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Byron Shire
August 3, 2021

Child abuse – the abandonment of compassion

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A recent discovery in Canada graphically exposes the extent to which ‘advanced civilisations’ have gone, and indeed continue to go, in the name of imagined racial superiority and cultural imperialism.

The graves of 215 Indian children, some as young as three, were discovered on the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS) in the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC), where they had been interned.

Canadian Indian Residential Schools were established and operated for the same purpose that define the Stolen Generations experiences in Australia; the forced removal of children so that they could be assimilated into white society, as well as providing a cheap, often unpaid, source of labour for white industries and families.

A report of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission documents that as many as 3,200 Indian, Metis and Inuit children were removed and interned in 130 or more residential schools that operated across Canada from 1831 to 1996.

The last Indian Residential School, the Gordon Indian Residential School in Punnichy, Saskatchewan was closed in 1996.

In Canada, Indian Residential Schools were directly linked to, and administered by, the Catholic Church, who colluded with governments to force stolen Indian children to convert to Christianity. 

Many of the children were physically, emotionally and sexually abused, and a number tragically died in custody, isolated from their families.

The pain and trauma of this experience is enduring and closure is ever elusive, perhaps unattainable.

Following amendments to the Indian Act in 1920, all Indian children between the ages of seven and 16 were compelled to attend residential schools, where they were imprisoned, abused, and isolated from their families and communities. 

I attended a moot court hearing on Indian Residential Schools, held in Saskatchewan sometime in the 1980s, and I sat horrified as each senior Indian person who spoke recounted the trauma of their internment.

What remains with me most vividly is the testimony of one old man, who shared that when he was caught speaking his language, he was forced to place his tongue on frozen water pipes. Winters on Canadian prairies can be brutal.

The experience, and others, had obviously scarred the old man, as he often broke down in tears when asked to talk about his trauma and pain.

Dr Mary Young, a valued friend and colleague from Bloodvein First Nation in Manitoba, writes, ‘In June 1967, after being away for ten months, I arrived home from the Pine Creek Residential School’.

Mary added, ‘I was not allowed to go home and I was not permitted to speak in Anishunabe. I longed to be part of my family; I cannot describe or express how much I missed my family. I will never forget how lonely and homesick I was’.

Tragically, Mary passed away in July, 2015, and I am left wondering whether the loneliness and the unanswered questions she writes about were spiritual fatigue factors in her passing.

Australian Shame

Australia also has a shameful history when it comes to the abuse of Indigenous and other kids, a chapter in Australian history that continues to torment and traumatise victims and their families.

Archie Roach and Jack Charles are Aboriginal icons of the Australian entertainment industry, and they too have experienced the agony of being stolen from their families and placed in institutional internment.

Archie and Jack have chronicled the pain, anguish and liberation that followed. Archie’s autobiography titled Tell Me Why and Jack’s Born-Again Blakfella, each in their own unique way, chronicles their respective journeys from the darkest recesses of despair to profound resilience forged in hope. 

Australia’s treatment of Biloela’s Murugappan family is yet another example of this type of Australian shame, and serves as yet another example of how far politicians and their bureaucracies are out of step with common decency and human compassion. What threat does this family, the children of whom were born in Australia, pose?

The Biloela community have demonstrated their love and support for the Murugappan family, and long for their return, but the best the federal government can offer is to place the family in community detention in Perth.

Surely there is room for Ministerial discretion in such cases? There certainly was when then Immigration Minister Peter Dutton intervened in the au pair visa issue in 2015.

When discussing the family’s treatment, recycled Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce is reported to have observed, ‘It wouldn’t be in question if their daughters were white girls named “Jane and Sally” which makes me wonder whether, as a nation, we’ve ever truly abandoned the “White Australia Policy”.’

‘Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive’ – Dalai Lama.


Professor Bob Morgan.

Professor Morgan is a Gumilaroi man from Walgett western NSW.

He is a highly respected and acknowledged Aboriginal educator/researcher who has worked extensively throughout Australia and internationally in the field of Aboriginal knowledge and learning for over forty years.

Professor Morgan is currently Chair of the Board of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Education and Research (BATSIER), and also serves as Conjoint Professor with the Wollotuka Institute with the University of Newcastle.


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5 COMMENTS

  1. Bob has obvious issues with his own biases. The first sentence ,
    “A recent discovery in Canada graphically exposes the extent to which ‘advanced civilisations’ have gone, and indeed continue to go, in the name of imagined racial superiority and cultural imperialism.”- his reference to advanced civilisations has no significance as this article is supposedly addressing child abuse, the imputation being that it is only historical, colonial cultures that perpetrate these horrors , when past and contemporary evidence proves that abuse and violence is rife among ‘first nation ‘communities.
    The ‘stolen generation’ was a misguided attempt to liberate children from the abuse and squalor obvious then, and now.
    These are crimes against humanity that are perpetrated opportunistically, wherever scum are in a position of total power over victims.
    His populist attempt to drag “Biloela’s Murugappan family “, a group of commercial tourists who have chosen their own fate rather than return to their home,( where it has been proven they are at no jeopardy ), seems nothing more than another example of his desire to attack the hand that feeds him, rather than the issue of child abuse. Appealing to the likes of Barnaby Joyce does little to enhance the argument for civil values.
    Cheers, G”)

  2. Ken,
    sorry, I cannot agree with you.
    I have seen the racism during my lifetime. When I went to High School, I can only remember one First Australian who completed year 12. This was only about 50 years ago. Thank goodness we now have far more well educated First Nation people who are now speaking out about the privations suffered by their people.
    The Christian religions have much to answer for regarding the abuses perpetrated on children of all persuasions that were in their care. It seems some abusers may have escaped justice, but if their religions are believed, may they rot in Hell! It also seems they are reluctant to right these wrongs with compensation, preferring to wait until the victims die.
    To comment on the last section regarding the Biloela family, they did come here as refugees. Perhaps our misguided government rests easy saying they are under no threat in Siri Lanka now, but I feel the Tamils are severely disadvantaged still. Both daughters were born in Australia & have only been refused citizenship by an act of parliament that I feel is unjustified. I am also of the opinion that the family would be good Australian citizens if granted more permanent Visas, with an end goal of full citizenship. (Detaining this family in Biloela at some ungodly hour was a disgraceful act done because there would have been a protest if performed later in the day.)
    Australia is an affluent country where I am appalled at the lack of compassion by the Federal government. We pay the unemployed far less than the meager Old age pension, & refuse to lift it to a more equitable level. We have homelessness that is now out of control & have not built public housing at reasonable levels for decades.
    Hopefully, when next we get to vote in a Federal election, we vote for an honest, compassionate government. God knows we need one!
    Australians have no ´Bill of Rights´ First Nations people are not recognised in the Constitution & so far have been refused a voice or ability to comment on legislation that affects their people.
    I feel it is time for some honesty in government. ´Government of the people, for the People, By the people´ If only it were true.

    • Re: “The Christian religions have much to answer for regarding the abuses perpetrated on children of all persuasions that were in their care.” …

      Jesus must be spinning in heaven knowing what atrocities have been connected to Christ-ianity. So many have created God’s nature in their own angry and vengeful image, especially the part insisting that ‘God hates ______’, etcetera.
      Christ unmistakably emphasized love, compassion and non-violence — especially towards ALL children — the opposite of what enables the most horrible acts of human cruelty to occur on this planet. Sadly, sometimes those atrocious acts are allowed to remain a buried secret.

  3. After 34 years of news consumption, I have found that a disturbingly large number of categorized people, however precious their souls, can be considered thus treated as though disposable, even to an otherwise democratic nation. When the young children of those people take notice of this, tragically, they’re vulnerable to begin perceiving themselves as beings without value. Such psychological trauma can readily result in a debilitating drug addiction, a continuous attempt at silencing through self-medicating the pain of serious life trauma or PTSD.

    When I say this, I primarily have in mind indigenous-nation Canadians. But, tragically, such horrendous occurrences still happen on Earth, often enough going unrealized to the rest of the world.

    Residential schooling (et al) may not have been a genocide of an entire race of people, but it definitely was a serious attempt at annihilating their native culture(s). The indigenous children’s mass grave, as sadly anticipated as the find was (and others are expected), must not be in vain. Rather, it must mark the start of a substantial progressive move forward for indigenous nations, especially regarding life’s fundamental necessities (i.e. proper shelter and clean air, water and food).

  4. Ken i agree with you 100% well said !!
    also Christianity is not the only faith
    That has been a disgrace to young
    children… could all of the above
    Including the Article owner
    Bring to light the abuse happening
    Every day in most Australian cities ??
    Child brides comes to mind ALL ???

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