AFP investigation leads to child abuse charges for former Gold Coast educator
A former early childhood education and care (ECEC) worker from Queensland’s Gold Coast has been charged with 1,623 child abuse offences against 91 children in Brisbane, Sydney and overseas between 2007 and 2022.
Before continuing to read this piece, readers should be aware that the content of this article may prove distressing, and should consider their own circumstances before continuing to engage with the piece. A list of support services has been provided at the conclusion of the article.
An investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), in conjunction with the Queensland Police Service and New South Wales Police Force has resulted in the charges, with the case scheduled for a mention in Brisbane Magistrates Court on 21 August 2023.
The 45-year-old man at the centre of the charges has been in custody in Queensland since August 2022 when the AFP arrested and charged him initially with two counts of making child exploitation material and one count of using a carriage service for child exploitation material.
In August 2022, the AFP was able to trace objects identified in the background of the alleged images and videos posted on the dark web between 2013 and 2014 to a Brisbane childcare centre.
Following inquiries with the childcare centre, the AFP executed a search warrant on 20 August 2022, in Brisbane, and arrested the man in Brisbane’s southwestern suburbs. He was charged with making and distributing child abuse material that was allegedly posted on the dark web.
In the next 48 hours, the AFP executed two further search warrants including at the man’s Gold Coast home and seized electronic devices allegedly containing child abuse material created by the man.
After the man was charged last year, the AFP will allege that further self-produced child abuse material was identified on electronic devices allegedly owned by the man.
Operation Tenterfield launched
The AFP launched Operation Tenterfield immediately after arresting the man on 21 August last year which has, in part, focussed on identifying the children in the alleged child abuse material recorded at childcare centres in Queensland (10) and NSW (one), and an early learning centre attached to a school overseas.
“While I am extremely proud of law enforcements’ persistence and their unwavering dedication to identify this alleged offender, and stop further abuse, this is chilling news,” said AFP Northern Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough.
“It is with a heavy-heart that the AFP and other law enforcement dedicate so much time and resources to prevent and take action against individuals who commit heinous crimes against children.”
The AFP alleges the man recorded his offending on phones and cameras while working in 10 childcare centres in Brisbane between 2007 to 2013, and 2018 to 2022; an overseas location in 2013 and 2014; and one centre in Sydney between 2014 and 2017. All the children allegedly offended against were pre-pubescent girls. The man worked at other childcare centres but the AFP is highly-confident the man did not allegedly offend at those centres.
All children identified
The AFP is also highly-confident that all 87 Australian children who were recorded in the alleged child abuse material have been identified and the parents have been informed of the investigation.
“The AFP, working with support services, has ensured parents and carers have received as much information as possible as this investigation continues,” said Assistant Commissioner Gough.
“I can assure members of the Australian public that if you have not been contacted by law enforcement, it is extremely unlikely your child was allegedly offended against by the man.
“The AFP is highly-confident that all the Australian children who were recorded in the alleged child abuse material have been identified.”
Some of the individuals identified in the alleged child abuse material are now aged over 18 years and have been informed. Support services have been offered and continue to be provided. The AFP is working with international authorities to help identify four children recorded in alleged child abuse material created overseas.
Many of the charges to be brought against the individual currently in custody carry sentences with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Support available for survivors
“There is not much solace I can give parents and children who have been identified under Operation Tenterfield, but I can tell you that we never gave up, and we never will when it comes to protecting children,” Assistant Commissioner Gough said.
“This is a distressing time for families, carers and the community broadly.”
“We know this type of news can re-traumatise survivors of sexual abuse, and, please, I urge those survivors to seek support, or talk to a trusted network, if today’s news has caused distress.”
The AFP urges anyone in the community who needs to access support to visit the ACCCE website – www.accce.gov.au – for a full list of available support services with contact details.
Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or www.accce.gov.au/report. If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on 000.
How Do You Stop People from Leaving: Staff Retention in Early Childhood
by Freya Lucas
Trainer and assessor based in Victoria? 10 International VET Fellowships on offer
by Freya Lucas
ECEC sector wonders where staff will come from for NSW new preschool ventures
by Freya Lucas