Child welfare chief charged over porn images

A nationally recognised leader in indigenous children's services, who has been responsible for placing hundreds of troubled youngsters in care across the Hunter, has been stood down after being charged with possessing child pornography.

Steve Larkins, the chief executive officer of Hunter Aboriginal Children's Services (HACS), was arrested at the organisation's Tighes Hill headquarters on Tuesday afternoon after it was raided by police.

It is alleged police found images and videos on a computer drive of children performing sex acts, and the 44-year-old was subsequently charged with one count of producing, disseminating or possessing child abuse material.

Newcastle City detectives also seized "additional computer-related devices" from Larkins's Mayfield home and sent them away for testing by specialist police in Sydney.

They will wait for results on full forensic examinations of computer drives before deciding if other charges will be laid.

A Department of Family and Community Services spokeswoman said the charges were "a shock to the department and we take them very seriously".

HACS is a non-government service that the department finances, and the department had been "informed by the services' board that the employee has been stood down pending the police investigation", the spokeswoman said.

The department had also "informed the relevant oversight agencies, including the Commission for Children and Young People, the NSW Ombudsman and the Children's Guardian, who accredit Out of Home Care organisations".

"We want to emphasise that the allegations involve one individual in the organisation and the board of management are taking appropriate action in relation to the staff member," the spokeswoman said in a statement.

"Late today the Minister for Family and Community Services, Pru Goward, sought (through the department) further police action on this matter."

HACS provides foster care and support for indigenous families, out-of-home care to Aboriginal children, and recruitment training and support to Aboriginal foster carers.

A NSW government press release, issued when the new HACS offices were opened last November by then Community Services Minister Linda Burney and Minister for the Hunter Jodi McKay, quoted Larkins as saying HACS was the oldest Aboriginal children's service in the state and had been operating for 25 years.

It had 21 staff and had 53 children in its care.

Larkins has been chairman of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, a teacher and social worker and has also been chairman of the Worimi Conservation Lands Board of Management.

He was taken into custody at his workplace and transported to Newcastle police station on Tuesday before being charged with the single count.

He was placed on strict conditional bail to appear in Newcastle Local Court on May 10.