Finally, we’ve reached the point where Australians are stating in droves, “Enough is enough!” Perhaps we’re finally just one step away from the day on which the sleeping masses revolt?
This week, after ABC’s Four Corners1 reported the results of an investigation into evidence of child torture at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, Australians burst forth with disgusted rage. The institutional horrors of the “justice system” finally laid bare in public; violent footage of children being stripped naked, choked, and put into hooded full body restraints resembling torture devices reserved only for the world’s most dangerous criminals. The community began an outpouring of condemnation and seething anger, demanding justice for the defenceless children involved in such heinous treatment. Yes, we are utterly appalled at the violence, but one cannot even begin to imagine what it is like for the children at the hands of such treatment, especially at the tender age of 11.
Yet this is not a new report. The use of tear gas at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre happened in 2014. Kids imprisoned in solitary confinement for 15-17 days in inhumane conditions with little light, running water, or school/educational material. As usual, a report was commissioned at the time, yet many of the recommendations have STILL not been implemented. 2 years later, the issues raised in the 2015 report are still ongoing. Just today, a Queensland barrister alleged the treatment of children in youth detention centres in his state is just as bad as that seen in the Northern Territory. No surprises there.
The abuse was again reported by Koori Mail on 23rd September 2015, yet no mainstream outrage. Tear gas, solitary confinement, starvation; all tactics used by the psychopathic officers against defenceless children. Little kids. Where was the outrage then? There was none. Words on paper just weren’t enough. But today (thank God) the whole nation feels sick to its collective stomach. The misuse of power to humiliate and demean children in detention is finally unmasked.
There is talk of a “Royal Commission”. What purpose will that serve? What does a royal commission ever do except waste time, resources and money in order to determine a ruling that we already know to be true? What did the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody achieve 30 years ago? A Royal Commission is a costly affair which does not have the function of prosecuting and punishing wrongdoing, it simply informs government.
A royal commission in 1987 investigated Aboriginal deaths in custody over a 10-year period, giving over 330 recommendations. Its recommendations are still valid today, but very few have been implemented. Every year, Aboriginal people continue to die in custody. Source
Why write reports when their recommendations aren’t followed? Why spend millions of dollars and waste the time of experts? Why call witnesses to the stand if perpetrators aren’t subsequently prosecuted?
The system protects itself
In the case of Dylan Voller (the young boy featured extensively in Four Corner’s report) here are the records of proceedings against the perpetrators that carried out his abuse over time:
Three officers enter the room, grab him by the neck, strip him naked and leave him on the floor. The removal of his clothing is part of the centre’s “at risk” procedure.
[A] guard rips the phone off him, knees him and knocks him to the ground. The officer involved was found not guilty in court. His casual contract was not renewed but a 2015 report found he was later re-employed at the Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre despite objections from the Professional Standards Command. [emphasis added]
[Thirteen-year-old Voller] is seen playing with a pack of cards before he is grabbed by the neck, thrown onto a mattress and forcefully stripped naked. The officer involved was twice found not guilty of aggravated assault. [emphasis added]
Thirteen-year-old Voller is held up by his neck and thrown into a cell in the behavioural management unit at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre. The officer involved was charged but found not guilty of assault. The casual officer’s contract was not renewed. [emphasis added]
Voller was also one of six children are tear gassed in the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre. They were held in isolation in the Behaviour Management Unit for between six and 17 days before the incident.
The abuse documented in juvenile detention and detention centres on islands such as Nauru is reprehensible and inhumane, and those responsible for such crimes should be transparently held accountable. The call for a Royal Commission is just another bullshit cover up, a way of letting offenders get away, whilst men and women in suits mull it over at the round table in comfort. In this day and age, do we really need a fucking Royal Commission to tell us that beating a child is wrong and offenders need to be held accountable? We innately know this. We’re here to protect, nurture and encourage our children, not to treat them like scum. And if a child has made mistakes, shouldn’t we at least give them the chance to make amends and lead a normal, healthy life?
It’s clear the system needs to be altered drastically. Not just the justice system, but the entire structure of society. Those who viewed the footage know the officers carrying out these crimes were not remorseful, and in fact appeared to take pride in their work. Their actions also praised by the (now sacked3) Northern Territory Corrections Minister John Elferink.4
I congratulate again, and place my support behind, the staff who made this decision. The staff worked hard, Fluffy the Alsatian worked hard and, as far as we are concerned, it was a problem that was solved quickly.
Yay for tear-gassing children!
Aside from healing the gaping cultural wound that institutional violence has torn open within our society, this is clearly where we need to place our attention.
Recruitment of psychopaths in positions of authority
The recruitment of those in positions of “authority”—those employed by the state to enforce the agenda—such as police, border security, train guards, etc., requires a specific psychology. Ex-CIA Agent Steven D. Kelley states; “They require people that are incapable of logical compassionate thinking.”
Read that statement again and absorb it. “They require people that are incapable of logical compassionate thinking.”
The police (and other agencies of similar ilk) seek to recruit people they know they can carefully manipulate throughout their training. They only recruit members within a specific IQ range and psychological profile. The Australian Institute of Forensic Psychology (AIFP) Public Safety Psychological Profiling System is currently used throughout Australia, and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2) is used throughout USA to recruit police (and other correctional officers). Both contain a collection of psychological profiling instruments “carefully selected and designed because they identify job relevant personality traits which are critical for public safety roles”, complemented by a subsequent highly structured interview. More details about the specific tests can be found here. Scoring of the recruitment process is a closely guarded secret.
Tests such as these are designed to “choose the right people for the job”, and to reduce stress leave and sick days. Correctional officer jobs include powerful stressors such as the ongoing threat of violence, the negativity of inmates, shift work and society’s generally negative view of this role.6 It takes a specific type of person to cope with a role such as this. Interestingly, researchers Holland. Heim and Holt (1976) discovered MMPI profile similarities between officers and inmates.7
Someone I know works as a “transit officer” (transit guard), and I have sadly witnessed a distinct alteration in his attitude since inception. It is crystal clear to me there is a definite strategy used in training for government correctional positions. The following are comments he has said to me whilst talking about his job (which he loves):
It’s my train. People will do what I tell them.
If they haven’t got a ticket I’ll arrest them. I don’t care what happens to them. That’s not my problem.
If they don’t respect my authority there’ll be consequences.
If people do what I tell them, no one will get hurt.
The system is designed to pinpoint and nurture those with sociopathic tendencies, train them intensively, and squeeze out every last drop of empathy until they become obedient monsters. The result is an officer who will seek to protect “their train”, “their turf”, “their inmates”, etc., from the “enemy”. They are at the top of the mountain. Anyone beneath them is forced to obey. If others don’t comply, they are punished. There is no logical or emotional reasoning process involved. It doesn’t matter how the particular person got into that position; if they’re mentally ill, a victim of abuse, homeless, etc. None of that matters.
Case in point. A video was recently shared with Global Freedom Movement in which UK police use specific tactics to take down a distraught machete wielding man without reaching for a gun; thus saving his life and allowing him to get help. In the USA, this man would have been shot immediately. Comments on this video by another transit guard include the following:
These are genuine beliefs because correctional officers have been brainwashed into thinking they are here to serve and protect, doing the world a noble deed. They are—and we’ve all heard this before—”just doing their job.” There is no consideration as to what kind of help this man needed, or as to why a child may be riding a train at 11 pm at night. No compassion or foresight accompanies these officers’ decision-making processes; no thought as to the long-term implications of their hostile actions towards society’s downtrodden and marginalised. As kids, were we riding trains at 11 pm at night? Certainly not. We had a home, a mum and dad who cared deeply about us, who fed us, and tucked us into bed at night so we could dream safely. Neglected and damaged children do not have the same blessed situation. We can, and should ask ourselves “why”?
In order for anything to change this is what we need to focus on. The wound is deep. Perhaps it’s because their parents were stolen from their home as children from their parents? Perhaps they’ve had no role models in their life? Perhaps ancestral trauma runs so deep they use alcohol and drugs to numb the pain? Perhaps they can’t function well in an urban environment so devoid of life and connection (a.k.a. meaning)? Perhaps a friday night train filled with drunken louts is the safest place they can find? Perhaps they couldn’t even grasp what love is? How are we to know unless we ask?
But the correctional officer doesn’t ask. They are trained to do everything but ask; to mould or coerce people to respect their authority. If people refuse to answer their probing questions they will be punished. A government-issued costume seems to dictate to an officer they can do whatever the fuck they want, even to a child. This attitude of untouchability is encouraged to flourish within these positions, and becomes even more dangerous when reinforced by a bunch of like-minded workmates. Indeed the transit officer I am connected to has been rewarded for his great attitude by being promoted and fast-tracked to supervise other up-and-coming recruits, so he can fine tune them to present the same heartless, angry, cold personality that he’s taken on.
In researching for this article I was shocked to discover those in charge of our nation’s most vulnerable, Youth Justice Officers (those employed at Don Dale), aren’t even psychologically tested. The Department of Correctional Services uses a “bulk recruitment process to attract and recruit” officers; using a generous 7 weeks recreation leave, and the pull of a flexible roster which will “allow for several consecutive days off to enjoy the great lifestyle we have on offer in the Territory.” Great! When you’re done beating children up you can laze on the beach, visit Uluru, sample Kakadu National Park, or hit the childre… er, Mindil Beach markets. (Oops, don’t “take your work home” with you, mate!)
It seems any “fit person” off the street will pass the test (as long as the IQ isn’t too high and respect for “authority” is!). Is this the kind of recruitment process we should use for employees at troubled children’s “rehabilitation” centres?
Graphic images drive the message home
The beauty and power of the Four Corners program was that it stripped everything bare. With a newspaper article we can reason with ourselves why a child deserves that kind of treatment. In Australia, this may include explanations such as: they were a druggie, a junkie, an aboriginal, an alcoholic, a thief. Surely they deserved it, otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. No-one would do that to a child unless there was a good reason. We employ a degree of ignorance and abstract reasoning to keep us at a distance.
This program, in all it’s grotesque violence, divested viewers of the ability to maintain this facile rationale. It cut right to the core. A defenceless, vulnerable child up against multiple grown men, thrown across the room, stripped, hooded, humiliated, in a way that no-one should EVER be.
This is not about race, colour, creed, sex. It’s about humanity.
Correctional officers aren’t trained to think about the consequences of their interactions, but perhaps they should. What might happen if they did? In a state such as Western Australia, which sends fare evaders to jail, this forethought could go a long way, particularly if employed by transit guards. Small offences are where the slippery slope begins. If children were faced with humanity rather than indifference or brutality, this world would immediately see a potent shift.
Placing victims in an environment that treats them like animals, humiliates them and holds no respect for their basic human liberties serves no-one. The following video explains what happens when we take a more useful approach to jail other than the punitive approach taken in the West such as USA and Australia. A clear focus on rehabilitation of those at risk in society is a win for everyone.
Key statistics from the video:
- Norway inmates have 3 functional living cells, workshops, cooking areas and access to multiple healthcare professionals.
- In America 76.6% of released prisoners are re-arrested within 5 years of release.
- In Norway, 20% of prisoners return. This is one of the lowest rates of recidivism in the world.
- Norway uses Restorative Justice Programs.
Where do inmates go after prison? Back to society. Do you want people who are angry or do you want people who are rehabilitated? – Are Oidal, Director, Halden Prison
It’s time to break the cycle of violence. It’s time to raise the roof on corruption. It’s time to stand up for our human brothers and sisters. It’s time to heal the trauma and pain. It’s time to clear our ancestry of generations of violence. It’s time to heal the dysfunction. To recognise the wrongs and put them right. It’s time to unite.
The Indians addressed all of life as a “thou”–the trees, the stones, everything…and if you do it, you can feel the change in your own psychology. The ego that sees a “thou” is not the same ego that sees an “it.” And when you go to war with people, the problem of the newspapers is to turn those people into “its.” – Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
We don’t need a “Royal Commission” to tell us we’re headed down the wrong path. This is our chance to correct the route. Let’s choose forgiveness and let Dylan Voller light the way.
I’ll leave you with this message from Jandamarra Cadd, who endured a challenging childhood, including time in juvenile detention, yet strove to find a way out to became an acclaimed artist, inspirational speaker, and Archibald Prize Finalist.
I have waited to share a response to the events of the last 24 hours as I was hesitant to bring any attention away from the incredibly brave young men who have not only endured and survived, but have also spoken out about their trauma. I would like to focus on them and all others who have suffered through the juvenile detention system in Australia. It took me over twenty years to speak publicly about the events of my experience as a young Aboriginal boy in juvenile detention, the worst being at Westbrook near Toowoomba in QLD. There was an investigation into that place and it was shut down in 1994 not long after I was released. It saddens me to my core that this dehumanisation has still been occurring and this is why I want to send this message to the young fellas.
You are more important than they wanted you to feel. You are not the words they used when they spoke to you. You are unique, there is no body else in the world like you and you have the strong and resilient blood running through your veins of the oldest continuous living culture in the world. This is why we are still here. We are survivors and can survive the racism, the paternalism and the attempts the break our spirit. Be gentle with yourselves and find an avenue to express yourself. I am grateful I found painting. You have the empathy, love and support of so many people holding you and you can now rewrite the story of your life. It’s not over and you are the author. Our people have shared their stories for over 2000 generations and we are going to keep doing it because it’s important. If you can and feel to watch NITV tomorrow at 10:30am, part of my story will be aired which was an incredible synchronicity that was filmed last year and scheduled long before we knew about Four Corners. Be strong young warriors… Listen quietly for the guidance of your ancestors…and Walk tall in your birthright on this ancient land. Source