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Witnesses to historical child abuse at Newcastle’s Worimi Shelter sought

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Legal eagles are urging witnesses to alleged historical child sexual abuse at Newcastle’s Worimi Shelter to assist them with their enquiries.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers is seeking people to come forward with any information that may help several survivors of the purported crimes that occurred more than two decades ago.

Associate in Abuse Law Selva Dankha said the firm was investigating the alleged sexual abuse of children by a higher-ranking officer, who had a presence at the Broadmeadow facility between October 1995 and December 2002.

“We currently hold instructions from numerous clients who say they suffered sexual abuse at the hands of this employee, who is said to be a celebrated figure in the community,” she explained.

“It has had a devastating impact on their lives, which is why we’re seeking witnesses and any other victims to come forward to help us get them the justice, closure and compensation they need and deserve.

“To date, there have been known offenders who have held high-ranking positions at similar facilities who managed to attend the centres and abuse victims even after their employment had ceased.

“We believe this officer continued to have access to Worimi following his employment, too.

“He also continued to abuse detainees, which is why we’re also calling for witnesses.”

Ms Dankha said the Worimi shelter was established by the former Child Welfare Department in June 1966.

The facility housed children from the courts and held 23 boys and girls up to the age of 18 years.

Under NSW law, there is no longer a time limit on when child sex abuse compensation claims can be made, meaning victims can pursue a claim for damages regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

In addition, legislation was passed in 2021 that allows unfair settlements previously reached with churches and other institutions, to be set aside by the court.

Gag orders, which survivors were previously forced to sign, preventing them from speaking publicly about what they endured can now also be lifted.

“We believe there could be potential witnesses living in New South Wales or interstate,” Ms Dankha said.

“If you suffered abuse by an officer who held a higher-ranking at Worimi Shelter, or any others, or if you are aware of the abuse of other children, please do not hesitate to reach out to Slater and Gordon Lawyers.”

Ms Dankha reiterated that any information received would be treated confidentially.

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