Sunday, March 28, 2021

Calls for Australia’s ‘racist’ laws which can send young criminals to prison aged just 10 to be scrapped – as activists call for offenders to have no responsibility until 14

Because of the stealth skills they have inherited from their hunter-gatherer ancestors, young aborigines are brilliant thieves. And they start from a young age. The age of criminal responsibiity has been kept low in part because there is so much criminality among even very young aborigines. Changing that age is not going to change the criminality.

The one thing that might help is to ensure that they attend school. They truant often and that gives them time in the community to commit offences

The kneejerk reaction that they should be "rehabilitated" instead of being sent to jail just does not work usually. But if their time in jail were used to further their education, that might help. They would usually respond rather well to trade training, which would give them something constructive to do

Keenan Mundine was 14 when he first went to jail for breaking into a car and stealing a laptop. 'I was placed in a dorm with 30 other boys and there were nine- and 10-year-old boys in there that had been there for months,' the 34-year-old said. 'Some of them couldn't even read or write. None of them got visits from their parents.'

The Wakka Wakka and Birpai man grew up on The Block in Sydney's Redfern, an experience he describes as 'f***ing horrible'.

'There were no doors, windows smashed, rats and cockroaches everywhere, abandoned buildings, people shooting up in my backyard while I'm playing on my trampoline, people overdosing, people getting stabbed,' Mr Mundine said.

'It was all normal to me.'

Mr Mundine's parents died by the time he was seven and he was separated from his siblings.

His arrest at 14 marked the beginning of years-long involvement with the youth justice system.

'I was homeless, I had no job, I had no parents, I had no one responsible for me and they just opened the gate after me serving my time and took me back out to the wolves,' Mr Mundine said.

'All I knew was what community taught me to do and that was take things that didn't belong to me because I needed them.'

Mr Mundine turned his life around and founded Aboriginal community-led charity Deadly Connections with his wife Carly.

He has been advocating for years to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14, in line with most international jurisdictions.

Across Australia, children as young as 10 can be arrested by police, remanded in custody, convicted by the courts and jailed.

It is estimated almost 600 children aged between 10 and 13 were in custody last financial year. More than 60 per cent were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Cheryl Axleby, co-chair of the Aboriginal-led justice coalition Change the Record, said discriminatory laws and policing is to blame for the over-representation of Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system

'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are more likely to be stopped by police, arrested and charged instead of cautioned, and locked up on remand instead of being released on bail,' she said.

The earlier a child is driven into the criminal justice system, the more likely they are to stay in it, she added. 'When we lock up children as young as 10, it's not just a prison sentence, it's a life sentence.'

Rodney Dillon, a Palawa elder from Tasmania and Indigenous rights advisor for Amnesty International, agrees. 'Living in that system doesn't address the issues that the kids have got. All it does is make the kids worse,' he said.

Mr Dillion said children under 14 who end up in custody are more likely to skip school, have an undiagnosed disability, suffer from underlying trauma and come from a poor family.

'We know that poverty, poor housing and the criminal justice system all live together. Why don't we address all three issues?' Mr Dillon said. 'All we do, because it's simple, is lock kids up.'

Mick Creati, paediatrician and senior fellow at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, said children under 14 are yet to develop the ability to control impulses or foresee the consequences of their actions.

'We are criminalising children as young as 10 for behaviours that are explained by their immature brain development, disability, mental illness and/or trauma,' Dr Creati said.

Children under 14 brought before court are presumed to be 'doli incapax', meaning they don't have the capacity to commit crime because they lack a guilty mind. But young people can spend months in remand during the legal argument.

In January, more than 30 United Nations member states, including Canada, France and Germany, called on Australia to raise the age.

Australia's Council of Attorneys-General agreed to consider raising the age to 14, and has been examining alternatives to imprisonment.

Last year ACT became the first jurisdiction to commit to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and called on other states and territories to follow.

Pressure is mounting in Victoria, where a national-first inquiry into the historic and ongoing injustices committed against Indigenous people has been established and a number of discriminatory laws have been abolished.

The Greens have introduced a bill to the upper house to raise the age but both major parties said they wouldn't support it.

'Tackling the root causes of youth offending is our first priority,' a Victorian government spokesperson told AAP, pointing to a youth justice plan aiming to provide better outcomes for young people.

On Wednesday, the attorneys-general are set to meet for the first time this year, although the federal government's expected ministerial reshuffle may cause a delay and it's unclear if raising the age will be on the agenda.

For Michael Kennedy, a former NSW Police detective who works at the University of Western Sydney, raising the age alone is not enough.

'There is no use lifting the age of criminal responsibility to 14 if nothing is going to be done about unemployment, drug and alcohol problems, sexual assault, domestic violence,' he said.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the average daily number of young people in custody in the 2019/20 financial year was the lowest since 2002.

Mr Mundine said the cost of inaction was grave. 'The ripple effect of not raising the age of criminal responsibility is going to be another 50 years of undoing trauma,' he said.

'I try to remain positive and optimistic and hopeful. Because I've proved them wrong in terms of how they measured me ... and where I'd end up.'


Bungling health authorities reveal man who hosted a party in Brisbane while infected with Covid only had FIVE people over NOT 25

A Queensland man accused of hosting a party with 25 friends while awaiting Covid test results did no wrong, the government has admitted while confirming one new locally transmitted case.

The Sunshine State was put on high alert on Friday after a 26-year-old Stafford man, from Brisbane's north, tested positive to the highly infectious UK varient of the virus.

Authorities then claimed a man who was identified as a close contact of the known case ignored advice to self isolate and instead threw a party with 25 friends after he was tested for Covid on Friday afternoon.

But they've now admitted that upon further investigation they learned there were only five people at the home.

Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said it was 'inflammatory' to refer to the gathering on Friday night as a party.

Instead, he said there were just five people present in the house and that there was 'no evidence' anybody in attendance committed an offence.

The 25 people first identified as being present at the party were initially forced to self isolate, but there are now just five people who are undergoing mandatory quarantine.

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said the information they provided the public was 'given by the man himself' while assisting contact tracers. But she admitted there is a possibility that authorities misunderstood the information he provided.

'That the numbers are far lower and it is contained to predominantly housemates, that is a good outcome, much better outcome than what we thought was occurring yesterday,' she said.

'It is disappointing that we have ended up in this situation, but we also have to act on the information that we have at the time.'

The state recorded three new cases of Covid on Sunday, including one within the community.

The new case is the brother of the 26-year-old Stafford man who sparked the latest outbreak when he tested positive to the highly infectious UK strain on Thursday.

Dr Young explained on Sunday the brother is likely the 'missing link' contact tracers have been searching for.

Early indications suggest the virus was in his system longer than his brother and that he has almost entirely recovered, suggesting he was infected first and passed the virus on.


Universities to smother academic freedom

The University of Sydney has treated Education Minister Alan Tudge with complete contempt within hours of the Higher Education Support Amendment (Freedom of Speech) Bill 2020 passing through parliament this month. It did so in the typically duplicitous manner we expect from our universities. It pretends to support the minister’s bill that allows academics to take part in contentious arguments, but then insists on a killer proviso — so long as the speech is “respectful”.

Respectful speech is a fine aspiration for all of us. But the word respect has many meanings ranging from bare tolerance to deep admiration. Former High Court chief justice Robert French, on whose report on freedom of speech and academic freedom the legislation is partly based, points out that terms such as “lack of respect” are “legal categories of indeterminate reference … They allow ‘a wide range for variable judgment in interpretation …’ ”.

That is a huge problem for an academic who is accused by their university of disrespectful speech. Who will decide if the speech was respectful enough? The vice-chancellor?

Consider a hypothetical case of a medical vaccine researcher who stated that anti-vaxxers would be responsible for killing thousands of people by scaring people about the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine. The researcher might state this calmly with many supporting facts. But there is nothing more disrespectful than an accusation that somebody is killing thousands of people. I wonder what the VC would decide? I think the medical researcher would probably get away with it because it refers to anti-vaxxers.

But what about another researcher who said that those advocating zero carbon emissions would kill millions in the Third World by making electricity too expensive? Or a scientist who stated that the banning of DDT by medical authorities had been responsible for the avoidable deaths by malaria of millions of children? Would the VC think that was disrespectful? Quite possible, yes. The academic might be fired despite both statements being perfectly arguable positions.

So the problem is that, by insisting on respect, making contentious comments becomes like walking along the edge of a cliff on a foggy night. You can’t see the edge. The only option for an academic is not to say anything remotely contentious.

In other words, Sydney University just killed academic freedom of speech while pretending to support the minister’s new law.

It seems likely that Sydney University is not aware of a recent heated debate over the term respectful at the University of Cambridge. The Cambridge VC tried to force the university academic freedom policy to require speech to be respectful. The Cambridge dons rebelled and voted instead for the term tolerance.

Why should they respect climate change deniers, some Cambridge academics legitimately argued, if they believed deniers would be responsible for the end of the world? They voted eight to one against the VC.

Such a rebellion by academics needs to happen at Sydney University. But you’d be brave to lead such a challenge. This is a university that has already fired an academic (Tim Anderson, whose comments I disagree with) for making statements it did not like.

Sydney University often states its mantra “disagree well”. It is hard to argue against such an aspiration. But it ignores the fact some things cannot be said in a way that everybody can be guaranteed to feel respected. And if academic freedom depends on nebulous terms such as respect, it ceases to exist.

What is most disgusting about the Sydney University statement is that it pretends to agree with the minister and the French review, claiming it “welcomes passage of freedom of speech bill”. It is yet more evidence that many of our universities are going to need much more encouragement to truly embrace free speech.

But the new legislation is a great step in the right direction. It will need to be policed and suitable penalties applied. That inevitably will mean threatening the loss of federal funding. In my view, Sydney University, which clearly does not understand the concept of free speech, needs to be “respectfully” spoken to by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. The universities must be independent of government interference, but to earn that independence they must first act like a university.

Sydney University does not seem to understand what being a university is all about.


Artist abused as ANU-based gallery takes down artwork critical of Chinese government

An art gallery on the campus of the Australian National University has removed three satirical artworks from an exhibition, including one that took aim at the persecution of Uighur Muslims, after complaints from Chinese international students.

Artist Luke Cornish says he experienced a torrent of abuse from Chinese students on social media after his exhibition of street art opened at the aMBUSH gallery on the ANU campus earlier this month.

“I’ve copped a lot of online abuse calling me racist. It was definitely like a targeted attack because it all happened in about an hour. I was just smashed on social media. There was so much of it,” Cornish said. “I understand the gallery is protecting its reputation. But at the same time we shouldn’t be bullied into censoring work about genocide.”

Cornish said he agreed to take down one artwork of a 10 Chinese Yuan currency note featuring Mao Zedong’s face over which he had painted a batman mask. The artwork was captioned: “A shout out to the man that ate the bat in a Wuhan wet market that stopped the f---ing world (which probably didn’t happen).”

The ANU International Students’ Department did not respond to requests for comment, but in a Facebook post said it had asked the gallery to take down the Batman artwork after receiving “multiple reports regarding the harmful nature of the artwork.”

The group said it did not request the removal of the other artworks and “were ourselves surprised to hear the other two artworks were taken down”.

The exhibition featured 54 pieces of Cornish’s artwork and is billed as a commentary on “the rise of authoritarianism, the fall of liberties, the power of the people, and art’s role in inciting change”.

“I was a little bit naive to the racism Chinese people have been facing since COVID and it did offend a lot of Chinese students. So I kind of agreed, yes, we should take that one down,” Cornish said.

But the gallery also took down two other pieces centred around a 10 Yuan note - a decision Cornish did not agree with. One note was painted over with a picture of Winnie the Pooh strangling Tigger. Cornish said the artwork was a comment on China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, with Chinese President Xi Jinping represented as Winnie the Pooh while “Tigger” rhymed with “Uighur”. In 2018, Chinese censors banned the cartoon bear after it became a popular way to mock President Xi.

The third artwork features Mao Zedong’s face marked with digital outlines of facial-recognition software, billed as a comment on the Chinese government’s social credit system and use of mass surveillance.

Cornish said the artworks were not intended to target Chinese people but rather the government.

“I certainly don’t want to offend anyone on an individual level, the country they come from, and the colour of their skin. [The artworks] are like a broad spectrum assault on all governments, anybody that’s abusing power,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the gallery said it removed the artworks after feedback from the Chinese community.

“The decision was based around unintended hurt caused to the Chinese community who felt the work was feeding into negative racial narratives,” the spokeswoman said.

“The intention of the artwork was to call out the racism experienced by the Chinese community and the absurdity of racist stories around the virus origin. However, both the artist and aMBUSH understand the experience of the series did not reflected the artist’s intention, and this is why we removed it.

“The rest of Luke’s exhibition remains on display. Including works supporting the Uighur struggle. We respect the artist’s freedom to express his political opinion.” Another piece by Cornish, depicting a Uighur man painted onto a meat cleaver remains in the exhibit.

An ANU spokesman said the aMBUSH gallery was a commercial tenant of the campus’ Kambri Precinct and is not affiliated with ANU.

“ANU is aware artwork has been taken down at Ambush Gallery, which was an independent decision of the gallery. Neither the artwork nor the exhibition were commissioned by ANU,” the spokesman said.




1 comment:

Paul said...

I caught a niglet in our house some years back. Looks like he'd not long got in when I came home in the middle of the day. He did a bit of damage but didn't take anything. I think he was after cash and such. Took off up the back yard like a stumpy cheetah. He got caught with his mate a few months later. Turned out they were from a nearby Commission house where babyymomma was actually sending them out to steal. They were a two "teen" crime wave while they were loose.