Koowarta – Ian Austin - Photoa



Behind bars

Damon Guppy

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

© The Cairns Post

TWO men who walked free from court after being convicted of raping a 10-year-old girl are finally behind bars today as the Aurukun Nine saga draws to a close.

Raymond Frederick Woolla, 26, and Ian Austin Koowarta, 20, spent last night at Cairns Watchhouse after being flown from Aurukun.

The pair and a 15-year-old boy handed themselves in to police on Monday after a warrant was issued for their arrest.

“We negotiated with their families to have them attend the police station,” acting Insp Steve Kersley said.

Woolla and Koowarta were among nine men and boys who admitted raping a girl, 10, at Aurukun in early 2006.

The case sparked national outrage last year when Cairns District Court Judge Sarah Bradley gave the offenders non-custodial sentences, saying in her sentencing remarks that “the girl involved … was not forced and that she probably agreed to have sex’’ with the men and boys.

Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine appealed the leniency of the sentence and the Court of Appeal last week ruled that five of the group – three men and two juveniles – should be jailed.

Woolla and Koowarta, who will serve at least two years each, are expected to be sent to either Townsville prison or Capricornia Correctional Centre, near Rockhampton.

The boy, who cannot be named under Queensland law, will be sent to a juvenile detention centre.

Michael Sylvester Wikmunea, 19, and another boy are already in custody on other matters.

Police said they would be served warrants over the Aurukun rape in the near future.

Three 16-year-old boys and a 17-year-old man were placed on three years’ probation and ordered to attend Griffith Youth Forensic Rehabilitation Centre.

Lawyers for the five jailed men are yet to announce whether they will appeal against the increased sentences.



Girl endured six weeks of sex attacks

Kevin Meade and Sarah Elks | December 14, 2007

THE little girl who was gang-raped in the Cape York community of Aurukun was subjected to a six-week reign of sexual abuse by her attackers.

The story of the attacks on the 10-year-old is told in sparse but chilling detail in a police statement presented in court to Sarah Bradley, the District Court judge who failed to jail the attackers. The document also reveals that apart from the gang rape, the little girl was raped at least six times over a period of six weeks by the nine males who pleaded guilty to attacking her.

Steve Carter, the prosecutor who has been stood aside pending an investigation into the case, did not give details of the gang rape during the sentencing hearing in the Cairns District Court, which was sitting in Aurukun.

Instead, Judge Bradley apparently relied on the statement of facts Mr Carter presented to the court, and released to The Australian yesterday.

The statement says the gang rape was committed by Raymond Woolla, 26, Ian Koowarta, 20, Michael Wikmunea, 19, and a number of juveniles at a house in Aurukun on an unknown date between May 1 and June 12 last year. One of the juvenile offenders told police he went to the house with another boy to see the girl. “The complainant asked this accused if she could have sex with him,” the statement says. “Initially, he said he couldn’t because she was just a little kid, but she kept asking him so he put a condon (sic) on and had sex with her.”

Another boy who was in the house told police the girl did not want to have sex, but one of the juvenile offenders forced himself on her. “He had sex with the complainant … The complainant was telling him to stop.”

Koowarta told police Wikmunea had forced him to go to the house. They went there with Woolla. “He said the four of them had sex with the complainant. Michael (Wikmunea) went first, then (a juvenile) then Raymond (Woolla) …”

One of the boys confessed to police that apart from the gang attack, he raped the girl twice, once at a house after a disco and once behind a bank a few days later.

Another boy told police he raped the girl the night of someone’s 21st birthday party.

“They went to her aunty’s house on their bike and had sex there,” the documents say.

The girl had been living with a foster family in Cairns but against Department of Child Safety advice stayed in Aurukun after being returned to the community for a funeral. Her family and the department had agreed to return her to Cairns, but failed to act soon enough to prevent further attacks in Aurukun shortly after her return last year.

The victim’s aunt told The Australian this week the now 12-year-old was a “little girl who has had the light turned off in her life”. And her mother claimed the girl had been raped in the past by some of the same Aurukun boys who attacked her after her return to the community last year.

In a record of interview last year, obtained by The Australian, a police officer who had questioned the victim told a high-level investigative review team that when he first met the girl, he suspected she had been sexually abused.

“One thing that stood out when she came in, she shaved all her hair off and there’s a couple of girls that I’ve seen and it’s always … been the case that they … have been the victims of sexual abuse. It’s one of the indicators that I’ve noticed that stands out, the acts of violence in the community, being armed and then out of some sort of shame or whatever they shave their hair.”

When asked whether that was to “make themselves less attractive”, the officer said: “Yeah, and she had, like, a jumper on her head but wrapped up like a bouffant type of … which – I knew I wasn’t dealing with an ordinary child”.

The officer said it was difficult putting the child at ease enough to speak with police. He said it was difficult to even get her into the interviewing room.

Once they did “build rapport”, the officer said the girl had “openly volunteered that she had had ‘sex with four or five men’, the oldest of whom she thought was 18 and the youngest 19”. “The child stated that the boys ‘like sex a lot’ and that she ‘little bit liked having sex’,” he said.

The officer said the girl was found to be “very talkative in comparison with other children of her own age in that community”. “It is understood that this child is intellectually impaired as a result of fetal alcohol syndrome and is known for frequent violent outbursts.”

He said the girl had a history with the Department of Child Safety and detailed one outburst when the girl was nine, where she had “gone to the local shop with a stick and wanted to bash the shopkeepers and had done something to a forklift and she’d been in regular trouble in the community”.

He said she had committed a series of break-and-enter offences in the community.

The department is now caring for the child. “She is currently in a safe place with indigenous carers, maintaining cultural links with her community,” the department said last night. “She continues to receive long-distance education, counselling and other therapeutic support, including music and dance lessons. It is hoped she will be able to attend school in 2009.”



Court transcript of the case

  • From: The Courier-Mail
  • December 11, 2007 11:00PM

READ this edited court transcript and make up your own mind about sentences handed down for the gang rape of a 10-year-old girl.

Monday, Aug 20, 2007: Cairns District Court, Criminal jurisdiction, Judge White
Indictment No 146 of 2007;

The Queen v. (Juvenile 1), (Juvenile 2), (Juvenile 3), (Juvenile 4), (Juvenile 5), Ian Austin Koowarta, Michael Sylvester Wikmunea (Juvenile 6), Raymond Frederick Woolla


Ms G M Meoli (instructed by the Director of Public Prosecutions Queensland for the Crown)

Mr M McElhinney (of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service), with him Ms M. Bowen (a solicitor with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service in Aurukun) via telephone link-up, for the accused and children.

His Honour: Ms Meoli.

Ms Meoli: Good afternoon, your Honour. Your Honour, there is an indictment before the court charging nine accused with one count of rape of the same child. I understand they are all present in Aurukun for this arraignment.

His Honour: So that’s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight (defendants). Do you have any idea what might’ve happened to (Juvenile 6)?

Ms Bowen: (Juvenile 6) was here this morning and he’s . . .

His Honour: Got tired of waiting, did he?

Ms Bowen: No, apparently he’s outside now. Sorry about that.

His Honour: Okay, see if you can get him in. See if you can get him in, will you?

Ms Bowen: I’ll get him. Thank you, your Honour. Your Honour, I believe Ian Koowarta has also left. He was here earlier on but he’s not here at the moment.

His Honour: Should’ve handcuffed them to something when they arrived, shouldn’t have you?

Ms Bowen: I’ve, I’ve ticked them off.

His Honour: Yes, all right. So you think (Juvenile 6) now there, is he?

His Honour: Where are you? Are you in the courthouse, are you?

Ms Bowen: No, we’re in the small room at the back where the only – the only phone that can operate is in a very small room and there’s a lot of people in the room.

His Honour: Okay. So the only one we’re missing is Ian Austin Koowarta, is it?

Ms Bowen: That’s correct, your Honour.

His Honour: Now, look, what if I – how far away would the nearest policeman be?

Ms Bowen: If I could be excused for one moment so I can see if there’s – someone can go and have a look for a police officer?

His Honour: Thank you, would you do that?

Ms Bowen: Certainly. Thank you, your Honour.

His Honour: Is that a police officer there now?

Ms Bowen: Yes, your Honour, he’s just about to walk into the room, your Honour. He’s in the room now.

Ms Meoli: Your Honour, if I could just raise something without – we don’t need the accused, Mr McElhinney is here. It – your Honour, the indictment includes children and adults.

His Honour: Yes.

Ms Meoli: And I just – just to ensure that that can be done, because I understand they’re all going to be pleading guilty.

His Honour: Is that your understanding, Mr McElhinney?

Mr McElhinney: Yes, your Honour.

Ms Bowen: We have them all here now, your Honour.

His Honour: All right. (Juvenile 1), (Juvenile 2), (Juvenile 4), Ian Austin Koowarta, Michael Sylvester Wikmunea, and Raymond Frederick Woolla, you are all charged that on a date unknown between the 1st day of May 2006 and the 12th day of June 2006 at Aurukun in the State of Queensland you raped (name withheld). How say you, (Juvenile 1) are you guilty or not guilty?

(Juvenile 1): Guilty, your Honour.

His Honour: How say you, (Juvenile 2), are you guilty or not guilty?

Ms Bowen: He’s entered a plea of guilty, your Honour.

His Honour: Ask him to step up to the microphone and say “guilty” so I can hear him, please, Ms Bowen?

Ms Bowen: Yes, your Honour.

(Juvenile 2): Yes, sir, I’m guilty.

His Honour: (Juvenile 4), are you guilty or not guilty?

(Juvenile 4): Guilty, your Honour.

His Honour: Ian Austin Koowarta, are you guilty or not guilty?

Koowarta: Guilty, your Honour.

His Honour: Michael Sylvester Wikmunea, are you guilty or not guilty?

Wikmunea: Guilty, your Honour.

His Honour: Raymond Frederick Woolla, are you guilty or not guilty?

Woolla: Guilty, your Honour.

His Honour: Thanks, Ms Bowen. (Juvenile 1), (Juvenile 2) , (Juvenile 4), Ian Austin Koowarta, Michael Sylvester Wikmunea and Raymond Frederick Woolla, you are convicted by your own pleas of guilty of one count of rape. Have you got – do you have anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon you according to law? All right. Well, they’re legally represented, there’s no need for them to say anything.

His Honour: Thank you. Would you have (Juvenile 3) step up to the phone, please, Ms Bowen.

His Honour: (Juvenile 3), you are charged that on a date unknown between the 26th day of May 2006 and the 8th day of June 2006 at Aurukun in the State of Queensland you raped (name withheld). Are you guilty or not guilty?

(Juvenile 3): Guilty.

His Honour: Thank you. You are also charged (Juvenile 3) that on or about the 10th day of June 2006 at Aurukun in the State of Queensland you raped (name withheld). Are you guilty or not guilty?

(Juvenile 3): Guilty, your Honour.

His Honour: Ms Bowen. Thanks for your assistance. Now, how long do you need to take instructions from (Juvenile 5) and (Juvenile 6)?

Ms Bowen: Your Honour, we would be seeking another month. Perhaps at the next sittings up here to allow us to go through the records of interview when we get back into Cairns. His Honour: I’m just thinking about it. Whether to give you that long. I suppose they’re separate counts; aren’t they?

Ms Meoli: Yes, your Honour.

His Honour: So they – and I take it they’re separate incidents because they’re separate counts?

His Honour: And what’s the position with the rest of them? Those who have pleaded guilty now, what’s going to happen?

Mr McElhinney: It’s intended that presentence reports be prepared for the October circuit.

His Honour: All right. They’re on bail?

Mr McElhinney: Yes, your Honour.

Ms Meoli: Yes.

His Honour: All of them on bail?

Mr McElhinney: Yes.

Ms Meoli: Yes, your Honour.

His Honour: They are to remain on bail?

Ms Bowen: Your Honour, if I may, Raymond Woolla, who is an adult, I would be submitting him also for presentence report and perhaps a psychiatric report for Mr Woolla.

Is that possible?

His Honour: Can you tell me why?

Ms Bowen: His grandmother has interpreted for him most of the day and I am just not sure about his limited understanding of – of – perhaps intellectual understanding.

His Honour: Do you feel he might have some intellectual impairment?

Ms Bowen: I do, your Honour.

His Honour: All right. So who are the adults we’ve got here?

The court adjourned at 2.41pm

Wednesday 24 Oct 2007. District Court, Criminal jurisdiction, Judge Sarah Bradley

Indictment No 146 of 2007

Mr Steve Carter (for the Crown): My submission in relation to this particular offence is the same that I make in relation to children of that age, of similar or the same age of that age, is to quote – well, they’re very naughty for doing what they’re doing but it’s really – in this case, it was a form of childish experimentation, rather than one child being prevailed upon by another, although – as I said, although she was very young, she knew what was going on and she had agreed to meet the children at this particular place and it was all by arrangement, so – for that purpose.

I’d ask your Honour to take that into account and if this was standing alone, the Crown would not be asking any more than for some form of supervisory order, form of probation, or some order of that – similar order to that, your Honour.

Her Honour: Yes.

Mr Carter: Those are my – there’s no victim impact material, your Honour. Those are my submissions as to the single count indictment.

Her Honour: Thank you. And with respect to the other matters, I haven’t been provided with criminal histories; do you have those? I just want to make sure they accord with what you’re alleging.

Well – because I wasn’t the judge who took the pleas but I’m just looking at the transcript of what happened before Judge White. It doesn’t appear that anything was tendered and in fact, the matter had to be re-mentioned before me so that we could get the schedule of facts so that the presentence reports could be prepared. No, I can’t see anything on the transcript. What about any victim impact material?

Mr Carter: No, I have no victim impact material, your Honour. Yes, I assumed in the same vein that you had – your Honour had a criminal history for Brett as well . . . I’ve been given certain instructions as to the penalties for these, your Honour. None of the penalties that I’ve been instructed to seek have been, involve custodian penalty, immediate custodial penalty, not even for the adults.

Her Honour: What about in the light of the PSRs though?

Mr Carter: Even with those, your Honour, yes. I know that other forms of penalty are difficult but I would submit that if your Honour’s seeking to impose any form of custodial penalty on the adults, that they be dealt with by way of a, yes, suspended sentence or a parole.

Her Honour: Immediate parole.

Mr Carter: Yes. But that’s the – that’s the other course that I’ve been instructed to take, your Honour. As to the children, I would submit some form of supervised reorders for them, something that involves possibly a little bit of education, or counselling in relation to matters such as these. But that’s all I’d be seeking, that some form of supervisory order of, in the vicinity of no less than 12 months, for each of them, having, taking into account the nature of the offence, their admissions and pleas and also the contents of the histories.

It must be stated, I won’t resile from this, that the charges of rape and as I’m instructed, it’s – that arises in part, due to the age of the complainant and her ability to actually consent to the acts and I ask your Honour to take that into account too, whereas it is called rape, because of that and because of the absence of a proper consent and while that isn’t, doesn’t excuse them, it does in some way lessen the fact that there was no actual force in the sense.

Her Honour: But she was only 10 at the time, wasn’t she?

Mr Carter: Yes, that’s right, and there’s no possible way that she could have consented willing (sic)– knowingly, with the full knowledge to these offences, even though – that she’d gone through the motions of having sex with these people and I’d submit that that’s something as well. They didn’t force themselves on her, threaten her, or in any way engage in any of that sort of behaviour.

So, to the extent I can’t say it was consensual in the legal sense but in the other – in the general sense, the non-legal sense – yes, it was. So, I then ask on that basis not to seek any periods of detention, not to seek any periods of custody, immediate custody. Unless there’s anything further, Your Honour, that’s – those are my submissions. I can expect that not all of them will have clean histories.

Her Honour: No.

Mr Carter: But I do know for, I have been told that none of them had any prior matters for any prior sexual matters. It’d be arrogant of me to stand here and start seeking – I don’t – children, females, have got to be, deserve the same protection under the law in an Aboriginal or an indigenous community as they do in any other community but sometimes things happen in a small community when children get together and people that are just past their childhood and these sort of things are what we’re dealing with today.

Her Honour: We’ve got one 25-year-old.

Mr Carter: Yes. Yes. Yes, that’s correct. He may be chronologically 25 but I don’t – I would not – I’d submit that there wouldn’t have been much thought given to the age disparity or the legal niceties of consent or that sort of thing. That’s why I’m asking in any event that he be given a – either parole or a sentence that’s suspended, operational period for 12 to 18 months. If it please Your Honour.

Her Honour: Okay. Thank you. I’ll just – you’ve both seen the pre-sentence reports for all.

Mr Carter: Yes. Yes, Your Honour.

(Later, Raymond Woolla’s legal representative, Mr Curtin, speaks on his behalf): My client was born on the 1st of May 1981 in Cairns. He’s lived all of his life in Aurukun. He’s been brought up by his mother. Grandmother’s present. He went to – sorry, Your Honour, I’ll start again. He completed Grade 8 education at Aurukun. He’s had significant health problems as I understand it. He’s unemployed at the moment.

Her Honour: What are they?

Mr Curtin: Apparently he has an injury or a hole in his ear which becomes infected on a regular basis and it impacts upon his balance and hearing, Your Honour. He’s not on Centrelink and he’s unemployed at the moment. I can’t actually understand how that works, Your Honour.

He resides with his mother. He’s single. He has no dependants. He’s the youngest out of four brothers and two sisters. I’m instructed that after this incident, Raymond stayed home a lot more and took more responsibility, taking his nephews and nieces to schools and generally assisting around the house.

It is accepted, obviously, Your Honour, he has a previous charge of unlawful carnal knowledge. Instructed Raymond is very sorry for the shame he’s caused his mother and his family. He wants to be sentenced so he can start a new life and get on within the community.

In my experience, dealing with Raymond on a number of occasions before the Court, Your Honour, it’s fair to say that Raymond can be described as probably slow from an intellectual standpoint. He’s not someone who has a high intellect or a robust intellect or personality. He’s very withdrawn and he’s certainly what may be regarded as someone who is a follower rather than a leader.

I say that significantly because I don’t want it to be interpreted because the oldest of the pack is the leader of the pack and that shouldn’t be interpreted in any way, shape or form, Your Honour, because that’s not Raymond’s personality in relation to this or any other matter within the community.

Your Honour, again, I submit that given the serious nature of the fact and the disparity between my client’s age and the age of the victim, that Your Honour would be minded to impose a custodial term in relation to my client, but I’d be submitting, in the light of parity, that Your Honour, too, would suspend that term of imprisonment so my client could remain in the community and assisting his family, particularly his mother.

(Sentencing was completed on October 24 and November 6. Judge Bradley ordered that the six teenage juveniles be placed on a 12-month probation order. She sentenced three men aged 17, 18 and 26 to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.)

These transcripts have been edited for legal reasons to protect the victim’s identity.


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