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Coleman wants the family to stay, Dutton wants them refouled. Trouble in Home Affairs.

3 Sep

 Picture: Claudia BaxterSource:News Corp Australia

In May 2019, newly-elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison removed responsibility for the Immigration portfolio from Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, and gave it to David Coleman. The portfolio, renamed Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, remains under the umbrella of Home Affairs, and Dutton is the senior Minister.

In the matter of the family from Biloela, currently incarcerated on Christmas Island waiting for the court to decide their fate this week, Minister Coleman has had little or nothing to say even though he is directly responsible. All commentary has been handled by Dutton, despite Coleman having the same ministerial powers, and the same legal right to exercise the ministerial discretion that would allow the family to stay.

(A quick recap if you’ve been out of touch lately. Minister Dutton attempted to secretly deport Priya, Nadesalingam and their Australian-born children Kopika and Tharunicaa under cover of darkness last week. An urgent injunction forced their plane, en route to Sri Lanka, to land in Darwin, from where they were transferred to Christmas Island.)

Ministerial discretion is a legal option that allows a minister to grant visas even if the court has declared the applicants are not refugees. It also permits the minister to intervene in the matter of, for example, European au pairs arriving in Australia on a Sunday afternoon with the wrong visa, ensuring the au pairs are released from immigration detention and sped on their way to employers with the clout to get Dutton out on a weekend.

Minister Coleman is well aware of the dangers that await the family in Sri Lanka, as this tweet from four months ago confirms:

It appears that Coleman has been gagged by Dutton, preventing him from publicly commenting on the current situation despite the fact that calls to Dutton’s office regarding the family are being diverted to Coleman’s office.

Coleman is also copping considerable ridicule on social media, with people referring to him as “OfDutton” and suggesting that he is “Under his eye.” It does seem as if Coleman is being forced to handle the brunt of public displeasure, while being temporary stripped of all ministerial authority and capacity to respond or act.

No doubt if this entire situation goes pear-shaped, Coleman will be held responsible for that as well, leaving Dutton with plausible deniability.

A report in The Guardian suggests tension between Coleman and Dutton, with the former “committed” to ensuring the family are permitted to stay in their community, as opposed to his senior minister’s hardline approach that will see them refouled to Sri Lanka:

Multiple sources have indicated to the Guardian that the immigration minister, David Coleman, is inclined – one source said “committed” – towards allowing the family to stay, but that he has been consistently overruled by the senior minister in the department, the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, who is adamant the family has extinguished its appeal avenues and must, by law, leave the country.

An annual employment census has ranked Home Affairs as the worst agency for staff engagement across the Australian public service. Thousands of public servants have expressed their wish to work elsewhere.

Almost 40% of those surveyed have applied for other jobs.

36% want to leave the department in the next six months.

Harassment, bullying, poor communication and substandard leadership are cited as some of the causes of employee discontent. It could well be that Coleman is a high profile victim of just such behaviour from his master.

It seems that the Home Affairs department is in something of a turmoil, which begs the question, how can this mega department satisfactorily carry out its multitude of duties, including overseeing every Australian intelligence agency and the AFP, when struggling with internal chaos and discord between its two Ministers?

That Home Affairs is such a toxic workplace should be a cause for serious concern and urgent action.

Peter Dutton has questions to answer. But don’t hold your breath. He’s a protected species and likely more powerful than the Prime Minister himself.

 

 

Dealing with Pell.

22 Aug

 

Yesterday, Cardinal George Pell lost his appeal against his conviction of child sexual abuse.

Children, when allowed to develop without debilitating trauma, often have an innate sense of fairness, together with a belief and the expectation that justice must be and will be made to prevail.

When you’ve been sexually abused in your childhood, this trust in the order of things is one of the first things to crumble. The disintegration continues into adulthood as you see that your abuser faces no consequences for their crimes against you, while your life is a daily struggle with traumatic stress that leaves no part of your body and mind untouched.

You often experience this loss of trust as feelings of angry hopelessness, despair even, disillusionment and bitter disappointment. Though of course you the child can articulate none of this, it’s inchoate, and black.

You might also as an adult speak of these things in the third person, when you manage to speak of them at all, because that creates some small distance from a chaos that might otherwise engulf you. The I, while recommended as a means of owning one’s life experiences and a step to empowerment, can be a bridge too far when dealing with experiences you don’t actually want to own. I use I sparingly, when I feel strong. It is empowering. I wish I could do it more often. For the moment, switching between the two persons is the best I can do.

I could not bear to hope that Pell would lose his appeal. I could not bear to deal with the blow of yet again witnessing a powerful man, backed by other powerful men and their female consorts, backed by the power of institutions and two former prime ministers, get away with it. So I prepared myself for his, their, win. That meant in the main trying not to think about it and when that didn’t work, steeling myself, calling up all my resources, so that I wouldn’t be entirely undone by yet another set of traumatic injustices over which I had no control. It meant forbidding myself expectations of anything other than our loss and their win.

When I heard the judges’ decision I was home alone. An involuntary and guttural cry, not dissimilar to the primitive roar a woman often makes in the last stages of birth, was my first reaction. It had happened. He’d lost. The institutions had lost. The powerful men and their consorts had lost. Two former prime ministers had lost.  Survivors had won.

This was an unfamiliar relief, and it swept through me warm and strong. I didn’t have to deal with watching survivors lose again. You lose so much when you’re sexually abused, your losses are incalculable, this motif of crippling loss continues throughout your life and for many of us there comes a time when it is one loss too many, and we are done. A win over patriarchal power is rare and it is overwhelming. It makes you tremble, and it makes you fear that there will be consequences. How dare you defeat them?

The Pell verdict is just. It is an enormous victory yet at the same time, it changes little for individual survivors. Our childhoods remain stolen. For many of us, our potential remains curbed. Our daily struggles with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress continue. The fight for redress, in itself so horribly damaging and wickedly protracted by the guilty institutions, goes on.  This is a turbulent time for survivors. As glad as we might be to see Pell fall, it is a tortuous victory when our histories, triggered by the circumstances, engulf us.

Despite my emotional and mental turmoil I am immensely grateful for this verdict. It gives me some small hope that things are changing, that abusers, no matter how powerful, can be made accountable for crimes against children. That the powerful enablers are not able to silence us, no matter how much effort they devote to achieving that end. My abuser is long dead, and I will never know the satisfaction of seeing him publicly disgraced and imprisoned. My gratitude today is to J, the man who made this possible, the man who steadfastly confronted power with truth and in so doing gave me, and many others, this extraordinary chance to vicariously experience justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The attack on women by Australian politicians, and Alan Jones

20 Aug

 

Things have been just dandy for women in the last forty eight hours, with broadcaster Alan Jones declaring that Prime Minister Scott Morrison should give New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern a few backhands to shut her up, and then stuff a sock down her throat.

Jones was supported by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who mildly reprimanded him for his boy talk, before going on to declare that Jones is a “mainstay of our media.”

Then yesterday evening many of us in NSW received a robot call from Nationals backbencher Barnaby Joyce. Joyce stated that he was calling on behalf of the Foundation for Human Development on the matter of the NSW Abortion Bill.

The Foundation’s contact point is the NSW branch of Right to Life, and we can presume that the robocalls were paid for by this anti choice organisation.

I will transcribe Joyce’s message:

[The NSW Abortion Bill] prohibits giving critical care to babies born alive following abortion and this will be given to any other baby born alive prematurely.

In other words, every other premature baby will be given critical care, except those born alive following an abortion who will be either left to die, or slaughtered by the medical professionals in attendance.

[The Bill] allows sex selective abortions. It legalises abortion for any reason up until the day of birth.

No, the Bill does not “allow sex selective abortions.” No, the Bill does not legalise abortion for any reason up to the day of birth.

Barnaby Joyce is a liar.

We have now heard that the  Shooters Fishers & Farmers Party will refuse to work with the NSW government “ever again,” according to its leader Robert Borsak, if the Abortion Bill is passed.

Given the events of the last twenty four hours, a woman could be forgiven for thinking she’s been teleported to a southern state in the USA, where governments and their evangelical supporters routinely use our bodies as battlegrounds.

There is little more dangerous to women than a cabal of white, privileged, powerful men in politics and media who believe they have the right to control our bodies. What is needed is an equally powerful cabal of white, privileged, powerful men in politics and media who will vocally support us in our fight for bodily autonomy.  So far, I hear very few men of influence doing that.

When the Treasurer of Australia describes a misogynist, violent scroat  as a “media mainstay,” I have little hope.

 

 

 

 

 

Further to the story of the four doctors who voted against Medevac, a letter to the AMA

5 Aug

Further to the story of the four doctors who voted against the Medevac legislation, below is a letter to the Australian Medical Association that can be cut and pasted if you want to express your dissatisfaction with their actions.

This letter was drafted by Kath Murphy, @Chopsie_Murphy. Many thanks, Kath.

Phone: 02 6270 5400 Fax: 02 6270 5499
Email: ama@ama.com.au
Website: www.ama.com.au

Postal Address: PO Box 6090, KINGSTON ACT 2604
Street Address: 42 Macquarie Street, BARTON ACT 2600

Dr Fiona Martin is a registered psychologist, so any complaint about her actions should be directed to APHRA.

Contact APHRA here

The Letter: 

I refer to the recent repeal of the Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill 2018, (“Medevac legislation”), which was supported by three medical practitioners, Drs Katie Allen, David Gillespie and Andrew Laming.

The Medevac legislation ensured that decisions about medical assessment and evacuation of seriously ill detainees from Manus Island and Nauru, locations with inadequate medical facilities, were made by medical practitioners.

I consider the action of these practitioners to be a gross breach of the AMA Code of Ethics and the World AMA Declaration of Geneva. Moreover, it is my view that the conduct of Drs Allen, Gillespie and Laming is at direct odds with the Australian Medical Board Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia.

In short, the conduct of Drs Allen, Gillespie and Laming falls significantly short of the fundamental professional standards the public reasonably expects of the medical profession.

Medical practitioners who consider that medical assessment should be taken out of the hands of medical practitioners and placed in the hands of bureaucrats bring the profession into disrepute and, because of the attitude reflected in their decisions, may pose a risk to the public.

I ask that the AMA investigate the conduct of Drs Allen,  Gillespie and Laming and take appropriate action.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

 

How can the Pentecostal Prime Minister serve his god and his country?

3 Aug
This article was first published in Independent Australia, June 28 2019 
Prime Minister Morrison sings and claps enthusiastically at a Pentecostal mass, Horizon Church, Sydney (Screenshot via YouTube)

PRIME MINISTER Scott Morrison made two noteworthy acknowledgements of his religious faith during the recent election campaign.

The first was when he invited the media to film him and his wife at prayer in their Horizon Pentecostal Church in South Sydney.

The second was his moment of triumph on election night when he claimed his victory was a “miracle”.

SBS News

@SBSNews

Scott Morrison has said, ‘I’ve always believed in miracles’ as he led the Coalition to victory

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Morrison jubilantly testified before the assembled Liberal crowd, “I have always believed in miracles”, while his wife, Jenny, could be seen behind him affirming his sentiment.

The word “miracle” could be explained as a metaphor commonly used to describe an entirely unexpected and highly beneficial event, however, for a Pentecostal Christian, a miracle is not metaphorical but literal. Pentecostals believe God works miracles in the present. It is a tenet of the faith that God will show himself to the faithful in concrete ways, in the here and now.

The Prime Minister was undoubtedly using the term literally and in the context of his faith. His victory was framed as sacred, one that had nothing to do with a profane and profoundly dishonest campaign. Neither, in the narrative of miracles, was his win assisted by the morally corrupt tactics of Clive Palmer and the support of the racist Pauline Hanson. It was God’s miracle, bestowed upon the PM as a reward for his faith and his financial donations to his church.

The Pentecostals exhort:

“Speak your faith and start seeing miracles.”

Or as one of the founders of the Prosperity Theology favoured by Morrison’s church, Charles Fillmore, expressed it in 1936, rewriting the 23rd Psalm to better suit his purpose:

“The Lord is my banker/my credit is good.”

In a piece titled ‘Was religion a sleeper issue that contributed to a Labor Party loss, the ABC’s Religion and Ethics Report details the following data:

In three marginal Queensland seats retained by the Government – Forde, Leichhardt, and Bonner – the number of Pentecostal Christians – and remember Scott Morrison’s a Pentecostal – is between 50 and 80 per cent higher than the state average. These are not seats affected by the proposed Adani coal mine. In the bell-weather New South Wales seat of Lindsay, the number of Pentecostals is more than 50 per cent higher than the State average.

While it’s not yet feasible to suggest religion was a major player overall in the election outcome, it should certainly be acknowledged as a growing influence in our politics. Morrison’s victory will be seen by Pentecostals globally, as well as locally, as a victory for their faith and a validation of their beliefs. It’s also reasonable to assume it will encourage a membership surge in Pentecostal churches. His victory can certainly be taken as proof of his much-mocked slogan, “If you have a go, you get a go”.

One of the more alarming tenets of the Prime Minister’s faith is that God has chosen some of us to be saved, and some of us to be consigned to hell. Only the born again can aspire to salvation. You can only be “saved” by Jesus. The rewards for seeking and receiving salvation are, in Pentecostal theology, materially expressed, thus material success is a signifier of God’s favour. Those not blessed with material success are held to be responsible for their own plight. Perceived failures of the individual are held to cause poverty — and structural inequality is not considered to play any part.

Belief in the Pentecostal God leads to financial success, however, while there are many wealthy people who do not share the Pentecostal faith, their wealth will do them no good in the after-life because they lack belief. This apparent contradiction in Pentecostal theology is a mystery to this writer. How the non-believing wealthy attain their wealth remains unexplained.

None of this religiosity augurs well for poor and disadvantaged Australians, asylum seekers and refugees. When your Prime Minister believes you are disadvantaged because God has given up on you, he’s hardly likely to go out of his way to ensure you’re taken care of. Indeed, your Prime Minister needs the poor and disadvantaged as symbols of the godlessness against which he and his fellow believers may measure their success.

 

 

It makes sense to such a man to give more to the deserving rich and he will take from the undeserving poor in order to be able to do that.

As Michael West suggests:

‘The elation in the big business community over the election result comes down to the expectation that they can now more easily exert their influence over policy; keeping wages and corporate taxes lower.’

In the tortuous Pentecostal prosperity theology, God is not love, God is financial success. If you aren’t prosperous, it’s because you’ve failed to adequately affirm yourself as prosperous. “Speak it into being,” the Church exhorts — because positive affirmation is your duty, required of you by God.

The toxic masculinity of neoliberalism meets the toxic masculinity of evangelical religion. Scott Morrison is the poster boy for both. Indeed, he is a new global Messiah of prosperity theology. This dark marriage of religion and capitalism is founded on exclusivity, exceptionalism and entitlement, quite contrary, one might argue, to every exhortation expressed by Jesus in his mission to spread love and equality. It’s a marriage that holds great appeal for those among us who vote for their individual benefit while ignoring the inconvenient reality that we live in a society.

That spiritual blessings are only legitimate when materially expressed is something of an inversion of the traditional Christian message. It is, however, Scott Morrison’s message — and it’s a message that should cause us deep concern.

 

But wait, there’s more. Not only is Morrison compelled by his faith (and personal neoliberal predilection) to regard the disadvantaged as undeserving and responsible for their own misfortune, he is also obliged to believe they will be consigned to everlasting punishment for their wickedness. Everlasting punishment in this instance consists of eternal torment, in a lake that burns with fire and brimstone.

As Morrison’s Horizon Church group, Australian Christian Churches states on its website:

We believe in the everlasting punishment of the wicked (in the sense of eternal torment) who wilfully reject and despise the love of God manifested in the great sacrifice of his only Son on the cross for their salvation (Matthew 25:46; 13:49-50; Luke 12:47-48; Romans 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Revelation 20:11-15).
We believe that the devil and his angels and whoever is not found written in the book of life shall be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 19:20; 20:10-15).

Such beliefs sound grotesquely fantastical and it is difficult to believe any adult of sound mind can embrace them. This leads us to the serious consideration of whether or not Morrison is capable of properly carrying out his obligations as leader of this country.

A prime minister must lead his government in a style of governance that benefits all Australians. Morrison’s core beliefs are the antithesis of liberal democracy. If you are not of Morrison’s faith, your Prime Minister believes you will endure eternal damnation in a lake of fire and brimstone. This is a literal belief — it is not a metaphor. Morrison is governing for Pentecostals. He is not and cannot govern for those who do not share his faith, and remain true to that faith.

If you look at what Morrison is required by his religion to believe it is starkly clear that he is unfit to lead this country. He is obviously prepared to compromise his religious beliefs enough to present himself as an “ordinary man” — if we assume “ordinary men” do not believe their fellow humans are condemned to an afterlife of torment in a lake of fire and brimstone. His church is willing to permit these compromises, no doubt for their perceived greater good.

Morrison is the first Pentecostal world leader, and there can be no doubt of the significance of this for the global cult. However, Morrison cannot, given the rules of his cult, serve two masters — and he has been elected to serve Australians.

 

 

The four doctors who voted against Medevac

3 Aug
This article was first published in Independent Australia on July 30 2019 
Medical professionals (from left) Dr Katie Allen, Dr Fiona Martin, Dr David Gillespie and Dr Andrew Laming all voted in favour of repealing the Medevac Bill (Images via Liberal Party and National Party websites)

When a bill to repeal the Medevac legislation passed the lower house last week, four medical professionals, who are also Coalition MPs, were among those who voted in favour of discarding the current legislation.

The current Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill 2018 (Medevac Bill), passed last year, takes decisions about the evacuation of seriously ill asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island and Nauru out of the hands of politicians and bureaucrats. Instead, two independent medical practitioners are required to assess the need or otherwise for temporary medical evacuation to Australia for treatment.

Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie, Member for Higgins Dr Katie Allen, Member for Bowman Dr Andrew Laming and Member for Reid Dr Fiona Martin MP voted for these medical decisions to be returned to politicians and bureaucrats, rather than remain with their own professional colleagues.

In case you missed the significance of that, four medical professionals, including a paediatrician (Allen) and a psychologist (Martin), voted to give the power to assess the medical conditions of seriously ill adults and children to non-medical professionals.

Dr Daya Sharma@DrDayaSharma

Depressing to know that a child psychologist, a paediatrician and an ophthalmologist all voted to repeal the bill – which was designed to give refugees urgent medical care. It’s shameful. https://twitter.com/racsaustralia/status/1154204664918761472 

RACS@RACSaustralia

BREAKING: The #Medevac law has been crucial for 96 refugees to be medically evacuated from offshore detention. The Medevac repeal has just passed the House & we call on all Senators to block Medevac’s repeal in Nov. #SaveMedevac https://www.sbs.com.au/news/wicked-thing-centre-alliance-mp-blasts-government-over-medevac-repeal-bid 

This is a staggering example of the power of ideology and self-interest to usurp professional ethics. In what universe, one might ponder, is it ever ethically acceptable to remove the task of assessment of seriously ill patients from medical professionals and give it to non-medical actors?

How does any doctor worth the title ever justify the abandonment of seriously ill patients – your own or anyone else’s – to decisions made by people who have absolutely no medical qualifications?

One would expect medical professionals to be outraged and highly offended by such a proposition, but no. The four doctors in the Morrison Government are voting for precisely that.

In 2006, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) adopted the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Geneva.

The AMA’s commitment to this pledge was confirmed in 2018 in this article by Dr Chris Moy, chair AMA Ethics and Medico-Legal Committee:

As examples, the WMA consistently condemns governments and others who threaten to compromise professional autonomy and clinical independence, as well as those who undermine the role of medical neutrality and fail to protect healthcare workers in areas of armed conflict.

At first blush, it appears that Drs Gillespie, Martin, Allen and Laming are members of a government that ‘threatens to compromise professional autonomy and clinical independence’, as well as a government that ‘undermines medical neutrality’.

The Morrison Government appears to compromise this independence, autonomy and medical neutrality by repealing legislation that puts the responsibility for medical decisions in the hands of medical practitioners and, instead, gives that responsibility to non-medical actors.

It is within the power of these four doctors to behave ethically towards seriously ill people in offshore detention. All four have chosen not to do this.

Not only are the four doctors members of such a government, but they are each actively voting against the ‘autonomy and clinical independence’ of medical professionals, and for the return of medical decisions about seriously ill patients and their need for evacuation, to non-medical actors.

It is difficult to imagine such a situation occurring in Australia. Imagine the outrage if a public servant or a politician had the final say on whether or not you or I were ill enough to require evacuation to another hospital where the procedure we needed to save our lives was available. However, because the people concerned attempted to come to Australia by boat to seek asylum, they are not considered by Drs Allen, Gillespie, Martin and Laming as worthy of the same treatment as any other human being.

The WMA Physician’s Pledge, supported by the AMA, states in part:

AS A MEMBER OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION:

I SOLEMNLY PLEDGE to dedicate my life to the service of humanity;

THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF MY PATIENT will be my first consideration;

I WILL RESPECT the autonomy and dignity of my patient;

I WILL MAINTAIN the utmost respect for human life;

I WILL NOT PERMIT considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;

Perhaps all four doctors, if challenged, would make the sophist argument that the asylum seekers and refugees are not their patients, therefore they have no obligation to behave ethically towards them or to ensure, when it is in their power to do so, that those patients are treated with the concern, dignity and respect they deserve as human beings.

It is within the power of these four doctors to behave ethically towards seriously ill people in offshore detention. All four have chosen not to do this. This is quite difficult to absorb. Four medical professionals in government have the power to positively affect the well being of seriously ill adults and children, and they have chosen instead to put them at further risk. They have made this choice out of self-interest and loyalty to ideology.

Medical ethics apparently mean nothing to these four doctors.

These same four doctors are part of a government that has permitted a tiny child in immigration detention in Melbourne to suffer unimaginable pain and distress, by denying her dental treatment and depriving her of the sunlight she needs. Two-year-old Tharunicaa’s mouth had been swollen from infection for months, with her new teeth emerging visibly rotten and broken. Her mother had to chew her child’s food before feeding it to her.

The family have been in detention since March last year after being seized in a dawn raid by from their Biloela home by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s Border Force paramilitary when their bridging visa allegedly expired. The child and her sister have suffered severe vitamin deficiencies since being imprisoned.

JohnPaul@jpcenzato

Dutton’s Australia: Refusing medical care to a two-year-old
A two-year-old in immigration detention has been denied hospital care as her Biloela community continues its 17-month battle to keep a beloved family from deportation. https://independentaustralia.net/life/life-display/duttons-australia-refusing-medical-care-to-a-two-year-old,12876 

Dutton’s Australia: Refusing medical care to a two-year-old

A two-year-old in immigration detention has been denied hospital care as the 17-month battle to keep her family from deportation continues.

independentaustralia.net

Dr Katie Allen, Member for Higgins, was a Doctor of Paediatrics at the Royal Children’s Hospital. She specialised as a paediatric allergist and gastroenterologist. She was a professor at Melbourne University.

Dr Fiona Martin is a child psychologist. She specialises in learning, developmental and behavioural difficulties in children.

It beggars belief that these two highly qualified doctors can vote to abandon the health of children in offshore detention to decisions made by politicians and bureaucrats.

It beggars belief that these two women can remain silent on the plight of a tiny child who has suffered so horribly as a consequence of gross neglect and severe abuse, by the Government to which they belong.

The President of the AMA is Dr Tony Bartone. It would be interesting to hear Dr Bartone’s take on the conduct of the four doctors. On the face of it, it’s tempting to conclude that not one of them should continue to be a registered practitioner.

ABC The Drum

@ABCthedrum

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What I want to say

27 Feb

I was prescient, it’s not a skill peculiar to survivors of childhood sexual abuse but it is one many of us acquire as an aid to survival.

In this instance, I said to my dear person on Monday afternoon, what’s happened with Pell? Shouldn’t we be hearing about it by now and less than twenty-four hours later, we heard that a jury had found him guilty of sexual offences against children.

Almost immediately, the parade of aggrieved, disappointed, distressed, shocked, disbelieving, sad, angry Catholics and other Pell supporters began moving like a sullen, offended beast across the media, in unedifying protest at the guilty verdict. Their contempt for the twelve women and men who arrived at this decision was palpable. Despite the complainant’s evidence and demeanour being inaccessible to the public, despite the jurors having made a decision informed by evidence denied to any other commentators, the parade of righteous outrage clearly considered itself superior in knowledge and judgement to just about anybody else.

Like many other survivors, I am used to though not at ease with the involuntary emotional, psychological and physical reactions provoked in me whenever there is public discussion of the sexual abuse of children. These reactions can vary, according to what is being discussed and how, whether I have been able to prepare myself or am taken unawares, and whether or not I’m in safe surroundings when I have to deal with their intrusion. I’m pretty good most of the time. I recognise what’s happening and can implement my self-soothing rituals until the distress eases. But today, I have been utterly, utterly undone.

It didn’t take me long to understand why today is different. It wasn’t hearing the details of Pell’s crimes, hard as they are to bear. For us survivors, these are not simply upsetting descriptions of vile acts. They are vile acts many of us have lived through, in my case, for five years. It wasn’t listening to the heart-rending statement of the living victim, and it wasn’t grief for the victim who is now dead, though the impact of both enormous sorrows had me sitting on the lid of the toilet with my head in my hands, howling.

No, what has brought me to my knees this morning is the reaction of people such as Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt, and Father Frank Brennan who are perhaps the most prominent of those I think of as The Deniers. Both Devine and Bolt strenuously and stridently defend Pell, denying any guilt on his part and expressing their implacable disbelief of the survivor’s narrative. In their story the survivor is a liar and Pell is a noble man wrongly accused, martyr to a witch-hunt perpetrated against his church by non-believers. Their assessment appears to be based on little more than the notion that Pell is, in their terms, a good man whom they respect, and their unshakeable belief in the infallibility of their own judgement.

Brennan is more subtle, and considerably more labrythine as befits a Jesuit, however his unspoken message is equally clear: the allegations are highly improbable, the circumstances unbelievable. This Prince of the Church is the victim of a terrible zeitgeist, the survivor a liar or, sadly for all concerned, a fantasist in need of treatment.

I’ve been unable to read these commentaries without experiencing the return of what I can only describe as the soul ache of being disbelieved. This is the complete powerlessness of being disbelieved. It is the hopelessness and despair of being disbelieved. It is the realisation that nobody is going to help you, because they don’t believe you. It is the understanding that your perpetrator has won everything because they believe him, and not you. These are things you think when you are fifteen years old, and you’ve been thinking them, or variations of them, since you were ten. It gets so you hardly believe yourself. You hardly believe these things are being done to your body because everyone else says they aren’t.

If you are very lucky, and I was, somebody does eventually believe you and you are taken away and it stops. And then you spend the rest of your life, even when you’re the grandmother of babies you would die for, reminding yourself that you didn’t lie, you aren’t a liar, you told the truth and you are, remarkably, living a life.

That life, however, is never entirely free of what was done to you. You learn how to manage the psychological, emotional and physical quirks that sometimes cause you to hide in your bedroom, snarl at people who care for you, drink too much, withdraw into silence, cry, ache, shiver, and, if someone has taught you how, hold with tender love the child inside who is still fearful, uncertain, untrusting, and alone.

While I won’t ever say the disbelief is as bad as the abuse, it is, for me, second on my list of wounds I cannot heal, wounds that I live with, wounds that in the main lie dormant until something or someone picks the scabs off and they start bleeding again.

This time, Bolt, Devine and Brennan have torn the scabs off my wounds.  I know I’m not alone in this. I know there are many, many survivors right now reliving their own dark time of being disbelieved, because of what Bolt, Devine and Brennan have just done to us. I hope that everyone of us can remember that this too will pass. That while Bolt, Devine and Brennan may have caused us an anguish we do not ever deserve to feel, this is a temporary situation. We’ve got this far. They are less than nothing in the scheme of things. We have survived far worse than they can inflict on us and while their disregard and contempt for us mimics what we knew when we were young, it is only a pale, pale shadow, and we will prevail.

If you are reading this and you are suffering today, I send you love and strength and hope, from my bedroom where I’m holed up until this dark time passes.

Jennifer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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