Children sent to institutions as wards of the state of South Australia were preyed on by sadists and pedophiles and in some cases treated like medical guinea pigs, a commission of inquiry was told in Adelaide yesterday.
Former ward of state Debra Smith told the inquiry, which opened on Monday, that electric shock treatment was performed on some wards who were treated as if they were medical guinea pigs.
"We have a doctor here in South Australia who was giving shock treatment to children for things like running away, being so-called `uncontrollable,'" Smith said.
"An uncontrollable child is not an uncontrollable child, it's an unhappy child. How dare people tell us we were uncontrollable while we were being raped, pillaged and plundered by the state, by the government -- the very people that were supposed to be looking after us," she said.
South Australia parliamentary speaker Peter Lewis, himself a victim of child abuse, told the hearing heinous crimes had been covered up by powerful officials in the state.
He said carers of wards in the state were mostly caring and compassionate towards children.
"But amongst them, there were sadists and pedophiles," he added.
"And it didn't take long for collusion between the two to produce the end result we seek to address today," Lewis said.
The inquiry, under former Supreme Court Justice Ted Mullighan, was set up by the state government of South Australia to investigate allegations going back decades.
More than 200 written submissions have been received by the inquiry, which will deliver an interim report to the state government in six months.