Friday, October 15, 2010

Australian society and its treatment of children

The suffering of children opens a door into the hardness of society. We are forced to see practices that we take for granted in a different light. And as we are pressed to change our perspective, we can easily react angrily or defensively by denying the truth of events and minimising the harm that people suffer. Societies try to close doors that open on to vulnerability. They try to control children's business. 

Andrew Hamilton, Eureka St
In the latest edition of the online magazine Eureka St, Andrew Hamilton reviews three children's books based on Australian songs,  and in so doing ruminates on our society's attitude to, and treatment of children.  

At the heart of our prosperous Australian society is a gross hypocrisy. Despite our professed concern for children we allow too many children to suffer unnecessarily. We stand by and accept this as a consequence of a society increasingly divided by wealth, race, privilege and geography.

As Hamilton points out Australia's record of treating its children is well, shocking.   Think about children abused in the care of the church, Aboriginal children "stolen" from their families,  Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal children living in severe poverty,  asylum seeker children held in detention, children denied a quality education, children with mental health problems and developmental problems unable to get a service, children exploited by advertising and children who are the victims of violence. 

The books reviewed have been created around three Australian songs about the Indigenous experience in this country- Archie Roach's 'Took the Children Away' which tells the story of the stolen generations, Shane Howard's 'Solid Rock', a song about dispossession and Neil Murray's 'My Island Home'  a song that tells of the longing for the sea felt by a man from Elcho Island, now living in Central Australia.

 Hamilton writes:
These children's books also do serious business. They make us ask how we should encourage our children to see their world and society.

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