It explains: “A Lateline investigation last month on the Aboriginal community near Uluru revealed widespread abuse including details of a man who gave petrol to underage girls in exchange for sex.”

July 14, 2006: Police Superintendent, Colleen Gwynne who heads the NT Police taskforce inquiring into the Lateline allegations, releases a public statement saying that claims of sexual abuse in Mutitjulu were ‘over-stated’. The taskforce interviewed almost 300 people and found no evidence of petrol being exchanged for sexual favours within Mutitjulu and no evidence of paedophilia. Lateline and PM both fail to report the story.

July 16, 2006: Director of National Parks, Peter Cochrane provides a written statement to NIT that the alleged paedophile detailed in the Lateline investigation into sex slavery in Mutitjulu had restrictions placed on his work activities by Parks Australia. The statement casts doubt on reports by Lateline that Parks did nothing to curb the man’s activities.

July 18, 2006: Northern Territory ALP Senator Trish Crossin calls on Mal Brough to correct evidence given by Mr Andrews to the Senate inquiry into petrol sniffing after NIT reports question Mr Andrew’s claims. She tells NIT that “[Mal Brough] is holding the whole community to ransom for rumours and untruths, some of which [have] been put about by his officers”.

July 19, 2006: Mr Andrews writes a letter to the secretary of the Senate Community Affairs Committee correcting some of the earlier false claims he had made to the Senate. These claims had been contested on the NIT website a day earlier.

July 20, 2006: Lateline declines to respond to any further questions asked by NIT regarding this matter and refuses to engage in any further correspondence.

July 20, 2006: Mutitjulu goes to court after the government appoints an administrator in exchange for funding. The injunction is a partial win for Mutitjulu, with Justice Wilcox limiting the administrator’s powers to receiving and paying accounts.

July 21, 2006: The home of a Canberra public servant Tjanara Goreng Goreng is raided in relation to the Mutitjulu stories. Two days later she is suspended on full pay by OIPC, but warned that her wage could also be suspended at any time.

August 1, 2006: Gregory Andrews finally outs himself on Lateline as the “anonymous source”.

August 2, 2006: NT Chief Minister Clare Martin writes to the ABC managing director demanding an explanation for why Andrews’ identity was falsified by Lateline.

August 3, 2006: The Federal Court suggests to the Howard government that it should try and mediate its dispute with Mutitjulu over the appointment of an administrator.

August 9, 2006: The scandal surrounding the treatment of Mutitjulu enters federal parliament, sparking a series of questions to Mal Brough over several days. It also sees Labor MP Warren Snowdon accuse Wayne Gibbons and Mal Brough’s office of “coaching” Mr Andrews prior to his appearance on Lateline. Labor Senator Trish Crossin gives Lateline a ferocious spray in the Senate over its conduct.

August 16, 2006: NIT reveals that the doctor who appeared on Lateline, and backed claims men in the community were covering up the actions of an alleged paedophile, prescribed Viagra to the man for a period of 18 months, including seven months after expressing written concerns the man was “using Viagra to have sex with young females”. At least three other doctors also prescribed the man Viagra over a four year period.


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