Over the years there have been many inquiries into child abuse in this country. A few years ago in South Australia there was the mulligan inquiry. We have had apologise from Federal and State governments regarding the Stolen Generation and the F0rg0tten Australians. Now we are about to embark on another enquiry. What will it find that the other enquiries haven’t found? I can’t help but think that the same old rocks are going to be uncovered by the same people who have already told their story. Perhaps they will consider telling their story in this Inquiry more significant than a State Government Inquiry but one has to wonder what will change?
As a therapist I am profoundly aware of the need for people to tell their story and for this story to be heard by someone who is prepared to listen and, for some, to believe that the “wrong” can be “righted”. I hope that for some this is another step that makes the impact if being abused less painful. How often though do people have to tell their story? What is it that we expect to change?
History tells us that very little changes. If there was significant change and the lives of young people were no longer affected by systematic and institutional abuse we wouldn’t need to have any further inquiries. In twenty years time is there likely to be another set of inquiries for a new generation of abused children simply because we still haven’t got it “right”? Are we more enlightened now than we were twenty years ago? We may think we are but we are still not able to understand the problem. It is like arguing that we are less violent today than we were twenty years ago. Well we are not.
A quote from the Australian Institute of Criminology demonstrates what I am saying.
“The public's perception is that violence is increasing, but trends in violent crime reported to police since the early 1990s reveal a mixed story. Homicide has decreased by nine percent since 1990 and armed robbery by one-third since 2001, but recorded assaults and sexual assaults have both increased steadily in the past 10 years by over 40 percent and 20 percent respectively. The rate of aggravated assault appears to have contributed to the marked rise in recorded assault, and for both assault and sexual assault the rate of increase was greater for children aged under 15 years, with increases almost double that of the older age group.”
It is good news that we are not killing each other as often as we use to but the violence has increased. We are not enlightened at all so it is about time we realised that there is more at play here which needs to be resolved. It is great news that as a community through our political leaders we are able to finally say “sorry”. It is about time that we learn that the amount of times we say “sorry” is limited. “Sorry” only has meaning if it is a solemn declaration that whatever you say “sorry” for will never happen again. Well it will and it is happening now.
The longer we believe that the “Nanny State” is the best parent we will always have institutionalised and government sanctioned abuse. Through plain ignorance rather than through any deliberate behaviour. We will only implement change when we begin to value parenting, stop judging those who struggle, realise that people can change, and offer appropriate social work interventions that focus on families, rather than removal.
It is my hope that “Sorry” is heart felt and those words will never have to be repeated again.