Michelle Hillman urges the Gold Coast community to support initiatives that help abused and neglected children.
Michelle Hillman urges the Gold Coast community to support initiatives that help abused and neglected children.

Abuse crisis

By JADE BILOWOL

KNOWING the violence and misery some Gold Coast children endure while waiting up to six months for help has become too much for Michelle Hillman to take.

An Abused Child Trust Gold Coast employee, Ms Hillman this week called for urgent Queensland Government action to boost what she labelled an appalling lack of services for the state's highest rate of child abuse.

Department of Child Safety's figures revealed 2689 children were confirmed as abused or neglected on the Gold Coast during the last financial year, eclipsing totals in Brisbane, North Queensland, Ipswich and Logan.

"We have three to six month waiting lists and at the moment there are 31 families on our waiting list," Ms Hillman said.

"We are watching more children fall through the cracks than anywhere else and that's when it becomes too late and the long-term consequences are different.

"It's really depressing - you only need to open the paper to read about little kids dying or being beaten up."

The trust features child protection professionals who work with abused children and their families as a last resort before children are removed from the family home.

While the Abused Child Trust is 50 per cent government funded, Ms Hillman constantly struggles to secure the rest through community and corporate support in her role as the Gold Coast business development officer.

And while the trust operates full-time Brisbane and Townsville services with up to five staff at each branch, its Pacific Fair-based branch runs part-time with only one psychologist.

"We desperately need more staff - we have staff driving down from Brisbane to help families out," Ms Hillman said.

While the Abused Child Trust is 50 per cent government funded, Ms Hillman constantly struggles to secure the rest through community and corporate support in her role as the Gold Coast branch's development officer.

And while the trust operates full-time Brisbane and Townsville services with up to five staff at each branch, its Pacific Fair-based branch runs part-time with only one psychologist.

"We desperately need more staff - we have staff driving down from Brisbane to help families out," Ms Hillman said.

The trust endeavours to expand its Gold Coast facilities by opening Contact House at Labrador, with another psychologist, a nurse, speech pathologist and occupational therapist.

But it faces insurmountable odds - $130,000 still needs to be raised if it is to be opened by its end-of-year deadline.

Ms Hillman said more and more youngsters were being identified as abused or neglected on the Gold Coast.

"We are lobbying the state government and we need community support but while we say this to the average person, we also see and know what is going on to these children," she said.

"It's like being on a see-saw because when you make a major change in someone's life you think, 'it was all worthwhile because another life has been helped."

The Abused Child Trust's executive manager Sue Bell said the Gold Coast's transient population exacerbated child abuse and a lack of community support.

"Many families settle on the Coast from interstate, and as a result, they have fewer family and community networks to reply on to cope with day-to-day life," Ms Bell said.

"In these circumstances parents' stresses are often taken out on their children.

"Small community services in places like the Gold Coast are not able to gather the community and corporate support that exists in regional areas."

See related story - 'Govt denies crisis in care'



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