In July, SBS program Four Corners lifted the lid on the treatment of juvenile offenders in detention in the Northern Territory.
A week ago, the media revealed details of thousands of cases of abuse against minors in the asylum seeker detention camps in Nauru.
At first, the social medias were awash with the coverage. People expressed outrage, people expressed disbelief, people debated the topic ‘If I ran the country,’ with passion and fury. And then, it was over. The issues, it seems, fast became yesterday’s news.
And, like so many times before, I found myself wondering, where is the outrage?
I mean, sure, there is some. Fantastic organisations like Love Makes A Way, Mums 4 Refugees, and Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance are staging protests and sit ins, and raising awareness – but I guess we expect them to do that, don’t we?
And yeah, bloggers like me are writing crappy little posts that nobody will read, and independent news outlets are still publishing articles. But who really gives a crap what a shitty ‘mummy blogger’ is writing? And let’s be honest, if you are reading articles published by news sites like New Matilda, or The Guardian, you probably already wear the title of “Crunchy Socialist Leftard*” with pride.
Where are the ‘regular people’? The bus drivers, bartenders, bank tellers? Why is there not a placard in the window every middle class family house, protesting these events? Why are the streets not filled with ‘everyday people’, objecting to a system that is allowing the abuse of small children to continue?
These questions are rhetorical, of course – I understand, that it is far too easy to look away. It’s too easy to get busy, because life is busy, and the kids have swimming lessons, and there are lunches to pack, and there is work to be done. I get it. I’ve done it. Correction, I do it. Far too often.
I also understand, that it is really easy to ignore it, because it feels so far away. It feels like my kids will never be strapped to a restraining device, or stripped naked and left in a cell. It feels like my kids will never experience war, and poverty, and extreme conditions that would leave me with no option but to risk everything, and seek asylum in a country across the sea.
And, you know what? They probably won’t. My kids, and if you are as white and middle class and lucky as me, your kids, will probably never know what it’s like to live in a war zone. They will probably never know what it is like to be sent at 11 years old to a correctional facility. But there is no certainty in life.
If it were my child locked in a cell for days, and then gassed with tear gas while playing a game of cards, I would want outrage. Not just for a few days. Not just on social media. I would want outrage, and vocal objectors, and protests. For weeks. Until the voices were heard, the laws were changed, and the guarantee was given that it would never happen again. To any child.
If it were my child, trapped in a detention camp on a desolate, poverty stricken island in the middle of fucking nowhere, drinking bleach, drawing pictures of death and despair, telling welfare workers that they want to die, I would expect nothing short of riots in the street. My child, incarcerated indefinitely despite committing no crime. My child, who by sheer misfortune of skin colour, religion, or place of birth, was trapped in a situation where their life was at risk. My child, screaming in fear every night. My child, being assaulted by the ‘professionals’ employed to protect them.
If it were my child, I would hope that you would have enough empathy and compassion to look past the colour of their skin, the religion they were born into, or the manner in which they crossed the ocean. That you would remember the UN Convention on The Rights of The Child, and protect my child from abuse, and situations that could harm their development. That you would fight for their right to play.
These children in juvenile corrective facilities. These children in tents on a barren island. They are not my children. But they are someone’s children. And that someone probably wants their child to live a long and happy life, just like I do.
So, let’s get vocal. Let’s be remember that their children are no different to our children. Let’s not get too busy, or complacent. Let’s get outraged.
*Still my favourite internet insult. I would happily wear this on a badge with my name on it, for the rest of my days.