Campaigning against Australia’s institutional abuse of abuse of children – We’re better than this

Yesterday I saw the We’re better than this campaign.


It is wonderful to see celebrities come out in protest of what counts amongst the worst travesties in Australian history. Australian celebrities are protesting against Australia’s treatment of refugee children. Hundreds of children are locked up in Australia, Naru and Christmas Island. Australia is committing the institutional abuse of children and breaching their responsibilities in terms of the United Nations Conventions we are party to – those on refugees and the rights of children. Children should not be held in such conditions…but neither should their families.

Australian actor, Bryan Brown, should be commended for leading such a charge but I do have a word of caution.  In one interview, Bryan mentioned placing children in the care of Australian families as one possible option. To be fair, he didn’t necessarily present this as the solution and in other interviews he places the responsibility squarely on the Australian government to find a solution.

We need to keep this campaign going and support it – but I have a couple of words of caution.

Our government must respond to the advice of experts in finding a solution, an area where, unfortunately, it doesn’t have a good track record. The danger is the government will respond in ways that are not so good. For example, women in detention are so desperate about their current situations, futures and their children’s well-being, losing custody of their children appears a good option. Many parents are reported to be so traumatised, they will need adequate psychosocial support, mental health and healthcare. All people will. Some Australian politicians and adoption campaigners would be all too willing to pursue adoption as the solution especially in some states. Authorities and politicians will no doubt have been inundated by inquiries from prospective adopters. Such as solution would be a further abuse of children, not to mention their families.  Note – this is not a criticism of adoption rather adoption is not the answer for children with families co-erced by circumstances and the abuse by government.

In my view, it is important that we do not conceptualise children as separate from their families because they are not. Even unaccompanied minors have families and they should be removed from detention centres but the focus should then be on healing and reunification strategies. For children with families, perhaps temporary removal is the lesser of two evils under current government policy but there is a word of warning here too. We know from studies on trauma and disasters that maintaining the care of families or carers is one of the most important things to a child’s recovery – something we shouldn’t forget. If removed, how will the government ensure ongoing contact with their families and the maintenance of relationships if families are separated. Will they arrange regular and frequent visits to or from Naru or Christmas Island for this to occur? To say the least, children will be anxious about parents and other family members who remain in detention and be traumatised by separation. For parents, it would simply be another breach of their rights, re-traumatisation and significant loss.

It seems to me that this campaign is about raising awareness and demanding action from the government and I say go for it – but perhaps there should also be a view on the solutions and not simply leave it to the government to decide what is best. Their track record is not good. The lesser solution is to address living conditions, provide education and health care and respond to the needs of refugees in detention. The humane and appropriate solution is to release refugees into the Australian community with the appropriate supports to assist them to rebuild their lives after the trauma Australia has imposed. Unaccompanied minors should be placed in homes preferably with members of their community or with Australian families who are properly prepared. Reunification strategies must proceed while the children heal.

So my message is keep up the good work celebrities but perhaps keeping an eye on the solutions is also important – at least make sure the government takes the advice of experts so we can avoid unintended consequences.  Keep the pressure up!


Why can’t women wear what they want?

The wearing of head coverings and veils by women of the Islamic faith has been a political issue in Australia this year, literally a material manifestation of fear, racism and right wing politics that unfairly targets women. I am not Muslim so I will not speak for the women in the many, diverse Islamic cultures represented in Australia – I will leave that to them – but I do have a few observations from where I am sitting.

My first real awareness of the western world’s tendency to tell (and legislate against) Muslim women’s choice of apparel happened in France. I was there at the height of the political movement that sought to ban head coverings and veils that has since captured most of Europe, the US and now Australia. This was a paradox given the reputation of the French for human rights and freedom. Many women the world over hold feminist views and believe they are supporting Muslim women but concerns about head coverings are only about Muslim women not all the other types of head coverings present in all cultures. All over the world, men and women have accepted the idea that women are forced to wear such clothing and are subjected to varying degrees of subjugation and domestic violence. There is no doubt sometimes this is true but is far from universal and no different to any society. We know this from Muslim women themselves (To Veil or not to Veil). In the cases where abuse is a problem, it is a domestic violence issue not a clothing issue and should be dealt with accordingly. Muslim women are able to represent themselves and perhaps our obligation is to respect and support them rather than speak for them.

These views on QandA


The other event which has stuck in my mind is before and after the fall of the Twin Towers. In my suburb before this tragedy, veiled women walked the streets with their children, went shopping, went to the park and headed to wherever they were going. Afterwards, they disappeared. I assumed these women preferred to stay at home where it was safe and they would not be subjected to blame and racism.

The third event was the banning of the “burqa” in parliament by the Australian government, relegating any woman wearing the offending clothing to sit behind glass with school children to protect the parliament from disruption or violence. At the same time, the Prime Minister acknowledged he found this form of dress confronting oblivious to how many Australians find images of the Prime Minister in a variety of sporting attire equally confronting.


In my view, a true feminist approach means allowing women a choice of what they wear. Just as wearing little clothing is not an excuse for rape, wearing a lot is not an excuse for racism – and yes even Tony Abbott can wear his budgie smugglers. Perhaps western societies should instead pay attention to the restrictions they place on all women and let women dress how they would like. The “Lady strips bare” tells how Tracey Spicer has been forced to dress throughout her television career.

“Inequality for All” – a film worth seeing

In this film, Robert Reich, professor, author and member of the Clinton cabinet explores widening inequality in the US and whether it is indeed a problem. This is an important film and one which not only north Americans should be watching but also voters in countries whose governments are keen to emulate the US model. He challenges us to question our assumptions. Many of the arguments against Reich’s analysis will sound very familiar…a film worth seeing.

Trailer – Inequality for All

Australia is about to get stupider

Australia is about to get stupider thanks to cuts to the ABC (Australia’s public broadcaster) and SBS (our multilingual and multicultural broadcaster).  Are the cuts all about privileging big business, discourse control or doing public broadcasting a favour? I heard a very strange argument yesterday – how the ABC was the cause of the financial problems of one of the big media companies because the ABC was so popular. Therefore the current state of affairs is not fair – really?  And then we have a so-called democratic government espousing free speech when it suits their interests yet uses power to silence critical voices. In my view, changes to quality broadcasting have already been noticeable but what to the future and implications for Australian society?

A debate is emerging about the role of public media. The debate is attempting to move beyond the string of broken pre-election promises of no funding cuts and claims that slashing and burning will really provide wonderful business opportunities for the ABC (go figure). Is it the ABC’s role to compete with private, profit making industries or fill the gap by providing quality and stepping beyond political interests? I favour the latter. My values are the antithesis of those of the current coalition government. I am not against private industry but as I have said before some things simply don’t work in private hands because the true master is always profit not what is good for all individuals in society or society as a whole. Truth and fairness are distant relatives. It really does come down to what sort of society we want.  We need an independent, intelligent public broadcaster in this country – more than ever.

Stupidity is scary. It is scary how politicians can appeal to people’s basest fears and how this actually works with the help of uncritical, popularist media. Come on, how many history lessons do we need? Is Australia’s future one where only the rich can be educated, where limited safety nets come with a big judgemental stick, health care is in exchange for $$$, and one where the public is fed on a diet of headline grabbers, celebrity news, reality television and very, very old television – all determined by the number of clicks and profit potential. That is ok but not if that is all we are going to have. A real risk? – you judge. Will we have a society not exposed to critical thought, one that blames and fears difference, one that is out for number one and bugger everyone else?

Public media does fill a gap – an important one. No matter how politicians want to couch it, funding cuts will have a huge impact – they already have. Already there are some shows I can’t watch anymore because of the sudden proliferation of commentators mouthing off what is simply their personal, unsubstantiated beliefs – all in the quest for fairness. I say if we are going to do that – let’s at least go with something more interesting like an alien invasion (you know that our politicians are really aliens or lizards disguised as humans), that the earth is really flat, that man has never been to the moon or there is no climate change (oops sorry – that one’s already here).  I attribute this decline to the politics of survival and hope they are temporary. Despite this, we do need a properly funded ABC and SBS that are immunised against political interests – more than ever.  I would be happy to pay a tax (umm, I mean levy, errr I mean tax) to fund the ABC.

Dear Adoptive Parents who are tired of Adoptees speaking up…

A deep and thoughtful post.

The adopted ones blog


Have you ever stopped to consider how, and why things have changed in adoption from the 1950’s to now?  The answer to those questions begins with: But for adoptees being willing to talk about their deepest feelings, parents would still be parenting adopted children the same way adoptive parents were taught in the 1950’s.  I’m not saying that changes were always adoptee driven, but only that if no adoptee had ever reached out, or spoken up, there would be no impetus for change.  Change is scary, hard, unknown. 

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Is Furness’s obsession to ‘save the world’s orphans’ actually creating them?

A great post by the Adoption Alliance. If it wasn’t so dangerous, the ridiculous lengths some people go to for sensationalist publicity would be comical – as the desire for media attention gets more desperate, the facts become more twisted and claims more bizarre – you know the stuff you only read at the hairdresser – this recent story is a prime example. I don’t know one real expert that would support these claims. Self-proclamation does not an expert make. The extreme pro-adoption lobby (despite a re-branding to ‘advocates’) have always believed the media is the key to their success, what they don’t realise is Australia is awake up and most of the adoption community are embarrassed by them.

Apology Alliance Australia

The following is an excellent article containing the themes of my two earlier posts.  Wealthy and powerful persons, like the Furness’ of the world,  getting their own needs met by “saving” one child or orphan at a time whilst in the process creating black markets and child trafficking rings so causing harm to thousands of vulnerable children.

Every child has a distinctive family culture and heritage, whether born within or without a particular country.  Many adoptees say they always feel like an outsider whether they have been adopted domestically or from overseas. If anyone wants to read the litany of mental and physical health problems from which adoptees suffer whether or not they have had loving parents please read my article: The Broken Bond – under the heading  About on this Blog.

Therefore adoption should never be used to manufacture families for those who for whatever reason cannot have their own child or…

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