Recently, reports have emerged of a 13-year-old Aboriginal child spending 36 days in solitary confinement in Western Australia’s Banksia Hill Detention Centre. This child was held in a cell with no natural light and no access to fresh air, alongside a toilet and a sink. This inhumane treatment was administered as punishment for minor offenses, including stealing a car and allegedly spitting on a guard.
The child in question belongs to the Wongaiibon people, a group that inhabited the western region of New South Wales long before colonization. This case is not unique, as Indigenous children make up the vast majority of the juvenile justice system. In Western Australia, it is estimated that Aboriginal children are detained at a rate 26 times higher than non-Aboriginal children.
Despite international condemnation, Australian authorities continue to detain Aboriginal children in conditions that are deemed cruel and inhumane. Young Aboriginals are grossly overrepresented in the prison system, as a result of systematic discrimination and the marginalization of their communities.
The 13-year-old’s confinement in a tiny cell is in direct violation of international human rights laws. Both the United Nations and the Australian Human Rights Commission recommend that solitary confinement, particularly for children, be used only as a last resort.
In some cases, extended periods of solitary confinement can cause irreparable damage to a child’s mental health. Side effects can include schizophrenia, depression, and in extreme cases, suicide. Prolonged isolation can also harm the child’s physical development and their ability to socialize.
The case of the 13-year-old Aboriginal child is particularly egregious, given the Australian government’s recent apology for their treatment of Indigenous peoples. In 2008, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered a formal apology for the historical mistreatment of Indigenous Australians, particularly the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families.
Many within the Aboriginal community argue that this apology was insufficient and that more needs to be done to address the ongoing issues faced by Indigenous people. For decades, Aboriginal communities have been suffering from high rates of poverty, a lack of access to healthcare and education, and a general lack of support for their cultural identity.
Australia has also faced intense scrutiny in recent years for its harsh immigration policies. Under the guise of protecting the nation from terrorism, Australia has implemented policies that violate international human rights laws. These policies include offshore detention centers on small Pacific islands, where refugees and asylum seekers are held in deplorable conditions.
The case of the 13-year-old Aboriginal child is a reflection of the ongoing discrimination and marginalization that Indigenous communities face in Australia. Despite government apologies and international condemnation, Indigenous people are still subjected to inhumane treatment and denied their basic rights.
Australia must take swift action to address these issues and stop the ongoing mistreatment of Indigenous communities. This includes providing support for Aboriginal peoples in the form of affordable healthcare, quality education, and housing. Additionally, the Australian government must re-examine its harsh immigration policies and work to create a more just and humane system.
This case serves as a reminder that much work needs to be done to address the historical and ongoing mistreatment of Indigenous Australians. It is time for the Australian government to take real action to address these issues and ensure that all Australians are treated equally and with dignity.