‘Australian Values’

The government is worried that Australians are losing their values, or is it that groups of newcomers just aren’t seeing this wonderful land of the ‘fair go’ that we keep spruiking?

The notion of a fair go has become more interesting to me as I have aged. In 2007 I was enrolled in a Peace Studies program at UNE. One of the topics for an essay was “There Can Be No Reconciliation Without Justice“. As someone who has patiently waited for justice for decades, I identify strongly with this sentiment. An impassioned essay followed (excerpt below), and was awarded an HD. Our pain seems to be of great interest to academics. Sadly this has not yet manifested as scholarships to study Forgotten Australian issues, or a Chair in Survivor Studies.

Forgotten Australians Unable to Reconcile

Forgotten Australians Unable to Reconcile.1

Re-reading it now, it seems very little has changed since 2007, with one notable exception. Forgotten Australians and institutional abuse survivors have finally been believed. Those who survived can now look back on the five-year Royal Commission and begin to plan how they might spend their Redress. They are no longer urged to seek access to justice through ‘normal legal processes’, the way Lew and I were in Beattie’s Queensland in 2004. Those were dark days. Few lawyers understood why someone like Lew even needed a guardian ad litem. 

When Lew died he had been blogging for a year. His commentary on the Royal Commission was widely respected. It is reproduced on the SNAP Australia web page, and has been included in Australia’s National Archive as part of the Pandora Project. I don’t need to remind anyone of the enormous contribution he made. My one regret is that he never got to have his day in court at the Royal Commission. Why wouldn’t they let him speak? We, his widow and daughters, will forever be trying to tell the story he wanted told. My daughter was given the opportunity to record for the Royal Commission what he might have wanted to say, but it was too little, too late. Lew feared he may have witnessed the murder of a child in a Home. Was it about this that he wished to speak? We will never know.

It would be great if more of the history of the Homes could be recorded. There ought to be a series telling the stories of escapes from the Homes. The people making the series should be care leavers. I’m sure this is happening somewhere in Australia and I just haven’t heard.

If those patiently awaiting a pitiful monetary recognition of their unspeakable suffering are on the lowest rung of Maslow’s hierarchy like our family, Redress may take the form of fixing up their home, or paying towards the home they never had. $150,000 certainly won’t buy a whole house. A psychologist whom I saw for many years believed that Home kids ought to be given a home, as theirs was taken. Stolen Generations are not only stolen themselves; something essential is stolen from them. It may be that they lose their ability to put down roots; in some way they are homeless. Homelessness has stalked us all our lives, ever since we lost the roof over our heads my father bought us in 1978 when our son was born.

One thing I’ve noticed: it doesn’t make any difference how long it is since the injustice occurred. If anything, the feelings intensify with time. As one ages, the long term impacts become more obvious and troublesome. In any case, a fair go is sorely needed here.

Justice delayed is justice denied!





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