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Wundarra Services social worker charged with rape of 13 year old girl

Source- The Daily Telegraph
Date- 8 March 2016

A social worker on a fortnightly wage of $2200 to care for some of the state’s most vulnerable kids is in custody over the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl in his care.

Dennis Kelly, 41, an employee of under-siege support group Wundarra Services, has been charged with two counts of sexual and indecent assault after the alleged attack in a residential care facility in Coffs Harbour.

Kelly allegedly penned a case report on the night of the incident, November 2, saying: “Good shift. No issues.”

Kelly, who was first ­employed at the service in 2013, has a lengthy criminal history including multiple ­assaults, break and enter and intimidation offences.

His crimes did not show up in his mandatory Working With Children Check and Wundarra did not submit employees to criminal history searches, a policy they have since reversed.

“The criminal checks, in hindsight, yes (we should have had them),” Wundarra manager Garth Freudenstein told The Daily Telegraph.

“We were devastated. ­Absolutely devastated. My staff have been severely ­traumatised by this … we’re all completely gutted.

“We look after kids that are so vulnerable. They’ve already been through enough.”

The disturbing revelation comes just a week after The Daily Telegraph revealed police were called to hundreds of incidents involving children at Wundarra, which receives $2.3 million a year from the state government to care for troubled youth around Coffs Harbour on the state’s north coast.

The state government is investigating how at least 20 children in Wundarra’s care were able to carry out a year-long crime rampage allegedly culminating in the rape of a seven-year-old girl.

Despite more than 200 calls to police regarding the youths in the care of the last year, including the alleged rapes of three children and 27 assaults, appeals by police to state government authorities achieved little.

Wundarra owner Ernie Lovelock said the incident had prompted a more stringent culture of protection at Wundarra and that the allegations had shocked him.

“I still feel sick about it. I was in disbelief. My thoughts turned to the alleged victim,” Mr Lovelock said.

The rape is alleged to have occurred just two days after the Office of the Children’s Guardian inspected Wundarra and its employees as part of the accreditation process.

Both Mr Freudenstein and Mr Lovelock called for the government to make criminal history checks mandatory for social workers employed at out of home care facilities.

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