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Karlie's story

'He got off because he wasn't employed as a carer at the time, even though he was a past carer.'

Karlie is worried that one day she will go to work and Jason will be there. Karlie is a dedicated residential care worker, her commitment and enthusiasm stemming from her own experiences — good and bad — as a child in residential care.

Karlie met Jason when he was a casual worker at the independently run Melbourne residential care unit where she lived as a teenager in the 2000s.

Karlie's home life had been shambolic and traumatic. Her parents' relationship was marked by violence, various addictions, and mental illness. When she was still in primary school her mother alleged that Karlie's father had sexually assaulted her and a teacher questioned her about it but Karlie is definite that the allegation was false.

When Karlie was 12 her mother 'kicked her out' and she went to her uncle's. He was a 'convicted felon' but it was the only place where she felt safe. Not long after, police forcibly removed her from her uncle's place. The police threw her belongings into a trash bag, handcuffed her and dragged her out. She was placed under a protective custody order under the guardianship of the Department of Human Services. After a few years she was made a ward of the state.

Karlie came into contact with Jason at the second residential unit that she was placed in. She only knew him by his first name. He was about 20 years older than her and she felt a 'weird vibe about him'.

One night when she was 16, Karlie had finished her shift as an apprentice and was on her way home to the residential unit when Jason recognised her. Karlie wonders if their meeting was accidental or if he had planned it. Jason invited her to have a drink so they could 'catch up'. The first bar refused to serve them because Karlie was underage so it was clear Jason knew how old she was. They found another bar, where they managed to buy drinks. Karlie thinks Jason spiked her drink because she cannot recall leaving the bar or getting to Jason's home. Her next memory is of Jason having sex with her. Karlie is sure she did not consent.

Not long after the assault Karlie reported it to George, the carer at the residential unit. Karlie has since seen her records and George's case note. Karlie considers the case note vague, with no mention of Jason's name. Karlie guesses that George could not be bothered reporting the incident, despite it being mandatory that he make a 'category one' report.

When she was 18 Karlie requested copies of her departmental records. She was allowed half an hour to make notes from the four boxes of records but was not allowed to copy anything.

A few years later she reported the assault to the police. She was advised that no charges would be laid as she was 16 at the time and Jason was not then employed as a carer in the residential unit. Karlie is concerned that Jason is still working in the sector. 'This man has been out there the last five years, you know, who else has he sexually assaulted?'

Although a departmental manager told Karlie that she has grounds to sue the department, and the manager apologised verbally to her for the way the department handled her complaint, Karlie would like a formal letter apologising for the failure of the department to follow up.

'I want the Commission to be aware that the sexual assault of young people is not a historic issue, it is a most contemporary problem.

'I also want the law to the changed because he got off because he wasn't employed as a carer at the time, even though he was a past carer. I think that legislation needs to be changed because what's stopping someone from going into the field, working with kids casual for six months, getting enough, you know, contacts knowing these young people … quit their job then decide to meet up with all these young people and meet to sexually exploit them?'

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