No happily ever after here: Australia’s *latest* shame

I’m currently teaching Trash by Andy Mulligan. A great book which helps our generally privileged students interact with the idea of what it might be like living in 3rd world conditions.

But I’ve been careful to point out to the students that the sort of “police corruption”, lack of regard for the rights of the child, and poor living conditions are not confined to the 3rd world. We don’t have to look far to see examples in Australia.

Tonight, on Four Corners, ABC, one of the most abhorrent examples of child abuse perpetrated on a mass scale by Australian government institutions: a report about the treatment of child offenders in the NT Youth Detention Centres such as “Don Dale”.

A boy, driven crazy from solitary confinement for well over the legally allowed 72 hours, who had not been told how long his confinement was set for, breaks out of his cell into a corridor shared by 6 other solitary cells. He starts breaking light fittings and trying to break through the doors to the prison officers on the other side.  This is called a “riot” and the riot squad, with a police dog, enter and ten rounds of tear gas are sprayed through the whole area, affecting all 6 cells.

Two young boys housed in 1 of the other ‘solitary’ cells, playing cards and not offending anyone, are forced to hide under bedsheets from the tear gas. Not understanding what was happening, or what the gas was, they thought their lives were over and said their goodbyes to each other, huddled in the corner of the prison cell.

After, the detainees are pulled out, hand cuffed, laid on the ground outside and hosed down with a fire hose. One detainee, a particularly disliked troublemaker, is last to be taken outside; left for up to 8 minutes in the tear gas.  This boy has been incarcerated since the age of 12 and has suffered constant abuse because of his disagreeable nature.  When he later threatened to commit suicide at the age of 17 (still incarcerated), the response was not psychological assistance, but punishment- he was strapped into a mechanical chair with feet and hands cuffed and a spit hood covering his head, being left in this position in solitary confinement for 2 hours.

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