I have stepped out into the warm winter sun of a Sydney morning. I want to drink in that moment when the sun’s rays touch my skin and banish the darkness I am often prone to carrying inside.
It usually works. Basking for just a few moments can bring clarity and hope. Not today. Today not even nature’s most precious gifts can dispel the gloom I feel about our country.
I could call this anger. I could tell of rage. I could describe a suffocating, nauseating hopelessness. I feel all of that, my mood swinging between despair and resignation.
From The Guardian
The images of those boys on my television screen – tear-gassed, beaten, held down, locked up, hooded. These boys that look like my boys.
Northern Territory juvenile detention ‘may amount to torture’, says Unicef – as it happened
Chief minister takes over portfolio and PM announces royal commission after ABC airs footage of teenagers being teargassed, hooded and restrained for hours
I didn’t want to watch Four Corners last night. I knew what was to come. I couldn’t watch all of it. I got up, I walked around and every time I came back there was another boy talking about loneliness and depression and fear.
Things once seen cannot be unseen. I carry the twisted images of lifetime of reporting – bodies broken and lifeless, people screaming in pain, rivers of blood and burning flesh. These are things burned into my eyes and now there is that image of a boy – an Australian boy – bound to a chair, hooded and catatonic.
For Indigenous people these are far too often the images that give shape to Australia.
For me it is seeing the physical scars of my loved ones: bodies marked by knife wounds, broken bones, missing fingers, and dark ink tattoos. These tell stories of lives at the coalface of bigotry and poverty.
It is hearing stories of people arrested and chained like dogs to trees left to burn in the blazing summer sun.
It is stumbling on a book as a child and seeing Aboriginal people chained and bound to each other, staring blankly at a world that could not see them as anything but a problem to be solved or a people to be extinguished.
In 2016, the lives of our children are measured in statistics. Indigenous kids make up half of those juveniles behind bars. An Aboriginal or Torres Strait islander boy or girl is nine times more likely to kill themselves.
We are failing them and there are many reasons for it. We can look to history, we can look to politics, we can look to dysfunctional communities and families.
We bury 10 year-olds who feel Australia has no place for them.
We can blame grog and drugs, we can say kids should be at school. We can blame the kids themselves.
Right now none of this is enough. I can’t see reason, I can only feel anger, and anger sometimes is better than reason.
Let the royal commission do its job. Let it look at systemic failure and responsibility and retribution. Let it cast its inquiry over two centuries of neglect and injustice. Let it ask what justice even means.
After Four Corners I watched a little of the Q&A panel discuss the horrors of what they had seen. They discussed Indigenous incarceration, black deaths in custody. They answered questions about constitutional recognition.
A 10-year-old girl has taken her own life. How can we possibly look away?
They talked about the first peoples of this country and there wasn’t even an Indigenous person on the panel. Not one of them even mentioned how utterly inappropriate it is to be talking about us and not including us.
I just wanted to yell at the screen, get out of our lives!
The ignorant, the racist, the well-intentioned, whoever: just stop. Just for that moment I wanted them to stop.
For that moment recognition meant nothing to me.
It will lift. Anger will subside. Hope will fill despair. Reason will return. My inclination to diplomacy will return.
But right now I am angry: tearfully angry.
Right now I am in the sun and waiting for it to lift the gloom.