Indigenous people must assume responsibility for abuse
THERE are times in the business of journalism when, to borrow from Shakespeare, you write more in sorrow than in anger.
Sorry is a word much used of late. So many people are sorry.
They are so sorry that they are "taking the knee," genuflecting to the totems of political correctness to signal their virtue and praiseworthy social conscience.
I won't be bending my knee anytime soon but I am sorry, sorry that while shallow displays of false sympathy abound, the great tragedy of Indigenous rape and sexual abuse is ignored.
Occasionally this cesspit bubbles and a victim is revealed, the latest being a five-year-old boy allegedly raped on the Far North Queensland Indigenous community of Napranum, near Aurukun, by four youths, one under the age of 10 with the other alleged offenders aged between 10 and 13 years.
Forget for a moment, however, remote communities and cast your mind instead to Cairns where its sun-blessed shores and verdant hinterland are now being targeted by travellers confined for the moment to holidaying within Australia.
Few, however, will venture to West Cairns where the rate of sexual offending by Indigenous residents is almost six times higher than for non-Indigenous residents and where 72 per cent of the victims are under the age of 17.
These were the findings of a report commissioned in 2013 by the state government titled Preventing Youth Sexual Violence and Abuse in West Cairns and Aurukun.
So disturbing were its findings that it was effectively suppressed until a redacted version was released in 2016.
According to the report, if you lived in West Cairns you were 3.3 times more likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection than the rest of the community with a significant number of those infected being under the age of 10.
The population of West Cairns comprised 10 per cent of that of the entire city but was home to 55 per cent of youth sexual offenders.
Sexual attitudes involved strong themes of male sexual entitlement and dominance with youths tending to associate with peer groups for whom under-age sex was normalised.
The families of these youths were characterised by parental substance abuse, familial sexual abuse and lack of parental supervision.
Shocking though these figures might be, the report concluded that the official data represented "the tip of the iceberg" with much of the sexual victimisation in and around West Cairns going undetected and unreported.
Ten thousand people can march through the streets of Brisbane protesting the death of a convicted criminal at the hands of police half a world away but no one cares about the indigenous lives that are being wrecked by sexual violence.
How about Indigenous people bending a knee and saying sorry for the dreadful abuse that is being suffered by their children in West Cairns?
Compared with Aurukun, however, West Cairns is akin to the Garden of Eden.
In Aurukun, the report found, the rate of sexually transmitted infections was 117 times that of the average of the general population, with 59 per cent of those infected suffering from syphilis.
A lack of adult supervision, substance abuse, peer norms concerning the acceptability of sex, often from as young as 10 years were found to be common. See a trend emerging here?
What would be more beneficial - pulling down a statue of Captain Cook, burning an Australian flag, shifting the date of Australia Day or taking responsibility for the plight of sexually abused Indigenous children?
While most pre-pubescent Australian kids are enjoying the last years of their childhood, it's a bit different in Aurukun were the report found most children in the community appeared to be sexually involved, usually with peers and adolescents but also sometimes with adults, by the age of 10-12 years with dating behaviour largely absent.
Life might be tough in West Cairns but in Aurukun, the rate of sexual offences was three times higher.
Once more the report concluded that almost all of the actual sexual violence and abuse in Aurukun went undetected and unreported.
Corporate chiefs beat their breasts and change the name of a breakfast cereal or a brand of beer to prove to the world that they are not racists. They bleat about inclusiveness.
Stan Grant moans on national, taxpayer-funded television about his tough life as an indigenous person, either mindfully or blissfully unaware of the privileged life he has led.
Try telling the kids in West Cairns and Aurukun what a rough ride you've had, Stan.
Governments flail about, often with the best intentions, in attempting to address these problems but the attitudes towards sexual violence and exploitation would seem to be deeply ingrained.
The result is that nothing ever changes. It seems that the only way to alter this is for Indigenous people to assume responsibility for the remorseless abuse of generation after generation of their children and do something about it themselves.
The white fellas have had a go and achieved little. Now it's their turn.
Originally published as Indigenous people must assume responsibility for abuse