COURIER-MAIL: Shadowland [Investigation of male prostitution]

Male prostitution is flourishing in Queensland. A special investigation by Courier-Mail reporters Matthew Fynes-Clinton and Michael Ware sheds light on a dark side of Brisbane

WHILE much of Brisbane sleeps, a few of its teenaged sons lurk under the massive canopy of a century-old weeping fig tree in Albert Park, Spring Hill.

Their shapes are faint in the virtual blackness. The tree is 12m in from the poorly lit Wickham Tce frontage to the park -- 7.5ha of rolling grounds with an amphitheatre in the middle and the gable of Brisbane Boys Grammar School's Great Hall just visible in the distance.

Outreach workers recall one night last January when the slatted bench which runs in a continuous square around the tree -- known to insiders as "The Tree of Knowledge" -- was chockers. Sixteen fresh-faced males, some of them possibly as young as 17, had come to try to sell their bodies.

Their clients? By and large, they are the city's fathers.

"Shaun", 21, who turned his first trick as a 15-year-old male prostitute in Sydney, has worked Albert Park for the past four years. He says the park is the hub of Brisbane's open-air male prostitution activity, in exactly the same way as a strip along Brunswick St, New Farm, functions for female sex workers.

Yet somehow Albert Park and its surrounds have been shielded from parallel notoriety. Maybe no one wants to know. Maybe no one knows.

At 12.20am on a Friday, a man and a woman are embracing while sitting on a low brick wall outside the Soho Hotel. They are on the corner where Wickham Tce bends and heads for the Holy Spirit Hospital, the Old Windmill and the suddenly rarefied air of its medical precinct.

The lovers stare into space, oblivious to the signals (his saunter, the drawn-out sweep of his hand through his hair) of a smartly dressed teenager who has been pacing the footpath on the other side of the road.

Cars pull in to the kerb. They are vehicles, more often than not, exuding status: four-wheel drives, BMWs, near-new hatchbacks.

The drivers generally stay in their seats, sometimes flicking on the interior light, on other occasions opening the passenger door a fraction. If the sex worker, or "rent boy", does not know the potential client, also referred to as a "John" or "Mug", it may be minutes before he makes an approach. Then again, the driver may just be "window shopping" and will take off before contact occurs.

The whole process, so reliant on posturing, is incredibly subtle -- too easy to observe absently and think: "So what?"

However, when that question is properly addressed, some alarming truths emerge. Shaun claims that 80 percent of his clients are married men.

TWO children's car seats strapped into a station wagon's rear bench seat.

This is what used to greet Shaun whenever he'd get into the car of one of his regular clients at the Albert Park pick-up zone.

Shaun still services the client. About 10.30 on Thursday night last week, the station wagon swept into a parking bay near the Tree of Knowledge. Shaun walked out into the slightly brighter light and the pair drove away to the vacant car lot of a nearby business.

Shaun masturbated the driver (the industry term for the service is "hand relief"). His fee was $50.

But the client had detached the children's seats, placing them in the boot of the wagon before seeing Shaun. Shaun explains he had become so "disgusted" performing sex acts in the man's car with his two children's seats in full view that he requested him some time ago to at least put them in the boot.

"It was a case of out of sight, out of mind," Shaun says.

"I feel guilty if I'm looking at kids' car seats while I'm pleasing somebody, because you think, `I could be destroying someone's marriage'. You think, `this is pretty bad' because this guy's got kids and he's got a wife and they don't know about this.

"But, at the same time, you've got to think, `Well, this person's making this decision -- not me'. At least now he knows that he's got to put those seats in the back before he arrives."

Last year, the same client dropped his wife in the City to do last-minute Christmas shopping before he drove to Albert Park, a couple of minutes away, for another session of sex with Shaun.

Other Albert Park rent boys nominate early Thursday evening for the best trade of the week. As well as being pay day for many of their clients, a pattern has emerged where husbands transport their wives to late-night suburban shopping outlets, then scoot off to the park for a paid sexual liaison with a young man -- making sure they are back in time to collect their partner and the groceries.

"It's basically a quick get-off session," Shaun says. "A lot of it's hand relief and oral sex. We'll normally drive to a dark street, pull over, get it over and done with and then they bring me back here (Albert Park).

"A lot of the time, all they've done is duck out from their wives for half-an-hour, so it's got to be quick."

Earlier this year, the group Self-health for Queensland Workers in the Sex Industry (SQWISI) convinced privately sponsored drug and alcohol agency Drug-Arm of the urgency of getting health and emotional support to the sex workers of Albert Park.

Ten weeks ago, a Drug-Arm mini-bus made the first of its now regular Thursday night visits to the park: serving tea and coffee, taking blood and urine samples and distributing clean needles, condoms and health literature from a position it takes up in Wickham Tce, usually diagonally opposite the imposing Hotel Grand Chancellor.

For SQWISI's male and trans-gender project officer Bradley Reuter, who forms part of the outreach team along with a Brisbane Sexual Health clinician and two Drug-Arm volunteers, securing the service was a milestone. Even if the demands on Drug-Arm at other locations (including a scheduled contact stop at New Farm for the female sex workers) mean the van can only remain at the park for about two hours.

Reuter, 29, says he and a friend from the Brisbane Youth Service began trying to help the Albert Park workers 18 months ago. "I was just hearing all these stories from other agencies about the amount of sex work that was happening and I just thought, `Oh my God, we've got to do something'," Reuter recounts.

"It took a long time for the boys to realise they could trust us. So, you know, after going up there night after night and handing out hundreds of condoms and cigarettes -- they all smoke -- we formed relationships with a number of workers. Then as soon as we would leave, the others would scuttle over to them and get the run-down."

Reuter says the warm January night that flushed out 16 workers astonished him. "I think it was just a case of finding them all up there at the same time," he says.

"To find six of them would be more normal. We would think eight is a busy night."

Reuter says they generally range in age from 18 to early 20s. In no way can the men who desire intimacy with them be construed as paedophiles.

"But a high percentage of clients are middle-aged, married men," Reuter confirms.

"And it's a worry because gay men are really social. It's quite easy to tap into that community and educate it through nightclubs, venues, newspapers and that sort of thing...

"But now this new term, `Men who have sex with men', has come in. These people say, `I'm not gay. I'm married and I've got two kids at home. I just, you know, want to play touch wee-wees with another man occasionally -- and there's no need to wear condoms because HIV is a poofters' disease'.

"Because they're not openly gay, that's a really hard section of the community to get information to. The boys get told the `I'm straight. I only sleep with my wife' scenario. I just try to tell them ... I just hope they're using the condoms that I give out constantly."

Shaun says he will not insist that a client to whom he is giving oral sex wears a condom. He says he is screened every three months for HIV and a range of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) including hepatitis B, which has been prevalent among gay men of late.

The "park rates" are $50 for hand relief or oral sex and $100 for anal sex. But Shaun charges more for both oral sex ($80) and to receive anal sex (offered as part of a $130 hourly booking for which the client is invited back to his near-city unit).

Wearing a matching long-sleeve shirt and hugging trousers in black polyester, Shaun is well-spoken and says the higher prices are in keeping with his experience and his drug-free status.

On a good night, he could make more than $500. He spends his money on rent, bills, clothes and other disposables.

"There's boys up here who are not with it. They're drugged off their nut," Shaun says.

"When that happens, there's also a one in five chance that they're going to rob the client.

"Another problem is that a lot of people on drugs seem to get STDs a lot quicker. I tell the client that, with me, they know what they're getting. And I know what I'm doing."

Reuter says the rent boys gravitate to Albert Park from all sorts of backgrounds and histories. Some are gay, like Shaun, but others maintain girlfriends.

HE SAYS a proportion are "ridgy-didge street kids". "For them, it always starts the same way. They're not looking for it. It's opportunistic," Reuter says.

"Someone offers them money for a fiddle in the dark. And they might also get supplied with food or a roof over their heads.

"The money pays for cigarettes, drugs, a pair of Reeboks or whatever, so of course they're going to come back the next night and do it again. It's not going to be opportunistic for long."

Could they also hail from the other side of the tracks?

"I have known workers who drive themselves up in cars that mummy and daddy have bought them,'' is Reuter's dead-pan reply.

"They have nice, gorgeous little Italian leather shoes. And they work because it's a cool thing to do. It's bizarre."

Yet as disturbing as Reuter's insights are, the real tragedy is that they only touch the surface. While this newspaper did not see any evidence of child prostitution taking place at Albert Park over the past two weeks, it has been collating information for a year on the evil committed by paedophile rings in Australia.

It is a fact that many of the young men who work as prostitutes in Albert Park are only there because as children they were corrupted by paedophiles. Three former victims of organised paedophilia are now ready to publicise their stories.

THE direct but uncorroborated evidence they have provided to The Courier-Mail comes closer than ever to uncovering the past operations of a sinister web that linked paedophile groups in Queensland with those in southern states -- and may still be active.

Some of the allegations date back to the late 1970s, involving names such as one-time Brisbane radio announcer Bill Hurrey, ex-Queensland police constable Dave Moore and the former mayor of Wollongong, Frank Arkell.

While Hurrey and Moore have been convicted of paedophilia-related offences and Arkell is before the courts, Australian law enforcement agencies still display a tendency to rebuff the accounts of victims as unverifiable.

Queensland's Criminal Justice Commission has denied responsibility, stating such criminal activity is not within its jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, more and more current and former child sex workers are managing to tell the same stories. Featuring many of the same players...

IN THE late 1970s and early 1980s, "Grant" was a youth toying with drugs and earning his apprenticeship in petty crime. It was then that he met a known Brisbane paedophile.

Grants claims that while he was staying with the man, he began to witness a seemingly endless parade of children through the man's home.

He says the man, who has been the subject of a number of police investigations, usually would befriend boys on the streets and offer them accommodation, food and drugs.

The boys came to be treated lavishly. They were wined and dined and taken to parties and nightclubs.

Before long, the typical fare of male pornography, sensation-heightening amyl-nitrate or "rush" and probing touches would be introduced.

Many of the boys had been inducted into the "scene" already, having prostituted themselves in the city's public toilets, train stations and streets.

The boys would supply sex to the man and his friends in and around Brisbane.

Grant says that, from time to time, the man would offer the boys a chance to have an all-expenses-paid holiday to Sydney or Melbourne. Snapping at the chance, the boys were told they would have to work to pay their way.

According to Grant, the man believed that an older youth travelling with 13 and 14-year-old boys was far less suspicious than a middle-aged businessman. That was where he came in.

He says he was asked on a number of occasions to "accompany" the boys on flights or to drive them to their southern destinations. He was 17 when he embarked on such a journey for the first time.

Grant would deliver the boys to addresses handed to him before he left Brisbane. He was met by particular men who would accept the "transfer".

Grant says he can recall dropping off boys to men's parties at private homes. The children were then taken to bedrooms to entertain the guests.

He says he would not see the boys again until returning to the address two or three days later to collect them.

One trip still reels in his mind.

In the early 1980s, towards the end of a week, the Brisbane man told Grant he had a job for him if he wanted to spend the weekend in Sydney. Grant's role was to drop off someone along the way.

Provided with a car, Grant says he drove an Asian boy -- whose age he guesses at 13 or 14 -- across the border.

By twilight on Friday, he had arrived at the destination: an address in Wollongong where a man was waiting. Invited inside briefly, Grant says he can still remember the fine details of the house's interior.

At the time, he was unaware of the identity of the man awaiting the Asian boy. But the address -- 1 Reserve St -- was that of disgraced Wollongong mayor Frank Arkell.

THOUGH uncorroborated, Grant's tale is the first piece of first-hand evidence establishing a meaningful connection between a Brisbane paedophile group and the alleged Wollongong network fostered by Arkell.

It was this alleged network that was exposed by the ground-breaking Wood royal commission into police corruption in New South Wales.

Grant has told The Courier-Mail that he returned to Arkell's house two days later. He says he had to wait in the mayor's living room for the boy.

It was obvious from the boy's condition on the long drive back to Brisbane that his weekend in Wollongong had caused enormous discomfort, Grant says.

In fact, the boy was in such pain he could not sit properly. He spent most of the 14-hour trip laying on his stomach.

Grant returned the boy to the Brisbane man's home where they both stayed for a couple of nights. After that, Grant says, he never saw the boy again.

When he grew older, Grant broke away from the Brisbane man and the sleazy underworld he had fallen into. Now in his mid 30s, he has re-built his life.

Police sources, while unable to quantify the extent of it, have confirmed Grant's involvement with the Brisbane paedophile.

The man eventually was convicted of child sex offences. He was brought undone through his predatory relationship with a 15-year-old boy whom he had plucked from the streets.

"JAMIE" knew the man as well. Living on Brisbane's suburban fringe, Jamie discovered there was money to be made by skipping school and catching a train into the City.

At 15, Jamie began offering himself to men in public toilets. Working what he describes as the "lunchtime crowd", he would wait at the King George Square toilets for strangers who paid him $20 to give them oral sex in a filthy cubicle.

"There was no shortage of business down there, or at Albert Park, or at the North Quay toilets," says Jamie, now in his late 30s.

"After a while I came to know what they'd want; I learnt how to really milk the lunch crowd.

"I would catch the train to school in the mornings but I would get off at a different station and take the train heading in the opposite direction to Brisbane.

"Normally I had a change of clothes in my bag. But when I went to work I would put my school uniform back on. I'd hang around the toilets in my sports uniform and that really got business going.

"It was a real turn-on for them and it made things more lucrative for me."

Men he met in the toilets would ask to see him again elsewhere. Some arranged for him to come back to the city in the evening to go to nightclubs and restaurants.

Consequently, Jamie met the paedophile who Grant says used him to traffic other children.

This led to associations with a new spectrum of men wishing to fawn over him. Jamie was blonde and fit with a striking, angular face.

In the late 1970s, Jamie says he was introduced to a colourful, outgoing group of men who liked to live the high life and who enjoyed Brisbane's burgeoning gay scene.

He says he slept with a range of people in this upwardly mobile circle. He was rewarded with money or gifts.

THROUGH the scene he met Bill Hurrey, an outlandish and enormously popular ABC radio personality. A meeting with Hurrey's friend, police Constable Dave Moore, followed soon after. Hurrey and Moore were part of a clique whose members delighted in calling each other by pet names stolen from famous female movie sirens.

By age 17, Jamie had left Brisbane to work as a full-time prostitute in brothels and agencies in southern states. However, he says that as a fledgling prostitute in Brisbane he was also used in photographic shoots.

Amateurish photographs were taken of him engaging in a variety of sexual exploits with a menagerie of men, he claims.

Again, Jamie's account cannot be substantiated. But police have asked him to help with evidence in the past and he can rattle off the names of other boys who were entangled with him.

FORMER Wollongong schoolboy John David says he suffered sexual assault from the age of four until he was 17.

David, who assisted the Wood royal commission, says the abuse meted out to him in his home environment turned into an enforced commercial enterprise when a family member exposed him to a network of paedophiles.

He says the relative who first began sexually assaulting him was involved with other Wollongong men who traded in underage sex. The men included Arkell and another former Wollongong mayor Tony Bevan, who died in 1991 of cancer.

Arkell, 67, has been committed to face trial on child sex charges involving three alleged victims.

Maintaining contact by mail and through furtive conversations from public telephones, the men would arrange meetings at which children were provided for sexual purposes. David identified to the royal commission 10 Wollongong addresses where he claims he was taken and abused.

Much of David's recollections relate to incidents that occurred 30 years ago. They have proven virtually impossible to corroborate with physical evidence.

But 10 years before Grant's experience with the trafficking of young boys between a Brisbane paedophile group and other loose networks around the country, David says he was shipped to the Gold Coast to "meet" a group of Queenslanders.

It was autumn 1969 and he was aged 12. David says his relative drove him to the coast, while other men travelled up from the Illawarra district in their cars.

The major contact on the Gold Coast was a grossly overweight and flamboyantly dressed man, his face overrun by a grey beard.

David claims he was taken to the fat man's Broadbeach unit, where his relative made him stay. The apartment had views to the beach and was adorned with expensive furniture and artefacts.

David says that over the next four days, men and women sexually assaulted him and a number of other boys and girls.

"The (Broadbeach) man was the main organiser. He knew the clients, who seemed to live in the Surfers Paradise area as they were able to travel quickly to the premises," David says.

"My (relative) was paid for his organising of selling the children. The (Broadbeach) man would organise beforehand and phone perpetrators, telling them that `the goods had arrived' and arrange times.

"The men would pay the (Broadbeach) man for the abuse and he would then pay my relative. I distinctly remember the cash transactions. The perpetrators would pay before the abuse. They would select the children in the lounge-room and take them to the bedrooms."

DAVID says he and the other children were fondled, digitally penetrated, raped and urinated on in the three bedrooms of the high-rise unit.

"There were children from other areas," he says. "I remember my relative asking people where they were from. It was New South Wales -- mainly Sydney but also Tamworth -- and rural Queensland ... Toowoomba."

David says his relative made the Gold Coast connection through a man he believes to have been either Arkell or Bevan.

Confidential witness W26 told the royal commission his abuse began with his scout leader, before he was "recruited" by Bevan to service a number of his paedophile associates.

Bevan was a paedophile, who, in an example of his obsessiveness, recorded many of his conversations with other paedophiles across Australia and overseas.

In hundreds of taped exchanges, Bevan referred to the existence of organised paedophile groups throughout Australia, to child sex tourism and to a Wollongong "paedophile school".

The tapes were handed to the Wood royal commission. The pattern of recruitment, "advertising" and trafficking which was revealed mirrors David's statement to The Courier-Mail.

The National Crime Authority last year concluded that "as indicated by the Bevan tapes, paedophiles within Australia have organised and actively recruited (and may still be recruiting) children as prostitutes for paedophile groups".

But Queensland police efforts in the 1980s to target child molesters were limited. Evidence given to the CJC's recent Kimmins inquiry into paedophile-related corruption ran into another dead end.

None of the paedophile investigators from the 1980s who testified at the inquiry could conclusively show direct interference or hindrance. Although it appears some requests for assistance were ignored or only sparingly met.

In one instance, during September 1982, a father and son gave statements that Hurrey and Moore had been pressuring a boy to agree to perform sexual acts with men in a "blue movie". Hurrey and Moore were going to produce the film.

The boy told police the pair offered him $200 -- and had assured him boys he knew had helped them make other movies.

Moore and Hurrey told the boy the films were regularly distributed to Melbourne.

His father called in the police, after overhearing one of these discussions.

But the investigating officer's request for surveillance was denied, because, according to corrupt former commissioner Terry Lewis, the police did not spy on their own.

In the same era, other boys told police how they had made pornographic films for suspected paedophiles. They pinpointed addresses in south-east Queensland where the films were shot and named each of the men involved.

Police produced little in the way of results, their investigations too often conducted in a beleaguered and ad hoc manner.

Boys prostituting themselves on Brisbane's streets today continue to tell shocking stories of abuse and child pornography. Without prompting, many of the offenders' names given by the boys belong to the same perpetrators of 15 years ago.

In June 1995, the Queensland Child Exploitation Unit launched a probe into an organised paedophile group believed to have been importing Asian boys for sex work.

"Operation Hinge" was triggered by new intelligence and its findings are still unknown. But one startling bit of information is that many of the 1995 paedophile targets were men identified to police in 1984.

No Queensland law enforcement agency has ever been able to locate a locally made child porn video -- despite the recurring admissions of participation from young boys.

So the questions still linger.

Did it really happen? Is it happening now?