By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Our Greatest Challenge: Aboriginal children and human rights
By Hannah McGlade (Aboriginal Studies Press, $39.95, softcover, 284 pages)
Hannah McGlade staunchly addresses the intricate and tense issue of Aboriginal child abuse, revealing that even though child sexual assault is a criminal offence, the Aboriginal experience of the law is vitiated.
In this censorious exploration of Aboriginal children’s rights, Dr McGlade, a Noongar human rights lawyer, also examines the attacks—a severe human rights violation of the child—and the nature of response of the criminal justice system.
Our Greatest Challenge argues that abuses of Aboriginal children’s human rights are shaped and formed within the entrenched societal forces of racism, colonisation and patriarchy, and white and black men’s oppression of women and children.
The deeply disturbing topic of child sexual assault is little understood, created as taboo, and difficult to discuss in an impartial or objective way, making children sexual assault ‘our greatest challenge’.
This book shows that adversarial criminal justice system is also formed by race and gender.
“Despite reforms to the law, courtroom experiences of Aboriginal children are based on re-victimisation and trauma, and in this way the fundamental principle of equality before the law is denied.”
She provides detailed analysis of the legal system’s response.
Child sexual assault has been highly politicised in the Australian public domain as an Aboriginal ‘problem’ with controversial government responses critiqued as racist and paternalistic.
The Australian Government has yet to acknowledge the traumatic impacts of history, whereby the sexual assault of Aboriginal children was part and parcel of the European process of ‘civilisation’.
Dr McGlade believes that we should be guided by Indigenous human rights concepts and international Indigenous responses in addressing the problem.
In doing so, she considers that “we can help to stem the harm to future generations”.
Edition 333, 2 October 2012
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.