Youth centre residents including a girl raped by her father were given a contraceptive injection two decades before it was approved for general use in Australia.
Depo Provera was administered to girls at Victoria’s state-run Winlaton Youth Training Centre in the 1970s, at a time when its use was supposed to be restricted to research and development.
Former Winlaton deputy superintendent Marilyn Minister told the child abuse royal commission she was not directly involved in the decision to administer Depo Provera but defended its use.
“I’m not aware of any adverse consequences, and it could be that some unwanted pregnancies were prevented, so there’s positives and negatives that can be thought about that issue,” she said on Monday.
Asked about concerns being raised because the drug was not legal in America at that stage, Ms Minister said she remembered being told it was being used in 80 countries.
“I remember reading some documents of the advice that we obtained, that it was appropriate to use in the circumstances of the young people at Winlaton,” Ms Minister said.
Depo Provera was not approved for general release in Australia until the 1990s, the commission heard.
One of those given the contraceptive injections was BGD, a girl whom social workers and community services department staff knew was being raped by her father.
No one alerted police. Ms Minister said in the 1970s and 1980s incest was generally dealt with as more of a family problem than a criminal issue.
“We probably should have gone to the police but back in the 1970s incest cases were generally dealt with as family dysfunctional matters and the focus really was on trying to improve the dynamics in the family as well as keeping the victim safe, rather than treating incest as a criminal offence.”
Ms Minister accepted under questioning that Winlaton management failed BGD.
“I think that the documentation indicates that a lot of people failed this young woman by not reporting the situation to the police,” she said.
The commission has heard Winlaton staff let BGD visit her mother on weekends, which allowed her father access to her.
Ms Minister also allowed the man to visit BGD at the centre in 1979 despite staff noting his sensual behaviour during a previous visit, when he also warned the girl to keep her mouth shut.
Ms Minister, who worked at Winlaton from 1974 until 1992, said she realised now it was a mistake and apologised.
“At the time I thought it was the right thing to do. In retrospect and on reflection now it was obviously a mistake that I gave permission for the father to visit.”
BGD was raped by her father for 27 years, from the age of 13, and had four children to him.