Australian author Tim Winton argues that misogyny, like racism, is one of the great engines of intergenerational trauma. Photograph: Lynn Webb
In an excerpt from a speech about his new book The Shepherd’s Hut, the author says it is men who need to step up and liberate boys from the race, the game, the fight
TIM WINTON Mon 9 Apr 2018 The Guardian
I don’t have any grand theory about masculinity. But I know a bit about boys. Partly because I’m at the beach and in the water a lot.
As a surfer you spend a lot of time bobbing about, waiting for something to happen. So eventually, you get talking. Or you listen to others talking. And I spend my work days alone, in a room with people who don’t exist, so these maritime conversations make up the bulk of my social life. And most of the people in the water are younger than me, some by 50 years or more.
I like the teasing and the joking that goes on, the shy asymmetrical conversations, the fitful moments of mutual bewilderment and curiosity. A lot of the time I’m just watching and listening. With affection. Indulgence. Amusement. Often puzzled, sometimes horrified. Interested, but careful, of course, not to appear too interested. And the wonderful thing about getting older – something many women will understand – is that after a certain age you become invisible. And for me, after years of being much too visible for my own comfort, this late life waterborne obscurity is a gift.
There are a lot more girls in the water these days, and hallellujah for that; I can’t tell you how heartening this is. But I want to focus on the boys for a moment. For what a mystery a boy is. Even to a grown man. Perhaps especially to a grown man. And how easy it is to forget what beautiful creatures they are. There’s so much about them and in them that’s lovely. Graceful. Dreamy. Vulnerable. Qualities we either don’t notice, or simply blind ourselves to. You see, there’s great native tenderness in children. In boys, as much as in girls. But so often I see boys having the tenderness shamed out of them.
Boys and young men are so routinely expected to betray their better natures, to smother their consciences, to renounce the best of themselves and submit to something low and mean. As if there’s only one way of being a bloke, one valid interpretation of the part, the role, if you like. There’s a constant pressure to enlist, to pull on the uniform of misogyny and join the Shithead Army that enforces and polices sexism. And it grieves me to say it’s not just men pressing those kids into service.
These boys in the surf. The things they say to me! The stuff I hear them saying to their mates! Some of it makes you want to hug them. Some of it makes you want to cry. Some of it makes you ashamed to be a male. Especially the stuff they feel entitled or obliged to say about girls and women.
What I’ve come to notice is that all these kids are rehearsing and projecting. Trying it on. Rehearsing their masculinity. Projecting their experimental versions of it. And wordlessly looking for cues the whole time. Not just from each other, but from older people around them, especially the men. Which can be heartbreaking to witness, to tell you the truth. Because the feedback they get is so damn unhelpful. If it’s well-meant it’s often feeble and half-hearted. Because good men don’t always stick their necks out and make an effort.
True, the blokes around me in the water are there, like me, for respite, to escape complexity and responsibility for an hour or two, to save themselves from going mad in their working lives, but their dignified silence in response to misogynistic trash talk allows other messages, other poisonous postures to flourish. Too often, in my experience, the ways of men to boys lack all conviction, they lack a sense of responsibility and gravity. And I think they lack the solidity and coherence of tradition. Sadly, modernity has failed to replace traditional codes with anything explicit, or coherent or benign. We’re left with values that are residual, fuzzy, accidental or sniggeringly conspiratorial.
We’ve scraped our culture bare of ritual pathways to adulthood. There are lots of reasons for having clear-felled and burnt our own traditions since the 1960s, and some of them are very good reasons. But I’m not sure what we’ve replaced them with. We’ve left our young people to fend for themselves. We retain a kind of indulgent, patronising, approval of rites of passage in other cultures, including those of our first peoples, but the poverty of mainstream modern Australian rituals is astounding.
What are we left with? The sly first beer your uncle slips you. The 18th birthday party where the keg is the icon. Maybe the B&S ball, if you live in the bush. First drink, first root, first bog-lap in your mum’s Corolla. Call me a snob, but that strikes me as pretty thin stuff. This, surely, is cultural impoverishment. And in such a prosperous country. To my mind, that’s salt rising to the surface, poisoning the future.
In the absence of explicit, widely-shared and enriching rites of passage, young men in particular are forced to make themselves up as they go along. Which usually means they put themselves together from spare parts, and the stuff closest to hand tends to be cheap and defective. And that’s dangerous.
Toxic masculinity is a burden to men. I’m not for a moment suggesting men and women suffer equally from misogyny, because that’s clearly and fundamentally not true. And nobody needs to hear me mansplaining on the subject of the patriarchy. But I think we forget or simply don’t notice the ways in which men, too, are shackled by misogyny. It narrows their lives. Distorts them. And that sort of damage radiates; it travels, just as trauma is embedded and travels and metastasizes in families. Slavery should have taught us that. The Stolen Generations are still teaching us. Misogyny, like racism, is one of the great engines of intergenerational trauma.
A man in manacles doesn’t fully understand the threat he poses to others. Even as he’s raging against his bonds. Especially as he’s raging against his bonds. When you’re bred for mastery, when you’re trained to endure and fight and suppress empathy, how do you find your way in a world that cannot be mastered? How do you live a life in which all of us must eventually surrender and come to terms? Too many men are blunt instruments. Otherwise known, I guess, as tools. Because of poor training, they’re simply not fit for purpose. Because life is not a race, it’s not a game, and it’s not a fight.
Can we wean boys off machismo and misogyny? Will they ever relinquish the race, the game, the fight, and join the dance? I hope so. Because liberation – a process of disarmament, reflection and renewal – isn’t just desirable, it’s desperately necessary. In our homes, in business, and clearly, and most clearly of all, in our politics.
Children are born wild. And that’s beautiful, it’s wondrous, regardless of gender. Even when they’re feral creatures, kids are reservoirs of tenderness and empathy. But some do turn into savages. And sadly most of those are boys. They’re trained into it. Because of neglect or indulgence. And when we meet them in the street, and have them in our classrooms, and haul them into the courts, we recoil from them in horror and disgust. Our detention centres and jails are heaving with them. These wild colonial boys, they’re a terror to Australia. Real and imagined. But I worry about our revulsion for them, our desire to banish them from consciousness for their noncompliance, their mistakes, or their faithful adherence to the scripts that have been written for them.
Boys need help. And, yes, men need fixing – I’m mindful of that. Males arrive in our community on the coattails of an almost endless chain of unexamined privilege. I don’t deny that for a second. But patriarchy is bondage for boys, too. It disfigures them. Even if they’re the last to notice. Even if they profit from it. And their disfigurement diminishes the ultimate prospects of all of us, wherever we are on the gender spectrum. I think we need to admit this.
But before we even get to that point, we have to acknowledge the awkward, implacable fact of their existence, especially those who most offend our sensibilities. We should resist our instinct or our ideological desire to cross the street to avoid them, our impulse to shut them down and shut them out and finally lock them up. We need to have higher expectations of them. Provide better modelling for them.
But before any of that is possible we need to attend to them. Yes, boys need their unexamined privilege curtailed. Just as they need certain proscribed privileges and behaviours made available to them. But the first step is to notice them. To find them worthy of our interest. As subjects, not objects. How else can we hope to take responsibility for them? And it’s men who need to step up and finally take their full share of that responsibility.
Who remembers all those kids whose parents got divorced in the late 1970s or early 80s? Remember how resilient they were going to be? How divorce wasn’t ideal, but the kids would be OK because surely it was better for them to be raised in homes that weren’t full of rancour?
Kids were resilient! I’m repeating it, because that was the buzz word. They’d adjust to their new reality, and they’d be fine. How true has that proven to be? We can’t know for certain because every case, and indeed every kid, is different, and for sure there were — and are — plenty of miserable marriages that absolutely had to end, but in saying that can’t we also acknowledge the trauma inflicted on the children?
I think we’re going to have to acknowledge it, because those kids are all grown up, and they are starting to tell their side of the story. Not everyone is going to want to hear it.
Most readers will know the name James Jeffrey. He writes the Strewth column for this newspaper. He’s a unique individual, is James: he keeps pet snakes; he plays bagpipes; he speaks a little Hungarian. He’s got a mop of curly blond hair, and he’s got a curious way of walking up on the tips of his toes, flapping his hands a little, which gives him an entirely agreeable air.
James has this week published a memoir, My Family and Other Animus, and while it is in parts extremely funny, it’s the chapters about the divorce he lived through as a child that had me captivated.
This is the gen X experience. Forget what their boomer parents had to say. This is how it was for the kids.
James was eight when the marriage between his English father Ian and his Hungarian mother Eszter came to a dramatic end. He didn’t see it coming, and my best guess is that most kids don’t. James puts it this way: “Despite the impressive and growing body of evidence my parents had been building over the years — the shouting matches, slammed doors — it was something I’d really never thought about. Loveless as it had become, my parents’ marriage was something that was simply there, and probably eternal, like the sky.”
But then a knife was drawn and the police were called, and for some time afterwards James saw his mother only at weekends.
His parents sustained their rage against each other for decades, determined, he says, to inflict upon each other as much pain as possible.
“To really, really hurt each other. That was the goal,” he recalled this week.
James came to know the inside of the Family Court rather too well as the battle raged around him, and since the supposed resilience of the kids was all the go, nobody even tried to keep them out of it.
James remembers “a friendly man with a moustache, and a brown suit” sitting him down one day to say: “Of course you love your parents equally and they love you, but …”
Well, there’s no but quite like the but that comes in a Family Court matter, is there? “But if you have to choose, who would you prefer to live with?” Brutal.
James’s father won custody, which wouldn’t have been all that common, because in the days before the so-called “shared care amendments” to the Family Law Act of 2006, it was mainly the mum who kept the kids while dad would get them every second weekend and half the school holidays — and maybe for a desultory dinner on Wednesday night at McDonald’s, where there would be a playground and plenty of CCTV.
James recalls in his book the instability that became part of his life after the divorce. He tries to find some comfort in the fact that at least both parents wanted him. That wasn’t everyone’s experience. But he can still remember everything the day it happened, down to the colour of the linoleum in the room where he was told that the only life he’d ever known was over.
A new, chaotic world rose in its place and, four decades later, he says: “I rarely go a week without thinking about it all.”
Forty years on, he still thinks about it every week? Yes, of course. Because we are all so resilient, aren’t we? We’re actually not. We suffer, and sometimes we take the suffering out on others, in ways both petty, and monstrous.
A year after the divorce of James’s parents went through, the old Family Court building in Sydney got bombed. A judge was murdered. That’s how bad it can get, and of course plenty of wives and children have been killed as they tried to make their way out the door.
Plenty of men have taken their own lives.
James says in his book that he was determined to turn his calamitous upbringing into “lessons that would guide me through life, into marriage, and parenthood”.
He never wanted to “come close to replicating the wasteland my parents called their marriage”.
Their wreckage would become “one of the guiding forces of my life”, he writes. “No part of the carcass has been wasted.”
When time came for James to marry and become a father himself, my God, he was going to do things differently. And that’s where you find joy in his book. On the first page, James says he started writing in part “as an explanation to my children as to why their parents kiss so much”.
Because it’s so gross to see old people — your parents! — kissing.
But, he says, “I can tell that at some level they secretly like that we are this way.” Because marriage is hard and some days — actually for some years, sometimes — it’s only going to be the dog that is happy to see you.
None of which is to say that parents shouldn’t get divorced. It happens, and it’s often necessary. In 25 years of adulthood I’ve never a met a person who was cavalier about their divorce.
A friend told me recently that she had been unhappy in her marriage for a decade.
We don’t get that many decades, and by the time you get to your late 40s, you don’t have that many left. And yet she hung in there, and not only to avoid the blasted Family Court, described recently by one of the wise old judges, Robert Benjamin, as a place that thrives on a “culture of bitter, adversarial and highly aggressive litigation”.
He was talking about a case in which the warring parents had been encouraged by rapacious counsel to spend an eye-watering $860,000 on legal fees as they tore each other, and their children, to pieces.
“It must stop,” he said.
Not divorce. You’ll probably never stop that. But the ugliness that comes with it, because it’s really tough on the kids.
Both of James’s parents are now dead, but his mum was still alive when he finished the manuscript. In his hands, their warring comes across a touch comically, which is of course the point. What a waste of energy it was, to spend all that time arguing.
What a sapping of the human spirit. It must have taken some courage for James to write so openly about the collateral damage. However brutal the message, we should all be glad he did.
During briefings as a patrol officer, I scanned the crime reports from the prior week, looking for patterns, trends and changes. If, for example, I discovered an increase in car burglaries on the west side of town, I would ask the simple question: What shifted in the past few weeks to account for the additional crimes? More robberies on the east side? What’s changed? Did someone new move into the area? Did some group of offenders decide to target our city?
Now, as a cold-case detective and author, I apply the same approach to a new crime phenomenon: the increase in mass school shootings. What’s changed in the past twenty years that might account for this? What cultural shifts lie behind the shootings?
An Increase in Social Media Use
Young people are more influenced by social media than any other generation. In a recent survey, teenagers reported that they often feel bad about themselves (or their lives) when viewing the social media posts of their friends. More importantly, teenagers said they are often bulliedon-line. That’s important, because the killers in each school shooting were also said to have been criticized or ostracized prior to the crime. While bullying is not new, the way young people bully each other has shifted. Social media intensifies bullying because it increases its severity, proximity and consistency. We are far harsher when criticizing others on social media. Worse yet, in a smart phone culture, the bully is as near as your phone. Those of us who were bullied in the past could at least find solace and protection in our own homes; bullying stopped as soon as we left the school grounds. Not so today. Bullies follow their victims home every night and sleep next to them on their nightstands. The way people interact has changed, and this shift is seen in the lives of school shooters. Many have been harboring growing animosity stoked by social media.
An Increased Dependency on Prescription Medicine
Parents are medicating their children today more than ever before. While it’s true that many of the school shooters were using (or had recently stopped using) prescription drugs, I’m not suggesting that this form of drug use is contributing directly to the increase in shootings. In fact, I have seen many families incorporate ADHD/depression/anxiety medications with great success. But, in a recent PBS special, Medicating Kids, Dr. Lawrence Diller made two important and insightful observations. First, he observed that we “as a culture – more than any other culture – seem to have accepted biology and the brain as the reason for maladaptive or poor behavior.” In addition, Dr. Diller observed, “we have a continuing erosion of parental discipline…” Some parents have now shifted toward prescription drugs that target the physical brain and away from traditional, time-consuming approaches that address behaviors. As a result, fewer children – including shooters – have extended interaction with their parents.
An Increase in Single Parent Households As a Gang Detail Officer in Los Angeles County, I had the opportunity to spend time with young Hispanic, African-American, Caucasian and Korean gang members. They came from different socio-economic and racial backgrounds but had one thing in common: lack of dad. Some never knew their fathers. Others had dads who were in jail. Some had fathers who were disinterested alcoholics. Others had dads who were workaholics who rarely ever came home. The percentage of children under the age of 18 in the United States living in single parent households has increased dramatically – during the same time that school shootings have multiplied. In addition, many young men are being raised in what is effectively (if not statistically) a single parent household. Men have a responsibility to raise up their boys, and when they shirk this responsibility we see tragic results. Family structures have changed; several of the high school shooters simply didn’t have an effective male role model who could help them navigate their teenage years.
Every cultural change holds both a promise and a threat. We either shift toward something worthy or worthless. The sooner we recognize what’s changed in America (and admit where the change is leading us), the sooner we’ll be able to address the increase in school shootings.
Too many Australians today do not appreciate how their country has been shaped by the Bible in myriad indelible ways
Roy Williams The Australian 31 March 2018
It’s worth recalling this Easter that the Bible is by far the most consequential book in Australian history. One hundred copies arrived on the First Fleet, and every subsequent vessel brought lots more.
Serious Bible-reading probably peaked here in about 1880, but there was a still a well-thumbed copy in nearly every home until the 1970s. That decade saw the start of a steep decline in Australia of Christianity’s heft and influence, at least measured in terms of churchgoing believers as a proportion of the population.
Even so, in 1976-77, The Good News Bible sold a quarter of a million copies, a record at the time for any new title. Kel Richards’s The Aussie Bible sold 100,000 copies as recently as the early 2000s.
There remains a strong market in Australia not only for the Bible but Christian books in general. The flourishing Koorong chain of stores, and equivalent Catholic outlets, are proof enough.
Yet most of our “mainstream” bookshops offer a woefully thin selection of religious titles. Why?
The underlying reason seems to be a perception that the Good Book and its offshoots are irrelevant nowadays to anyone bar “people of faith”.
Sydney-based historian Meredith Lake challenges this canard in her superbly engaging book The Bible in Australia.
Put aside — if you dare — ultimate metaphysical truth.
There are, Lake contends, several other reasons why any thinking citizen should take the Bible seriously. For a start, “the world in general remains highly religious”, and Christianity is the most practised faith across the globe.
As far as Australian public-policy discourse is concerned, most would also agree with Lake that “a confident, robust pluralism requires tolerance of religious voices, including Christian ones in all their diversity”.
But she insists there is more at stake than mere tolerance, for “an intelligent pluralism requires good historical memory”.
Too many Australians today do not appreciate how their country has been shaped by the Bible in myriad indelible ways. As Lake observes, “it has a history here that, while complicated, is difficult to outrun”. She posits three main ways of regarding the Bible — each for good and ill — and provides convincing, engrossing examples.
First, it has been a “globalising” force.
“European imperialism introduced the Bible to Australia” with traumatic consequences for the indigenous population, she observes. The legal fiction of terra nullius was based on a quasi-Christian idea of John Locke’s. Genesis 1:28 (King James Version) enjoined human beings to “replenish the earth, and subdue it”. In the eyes of most British colonists, non-agrarian indigenous peoples had not done so, so the land they occupied was ripe for the taking.
It was not until the High Court’s Mabo decision in 1992 — based, in significant part, on Thomist notions of natural law (cf. Romans 2:14-15), to say nothing of Jesus’s Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) — that a better, more authentically Christian view held sway.
Indigenous Christians had long pointed to verses such as Proverbs 22:28 (“Do not move an everlasting boundary stone”).
Lake reminds us that the Bible has also been a globalising force in Australia as a basis for encouraging immigration on a large scale. As far back as the 1830s, powerful figures such as John Dunmore Lang invoked the story of Israel as a model for populating the antipodean “land of milk and honey” (cf. Deuteronomy 31:20, Genesis 12:1-2). Catholic historians including Edmund Campion have shown that the church facilitated the nation-changing waves of European and Southeast Asian immigration after World War II.
Lake’s second way of assessing the Bible’s influence is as a “cultural” force.
Aside from its ubiquitous presence in everyday speech (“lamb to the slaughter”, “writing on the wall” and so on), she emphasises its role as an inspiration to local artists in all genres. Henry Handel Richardson, Arthur Boyd, Paul Kelly, Helen Garner, Christos Tsiolkas — these and many other creative giants, a lot of them unbelievers, could recognise a masterpiece when they encountered it.
But it is in the Bible’s third guise, as a “theological” force, that its influence has been most profound. For almost two centuries after 1788, a good number of our key opinion-makers — in politics, business, science, journalism, education, you name it — believed the Bible to be nothing less than the self-revelatory Word of God, a text “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12). Accordingly, in Lake’s expression, “it was the unrivalled starting point for knowledge, the framework for understanding the world and its workings”.
Ranging widely, Lake demonstrates that the theological Bible has been, as often as not, a force of “dynamic altruism”. (The phrase is historian Alan Atkinson’s.)
The NSW Church Act of 1836, for instance, later copied in other colonies, established the principle of equal treatment for all Christian denominations. This reflected governor Richard Bourke’s vision of a people “united in one bond of peace” (see Ephesians 4:3).
In the longer term, despite outbreaks of sectarianism, religious equality helped foster a much greater degree of socio-economic equality here than in Britain.
Likewise, the movements in the late 19th century towards votes for women and Federation were energised disproportionately by devout Christians. A favourite verse among champions of both causes was Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalteth a nation.”
It is to be remembered, too, that in those days leadership of the trade unions and the Australian Labor Party was dominated by earnest Protestant men.
Perhaps Lake’s best historical examples are in the field of race relations, a strength of her work. From the earliest decades of frontier violence against the indigenous, through the citizenship and land rights campaigns of the 20th century, to recent debates over refugees, the most rigorous pleas for generous treatment of darker-skinned people have been made by conscientious Christians.
Typically their arguments have been based on scripture, one passage in particular.
According to Acts 17:26, “[God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (KJV).
Secular Australian bookshops should give this book the prominence it deserves.
Roy Williams’s books include God, Actually.
The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History By Meredith Lake NewSouth, 439pp, $39.99
A New Story for an Old Land: 200 Years of the Bible Society in Australia
John Harris ABC Religion and Ethics 7 Mar 2017
As the Bible seemingly drifts into irrelevance in our increasingly secular society, the Bible Society remains convinced of the need to put more Bibles into people’s hands, minds and hearts.CREDIT: MIKDAM / GETTY IMAGES
When large numbers of men are doomed to bachelorhood, they get desperate
The Economist 19 March 2018
FEW South Sudanese see a link between their country’s horrific civil war and polygamy. Instead they blame greedy politicians or the tribe next door. Fair enough: corruption, weak institutions and tribalism all make violence more likely. But marital customs matter, too. Wherever polygamy is widely practised (in South Sudan, perhaps 40% of marriages involve multiple wives) turmoil tends to follow. The 20 most fragile states in the world are all somewhat or very polygamous. Polygamous nations are more likely to invade their neighbours. The polygamous regions of Haiti and Indonesia are the most turbulent. One London School of Economics study found a strong link between plural marriage and civil war. How come?
Polygamy nearly always means rich men taking multiple wives. And if the top 10% of men marry four women each, then the bottom 30% cannot marry at all. This often leaves them not only sexually frustrated but also socially marginalised. In many traditional societies, a man is not considered an adult until he has found a wife and sired children. To get a wife, he must typically pay a “brideprice” to her father. When polygamy creates a shortage of brides, it massively inflates this brideprice. In South Sudan, it can be anything from 30 to 300 cattle, far more wealth than an ill-educated young man can plausibly accumulate by legal means.
In desperation, many single men resort to extreme measures to secure a mate. In South Sudan, they pick up guns and steal cattle from the tribe next door. Many people are killed in such raids; many bloody feuds spring from them. Young bachelors who cannot afford to marry also make easy recruits for rebel armies. If they fight, they can loot, and with loot, they can wed. In a paper published last year, Valerie Hudson of Texas A&M University and Hilary Matfess of Yale found that a high brideprice is a “critical” factor “predisposing young men to become involved in organised group violence for political purposes”. Jihadist groups exploit this, too. One member of Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the attack on Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166 people, said he joined the organisation because it promised to pay for his siblings to get married. During its heyday the so-called Islamic State offered foreign recruits honeymoons in Raqqa, its former capital. In northern Nigeria, where polygamy is rife, Boko Haram still arranges cheap marriages for its recruits.
Globally, polygamy is in retreat, but in some pockets support for it is rising. After America’s Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage in 2015, some people argued that plural unions should be next.
According to Gallup, a pollster, the proportion of Americans who consider polygamy to be morally acceptable rose from 5% in 2006 to 17% last year, among the most dramatic jumps in the subjects it tracks.
Campaigners in Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and other central Asian states are seeking to re-establish men’s right to take multiple wives.
In Kazakhstan, a bill failed in 2008 after a female MP included an amendment stipulating that polyandry (women taking multiple husbands) also be allowed. Advocates claim that polygamy promotes social harmony by giving lusty husbands a legitimate alternative to infidelity. The mayhem in places like South Sudan, Afghanistan and northern Nigeria suggests otherwise.
Note: Recent private feedback from an Australian social worker who works in a youth detention centre – said that in some African migrant groups, when the wife takes over the finances, the husband can’t handle that, they return to Africa, and they take take a new wife back home. Then the teenagers remaining in Australia have no father to keep them under control. This is never reported in the media.
Kathleen Cormier is trying to instil a sense of gratitude in her sons, aged 12 and 17. But sometimes she wonders if other parents have given up.
Some of her sons’ peers, she says, are lacking in the basics of gratitude, such as looking adults in the eye to thank them. The saddest part, she says, is that many parents don’t even expect their children to be grateful any more. They are accustomed to getting no acknowledgment for, say, devoting their weekend to driving them from activity to activity. There is “such a lack of respect”, she says.
Every generation seems to complain that children “these days” are so much more entitled and ungrateful than in years past. This time, they may be right. In today’s selfie culture, which often rewards bragging and arrogance over kindness and humility, many people are noticing a drop-off in everyday expressions of gratitude.
In a 2012 national online poll of 2000 adults, commissioned by the John Templeton Foundation, 59 per cent of those surveyed thought that most people today were “less likely to have an attitude of gratitude than 10 or 20 years ago”. The youngest group, 18 to 24-year-olds, were the least likely of any age group to report expressing gratitude regularly (35 per cent) and the likeliest to express gratitude for self-serving reasons (“it will encourage people to be kind or generous to me”).
“In some communities, specifically among the white middle and upper-middle class, there’s good reason to believe that kids are less grateful than in the past,” says psychologist Richard Weissbourd, faculty director of the Making Caring Common initiative at Harvard’s graduate school of education. He places much of the blame on the self-esteem movement.
As Weissbourd sees it, parents were fed a myth that if children feel better about themselves — if parents praise them, cater to their every need and make them feel happy — it will help them to develop character. “But what we’re seeing in many cases is the opposite,’’ he says. “When parents organise their lives around their kids, those kids expect everyone else to as well, and that leads to entitlement.’’ And when children are raised to feel entitled to everything, they are left feeling grateful for nothing.
A growing body of research points to the many psychological and social benefits of regularly counting your blessings. The good news for parents: it also suggests that it’s never too late for their children to learn the subtle joys of appreciating the good in their lives. Gratitude can be cultivated at any age, whether it finds expression as a mood, a social emotion or a personality trait.
Researchers find that people with a grateful disposition are more thankful for a wider variety of things in their lives, such as their friends, their health, nature, their jobs or a higher power — and that they experience feelings of gratitude more intensely. For them, gratitude isn’t a one-off “thank you”. It’s a mindset, a way of seeing the world.
“Gratitude is also a spiritual emotion, whether it’s implicitly or explicitly expressed,” says David Rosmarin, director of the spirituality and mental health program at McLean Hospital and an assistant professor at Harvard medical school. Almost every religion includes gratitude as part of its value system, he says, citing familiar practices such as prayers of thanks or blessings over food.
In a study led by Rosmarin, published in 2011 in The Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers surveyed more than 400 adults online, assessing their religious and general gratitude, religious commitment, and mental and physical wellbeing. The researchers found, in keeping with past studies, that general gratitude was associated with less anxiety, less depression and greater wellbeing. They also found gratitude towards God was associated with further reductions in anxiety and depression and increases in wellbeing.
It can be difficult to remember to be grateful, for adults and children alike. Kristen Welch, a mother of three children between the ages of 11 and 18, lives outside Houston and is the author of Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. She admits she was once “constantly comparing myself and my home to what others had”. If she visited a neighbour who was remodelling her kitchen, she would want to redo hers too, although it didn’t need it. She noticed a similar attitude in her children. “Whenever I’d give them something, it was never enough. They always wanted more,” she says.
Most of the research on the benefits of gratitude has been focused on adults, but researchers are turning their attention to how gratitude can better the lives of children, too. They’re finding that the experience of high levels of gratitude in the adolescent years can set up a child to thrive. Gratitude initiates what researchers call an “upward spiral of positive emotions”. Adolescents who rate higher in gratitude tend to be happier and more engaged at school, as compared with their less grateful peers, and to give and receive more social support from family and friends. They also tend to experience fewer depressive symptoms and less anxiety, and are less likely to exhibit anti-social behaviour, such as aggression.
Counting your blessings may provide a built-in coping strategy, as research among adults suggests. Grateful people experience daily hassles and annoyances just like everyone else, but they tend to view setbacks through a different lens, reframing challenges in a positive light.
Weissbourd gives the example of one of his students, who comes from a low-income community in South America. “We were talking about gratitude, and he said that whenever he gets frustrated about waiting for the bus, he reminds himself that where he’s from most people have to walk,” he says.
For a study published last year in The Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers tracked the role of gratitude in the lives of more than 500 adolescents from an affluent area of Long Island in New York across the course of four years, as they moved from middle school to high school. At four different points, students filled out questionnaires, rating on a scale of 1 to 7 how strongly they agreed with statements such as “I have so much to be thankful for”; “If I had to list everything that I felt grateful for, it would be a very long list”; and “I am grateful to a wide variety of people”.
The researchers also measured anti-social and pro-social behaviours. They asked the students to rate how often (never, sometimes, often) they “stuck up for another kid who was in trouble”, for example, or made “a kid upset because you were mean to them”. The researchers also looked at the students’ satisfaction with different aspects of their lives (school, self, family friends), how much support they received from family and friends, and their levels of empathy and self-regulation.
The study found that a growth in gratitude across the four years not only predicted a growth in pro-social behaviour, it also predicted a decrease in negative social behaviour compared with students whose gratitude levels stayed level or decreased. Being grateful may “undercut the motives for acting antisocially among adolescents”, the researchers suggest.
Students who were more grateful also were better at managing their lives and identifying important goals for the future, says lead researcher Giacomo Bono, an assistant professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills. “When adolescents regularly express gratitude,” he adds, “it’s a good litmus test that they’re thriving.”
Grateful adolescents enjoy stronger relationships with their peers, in part perhaps because their positive disposition makes them more attractive and likeable. In a 2015 study published in the journal Emotion, researchers conducted an experiment with 70 undergraduate students. They found that acquaintances were likelier to want to stay in touch with a student who expressed gratitude toward them (in writing) than students who didn’t show appreciation. Grateful students were perceived by peers as having a warmer personality and being more friendly and thoughtful.
As parents, we do our best to teach our children to be grateful, by doing things such as nagging them to writing thank-you notes. But experts warn that our best efforts can backfire and become a barrier to genuinely experiencing gratitude. Children need to learn how to think gratefully, they say, not just to mindlessly go through the motions of giving thanks.
Cormier says she has worked hard to make gratitude a family habit since her children were little — and now it has become the norm. She encourages finding gratitude in the “everyday stuff”, she says, not just in response to birthday and Christmas presents. She also tries to teach gratitude by example. When her children help out around the house, such as noticing when the bin is full and taking it out, she thanks them. And now, she says, “my kids thank me every single time I put fresh sheets on their bed”, chaperone a field trip or make them dinner.
In a paper published in 2014 in the journal School Psychology Review, researchers describe an educational program they developed to train primary school students, aged eight to 11, in gratitude. More than 200 students participated. Half were assigned to a control condition, while the other half were assigned to the gratitude intervention, which some received for one week and others for more than five. The program’s lessons included, for example, reading The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and asking students to write down one thing they would do to show the generous tree in the story that they were grateful for what it had done.
Researchers found that students who received the training, even for just one week, were not only better at thinking gratefully, they also reported experiencing more grateful emotions and greater increases in positive social behaviour (such as writing thank-you notes) and emotional wellbeing than students in the control group. When researchers followed up five months later with students who had stayed in the program longer, these positive effects had continued to grow. With intentional practice, experts say, gratitude can move from a fleeting state to a habit and eventually can become a personality trait.
The research points to several ways that parents can help children to think gratefully. Parents can spur their children to appreciate and reflect on the time and thought behind the gifts and kindness they receive, as in: “Jack really knows how much you love football. How thoughtful that he gave you a jersey of your favourite team” or “Wow, Grandma just took a five-hour train ride to come and see you perform in that play!”.
For some parents, a good starting point is simply to set a better example themselves. In the Templeton poll, less than half of respondents said they expressed thanks or gratitude daily to their spouse or partner.
It’s also important for children — and adults — to notice and acknowledge the larger circle of people who benefit their lives, such as the school secretary or janitor, says Weissbourd. “In a society that has become so splintered and self-focused,” he says, “gratitude is a common bond and offers one of the best ways for us to connect with one another.”
Muslims protesting against an American movie on their way to the US consulate in Sydney in 2012. James Brickwood
18C debate highlights the ethnic threat to free speech
by Senator David Leyonhjelm 1 April 2017 Australian Financial ReviewWhen Labor, the Greens and certain Liberals in western Sydney seats seek to explain their reasons for opposing changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, they mostly refer to the concerns of ethnic, religious and racial minority groups.
Representatives of Armenian, Hellenic, Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese groups have joined Jewish, Lebanese Muslim and Arab groups to oppose any changes apart from procedural, arguing that amending section 18C will unleash a torrent of “hate speech”.
While we occasionally hear half-hearted claims that minorities require special protection from hurt feelings, the main driver of opposition is the political clout of these groups. A dozen or so federal seats are held on margins smaller than the populations of these groups. And in the recent WA state election, certain Muslim leaders openly endorsed the Greens.
Instead of embracing the values of their adopted country, these ethnic, religious and immigrant representatives want Australia to become more like the countries they left behind.
Australia has a deeply rooted tradition of freedom in which free speech is central. Our legal and cultural origins lie in Britain, where the primacy of individuals over collectivism first took root. The same values led the US to make free speech the first amendment in its Bill of Rights.
Australia has been a leading supporter of free speech internationally. It was a founding member of the United Nations under the leadership of former Labor minister Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, who became president of the UN General Assembly and was instrumental in drafting and having adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 19 of the Declaration states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Equality and freedom
Freedom of association, worship and movement, freedom from arbitrary arrest, equality before the law and free speech are generally regarded as the bedrock of a free society. On top of these, Australia has embraced equality and respect, irrespective of gender or personal attributes, and rejected claims of inherited status and class.
These values are not necessarily shared by those who come to Australia. Certain Armenians accuse Turkey of genocide but want to suppress its response; Greeks can have issues with Turks and Macedonians; Indians can be racist when it comes to West Indian cricketers but are sensitive to the same speech themselves; those from Arabic and Lebanese Muslim cultures can hold abhorrent views about women and gays and resolve matters of feelings and honour through violence; and many Jews want to suppress Holocaust denialism.
After World War II, immigrants who arrived in Australia either abandoned their historic grievances or chose not to share them with others. Millions of post-war immigrants from dozens of countries integrated, assimilated, and did their best to become true-blue Aussies. For their part, Australians welcomed these immigrants as “New Australians” and embraced their food, music and dance.
A threat to liberal values
The fact that leaders of immigrant, ethnic and religious groups are now flexing their political muscle in pursuit of different values is a major concern. Not only does it threaten traditional liberal values, it fuels opposition to immigration among the general community and gives credence to demands to block certain types of immigrants.
Australia cannot afford this; its economic growth depends on a substantial flow of skilled immigrants. (Family reunion immigrants are less beneficial). It would cost us dearly if we were to close our borders to the talents and expertise that immigration delivers.
Other countries have addressed this problem by raising the bar on citizenship. Switzerland, for example, has a relatively relaxed attitude to immigrants provided they find a job. However, becoming a Swiss citizen and eligible to vote in elections requires 10 years of residence, no criminal record, a solid employment history and endorsement by the applicant’s Canton (equivalent to state/local government). In practical terms, unless they have embraced “Swiss values”, they do not become citizens.
Opposition to changes to 18C is a wake-up call. Australia’s traditional liberal values are under siege like never before. With one side of politics already in full retreat, it is vital the other side steps up to protect those values before it is too late.
David Leyonhjelm is a Senator for the Liberal Democrats
A special unit in this prison houses Australia’s most dangerous extremists. We gain rare access and discover a ticking time-bomb
The Muslim yard at Goulburn SuperMax.
THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE, APRIL 1-2, 2017
STORY: PAUL MALEY | PHOTOGRAPHY: GUY BAILEY
Five times a day, Goulburn’s SuperMax goes quiet. The din of jail life stops as the 30-odd Muslim inmates angle their bottle-green prayer mats towards Mecca. Standing alone in their narrow cells, they raise their arms in supplication and, with eyes closed, recite the holy incantations of the Surah Al-Fatiha, the first verse of the Holy Koran and the beginning of the Muslims’ Divine Communion with God. Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem. Alhamdu lillaahi Rabbil ’aalameen…
A few hundred metres away, in the general prison, dozens more inmates are doing the same thing. Under a soggy grey sky, they kneel in the exercise yard and pray as guards carrying high-powered assault rifles patrol the 5.5m-high walls around them. There’s no trouble today; there rarely is during prayers.
Out in the main prison population, religion is a source of comfort or just another diversion from the drudgery of jail life. Not so in the SuperMax. Here, religion remains an obsession. It is the reason most of the inmates were locked up and, as the years tick over on their time here, it’s what’s kept them going.
Anyone who thinks Australia does not have a problem with prison radicalisation should visit SuperMax during prayer time. They are all here. The names and faces behind a thousand headlines heralding mayhem and death. And with a handful of exceptions, the entire population of the SuperMax observes this daily ritual. They all believe the same thing: “There is no God but Allah and this is where He wants me.” For now.
When Islamic State broke through the Syrian border in June 2014, annexing northern Iraq and declaring a caliphate, Australia’s prisons filled with a new generation of Muslim extremists ensnared by the ISIS ideology of do-it-yourself violence. In Australia, 62 people were charged after 27 separate counter-terrorism operations in little more than two years. A problem that once lurked in mosques, chat rooms and obscure prayer halls was transferred, en masse, into the prison system. That was the good news. The bad news is they are more dangerous than they have ever been, their radical beliefs entrenched in the same system that locked them up in the first place.
And soon, some of them will be up for release. A system that is supposed to remove threats from the community is, in fact, incubating them for future generations.
The first thing you notice about Goulburn’s High Risk Management Correctional Centre, to give the SuperMax its official name, is that it looks nothing like a prison. Built in 2001 in the NSW city 90km north-east of Canberra as a place to house the state’s most violent offenders, it is concealed behind the soaring walls and grim Victorian façade of Goulburn’s historic jail, a fortress within a fortress. The corridors are wide, the lights are bright and cherry-red doors with observation windows provide access to every cell. There is no mess hall, no shower block. No tattooed cons pumping iron in the yard. Common areas don’t exist in SuperMax. On some days it might be possible to walk the entire length of the prison without encountering a single inmate.
Glen Piazza, SuperMax’s manager of security, is our guide for this rare glimpse into Australia’s most secretive prison. Piazza is an affable 50-something who’s been working in Corrections for nearly 30 years, five in the pressure-cooker of SuperMax. He’s got a broad Australian accent and a black sense of humour. “Remember, if you get raped, it’s just jail sex,” he says, as we’re about to enter the prison. You get the feeling it’s not the first time he’s used this line.
Glenn Piazza speaks with a prison inmate.
SuperMax is divided into three units, Piazza explains. Unit Nine is where unsentenced prisoners are kept. Unit Eight holds convicted prisoners serving out long sentences up to 20 years or more. Unit Seven houses prisoners for the first 14 days of their sentence while they are being assessed. Nobody is sentenced to SuperMax. Everybody here has been sent because they were too hard to manage in other prisons or because of their link to terrorism. Thirty of the prison’s 48 inmates are here for terrorist-related offences.
We head first to Unit Nine, a horseshoe-shaped row of cells with an enclosed observation area in the middle where the prison officers huddle like soldiers in a pillbox. This is effectively a remand centre for NSW’s most dangerous men. We have been here just a few minutes and already the shouting from the banks of locked cells has begun. “Why don’t you tell them about the oppression inside SuperMax!”
In some countries, radical inmates are dispersed across the prison system, an approach that is supposed to make deradicalisation easier. But here in NSW they are grouped together, quarantined from other prisoners like patients stricken with a deadly virus. The idea is they can’t radicalise other prisoners and in practice it works well enough. They radicalise each other instead. The names of prisoners are written on cards outside their cells along with the details of their sentence. Virtually all are of Middle Eastern background.
One of the conditions of our visit is that we do not name inmates, but they are recognisable enough. Australia’s most notorious serial killer is here. The fearsome muscles and piercing black eyes that terrified his seven known victims in their last moments are gone. More than 20 years into his sentence, he’s an old man now. He is sitting at a concrete desk writing letters, something he does incessantly. He mops the floors for extra milk rations. In any other jail he’d be just another sad old crim seeing out the years, but here in the SuperMax he looks oddly out of place. It says much about the transformation of SuperMax from high-risk prison to holding pen for Muslim radicals that not even the serial killers fit in. Piazza says this prisoner would normally be up on Deck Eight, but they brought him down here because he’s been doing it tough. Some break.
In the cell next to him is a rangy Lebanese boy with a mohawk haircut and a chest full of tatts. I recognise him, too. In April last year he was moved from Kempsey Prison to the SuperMax after he bashed his cellmate, doused him in boiling water and carved “E4E” (eye for an eye) into his forehead. His victim was a former Australian army reservist and it’s believed this was an ISIS-inspired attack. Certainly it was enough to get him transferred to SuperMax, where he has since been charged with plotting a terror attack on Bankstown Police Station. He also allegedly threatened to cut off the head of Peter Severin, the NSW Corrective Services Commissioner. He sweeps the floor and glowers at us malevolently.
A few cells down is a young man at the centre of Australia’s biggest terrorism plot. He was arrested in September 2014 over an alleged conspiracy to abduct and behead a random member of the public. “Why don’t you report the truth and that’s the oppression of your so-called government,” he yells through the glass. There is a lot of this. In the minds of most inmates there is no difference between a targeted military campaign and cutting a bloke’s head off in Sydney’s Martin Place. If anything, they think the former is worse.
Visits like this are rare in SuperMax and already the prisoners are getting toey. Young men with bushy Salafist beards press their faces against the heavy safety glass in their cell doors. Before long the shouting starts. “Power to Islam!” “The truth shall set you free!” and “Allahu Akbar!” Piazza can feel the tension rising; you’d have to be made of granite not to. He doesn’t want the inmates too riled up – it creates problems for staff later in the day. We move on.
Deck Eight is quieter. The prisoners here are older and less excited by our visit. SuperMax rules allow prisoners to consort with no more than one inmate at a time so some are in pairs wandering in and out of each other’s cells. I peer through one cell door and see a man in his 40s sitting alone on his bed reading from a sheaf of papers. He tugs at his beard and makes notes with a pen. On the outside he ran a recruitment network for al-Qa’ida, funnelling dozens of young radicals into the maw of the Syrian jihad. To the cops he was an A-grade coward, content to send countless young Australians to their deaths but lacking the bottle to jump on a plane himself. I’m told he wept uncontrollably when he arrived in SuperMax. He sees us and raises a single hand in greeting.
Prisoners spend at least 16 hours a day in their cells. They eat in them, shower in them, defecate in them. They can have a radio, TV and kettle. No internet. Depending on their behaviour they might be allowed into the exercise yard where they can play handball, basketball or work out on the chin-up bars. If they’re really good they get access to the running track at the centre of the complex. The track’s small but hard to miss. It’s slathered in netting to stop contraband being hurled in – or a helicopter landing.
Security is an obsession inside SuperMax. When prisoners first arrive they are stripped naked and placed in an observation cell. Their entire body is x-rayed using a so-called “boss chair”, a throne-like device that fires x-rays at the head, feet, torso and rectum, the cavity of choice for those wishing to smuggle contraband past the officers. Piazza says that over the years staff have retrieved knives, drugs and phones, which are a valuable commodity in prison. “The best one I’ve seen is a phone and a charger,” he says. “That was in 2006. Imagine how big the phone was.”
Prisoners sit in the boss chair after every visit or court appearance. They move cells every 28 days and when they move through the prison they are accompanied by a minimum of two guards. When their relatives or solicitors visit they must sit, Hannibal Lecter-style, in sealed Perspex boxes, so-called “safe interview spaces”. Their mail is read, scanned and stored. Their conversations with visitors are live-monitored. Conversations in languages other than English are banned.
This is how SuperMax works. Not with muscle or threats but with a rigid adherence to rules and discipline. Strip a life down to its rudiments, take away a man’s contact with the outside world, his possessions, his freedom, force him to seek permission if he wants to hold his wife’s hand during a visit – narrow his life to the point where the most exciting thing that can happen in six months is a visit from a journalist – and you don’t need phone books or rubber hoses to keep order. All you need is extra milk rations.
A SuperMax cell.
It wasn’t supposed to be quite like this. When the Carr government opened SuperMax back in 2001, the plan was for a maximum security prison that would be used to house the state’s most difficult offenders. Escapees, psychopaths, crime bosses – this was SuperMax’s core business. Then came 9/11 and, more than a decade later, the age of ISIS. A prison that had been built to handle the system’s toughest crooks became a holding pen for Muslim terrorists, the most radical square mile in all of Australia. “We’ve got a completely different set of inmates than in the main jail,” says Scott Ryan, SuperMax’s head of intelligence. “There’s very little violence. They’re a lot smarter.”
Working in SuperMax is uniquely stressful for staff. The inmates hate them, calling them kuffars or dogs. Some won’t even talk to the female staff. As we are leaving, one of the officers tells us: “I don’t want my picture. I’ve got a family.”
But as dangerous as these men are, there is a growing view that many do not belong in the SuperMax. Increasingly, experts are questioning the wisdom of housing young offenders in the same facility as older, die-hard extremists. Australian National University deradicalisation expert Dr Clarke Jones says SuperMax is the right place for violent, difficult prisoners but the wrong place for younger inmates who might, under the right circumstances, be separated from their radical ideologies. In Victoria, he adds, radical inmates are spread throughout the system.“
There’s a long history of psychological evidence that it becomes more difficult to rehabilitate prisoners over the age of 25,” Jones says. “But under 25, there’s a good chance.” Vocational training, religious counselling and physical contact with their family – these are the elements that need to be in place if younger inmates are to be diverted from radicalism. “Virtually none of that is available in SuperMax.”
And SuperMax’s population is getting younger, much younger. Across the fence in Goulburn jail proper, the prison population is divided by race or religion. There is a Muslim yard, an Islander yard, an Aboriginal yard and an Asian yard. Multiculturalism might work in the real world but in Goulburn it is segregation that keeps the peace.
In SuperMax, the division is even simpler: al-Qa’ida and Islamic State. The older, sentenced prisoners support al-Qa’ida. The younger ones, energised by the Syrian jihad, support Islamic State. Two tribes. They don’t get along.
“They really have nothing to do with each other,” Ryan tells me. “They’ll be polite to each other. The older fellas will look at [them] as young punks – ‘they know nothing about the Koran, they know nothing about our struggles’ and all of this. The younger ones will look at the older ones, ‘Oh, these old has-beens. This is the new way. All that stuff’s out now.’ There’s a big division in that.” Al-Qa’ida supporters are held in Unit Eight, where the average age of prisoners is 35. Islamic State supporters are in Unit Nine, where the average age is just 21.
The al-Qa’ida terrorists sentenced after 9/11 are starting to come up for parole. A few are already out. Khaled Sharrouf did a brief spell in SuperMax after he was convicted over his involvement in the 2005 terror plot to bomb targets in Sydney and Melbourne. It didn’t do much good. In 2013 Sharrouf fled for Syria, where he was last seen brandishing severed heads and executing Iraqi officials in the sands outside Mosul.
In August this year, Bilal Khazal, a 46-year-old former baggage handler convicted of making a terrorist training manual, will chance his arm before the parole board. There is a reasonable prospect he will get out. In early 2019, Ahmad Naizmand, a 22-year-old convicted of breaching a terrorism control order, will do the same. The others will start dribbling out in the years after that. I ask Ryan how many remain hard-core radicals. He thinks for a moment. “You could probably put on the one hand the ones that aren’t.”
Inmates behind bars.
New federal government laws that would allow authorities to detain unrepentant extremists beyond the term of their sentence would, in theory, apply to many of SuperMax’s inhabitants. NSW Corrective Services Commissioner Severin says that, as it stands, virtually all of SuperMax’s sentenced terrorists would be candidates for the new sanction. But the legislation is untested. Besides, there are 30 Muslim extremists in SuperMax. Locking them all up indefinitely is not a realistic option, not if you want to avoid turning SuperMax into Guantanamo Bay. At some point they’re going to rejoin the community.
Corrective Services NSW offers a voluntary deradicalisation program, the Proactive Integrated Support Model or PRISM, but it is aimed at those at risk of radicalisation, not those already in its grip. Of the 13,000 prisoners in NSW jails, about 20 are signed up to the program. It is hard to know how effective PRISM is, but if it is like any other deradicalisation program the answer is, probably, not very.
The rise of Islamic State has spawned a multi-billion-dollar industry in so-called “countering violent extremism” programs. None claims a convincing success rate; most are abject failures. None of this is news to Piazza. “Nobody in the world knows what to do with these guys,” he says.
For the older terrorists, the point is moot. They’re too far gone. A few won’t talk to the staff anymore, let alone participate in deradicalisation programs. In the years he’s spent walking the corridors of SuperMax, Piazza has seen little evidence the men in his charge are ready to change. “When someone gets to that age of 40, they go, ‘F..k, you know what? I’ve had enough of this shit.’ Well, now we’re getting guys who are 50-51 years of age and they’re still going.” I ask Ryan what would happen if the older ones were thrown in with the general prison population. “They’d recruit. Simple as that.”
But for the younger ones, the picture is different. Ryan estimates that if all the unsentenced prisoners in SuperMax were released tomorrow, around half would never touch a Koran again: “They’re not that committed to the cause.” He thinks some of the younger prisoners might shed their extremist ideology if they could be separated from the older, harder ideologues early into their sentence. He describes what it’s like when prisoners first arrive in SuperMax. “They’ll be down in Unit Seven all by themselves and you can talk to them there,” he says. “After that initial shock, they’re polite. Then you get them up to the other deck with other influences and that’s when you lose them.”
Severin acknowledges the challenges of trying to rehabilitate hardened jihadis inside the SuperMax but to him the priority is clear. “For me, the responsibility to the rest of the system and the broader community, and national security for that matter, outweighs the negative effects that the concentration of those individuals might have.”
He has hinted this will change in the future. Last year Severin said Corrective Services NSW was examining a “differentiated” placement system, one that could see radical inmates separated. A report by NSW Inspector of Custodial Services Fiona Rafter, who was tasked last year with examining prison radicalisation, is likely to make similar recommendations. Corrective Services is also looking at a system that will allow radical inmates to be moved downward through the system prior to release.
Severin says that outside the SuperMax there is no widespread problem of radicalisation across the prison system, and by all accounts he is right. Of the 13,000 inmates confined in NSW, there have been just four confirmed cases where inmates have been radicalised, he says. That’s almost certainly an underestimate, but it’s hard to make the case that the prison system is teeming with murderous jihadis. When we visit the Muslim yard in Goulburn jail proper, the inmates make a show of praying but seem far more interested in horsing around for the cameras. This isn’t to make light of their beliefs or be naive about their crimes, but it seems anything but a hotbed of radical preaching. In two days wandering the yards of Goulburn they are the friendliest bunch of blokes we meet.
But as SuperMax starts disgorging its inmates, the risk to the community will be profound. None of this is the fault of Piazza and his staff. They are not social workers. They are prison officers whose job is to protect the community, something they do exceptionally well and under the most trying conditions. But thinking of the rangy Lebanese boy with the chest full of tatts prowling his cell like a caged animal, it is difficult not to believe we are kicking the can down the road. What happens when we get to the end?
Pauline Hanson insists addicts must cover the costs of their treatment
The West Australian 4 March 2017 PAUL MURRAY
Based on a recent opinion poll, more than half the West Australians who will vote for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation next weekend are driven by a dislike of both Islam and the major political parties.
So while those who will actually form government continue to spend like drunken sailors buying votes, One Nation gets the bulk of its support at no cost to the taxpayer.
As is usual with protest movements, Pauline Hanson’s is best known for what it opposes rather than for things it supports.
But many voters might be surprised that the fledgling WA arm of PHON has released a range of policies in recent weeks that have escaped widespread media scrutiny.
That’s despite the possibility Hanson could hold the balance of power in the Legislative Council in a week’s time and have an arm lock on the next government.
So even if PHON voters are not interested in policy detail — preferring Hanson’s broadbrush nationalism on things such as foreign ownership and immigration — everyone else should be concerned about the party’s platform.
That’s because the next Parliament might just be dancing on it to Pauline’s tune.
For example, PHON wants methamphetamine-addicted criminals to pay for their own compulsory — and indefinite — treatment. The cash will be taken by force if necessary.
“One Nation WA proposes a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy to help tackle the methamphetamine scourge in our community,” the policing and community safety policy says. “If a meth user is caught two times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control.
“Addicts must cover the costs of their treatment, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release.
“Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.”
Juvenile criminals, too, are in for a shock, with a promise to introduce controversial “broken windows” laws in WA. They crack down on minor crimes to create an atmosphere of law and order but are criticised for being inherently unjust and not addressing the causes of disorder, which are often racial.
“A philosophy of coming down hard on minor offences with juveniles in particular in order to deter future offending,” is how the PHON policy describes the approach.
The party also promises to examine new laws making parents accountable for the criminal behaviour of their children. It also supports a “Fagin’s Law” approach which targets those procuring young people to commit offences.
PHON also wants to build more prisons, for punishment rather than rehabilitation, and to make life inside tougher.
“Prisons are no longer a deterrent to crime,” the party says. “Society as a whole needs to consider what role prisons play in punishment and rehabilitation.
“Prisons should not be the home prisoners never had. We believe sufficiently punitive measures should exist for lawbreakers.”
Tough-on-crime promises are standard at election time, but the One Nation policies released so far miss several hot-button issues such as debt reduction and WA’s GST share and strangely ignore health, the biggest spending part of the Budget. There’s nothing yet on electricity prices, other than keeping Western Power in State hands — which doesn’t stop costs rising and won’t cut debt — but it wants to drive down gas prices by reserving more for domestic use.
On affordable housing, PHON says the key is to cut immigration levels and deter foreign buyers with a 20 per cent penalty tax. Labor wants a 4 per cent surcharge which it says would raise $21 million.
PHON wants no “racial/ethnic preferences” in public housing allocations and promises a minimum of 15 per cent of all government land and home developments would be targeted at low-to-moderate income households.
The party also blames immigration for Perth’s congested roads and services.
So to “ease congestion, lift productivity, generate economic growth and jobs and keep our assets in Australian hands”, it is proposing to start its own bank.
“A WA Infrastructure Finance Corporation would be financed with seed funding and direct public funding and operate on a commercial basis,” the party says, clearly forgetting Brian Burke’s similar experiment with the WA Development Corporation.
“It would help finance infrastructure projects in our State, at concessional interest rates, thus spreading the costs across the generations who would benefit from these projects.
“This method would allow WA to finance and construct major projects while earning a return for the taxpayer. It would allow the government to cut its Budget expenditure, freeing up funds either to pay down debt or to invest in education, health, families, policing and other areas.”
Most of these policies are highly contentious — and in some cases deeply flawed — deserving scrutiny against the likelihood that One Nation will have enough influence in the coming Parliament to exert substantial pressure on whoever forms government.
One Nation believes that communities and governments must take a strong stance if we are ever to maintain control or stop this epidemic.
Solutions for Ice Addicts
One Nation proposes a three strikes and you’re out . If an ice user is caught three times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control.
Addicts must cover the costs of their treatment, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release. Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.
Solutions for Dealers
Extremely harsh penalties should apply to anyone selling ice.
Each gram of ice sold, should equate to a mandatory year in prison.
Their assets will be sold to offset the costs and will be recoverable, even after time spent in prison.
If foreign nationals are convicted of drug crimes, a treaty will be sought for jail time to be done in their own country. Too many foreign nationals commit crimes within Australia because the rewards are far greater, and prison sentences are no deterrent.
It’s widely known as ICE, yet it’s also referred to as Crystal Meth or Methamphetamine. No matter how it’s referred to, the drug is with certainty, followed by misery.
Statistics now show there are 270,000 regular ‘ice’ users in Australia and the numbers are growing rapidly. Wherever I go throughout the country, the main issue raised by people is ice. Nurses and doctors are having to deal with ice users in our already overrun and understaffed hospitals, while other patients are forced to wait. A nurse informed me she was aware of a man losing his life due to a heart attack while waiting for doctors attending an ice user. This is simply unacceptable!
Our police and ambulance officers face regular abuse or attacks from overdosed ice users. Some of you might say this is a State Government issue, however this drug in particular is having national consequences and it’s about time the Federal Government encouraged the states to take a unified approach in combatting ice.
Two young mothers at Tweed Heads (NSW) told me the drug is out of control and ice can be purchased in a matter of 5 minutes in their community. They are in genuine fear for their children and themselves. It appears no place in Australia is free from ice and the devastation that comes with its use. Small country towns in the outback are also under attack. These once peaceful communities are being destroyed by crime, abuse and fear associated with ice. The Vulnerable and youth are being targeted, leaving parents and loved ones not knowing what to do, or where to go.
I have no sympathy for drug users. I do however for their families, friends and communities who deal with the destruction they cause. The ice users are ‘bloody idiots’ to say the least. Everyone has a choice in life. Being depressed, out of a job or feeling sorry for yourself is no reason to take ice. There are many people who can claim these ailments that turn to drugs. People have to start taking responsibility for their actions.
I am fed up with the innocent and taxpayers having to pick up the pieces for thugs and idiots, or irresponsible and selfish non-contributors in our society. I cannot understand the reasons why someone who is a hardworking, family person, wants to take ice?
Communities and governments must take a strong stance if we are ever to maintain control or stop this epidemic. I propose three strikes and you’re out. If an ice user is caught three times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control. They must cover the costs, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release. Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.
Extremely harsh penalties should apply to anyone selling ice. Each gram of ice sold, should equate to a mandatory year in prison. Their assets will be sold to offset the costs and will be recoverable, even after time spent in prison.
If foreign nationals are convicted of drug crimes, a treaty will be sought for jail time to be done in their own country. Too many foreign nationals commit crimes within Australia because the rewards are far greater, and prison sentences are no deterrent.
I am not interested in do-gooders supporting the ‘rights’ of these criminals. When greed and disregard overshadows the impact on human life and society as a whole, they should forfeit all freedoms.
JUDGES will pocket up to $500 a week extra in plump pay rises next year after blaming ice addicts for worsening workloads and job stress.
Federal Circuit Court judges have demanded a bonus two weeks’ holiday and a doubling of superannuation contributions and service leave.
The Remuneration Tribunal yesterday gave federal judges a 4.8 per cent bonus from January 1, swelling the salary of Australia’s first female High Court chief justice, Susan Kiefel, to $573,046 next year.
Other High Court judges will pocket an extra $23,818 — bumping their pay to $520,028.
Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant told the tribunal cases had “increased in complexity”. Picture: Hollie Adams
Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant told the tribunal cases had “increased in complexity’’ due to an increase in drug use — especially methamphetamine — as well as mental illness and allegations of sexual abuse and family violence.
She said some litigants posed a “real/significant threat’’ to judges.
And she warned the “extraordinary number of cases’’ involving family violence “has put the courts under considerable pressure’’.
“The parenting cases … require difficult fact-finding about contested issues including sexual abuse of children, family violence … mental health issues and substance abuse,’’ Chief Justice Bryant states in her submission, kept secret for a year and made public yesterday after a Freedom of Information request by The Daily Telegraph.
The Chief Judge of the FCC, John Pascoe, told the tribunal that Federal Circuit Court judges receive only four weeks’ holiday a year, compared to eight weeks for Family Court judges and 10 weeks for Federal Court or NSW District court judges.
He called for at least six weeks holidays — as well as six months long service leave after five years in the job.
“Annual leave of four weeks a year is inadequate given the demands of trial judge work,’’ his submission states.
“Failure to deal with these issues to date has had a deleterious effect on the health and wellbeing of judges of the court.’’
Cartoonist Warren’s perspective.
Chief Judge Pascoe said the Federal Circuit Court — which hears family law cases, refugee and migration claims, consumer lawsuits and counter-terrorism issues — was the “primary face of federal justice’’ and its judges should be paid 90 per cent of a Federal Court judge’s salary.
“The average Australian experiencing difficulties in family life, at work, or in their business will appear before this court,’’ he said.
Chief Justice Pascoe said Federal Circuit Court judges’ superannuation contributions should double from 15.4 per cent to 30 per cent of salary, because they were missing out on the usual judicial pension of 60 per cent of their salary after 10 years’ service.
But the tribunal rejected the claim, handing Federal Circuit Court judges a $17,046 pay rise instead of the $23,599 they asked for, and ignoring the holiday and superannuation demands. The Remuneration Tribunal ruled that a 4.8 per cent pay rise “recognises the increased complexities faced by judges … in an environment of continued economic and wages restraint’’.
Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe said superannuation contributions should double from 15.4 per cent to 30 per cent of salary. Picture: Renee Nowytarger
The judges’ pay rise is double the 2.4 per cent awarded to Australia’s poorest workers this year, and comes on top of a 2 per cent pay rise for federal judges in 2016. The federal Attorney- General’s Department fought the proposed increase, noting that Federal Circuit Court judges’ salaries had doubled between 2002 to $355,130 this year, while the average wage had risen 71 per cent to $80,415.
“Given the large number of judicial officers and the generous level of remuneration they receive, any percentage increase in judicial remuneration will affect the government’s budget position,’’ it told the tribunal.
The NSW government complained that any federal pay rises will trigger “me too’’ pay claims from judges in this state. NSW Statutory and Other Offices Remuneration Tribunal head Richard Grellman warned if NSW failed to match federal pay packets, it “may have an adverse impact on the ability of … NSW … to attract and retain the best available people to the NSW courts’’.
NSW judges are paid more than judges interstate, with the Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court earning $482,470 this year.
Brian Fitzpatrick said the trade union royal commission last year had failed to end corruption in the CFMEU union’s NSW division. “They are still taking money,” he said. “They don’t want to do anything about it.”
Aaron Patrick 20 Oct 2016 Australian Financial Review
A new construction industry regulator – one of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s top priorities – would end the corrupt union’s stranglehold over labour and reshape the entire industry, a union veteran says.
Brian Fitzpatrick, an organiser in the Construction, Mining, Forestry and Energy Union for 25 years, said the union was able to drive up wages because most workers were more loyal to it than their employers.
“It will shift the whole balance of power in the industry,” Mr Fitzpatrick said in an interview on Wednesday. “It will completely nullify the power of the union.”
He also said the trade union royal commission last year had failed to end corruption in the union’s NSW division. “They are still taking money,” he said. “They don’t want to do anything about it.”
The Australian Building and Construction Commission, which the Senate will consider approving next month, is shaping up as one of the bigger political battles of the year. It is unclear if the government has enough Senate votes to re-establish the commission. A failure would be a big political embarrassment.
Opponents, including ACTU secretary Ged Kearney and Greens leader Richard Di Natale, portray the commission as an attack on workers’ rights. But insiders like Mr Fitzpatrick see the agency as being used to shift industrial power away from the union, which critics say pushes up the cost of construction through aggressive bargaining and ignoring court rulings.
“Whoever gets the rule of law on their side will entirely be in control,” said Mr Fitzpatrick, who opposes the commission because he believes it will reduce union power.
A study by the Productivity Commission two years ago found wages in the construction industry had risen faster than other industries since 1998. Infrastructure Australia, a government agency, commissioned research that found Australian projects were 40 per cent more expensive than in the US and required 30 to 35 per cent more labour.
Mr Fitzpatrick, 73, coordinated organisers for the union’s construction division until 2013 when he fell out with its leaders in NSW after complaining of being threatened by another union official.
The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, which was headed by former High Court judge Dyson Heydon, found the CFMEU didn’t properly investigate his complaint and that he was victimised after making it.
Mr Fitzpatrick, who is still a member of the union, said other members were disappointed it hadn’t been cleaned up since the royal commission last year recommended charges against several current and former CFMEU officials.
“The feeling among the workers is very disappointed because nothing has happened,” he said. “In NSW it’s definitely corrupt.”
The union declined to comment.
When he became an organiser at the union in the 1980s, Mr Fitzpatrick said it had it had tough probity rules that were rigorously enforced. That’s ended now, he said.
“We were a very militant union but we were clean,” he said. “You take a pair of shoelaces, you are out. If someone gives you a bottle of wine you give it to the girls for a raffle. That slipped away.”
Legal experts say the new agency, which was abolished by the Rudd Labor government, is designed to curtail industrial tactics used by the CFMEU rather than fight corruption within the union.
RMIT University professor Anthony Forsyth said the commission would likely only “moderate” the union’s behaviour.
“It has to be remembered that this union tends to run the gauntlet of whatever laws are in place, including the limits on industrial action,” he said.
The proposed law would give the agency authority over of transport of goods to building sites and oil platforms; create new rules against illegal picket lines; increase penalties for unlawful industrial action from $10,800 to $34,000 for individuals, and from $54,000 to $170,000 for unions; allow the agency to take legal action even if the union and construction company have settled a dispute; and increase federal control over the industrial practices of companies tendering for federally funded projects.
Some experts, including Professor Forsyth, believe one of the biggest effects of the law would be a building code that would substantially limit the CFMEU’s ability to get clauses in workplace agreements that reduce workplace flexibility.