Monday, November 16, 2009


Today our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull each made a heartfelt apology to those who were abused under state care as children.

Later I was listening to the radio and heard a caller recount an experience that occurred at the orphanage in which she spent her childhood. The children were all eating their dinner in silence when one of them spoke. The nun demanded that the person who spoke come forward. Nobody did. She then demanded that the other children dob them in. Nobody did. So she made them all stand in a line with their tongues poked out. She then walked along the line clouting their jaws shut one-by-one.

I had to turn the radio off at that point because I was so disturbed, although I'm sure that this story is tame within the scope of the horrific physical, emotional and sexual abuse that has taken place in orphanages and foster homes throughout our country's short history. My mother spent one week in a children's home as a five-year-old with her four brothers and sisters while my grandmother was in hospital giving birth to her sixth child. She is still traumatised by the experience. No matter how comfortable our own lives are, we need to remember that there are always voiceless, vulnerable members of our society who need care and protection. We cannot be apathetic; we cannot rely upon the authorities to do the right thing. We need to learn from the mistakes of the past - and, sadly, I don't think we have.

We only need to look so far as our treatment of the elderly, refugees and the mentally ill to recognise that.

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