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Project Karma – delivering results in Bali

Congratulations on another great contribution to protecting kids overseas, how does it feel being such an integral part of bringing Robert Andrew Fiddes Ellis to justice?

Congratulations on another great contribution to protecting kids overseas, how does it feel being such an integral part of bringing Robert Andrew Fiddes Ellis to justice?

It’s always satisfying to obtain a successful outcome. Indonesian judicial processes are vastly different to that of Australia and present many challenges. There’s so much investment in quality evidence for court, relationships with police and prosecutors, anti-corruption tactics, community awareness and media coordination. So much of the effort is behind the scenes and confidential.


What was it like in the court room during the trial

Local language is always an issue in Southeast Asian courts. Messages are delivered partially in English, partially in Tagalog, which makes it tough. I can speak proficient Bahasa but still find it difficult when local colloquialisms are used to explain foreign legal terms.

I have spent many, many hours in court rooms as part of my duties in Victoria Police but my experience in many Southeast Asia court rooms has always been very different. It’s been a steep learning curve to acquire the knowledge of rules of evidence, court procedures and general judicial processes.

There’s also the lack of court security, the nonchalant management of prisoner movement, the free reign the media are given to film and photograph. It’s quite a surreal experience.


How does the Indonesian justice system feel about the case?

The police and prosecutors took this case very seriously. Project Karma identified 24 victims ranging in age from seven years old to 17 years old. Some of the older victims were abused at a much younger age but as they got older the defendant had coerced them into recruiting other young children. Only 11 of the 24 victims’ evidence was presented.

In many Southeast Asian cultures foreigners who commit crimes result in politicised processes, pointing out the failings of foreign cultures to solidify their own standings and prove to foreign nations whom critical of their culture.

In this case, the phenomenon was magnified further as the abuse was of local children, Balinese children. This weighed heavily against him, as did the disrespectful public comments he made regarding the experience and qualifications of the prosecutors and judges during the trial.

The judges showed exactly how serious they took this case by delivering the longest incarceration period ever imposed upon a person found committing these crimes in Bali – ever. There’s also likely to be six months in solitary confinement.


Do you think it affects the way Indonesians view Australians when they see something like this happening?

Most Balinese very much respect Australia and the Australian people. Most understand it’s only a very small percentage people that come to their country and commit these crimes. The well documented ‘bogan’ and ‘yobbo’ behaviour does more damage to Australia’s reputation.

Having said that, in recent times Bali has become the number one destination for travelling Australian registered child sex offenders (RCSOs) . This is another advocacy Project Karma has, pursuing legislative changes by the Australian Government to prevent travel of convicted child sexual offenders.


Do you think it will impact on the freedom with which Australian pedophiles travel to and from Australia?

It’s very difficult to police these numbers but if the Government can develop better ways to manage strategies we stand ready to offer advice and collaboration to assist in developing these methods. In the meantime Project Karma’s Sentinel Project will work in Bali and other areas of concern in Southeast Asia with the local community, law enforcement and Governments to weed out these offenders and bring them to justice.


What to next for Project Karma?

Project Karma has spent the last 12 months building the structure required in Bali and the Philippines to commence operation of the Sentinel Project Model. We are very proud of the ground breaking initiatives we have created to work with local community and law enforcement. Bali and the Philippines are ready to go but we currently lack sufficient funding to sustainably manage the project for a minimum 12 month trial.

Therefore fundraising is our immediate short term focus as we have three current investigations to conduct in Bali, two in the Philippines and we are almost ready to start our operations in Thailand as well.

Project Karma wishes to thank Gate Seven, Travel Managers, roomsXML and all those agents who have made donations at http://www.projectkarma.org.au/

What are your thoughts on the case?