I thought for my first post I should do something worthwhile and share a story you are unlikely to here outside our borders but it needs to be heard. Australia has a dark underbelly that is not often seen by outsiders, here is the story of Kelly Briggs (an Indigenous Australian single mother):
My children have missed days at school because of economic reasons. A year ago I would not have admitted that. A year ago I would not have said a word. A year ago I would have kept my head down and my mouth shut for fear of drawing unwanted attention to myself and the problems I was facing. And always, always, in the back of my mind the voice that says don't ever let anyone know you're doing it tough, because they will take your kids from you.
I don't live far from Lightning Ridge. A place where 41 children were removed from their Aboriginal parents. A quick google search reveals that Aboriginal children are 10 times more likely to be put into care. As an Aboriginal mother, these numbers are horrifying. As an unemployed single Aboriginal mother, these numbers are terrifying.
Neither of my children would have missed days at school (except sickness of course) had there been programs in place that would have helped me. A simple lunch program for disadvantaged kids. A school shoes payment plan for low income families. And on the odd occasion, a bus pick up for scorching hot, or pouring rain days.
Instead of addressing these problems, the problems of parents with financial difficulties, the problems that are not only affecting Aboriginal people, but many non Aboriginal parents as well. The government has now put in place an initiative, at a cost of 24 million dollars, that employs truancy officers. And the feeling of a cold hand of fear on the back of my neck, always present, intensifies.
What happens if the small amount of work I have gained dries up and I am back in the position of money being so incredibly tight that the lack of it is suffocating? What if money again becomes so tight that shoes, uniforms, excursions, lunches or transport, issues that I don't have to worry about when I'm working, become issues that keep my kids from turning up at school on occasion?
What exactly is the scope of these truancy officers? Do they give my kids lunch? Buy them shoes? Uniforms? Will my name be added to some Department of Community Services list somewhere? A mark upon my name that gives rise to visits from people who can remove my children from my care?
I spoke honestly and frankly with my mother about my worries. She was amazed that this is still happening, after all the trials Aboriginal women have been put through for generations. We spoke of her own mothers obsession with cleanliness, which sprang from her fear of the dreaded welfare man, a government employee who could come to your house and demand to be let inside, to ensure your house was clean. That there was adequate food available. That the children were going to school. She then went on to tell me about her own fears, when she was raising me and my siblings, the absolute terror she felt whenever going to collect food vouchers, of some nameless person swooping in to take us kids off her because she was facing hardship when my father passed away. The tremble in her voice as she recounted this broke my heart.
Keep reading here (I don't want to post the full thing as I hope everyone who is interested will give her blogs the hits she deserves): http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/…
ETA- More from the author on colonialism: http://thekooriwoman.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/get…