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Byron Shire
September 17, 2021

Indigenous child torture is Australia’s shame

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Australia along with other countries has signed international treaties upholding the Rights of the Child and treaties against torture. The recent 4 Corners program ‘Australia’s Shame’, outlining the abuse and torture of indigenous children in detention in the Northern Territory revealed sadism, barbarous treatment, cruelty, inhumanity and a total dismissal of guidelines upholding human rights that are reflected in the above treaties.

Disgust and revulsion fill the souls of many Australians. Political system and perpetrators of criminal acts must be made legally accountable and reparation created to all people affected by such torture.

According to the International Treaty on Torture individual states must be investigated in order to obtain a national investigation This will create the legal teeth required by the international Treaty on Torture. Turnbull has refused a national investigation. However, individual states can demand same.

Is there genuine political will to address this?

There have been many Royal Commissions but systemic failures in the community have revealed the lack of political will to implement recommendations.

Children have also been placed in adult prisons with no infrastructure to uphold their rights. We witness in the NT a 10-year-old child in juvenile detention. We cannot overlook the images of physical isolation for 23 hours a day, the spit hoods, the tying of children to chairs, incitement by guards for the children to fight, the gassing of children and finally the continual stripping of children of their clothes.

In this image reside several narratives, not only of individual humiliation but the sadism of power and social control.

Rape in prisons is common. Indeed, it has been perpetrated to uphold power and misogyny. The victim is made to ‘feel like a woman’.

I wondered what deeper terrors filled the essence of these children. I wonder about the shame that may yet have to be revealed concerning the deeper abuse of these children. Prisons have a sub-textual linguistics of which the dominant culture is ignorant.

I reflect upon the work of the wonderful indigenous leader Mum Shirl in Redfern who would enter police stations and demand the children be given to her. I have witnessed the cuts and bruises on her shins where she was kicked by police (but Mum Shirl gave as good as she got… not a woman to cross). I have seen her in court demanding that the Magistrate give her the children and not send them to prison…. and she did physically care for the children.

I recall the joy of my brightest indigenous student in prison who loved learning… and swallowed razor blades and died. Never to be heard of again.

My very close friend of over 30 years Tony Barry and I both worked in NSW prisons as counsellors and teachers. We have been involved in all of the social groups demanding reform in the system and prisons. Organisations such as Justice Action, Penal Reform, Black Deaths in Custody and others.

Australia has nothing to be proud of in relation to racism and treatment of indigenous people. We can remedy our reputation and improve the lives of indigenous people and refugees if we ratify the ‘Optional Protocol’ articulated in the international Treaty on Torture. This has not yet been ratified since 2009.

Ratification of same will entitle Australia to ‘surprise visits’ by UN representatives upholding rights against torture. This is a ‘powerful incentive’ according to Mr Mendez, UN representative on torture and other kinds of degrading treatment.

In grief I wail SORRY SORRY SORRY to the first nation of people of Australia. There must be total social revolution to relieve the legacy of pain and wounding resulting from colonisation.

Restore dignity on all levels to the most deserving peoples… give them their right to land and their culture to begin with and refrain from cultural projection of ignorant racist ideologies that uphold colonisation and ongoing brutalisation.


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