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Australia shocked by extreme case of incest, sex abuse and child neglect

Twelve children were removed from a farm in New South Wales after social workers and police found them living in squalid conditions. They soon discovered that 11 of them were born to related parents.

Stock photo.
Stock photo.
Image: New South Wales via Shutterstock

THE COLT FAMILY lived undisturbed on their farm in New South Wales until June 2012 when social workers and police made their first visit.

The checkup was warranted because of reports that there were children living ‘in the hills’ who did not attend school.

What emerged was a depraved case of the most extreme child neglect, abuse and intergenerational incest any of the officials had ever seen. Some have not been able to get over what they had to document.

There were 12 children – all in unwashed states with varying degrees of intellectual disabilities, physical deformities, malnutrition and dental emergencies – living on the property.

Some of the youngsters and teenagers were unable to use a toothbrush, wash their hair, use toilet paper or bathe themselves.

The family of about 40 people existed in two caravans, two sheds and two tents. The caravans were described as “very dirty” and in a “hazardous state”. There was mud, dirt, cigarette butts and rubbish on the floors. The children’s beds were dirty and unmade; cooking facilities were dirty and unsafe and window were broken.

The fridge in the large shed contained rotten vegetables and a young kangaroo was asleep in one of the children’s beds.

Caseworkers observed the children and reported that they wore dirty clothing, were shy and unable to make eye contact.

Their speech was difficult to understand and they appeared to have very poor dental health and hygiene.

The horrific details have emerged this week after the New South Wales Children’s Court took the unusual decision to publish its judgement with the name of the family changed.

Community Services removed the 12 children from the settlement on 18 July 2012. In July, the Court said that they would not be returned to their parents under any circumstances because such a move would pose too much of a risk.

The children

Just one of the 12 children removed from the farm was found to have parents that were not related.

The Colt family’s dark history starts with brother and sister, Timothy and June Colt, who were married in New Zealand in 1966 and had seven children – Rhonda, Betty, Cherry, Frank, Charlie, Paula and Martha.

The family moved to Australia and lived in various properties. They were thought to relocate each time authorities would ask questions or get to close.

Rhonda, Betty and Martha were all mothers involved in the Boorawa neglect case.

Rhonda has six children, the youngest being Cindy who is five years old and is now in the care of the State. Her father is not related to the Colts, genetic testing showed.

Betty has 13 children, five of whom are now in protection. Bobby (15), Bill (14), Brian (12), Dwayne (9) and Carmen (8) were all removed during the 18 July 2012 visit. Their fathers are all related to Betty.

Betty’s daughter Raylene, who is now 30 years old, was the fourth mother involved in this year’s legal proceedings. Her only child, Kimberly, is 13 and was also removed from the Boorawa farm.

Martha has had six children but Donna died when she was just two weeks old. The surviving five are aged between seven and 15. They were all removed by social services. Albert, Jed, Karl, Ruth and Nadia’s parents were all related, genetic testing showed.

According to the evidence heard in court, all 12 children were “neglected in significant ways”.

Most of them were discovered to be far behind age peers in terms of educational development and were functioning well below their chronological age.

Albert, Jed, Kimberly, Karl, Ruth, Carmen and Nadia have particular problems with speaking intelligibly.

There were other physical problems noted, including fungal infections in feet and bed-wetting and soiling.

A number of the Colt children were reported to having hearing and vision impairments, as well as cognitive difficulties.

The world primitive was used by the court on occasion.

Cindy, the only child not born of a incestuous relationship, was described as a “well-spoken polite, bright, intelligent girl whose development was normal for her age”. Her health and hygiene were observed to be good and her clothes clean. Her mother had taken her to hospital in June 2012 to be treated for her ear infection.

Sexualised behaviour

The court judgement on the children’s experiences of sex abuse makes for extremely disturbing reading.

Evidence submitted revealed how the Colt children made concerning disclosures to psychologists during sessions and, they themselves, exhibited sexualised behaviour.

Kimberley revealed that she had “sucked Dwayne” while Carmen watched. Her mother knew about it, she said.

Other disclosures outlined in the court included incidences some of the brothers and uncles having sex with the girls, touching their breasts, licking their vaginas and placing sticks in their anuses.

There were incidences of the girls being tied up to trees by the boys and other times when they watched other members of their family have sex with each other.

Placement reports from carers indicated that Cindy, who is just five years old, was found masturbating on a toilet and in the shower. She said Dwayne (9) showed her how to do that.

She also tried to kiss the male carer on the lips and was defiant when told this was inappropriate.

Five of the boys also told their carers about how they used to torture animals on the farm, including puppies and cats. They reported mutilating the genitals of animals.

Separately, Ruth told a psychologist that she lived with “two mums and two dads” but her “number one mum died because she was sick”.

Tammy Colt’s Evidence

Some of the most harrowing evidence was given by Betty’s second daughter, Tammy, who revealed what had happened to her as she grew up.

She told her Victorian caseworker that she had been in a relationship with her younger brother Derek for three years and that he had fathered her three children – one of whom died from a “universally lethal” condition, Zellweger Syndrome. She says she did not know they were related until recently.

He has since threatened to kill her if “he couldn’t have her”.

Tammy disclosed that she had been abused within the Colt family from the age of 12, when other family members began having sex with her, including Colin, Timothy, Derek and Matthew.

She said that the same happened to her sisters, Raylene, Tracy, Jane and Penny.

Her mother encouraged this activity. Tammy used to hide from her brothers when she could so they couldn’t have sex with her, and she secretly went on the pill at age 16, without her mother’s knowledge.

She and her sisters were not allowed to see a doctor when pregnant in case someone found out what was happening.

The now-27-year-old says she is aware of a number of miscarriages on the Boorowa farm.

The judge’s ruling

Judge Peter Johnstone said the jigsaw pieces given to him created a “very clear picture” of life on the farm. He accepted the genetic evidence, as well as Tammy Colt’s submission, stating it had probative value, and that the Children’s Court works differently to other courts in terms of strict proof and best evidence.

He repeated a note from the caseworker which said Tammy’s outpourings at the courthouse were “spontaneous and voluntary”. He said he took into account the general, inconsistent and contradictory nature of her account but made allowances for her own emotional and psychological deficiencies.

“Overall, however, she presented connected and credible threads that assist in completing the full picture of the Colt family and life on the farm”, he said.

Judge Johnstone ruled that Betty Colt – who had disputed the court’s findings – is not willing to disentangle herself from her family and is incapable of addressing her own traumatic history.

He said there is no pathway for the restoration of the children to the care of their mothers and agreed they would be wards of the State until they are 18 years old.

All 12 are currently in foster care or other placements. They have some contact with each other and their parents.

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