The devastated family of an 11-year-old girl who took her own life in Western Australia believe she was left traumatised after her alleged rapist was granted bail.
The Noongar girl, who cannot be named, died in Perth Children’s Hospital on Tuesday after being flown in from a regional town.
More than a hundred family members and loved ones had gathered at the hospital, some sleeping in their cars, to farewell her.
Her death came just weeks after a man accused of sexually abusing her was arrested and granted police bail which was later renewed in court.
The elderly man, who is yet to enter a plea, is facing almost a dozen charges including sexual penetration of a child under 13 and indecent dealing.
He will return to court later this year.
Police on Wednesday conceded he should not have been granted bail.
National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project (NSPTRP) director Megan Krakouer, who has been with the girl’s family in hospital, said they were shattered.
“Their lives are ruined and they are forever heartbroken,” she told AAP.
“She was failed by a number of organisations and a number of departments.
“What I did see at that hospital is there were so many little children crying and hurting. It broke my heart.”
NSPTRP director Gerry Georgatos said laws needed to be changed so alleged repeat child sex offenders were not granted bail.
“No one should be bailed as a multiple offender, a repeat offender, because they are a higher risk,” he said.
“That seared fear into the heart of the family and into the heart of the child, according to the family, and may have led to this child’s self-harm.”
WA Police Assistant Commissioner of Regional WA Jo McCabe said the alleged offender should not have been granted bail.
“For someone so young to take their life is unacceptable and tragic and many questions need to be answered,” she said.
“An early assessment of this case tells me that police bail should have been opposed and not considered in this instance.”
Opposition justice spokesman Peter Katsambanis said the WA Liberals would change the law to prevent accused child sex offenders being granted police bail if elected next March.
“It should be completely off the table and any alleged offender should stay in custody until a court can determine bail,” he said.
Health Minister Roger Cook said he expected there to be a government investigation into what he described as a tragic event.
“When a small girl who clearly feels vulnerable and hopeless … takes her life, it strikes at the heart of all our sense of humanity,” he said.
“My understanding is there was an element of counselling and some supports that were available – we need to look at if that was appropriate. I’m sure the justice system will look at the way that the bail and other court arrangements were handled, as well.”
Mr Cook said the government’s focus was on delivering culturally tailored suicide prevention strategies in Aboriginal communities.
Advocates say it isn’t working.
“We are meeting and reaching families that aren’t being provided that support,” Ms Krakoeur said, adding that NSPTRP had assisted 12,500 people since September.
“Right now in its current form, it is failing dismally and left behind are my First Nations people.”
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