We abuse children

It’s 26 July 2016. I live in a country that abuses children.

Not by accident. Not as a result of rogue operators, or an imperfect system.

As the result of policies and systems that work exactly as they are designed to.

In juvenile detention, children are strapped to chairs, held by the throat, are teargassed. We knew for years. The NT Parliament passed legislation allowing a lot of this, crowing about being tough on crime. UNICEF says it’s essentially torture.

That’s just what we know about, and have footage for. God knows what else is happening.

For years now, we’ve locked up children on island gulags. Their physical, emotional and mental damage are years in the making and will last their lifetimes. The Australian Parliament passes legislation allowing this, crowing about being tough on border security.

In Australia, we abuse children. We do it deliberately, systematically and very, very well.

We need to get comfortable saying this. The usual chorus of “well, but…” and “it’s a complicated issue” will begin. Whatever arguments are put forward, whatever reason, whatever behaviour we are trying to control, it can only end in the reasoning that the abuse is justified. “It’s not abuse”, they’ll say. “We implement the policies humanely”.

It’s abuse. We know what offshore detention facilities on Nauru and Manus do to children. We do it anyway.

We knew what was happening in juvenile detention in the NT, and we knew “restraint chairs” and “spit hoods” were wrong. We used them anyway.

We abuse children. We can’t solve it until we name it.

Indigenous children are 10 times more likely to be in out-of-home care. 4 times more likely to be in juvenile detention. These statistics have gotten worse since the National Apology.

A Royal Commission will come and go, like the Bringing Them Home Report. We’ll shake our heads and say we’ll do better. We won’t.

In 26 July 2016. In Australia, we’ve decided that to make a society you have to break a few children.

Fund an inquiry into that.

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