Asylum Seeker Children Still At Great Risk

A horizon of high gates, barbed wire, and electrified fences, this is the reality for children in Australia’s immigration detention. Their horizons are not the sunburnt landscapes that Dorothea Mackellar spoke of in her famous poem describing Australia – a nation that so many desperate families have fled to – but the walls of a prison. While the Government has announced that children are no longer held in mainland detention, many are still facing enormous risks.

On the 3rd of April, Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton announced that all children were now out of immigration detention – a massive win for the affected people and the of state human rights in Australia. While the Minister’s announcement should be welcomed there are reportedly 40 children still at Nauru (not to mention claims that it was merely a change in the definition of detention, rather than the complete release of children)[v]. It was further clouded by claims that up to 90 children, currently, in Australia, could now face being sent to Nauru[vi].

In October of 2015 the AHRC (Australian Human Rights Commission) sent representatives to Wickham Point Detention Centre (an immigration detention centre about 40km from Darwin) to monitor the health and well-being of children detained there. Conditions in the facility were found to be unsuitable for children and testing conducted by two consultant paediatricians showed that children detained there were all in the two highest categories of developmental risk and at extremely high risk of post-traumatic stress disorder[i].

Professor Elizabeth Elliott is a paediatrician at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and a professor of paediatrics and child health at the University of Sydney. She was a consultant and contributor for The Forgotten Children (2014) report on children in immigration detention. Along with Dr Hasantha Gunasekera she took part in the 2015 visit to Wickham Point, conducting interviews with detainees.

“Often they became very upset describing their situation at home, the journey to Australia and their situation in the detention centre” Professor Elliott explains. “Many of these people had been there for several years and had moved from Christmas Island to Curtin to Nauru and to Wickham Point”. Nauru is an island country to the north of Australia that is used for ‘off-shore processing’ of asylum seekers and refugees. It has come under strong criticism for its sub-standard conditions and the dangers posed to detainees, including cases of rape and murder.

The memories of being held at Nauru and the thought of being returned there are a prominent fear among the children and parents interviewed. One father describes his time at Nauru “Hell is a hot place and it was hot in Nauru. In hell you have no quality of life. In hell you have people tormenting you.” [ii] Another, a father of a two-year-old spoke of the unthinkable conditions his child was subject to “In Nauru there were all kinds of insects – spiders, scorpion, cockroaches, rats, lizards. Once I found a dangerous spider amongst the toys. Also big crabs – a different type from Christmas Island – under the bed of my child. My child was playing with cockroaches – he had no other toys.”

“The main concerns with these young children and adolescents is their mental health. Many were sad, described crying frequently and had flashbacks of the journey or their time in Nauru – felt physically ill at the thought of going back to Nauru” says Professor Elliott. “[they] really expressed dismay that their education and their lives had been disrupted. They really didn’t have any concept of what the future held”.

The mother of a seven-year-old girl describes her daughter’s anguish “She has no friends. She cries all the time and says I want to go from here. She has cut herself with a razor on her chin, face, chest.  She eats poorly, has daily headache and tummy pain and poor weight gain. Every night she wakes up and screams that someone (8 officers) is coming to take her back to Nauru. She has seen a counsellor in Darwin.”[iii]

In the report, there were specific recommendations made for Wickham Point including access to child and adolescent mental health services, better access to food and play equipment and changes to security. But overall the report recommended that all children be immediately released from immigration detention and that under no circumstances should any child be transferred or detained at Nauru[iv]. The well-being and safety of these children are the most important things, as Professor Elliott explains “unless children are taken away from these situations that cause them extreme distress, they are unlikely to get better”.

Australia’s immigration and asylum seeker policy have brought much condemnation from the international community and while Australia may proclaim detainees as ‘unlawful marine arrivals’ human rights law guarantees people the right to seek asylum and the right not to be detained arbitrarily. Furthermore, in March of 2015, in his address to the General Assembly, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment, Juan Ernesto Mendez stated that “even short-term detention of migrant children is a violation of the prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment, holding a child’s vulnerability and best interests outweigh the Government’s interest in halting illegal immigration”[vii].

For now, this is a major win in what has been a long battle, it highlights the need for greater access to these facilities by medical professionals and the importance of the role of the AHRC. Asylum seekers and refugees are among the most vulnerable people in the world, and we need to ensure that our legacy towards them is not one of cruelty, but one of fairness and compassion.

Dave Mullins

 

[i] The health and well-being of children in immigration detention Report to the Australian Human Rights Commission Monitoring Visit to Wickham Point Detention Centre, Darwin, NTOctober 16th – 18th 2015

[ii] The health and well-being of children in immigration detention Report to the Australian Human Rights Commission Monitoring Visit to Wickham Point Detention Centre, Darwin, NTOctober 16th – 18th 2015

[iii] The health and well-being of children in immigration detention Report to the Australian Human Rights Commission Monitoring Visit to Wickham Point Detention Centre, Darwin, NTOctober 16th – 18th 2015

[iv] The health and well-being of children in immigration detention Report to the Australian Human Rights Commission Monitoring Visit to Wickham Point Detention Centre, Darwin, NTOctober 16th – 18th 2015

[v] http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/apr/03/asylum-seeker-children-still-in-detention-despite-claims-all-have-been-released

[vi] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/peter-dutton-vows-children-released-from-detention-are-still-bound-for-nauru-20160404-gnxklk.html

[vii]http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session28/Documents/A_HRC_28_68_E.doc

Feature Image: By DIAC images – Nauru regional processing facility, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24284537

Adam Goodes and the plight of Indigenous Australia

The saddening controversy surrounding Adam Goodes at the moment echoes the greater narrative of life for Indigenous Australians. While politicians might label Australian as the ‘Fair Go’ nation, it’s really only fair if you’re a white, middle-class male.

While many Australian’s acknowledge that the colonisation of Australia was a dark time for its Indigenous inhabitants, many assume that any wrongdoing is purely historical – of course, disregarding that many members of the ‘Stolen Generations’ are still alive and well.

There is a persistent myth that this is all in the past, yet Australia is removing Indigenous children from their families at a greater rate than during any of the Stolen Generations[i]. Kevin Rudd may have apologised in 2008, but these days it might as well be a hashtag #SorryNotSorry

While Australia is considered a wealthy and safe nation, we also make the list of the worst human rights offenders in the world. From our treatment of refugees to our treatment of the Indigenous community – our Government treats their human rights with nothing but contempt.

Last year the WA Government predicted it would be closing around 150 remote aboriginal communities. Apart from being downright despicable, the move was also considered a clear violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, specifically Articles 8 and 10.[ii]

The Australian government voted to support the declaration in 2009, after it was voted down in 2007 – because apparently voting against human rights is something our Government does.

In May, WA Aboriginal Affairs minister Peter Collier confirmed that they had backed down and that the aboriginal people would play a part in the future of these communities.[iii]

“I acknowledge the fact that it has been a difficult six months and we haven’t helped our own cause. Having said that, I’ve acknowledged that we’ve got to move on,” he remarks.

But the subtext is clear “Yes, we were planning on violating your human rights, we got caught out, get over it”.

In fact, telling aboriginal people to ‘get over it’ or to ‘move on’ is basically our country’s credo at the moment.

Footballer Jason Akermanis proclaiming that Goodes needs to “Stop playing the victim” while many devoted definitely-not-racist football fans explain that Goodes is just ‘having a sook’.[iv]

You might remember Akermanis from that time he wrote that homosexual football players should keep it to themselves, or that other time he was found guilty of cyber-bullying.[v]

Clearly he is a man of credibility and poise.

The thing is that unless you’ve suffered the way Indigenous people have suffered in Australia, you’re unlikely to really understand what is wrong.

From the casual and conversation racism that persists from people who won’t ‘give in to political correctness’, to the serious health and lifestyle issues that plague Indigenous communities.

The gap between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population paints a clear picture of disparity.

Aboriginal men have a life expectancy of 67.2 years, that’s 11.5 years lower than for non-Indigenous Australians. For women, it’s 72.9 years, which is 9.7 years lower than for non-Indigenous Australians.[vi]

In towns such as Wilcannia, NSW that life expectancy drops as low as 36.7 years of age for men, and 42.5 for women.[vii]

The rate of suicide amongst the Indigenous population is over twice that the non-Indigenous populations. Between the ages of 25 and 29 it is 4 times the rate of the non-Indigenous population.[viii]

While Indigenous Australians make up only 2.5% of the population they account for over 25% of the nation’s prison population. In fact, since 2010 there was a 51.5% increase in the jailing of Indigenous people, compared to a 3.5% increase for non-Indigenous.[ix]

Figures like this show that there is something seriously wrong in our country.

Adam Goodes should be a shining beacon against the racial disparity in our nation.

He should be a reason for fans of football to unite against one of the most pervasive and divisive issues in sport.

He should be cheered for being the person willing to stand up for an issue than transcends himself and his sport.

But instead of using this situation for a polite and serious discourse on the role of racism in our country, all we get is booing.

 

References

[i] https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/child-protection-and-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-c

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-13/more-aboriginal-children-being-removed-from-their/6090642

[ii] https://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/un-declaration-rights-indigenous-peoples-1

[iii] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-08/call-to-end-protests-over-wa-aboriginal-community-closures/6456542

[iv] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-30/jason-akermanis-says-adam-goodes-is-a-sook/6659344

[v] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-02/coach-akermanis-banned-from-round-one-2015-for-cyber-bullying/5785900

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/afl/stay-in-the-closet-jason-akermanis-tells-homosexuals/story-e6frf9ix-1225868871934

[vi] http://www.aihw.gov.au/indigenous-observatory-life-expectancy/

[vii] http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/ILB/2009/27.html

[viii] http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/mental-natsisps-strat-toc~mental-natsisps-strat-1~mental-natsisps-strat-1-ab

[ix] http://www.lawcouncil.asn.au/lawcouncil/images/LCA-PDF/Indigenous_Imprisonment_Fact_Sheet.pdf

In case you missed it: King Parrot reviews, video and photos!

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing King Parrot’s new album Dead Set, and their show at Amplifier Bar in Perth. Check them out!

Check out The show!

Check out The album! 

But if you’re impatient or you don’t like reading, here’s a video of their opening song Stench, from their Perth show.

I also took some photos at the gig, since I’m not a photographer they are mostly terrible.

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Hope you enjoy!

Just a little list of great action flicks

Recently we have been lucky enough to see some great action films hit our screens. Be it John Wick, which takes a simple idea and does it well, or Mad Max: Fury Road which redefines the entire idea of what an action film can be. With that in mind, I decided to write a list of action films that I think are worth watching. I’m not saying these are the best films, just the ones that are special to me, in some way. Some genres have been a little neglected, I’m not an expert on Westerns, or Martial Arts films so I’ve only included a couple from each, most likely ignoring their best. I’ve also slightly excluded war and sci-fi films as they sort of deserve their own lists. But at the same time I’ve included films from all of those genres, I just don’t want someone thinking that I’m not aware of some of the great films that exist outside of this list. 

 

Rumble in the Bronx – This was a film that introduced a lot of us to Jackie Chan. The film is just insane – the plot takes a back seat to Chan’s signature humour and insane stunts. Chan is an under-rated comedic actor, a huge fan of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin he uses some of their classic techniques to give a far more entertaining performance.

 

Escape from New York – Honestly if you haven’t seen this film you probably shouldn’t even begin reading this list. It’s on Netflix – watch it and come back.

From Paris With Love  – This film was such a surprise. When I saw trailers I was entirely uninterested in it, but that was wrong. John Travolta is on fire – manic and believably dangerous. I don’t want to say that this film is under-rated, it’s just under-appreciated. Worthy of mention is the fact that it was written by Luc Besson who has helmed some of the better action films of the 2 decades – Taken, Lucy, The Transporter and so on.

Aliens –  This film is just a lot of fun. You take a monster from a sci-fi horror film and let it loose with space marines. I have no doubt that this was a huge influence on Predator – another great action film. What a great concept. Another film you probably should have already watched.

The Rock – This film is stupid, but in the best possible way. It’s one of those rare films where style-over-substance pays off. The highly stylised dialogue just sings from Sean Connery and Nic Cage – what might have been terrible from any other actor sounds like poetry when spoken by the right person.

Kiss of the Dragon  – I really like this film, it’s another Luc Besson masterpiece. Some great fight scenes and villains you don’t mind seeing get beat up. There’s also just an underlying bit of heart that Bridget Fonda brings to the table.

The Boondock Saints  – This is a film that has always been a little divisive, but whatever – I love it. It’s silly, it’s self-aware and it’s just plain old good fun.

The Long Kiss Goodnight  – Holy shit, I swear if this isn’t on of the best films of the ’90s I don’t know what is. Shane Black is one of the best action writers around, giving us Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and the Last Boyscout. I think this is his greatest work though. There are so many reasons this film is great, but seeing Gena Davis kick every single bit of ass is my favourite.

Sukiyaki Western Django – This film is weird, a sort of reboot, prequel cultural cross-over mindfuck. It’s a bunch of fun and worth watching, watch out for Quentin Tarantino further weirding up the film.

Unleashed – What’s that? Another martial arts film? Another Luc Besson film? Whatever, this film fucking rocks.

Die Hard  – This is one of my favourite films of all time. Bruce Willis before he became Bruce Willis and a, then-unknown, Alan Rickman. This movie showed us that action stars didn’t need to be muscle-bound monsters to kick ass, and we’re all the better for it.

There are so many films I could have included, Kung-Fu Hustle for it’s slapstick weirdness, Ong-Bak for it’s balls-to-the-wall fights and stunts, The Terminator for being the greatest film ever fucking made. But I think the fun is in finding out for yourself, watch some movies and decide who your favourite director or actor is, then watch something else they did. You could watch the classics – Bullit, Dirty Harry, Mad Max, Bridge over the River Kwai or The Great Escape – the later is set in the POW camp that my grandfather spent many years in, taking part in the escape itself.

Whatever you decide to watch, just remember to enjoy yourself. That’s what it’s all about.

Punk, not punk, who gives a shit?

This is a dumb post about a dumb topic. Everyone few months on some blog, or website or Facebook group people start arguing about what is and isn’t punk. The same tired old circles of conversation and bullshit ideologies. The thing is, it really doesn’t matter.

I used to think it was important, that there was some sort of pinnacle to aim for – there were rules and we had to follow them. It wasn’t my fault really, people have been saying it for years, and there’s always some idea ready to school me or somebody else on the matter. I remember when I was young I used to hang out with at Glebe Markets with a bunch of street punks. I was introduced to it by a friend who really fit the punk stereotype – mohawks, recitation of Marxist nonsense and a hatred of authority – he was ‘the real deal’. Anyway, it was never really my scene, these guys were legit, but their elitism and hierarchy was painfully obvious. They weren’t just punks, they were a group – a team with a specific dress-code and structure that needed to be obeyed. The most of them weren’t even interested in talking to me, I was some dumb kid with a shit haircut from the North Shore of Sydney. I guess I was expected to pay my dues, show them I was one of them or something. But it never happened, I wasn’t interested in hanging out and abusing people in suits, yelling abuse and starting fights with jocks or the local Aboriginal kids. These guys stunk of hypocrisy, their grand statements about world peace and social revolution always tainted by their abuse of ‘normal people’ -“Hey suit, nice tie you fucking faggot” – the general sort of harassment they offered to people walking past. They weren’t egalitarianist, nor communist, they were closer to the ‘fascists’ they constantly compared with police.

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Photo Credit RH Raw Shot Studios

These days I tend not to get caught up in this sort of thing, whether it’s because the movement itself has dwindled or because of my own avoidance. It doesn’t matter. I am happy with who I am, what I believe in and the bands I listen to. But it’s funny about music, we’re so quick to say what bands are and aren’t punk. The argument is almost self-defeating. I watch the kids playing in hardcore bands – that are heavily influenced by the NY  scene – tell me how shit the Ramones are (not to mention abuse from nationalists who believe that if I’m a fan of the Ramones I have to be a fan of ‘right wing values’ because of Johnny Ramones personal views). Can you be like a genre but hate the people that helped create it? Yep. Can you like a band but not support their individual beliefs? Yes, you can. There is no right answer here – I can scoff at someone’s lack of respect for the classics just like they can disregard them completely – it actually makes no difference. I listen to Black Flag and hear the influence from the Ramones, someone else listens and hears the influence on A Perfect Circle. We each take something of our own from the experience

I’ve had numerous people tell me how utterly shit punk is while ranting about how great King Parrot are – despite being one of the punkest metal bands around (even by their own definition some of their music is punk) – and it doesn’t really matter. You could say Matt Young embodies the spirit of 80s hardcore or you could say he is the next Phil Anselmo and you’d be right on both accounts, it’s not a dichotomy.

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These guys really warrant checking out!

But that’s just one example of something that transcends the genre. The genre is so broad that we can’t talk about it in such ambiguous language. It can be a style of fashion, but it doesn’t mean the fashion needs to be associated with the music. You can live the lifestyle (whatever that means) and not be associated with the fashion. You can even be in a punk band and not like the fashion, the life or the music – at least not on anyone else terms. From NoFX to Agnostic Front, from the Germs to Simple Plan, from Sublime to Charles Bronson there is no one band, no one style or ideology more correct than the others. And why in the fuck would we want it any different?

A love letter to the Perth music scene

Recently I read an article at Vulture Magazine that sung the virtues of the Perth music scene. It was a nice idea, but it was kind of a bust. The basic premise of the argument was that there’s a few bands in Perth that you probably know the name of and also some dude who played in The Clash for a while. It wasn’t really a great argument.

I decided to extrapolate on the idea, but before I do, here’s some backstory.

I moved to Perth in 2011 after living in Sydney and Brisbane and after a couple of months I was fortunate enough to head to an acoustic show by Millencolin frontman Nikola Sarcevic. One of the support slots was by a band called The Decline, I’d vaguely heard of them, but hadn’t really heard their music before, and even though it was just two of the members playing ‘unplugged’, it was kind of incredible. Their harmonies were impeccable, and their songs were the kind that made you want to sing along before you even knew the words. After their set, I went up to the band and bought a CD, we had a cool chat about the Perth scene and the guys took my number so they could tell me when more shows were on. That small kindness, a great band showing that they were welcoming and friendly dudes opened up a door to something far greater, and my world hasn’t been the same since.

So straight up if you’re not already a fan of The Decline then you should be. These guys are on the verge of releasing their third full-length album – Resistor. Their first two albums, I’m not Gonna Lie to You and Are you Gonna Eat That? are some of the best of you’ll find in Australian melodic punk, they’re thematically relevant and catchy as fuck, I can only assume their follow-up is going to be amazing. Right on their heels are the always impressive Bob Gordons who do their very best to party harder than any other band, and they also play great music, so they’re worth checking out. I think one of the most underrated bands in the country is Castle Bravo, their debut release from 2012 is a masterpiece,  one of the best punk records you’ll hear, it’s provocative but not preachy,  melodic but heavy and wonderfully produced. Find a copy and buy it.

The Decline’s videos are always pretty awesome too!

If ska is your thing, then there’s a bunch of bands worth checking out. House Arrest and At The Space Jam are both great bands, the kind of modern ska that isn’t afraid to explore its jazz and dancehall roots. Then there’s Trip Hazard and the Rude Boys and Frigid Digits who both channel that ’90s Southern California sound made famous by bands like Operation Ivy and Voodoo Glow Skulls. One of the most impressive bands in Perth is Them Sharks. They’re a wonderful fusion of reggae, ska and punk that is kind of reminiscent of Sublime, but more than capable of standing on its own two feet. These guys have created an awesome bunch of songs that are as infectious as they are fun. They’re one of the best live acts in the state, so do yourself a favor and check them out.

If you need something a little more fuel-injected then the inescapably awesome Chainsaw Hookers are the band for you. The bastard child of Motorhead, the Ramones and pure gasoline; these guys have firmly established themselves as the kings of rock n roll, not just in Perth, but of the whole country.  I’m  calling it, these guys, make AC/DC look like fucking the Wiggles. You should be listening to them. On that note, if the Hookers are the kings then  Scalphunter are the usurper to the throne. They’re the Stanos Baratheon to the Hookers Lannister,  or whatever,  Game Of Thrones is confusing, the point is Scalphunter are bad ass speed punks playing rock n roll that’ll fuck you up worse than a hot sauce enema – listen to their music.

Perth has no shortage of brilliant singer-songwriters, many of whom also play in some of the killer bands I’ve mentioned. Ben Elliott from The Decline and House Arrest, the enormously talented Noah Skape of Total Waste and FAIM, Benny Mayhem who used to front Project Mayhem, Jason Ayres who tours thus country harder than anyone else, Dan Cribb who after killing it in The Decline for years now fronts Dan Cribb and The Isolated – who just launched their debut album and are fucking amazing. But that’s only scratching the surface, there’s so many to be discovered if you take the time to check them out.

There are just so many great bands here that you should check out -The Shakeys, Worst Possible Outcome, Agitated,  Anavar, Illyria, Blindspot, Alex the kid, Voyager, Bounty Hunter, Emu Xperts, Miles Away, Cursed Earth – it goes on and on. I’ll probably look back at this list and realise I’ve missed dozens of great bands, but it doesn’t matter. You can find these bands on Facebook and Bandcamp, Dan Cribb and The Decline both put out records through Pee Records, so check them out.

Okay, so this is basically a glorified love letter to the Perth music scene, but fuck it, it’s a pretty great scene.