The ESRC and the Futures of Criminological Research: A BSC/CCJ Symposium

This event was organised by the BSC, in conjunction with the editorial team from our journal Criminology & Criminal Justice

 

Dr Charlotte Harris and Dr Helen Jones, British Society of Criminology

The futures (nature, funding and publishing) of criminological research was the topic of a day event at the beautiful Adam Lecture Theatre, Old College at the Edinburgh Law School, University of Edinburgh at the beginning of April 2019. The event was organised by ourselves at the BSC, in conjunction with the editorial team from our journal Criminology & Criminal Justice.

What came most clearly from the day and the range of discussions and discussion topics (charismatically chaired by 2015 BSC Policing Network article prize winner Dr Genevieve Lennon, Strathclyde University) will come as no surprise to many of our members – the wide sphere and reach of the criminology discipline and its practitioners’ interests, insights and concerns. For contemporaneous observations please see the Twitter comments

Professor Richard Sparks began the event with a presenation based on his Crime and Justice ‘think piece’ commissioned by the ESRC to ‘inform decision-making around potential future investment in strategic research initiatives and related research activities’ (see the original guidance notes here).  This was one of 13 such ‘think pieces’ covering various aspects of the research remit of the funding body from Ageing to Sustainable and equitable (big) data infrastructure.

Screenshot_2019-04-30_Diana_Miranda_on_Twitter

You may remember that Richard spent some time garnering views from the criminological community last year helped in part by the BSC and his eventual report covered many bases, though finally settling on three ‘propositions’ (and if you have better eyesight than mine you might make out from the slide above Richard’s head), Violence (a new look taking in the multi-faceted nature of modern, individual and group, physical and technological violence); Punishment Conviction and Beyond; and Global Challenges and Global Harms.

Professor Sandra Walklate, President Elect of the BSC, and Professor Pamela Davies, Vice President of the BSC responded to the talk offering more perspectives on criminology, the community, research, focus and methodology.

Sandra spoke about the impact of the REF/TEF administrative context to criminological research, a misplaced focus on the concerns of the global north, and the positives and negatives of slow and fast – reactive? – criminology.  She spoke additionally from the perspective as Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Criminology (BJC) which the BSC historically supports by giving all full members access. She also spoke with interesting insight into the work of the winners of the Radzinowicz prize, awarded by the editors of the BJC for ‘contribution to knowledge of criminal justice issues and the development of criminology’: none of which was ESRC-funded, or seemingly funded outwith university employment at all.  Sandra also spoke about ‘Plan S’, the proposal by the European-wide Coalition S of funding bodies including UKRI,  for all publicly-funded research to be published only in ‘compliant’ open access journals – those where all articles published are without embargo fully available to read without payment – into which number neither Criminology & Criminal Justice nor BJC currently fall.

Pam followed up with comments about further aspects of criminology and the criminological community. She spoke about the inhabitants of that community in terms of the contract recently won by Northumbria University, to offer degree programmes to police recruits and the nature and procedures of recruiting new criminology lecturers. She also discussed some emerging insights from the BSC National Criminology Survey undertaken last year, and to be the subject of a paper at this year’s BSC annual conference at Lincoln, about how widely public funds are spread within that research community, specifically the proportions between post- and pre-92 institutions.

The last of the formal presentations came from Criminology & Criminal Justice editors-in-chief: Dr Sarah Armstrong, Professor Michele Burman and Professor Laura Piacentini.  The team, who have made inroads on further internationalising the journal (not least by making the submission process supportive), spoke about the need to be transparent about academic workload pressures. They also highlighted the relative dearth of submissions about technology that go beyond the local and evaluative, and similarly the need to be more theoretically challenging within governance research than small scale policy implementation, with a concomitant restraint about the merits of international policy transfer.

Dr Jacqui Karn, Head of Policy and Practice Impact at the ESRC, responded by saying the ESRC had to put limited resources where they will ‘make most difference’, adding that it is the responsibility of academics to make this case.  While Jacqui said she was not in a position to guarantee funding, she did point out that the ESRC had commissioned the think piece knowing that there were gaps in the field while acknowledging that criminology ‘was a strong community who put in strong bids’.  One promising area for funding she did highlight was working in partnership using administrative datasets. Dr Linda Cusworth from Lancaster University presented details about a ‘good news story’ from the family justice field where this approach has recently resulted in a research project funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

A panel then led discussion within the room. The panel members included Professor Allan Brimicombe, BSC Crime and Justice Statistics Network (Chair); Dr Teresa Degenhardt, Queen’s University Belfast; Anita Dockley, Research Director of The Howard League for Penal Reform (and user member of REF 2021 sub panel for social work and social policy and 2014 REF law sub panel); and Rachel Tuffin, Director of Knowledge and Innovation, College of Policing). Unfortunately, Professor Fiona Brookman, University of South Wales was unable to attend.  While, understandably, a large proportion of attendees were from Scotland, mainly from universities but also from HMICS, Police Scotland and the Scottish government, other participants ranged from professors, early career researchers and postgraduates, from as far afield as the University of Bangor, Derby University and the University of Oxford, as well as some independent researchers and writers.

Topics covered included:

  • the desirability of restoring the ESRC small grant scheme which was accessible to early career researchers who do not have the wherewithal to put together a 6-figure bid, and which encouraged exploratory work;
  • The need to support early career researchers in general in healthy work environments;
  • Dissemination is not Impact. Impact is Change;
  • Northern Ireland is not just about conflict;
  • The possibility of involving practitioners in research without them having to do a PhD to encourage dissemination;
  • The need to include writing time in funding;
  • The problems of job security in three-year funding patterns where researchers are out of a job each time the money runs out;
  • The problems in funding bodies not wanting to do anything risky while claiming to value innovation;
  • The intricacies of secondary data use – who has collected the data, how is it used, the dangers of algorithms; and
  • The managerialism of workplace targets being international, with larger student numbers, publication targets and journal specification widespread.

Richard’s think piece has not yet been published by the ESRC.

 

Contact

BSC Office: info@britsoccrim.org

 

Images: courtesy of LWYang from USA – University of Edinburgh, CC BY 2.0, and Diana Miranda via Twitter @DanaOHara

A closing space for civil society?

Francesca Kilpatrick reports from a roundtable discussion on the criminalisation of dissent held at the University of Brighton

Francesca Kilpatrick

Francesca Kilpatrick reports from a roundtable discussion on the criminalisation of dissent held at the University of Brighton.

 

 

 

On 1 March 2019, the Centre for Spatial, Environmental, and Cultural Politics (SECP) at the University of Brighton, financially supported by the British Society of Criminology, hosted a seminar and roundtable discussion entitled Criminalising Dissent: A Closing Space for Civil Society. The event was organised by BSC members Roxana Cavalcanti and Raphael Schlembach, as well as Deanna Dadusc and myself.

The conference gathered lawyers specialising in protest law, activists and academics to consider the growing trend of the criminalisation of protest and activism, and the relationship between protest and criminal justice. This trend has been researched extensively in North America and Europe, but the research capacity in the UK is more limited. This area is particularly deserving of renewed attention since the past decade saw the UN Special Rapporteur for the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association identify a ‘closing space for civil society’ in the UK, with specific concerns raised about counter-extremism strategies, surveillance of political activists, policing of protests and the Trade Union Act.

Event attendees heard about the ongoing undercover policing inquiry, the police role in defining acceptable dissent in the anti-fracking protests, and the legislation battles surrounding the Stansted 15 trial.

Lydia Dagostino, Director of Kellys Solicitors in Brighton and an experienced civil liberties lawyer, led the first discussion. Her talk on the undercover policing inquiry set out the current status of the almost 10-year investigation into police spying activities on over 1,000 groups, some of which are still unknown, including grieving families for justice, trade unions and activist collectives. She detailed the public dissatisfaction with the legal proceedings, and the resistance of the police to public scrutiny. This transitioned into a discussion on the constructed narratives of the inquiry; ‘good’ core participants (grieving families) versus ‘bad’ core participants (direct action protestors), and the police as victims of the inquiry suffering more than those spied upon.

Valerie Aston (University of East Anglia) and Will Jackson (Liverpool John Moores University) led a spirited second discussion on police responses to anti-fracking protests. Their research, some of it in collaboration with the Network for Police Monitoring, to track anti-fracking policing revealed that academic work suggesting an increase in human-rights based policing behaviour does not universally reflect protestors’ experiences. They discussed how anti-fracking protest is constructed as violent and criminal, with large arrest numbers being cited as proof of police necessity, when closer examination reveals most arrests were for non-violent behaviour. They also outlined various police methods of defining and punishing ‘unacceptable’ protest, including involving counterterrorist forces, as well as restraining orders on acquittal even for not-guilty verdicts.

Following and building upon discussion of these concerning developments, Graeme Hayes (Aston University) led a third session on the Stansted 15 trial and the new ways legislation is being used against activists. He explained how the Aviation and Maritime Security Act (AMSA) 1990 introduced after the Lockerbie bombing was used to construct airports as sites of democratic exception, as being airside without authorisation was argued to be inherently risky and endangering life by taking up police resources. He also discussed attempted use of a ‘necessity defence’ by the Stansted 15 as a depoliticised defence, and raised the question of how to critique wider practices and structures.

This provoked a wider discussion on the implications of certain legal defences, for example the ‘frack-free three’ successful use of a ‘good character defence’. Issues over Extinction Rebellion’s use of the ‘necessity’ guilty plea were also raised in relation to the youth climate strikes, as the child legal system is designed to be escaped via a not-guilty plea.

The afternoon sessions began with a workshop, with small groups of 2-4 identifying emergent themes and questions, which were then collated into displays that informed a wider group discussion. Emergent themes included:

  • Legitimacy in protest and policing
  • Constructing the activist as ‘good’ or ‘bad’
  • Surveillance/monitoring and data collection on protestors
  • The legal process as a disruption or punishment
  • Construction of protest as inherently violent
  • Use of counterterrorist forces
  • New use/abuse/misuse of existing laws and defences
  • Case law designed for crime being used for activism

These themes provoked discussion surrounding the political roles of the police and the diffusion and hybridisation of police functions throughout the state; disabled activists referred to the DWP, youth activists and mothers with children referred to social services, the NHS as a border force in data collection and so on. Finally, it was concluded that police-academic partnerships make it difficult to write and teach critically about police behaviour. These partnerships are common in the field of policing studies and provide increased data access, but this collaboration can be restrictive as any critique by the researcher risks damaging the relationship and preventing further study.

The last session of the conference addressed outcomes and potential for further collaboration between attendees.

Finally, the event’s collection of abstracts and short articles was highlighted as particularly useful.

All of the discussions throughout the day highlighted the need for combined expertise in addressing this important trend in contemporary criminal justice and protest behaviour. We hope all attendees found the promise of further collaboration to answer these questions as exciting as we did.

 

Also published on the SECP blog.

Contact

Francesca Kilpatrick is a PhD student at Brighton University, looking at the securitisation trend in UK climate change policy and how this impacts climate activism and protests.

Email: F.Kilpatrick1@uni.brighton.ac.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ecofrancesca

Images: courtesy of the author and Flickr

Examining Crime Through a Security Lens: The Case for a BSC Specialist Network on Security

This blog sets out the case for establishing a BSC specialist network on security and invites expressions of interest.

AlisonWakefieldDr Alison Wakefield is based at the University of Portsmouth where she runs the Professional Doctorate programme in Security Risk Management. She is also Chair of the Security Institute, the UK’s main professional association for security practitioners, and an Associate Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute.

Security is a significant theme of the research and innovation programmes of governments, inter-governmental organisations, think tanks and research foundations. It is likely that it will only become more significant. The latest edition of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) strategic intelligence report Global Strategic Trends opens with the statement that ‘the world is becoming ever more complex and volatile’, whereby ‘the only certainty about the future is its inherent uncertainty’. Among the numerous and interconnected challenges discussed in the report, it predicts an increasing threat from crime and extremism, and increasingly fragmented societies along with decreasing social cohesion. Criminology has much to contribute to our understanding of those multiple challenges and how we should deal with them, on topics ranging from social crime prevention to the relationship between crime, criminal justice and future technologies.

Most, if not all, criminological research can arguably be placed under a ‘security’ heading, especially if one takes an expansive view of the concept as depicted in the word cloud below. Yet ‘security’ has no obvious disciplinary home, as a cross-cutting research theme that spans many, if not most, academic disciplines. It is a foundational concept of international relations, which evolved as a field of study after the First World War as scholars sought to explain the causes of war and conditions for peace, and in which ‘security studies’ is a substantial sub-field. The relationship of security with criminology is not made obvious in a discipline that has traditionally made crime, as opposed to security, its conceptual focus, although conceptions of crime as harm perhaps bring criminology closer to security studies, and specifically to its schools of thought that favour a ‘human security’ perspective over a state-centric view of security. Today, priority areas for security research and policy development cut across the sciences, social sciences, humanities and business studies. These include the need to understand human behaviour better, the intersection of security with development as well as other areas of public policy, scientific and technological security solutions, the interactions of humans with such solutions, and the development of the risk management-based approaches that underpin these. Many of such areas require interdisciplinary teams and perspectives that are equipped to address the multiple facets of complex security problems.

The MoD report demonstrates that most of the risks and uncertainties facing the world in the twenty-first century can be conceptualised as security challenges. As a concept, ‘security’ is better suited than ‘crime’ both to considering the range of threats and response strategies at the global level, and to micro-managing risk in the most specific and localised of contexts. It embraces a much broader range of threats, associated with a wide variety of social, political, economic, technological, demographic and environmental conditions. It also presents enormous challenges, conceptually, analytically and practically. As a result, its study needs to draw on the expertise of multiple disciplines, at the multiple layers of strategy, policy and practice from the global to the local. Most academic disciplines and learned societies would benefit from making their contribution to the analysis of security challenges more explicit and better understood by their members, with security certain to be a central theme of research and innovation funding for the foreseeable future.

Security research and innovation

Research funding programmes with a focus on security include the Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research (PaCCS) programme, established by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) (formerly Research Councils UK) programme in 2008 as the Global Uncertainties Programme; the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Secure Societies Challenge; and the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST). CREST was launched in 2015 following a competitive process managed by the Economic and Social Research Council. A consortium of psychologists from the universities of Lancaster, Bath and Portsmouth was selected to develop and deliver a national hub for understanding, countering and mitigating security threats. CREST-funded projects cut across a variety of disciplines, but its home discipline reflects the significance now being afforded by the UK government to behavioural science as a dimension of the national security solutions of the present and future.

Other bodies that have formed within the UK to facilitate innovation and collaboration in the development and delivery of security solutions include the Joint Security and Resilience Centre (JSaRC), which is a partnership of UK central government and the security industry located in the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) within the Home Office, the Security and Resilience Industry Suppliers Community (RISC) and the Academic RISC. RISC was established in 2007 as a security industry alliance serving as the principal channel of communication with the OSCT and other government departments and agencies on security-related requirements and policy issues. It was founded by the trade associations ADS, the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) and techUK, and it informed the development of JSaRC. RISC’s corporate members are a range of representative bodies within the security sector, with around 6000 companies being represented through the participating organisations.

RISC’s activities have also included representing industry perspectives in submissions to the UK government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), Security Export Strategy and National Security Capability Review (NSCR). The chair of RISC and the Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime co-chair the Security and Resilience Growth Partnership (SRGP), a forum that informs government-industrial co-operation on security issues. In 2014 Academic RISC was founded, inspired by the RISC approach, as a network of universities to promote academic engagement in solving challenges in national security and resilience. Academic RISC is chaired by Professor Chris Hankin, Director of the Institute for Security Science and Technology, Imperial College, and now comprises 120 member universities which receive updates on opportunities circulated by the UK government.

The contribution of criminology

Criminology has a huge contribution to make to such initiatives. For example, as our government has recently acknowledged, the UK’s future resilience to cyber security threats relies on a significant expansion of the cyber security profession and its broadening out to encompass a much wider range of capabilities, beyond the current, limited routes into the profession primarily through the STEM disciplines. Cyber security is, above all, about the strategic management of risk, and needs to take much greater account of the human factors that are a central feature of both the threats and the solutions, the partnership working and intelligence expertise on which those solutions rely, and its significant legal, regulatory and ethical dimensions. These human considerations are at the heart of criminological thinking. Michael McGuire’s[i][ii] work to bring technology to the forefront of criminology has been a valuable step forward, mapping out key areas of our discipline’s contribution to understanding, utilising and managing technological advancement. The concepts of crime science and applied criminology have become increasingly influential within criminology with their emphasis on practical applications to crime problems. Many police studies scholars, myself included, have long advocated expansive conceptions of policing that recognise the multiple actors undertaking policing functions, and the centrality of partnerships and networks to protective security, intelligence-sharing and other security/policing functions. Ten years ago, Lucia Zedner explored the relationship between security and criminology in her influential textbook[iii] and, if the value and potential contribution of criminology is to be fully recognised by government and industry as the competition for security research funding becomes fiercer, it is time to look at this again. Security should not be seen as a sub-set of criminology. Rather, criminology is arguably a sub-set of security in the context of the research programmes and cross-sector collaboration initiatives to which I have referred, or at least needs to be communicated as being one of its essential components in responses to research and funding calls and within inter-disciplinary networking.

Recently, the critical criminologist Alex Vitale controversially claimed that criminology ‘has become a technocratic pursuit of small questions divorced from ethics’, but security is far more than a technocratic concept. Its breadth is illustrated by this far from exhaustive word cloud of security terms.

security concepts wordcloud

Indeed, in the aforementioned MoD report it is argued that ‘the defence and security community should consider placing human security (“the people”) at the centre of their world view’. This influential report and its American equivalent view the world through a security lens, but encompass the ‘megatrends’ confronting the world in the coming decades, across the areas of global governance, economic development, technological advancement, demographics, migration, health, resources, environment, conflict, disorder and insecurity. Critical perspectives are as important as any to our understanding of challenges across these broad areas and how we can confront them. Developing sub-fields of our discipline such as green criminology and post-conflict/Southern criminology address vital aspects of sustainable development and bring ethical considerations to the fore.

A proposal for a specialist network

Through this blog I want to solicit interest in forming a BSC specialist network on security, with a view to raising the collective profile of criminology within government and industry, and collaborating with others to examine and map out criminology’s contribution to our understanding of security challenges and the search for solutions. This extends across security concepts and definitions; the global ‘megatrends’ and national and local political and economic trends shaping our world today; security risks and threats that extend beyond traditional crimes to include human rights abuses, environmental threats to life, corporate crime and corruption, for example; the multiple actors and agencies from the global level downwards that influence the construction of security challenges and the responses to them; and the laws, strategies, policies and practices that make up those responses. Since these areas are so broad that they potentially encompass all topics of criminological interest, what I am specifically looking for is members who would see particular value in collaborating through the lens of security, stepping outside the constraints of a crime/criminal justice perspective on the world while bringing the same expertise and interests to the table. This also requires a shift in language and terminology, with a focus on security problems, security solutions, and security agencies and departments, alongside our common concerns of crime and criminal justice.

The overarching aim of the network would be to support the engagement of criminologists – individually and as a collective – with stakeholders globally, regionally, nationally and locally. While making shared research interests its priority, the network would help inform criminology teaching and student employability in related areas, enhancing links to possible guest speakers and employers: a further means of reinforcing the contribution and stature of criminology across a variety of dimensions. I am in a position to support the development of members’ connections with the corporate and commercial sectors in particular, through my current voluntary role as Chairman of the Security Institute, the UK’s main professional association for security practitioners with just under 3,000 members at the time of writing.

As a first step, I would like to organise a meeting at this year’s BSC conference at the University of Lincoln from 2nd to 5th July, and a panel session at which to introduce the proposal for a specialist network in security, as well as to showcase some of the important research being undertaken in this area. I would like to hear from BSC members who would be interested in participating in the network, forming a committee, meeting up at the conference and/or contributing to the conference panel, and would be grateful if expressions of interest could be emailed to me at alison.wakefield@port.ac.uk before Tuesday 7 May. I strongly hope the idea of such a network will be of interest to BSC members both old and new, and also welcome general comments and feedback.

[i] M.R. McGuire, Technology, Crime and Justice: The Question Concerning Technomia (Routledge 2012).

[ii] M.R. McGuire, T.J. Holt (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Technology, Crime and Justice (Routledge 2016).

[iii] L. Zedner, Security (Routledge 2009).

 

Contact

Dr Alison Wakefield, University of Portsmouth

Email: alison.wakefield@port.ac.uk

Twitter:  @DrAlisonsTweets

Website: http://www.port.ac.uk/institute-of-criminal-justice-studies/staff/dr-alison-wakefield.htm

 

Images: courtesy of the author

Unfinished Business: Moving beyond the Australian National Apology (2008) towards Indigenous justice

In 2008, a National Apology was offered on behalf of the Australian Government to the Indigenous people of Australia, particularly for the Stolen Generations. Although the apology was constructed under the guise of reconciliation, it represented a shift in political discourse with regards to strategies of governance. Over a decade later there is much unfinished business which needs to be addressed in the move towards Indigenous justice and a united Australia.

Sharon Hartles photoSharon Hartles is a MA Postgraduate Crime and Justice student with the Open University.  She has an interest in crimes of the powerful, including state and state-corporate crime.  In an explicit attempt to move beyond criminology, she draws upon a zemiological approach to evidence the social, political and economic context in which crime is produced and interwoven into society via socio-economic inequalities.

 

On the 13th February 2008, the seventy-third day of his Prime Ministership and his first act of office, the then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (on behalf of the government) moved a motion of Apology to the Indigenous Australians in which he stated: “For the pain, suffering and hurt of the stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we are sorry”. Dominant mediated discourse formulated The National Apology in order to offer the spirit of healing, to enable a future in which a new page in its history could be re-written: a future in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are reconciled and united as one Australian nation. For this reason, the 13th February 2008 was deemed to be a monumental day in Australia’s history. Selected Indigenous voices celebrated the occasion declaring how the apology had changed the history books for Aboriginal people.  On the tenth year anniversary of the National Apology, Australian Government sponsored propaganda commemorated what it had achieved so far in its  journey towards reconciling the nation. However, a removal of the rose tinted glasses reveals an alternative version of the ‘truth’.

The National Apology went firmly against the stance held by Kevin Rudd’s predecessor John Howard during his time as Prime Minister, March 1996 – December 2007, who refused to say the word sorry on the basis that Australians of today are not responsible for the actions of an earlier generation and he “did not subscribe to the black armband view of history”. Moreover, archived and seemly forgotten was the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 (NERB). Extreme authoritarian and totalitarian proposed interventions deemed a justified response to tackle the Aboriginal Problem. Programmes incorporated the following: a five year takeover of sixty Indigenous communities; soldiers and police were to oversee and enforce alcohol and pornography bans; quarantining of welfare payments for the purpose of ensuring money would be spent on necessities, and furthermore the compulsory testing of Indigenous children for signs of sexual abuse.  The NERB was the emergency response to address the serious problems highlighted in the Little Children are Sacred, 2007 report.  Apparently, the protection of children from ubiquitous social harm and abuse is of paramount concern to all Australians…  All Australians except those Indigenous communities who resided in the Northern Territory!  Incredulously, less than six months prior to the National Apology the NERB reflected populist and dominant state rhetoric which was clearly entrenched in colonial, imperialistic and white supremacist ethnocentrism.  With little irony, all of this was swept under the carpet with the election of a new Australian Prime Minister and government. Furthermore a disclaimer denounced this discourse to be that which was authorised by ‘previous’ Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and departments. In this way previous hegemonic ideology was excused.

With this in mind, a critical viewpoint may suggest that the offered National Apology was constructed in part to appease the widespread backlash and public outrage incited by the proposed NERB. Moreover, the National Apology constructed under the guise of reconciliation merely represents a shift in political discourse. Instead of favouring a crime-control approach taking the form of the NERB, the Australian Government shifted its approach to governing the Indigenous population through a social welfare approach, concealed under the veil of reconciliation.

Kevin Rudd, in his role of Prime Minister and on behalf of the new government offered an apology to the Indigenous people in atonement for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. Nevertheless, lessons have not been learnt and the practice of removing Indigenous children from their families persists. 17,664 Indigenous children were in out-of-home care in 2016-17, compared with 9,070 in 2007-08. Therefore this equates to a staggering 80% removal rate increase between 2007-08 to 2016-17, from 32.7 per 1,000 to 58.7 per 1,000. Furthermore, in contrast to the ten year anniversary propaganda promoted by the Australian Government, a reconciliation progress report published by the Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) (2010) offered an alternative truth. The ANTaR report noted the government failings to advance on the pledges in its reconciliation blueprint; making six recommendations to address this and ‘close the gaps‘. Eight year later (2018) ANTaR’s review highlights the governments continued drift away from the commitments it made in the original proposal.

And what of the constructed offered apology?  It was a very small step in the right direction, insofar as it partially acknowledged the brutal destruction of Aboriginal society which non-Indigenous populations has systematically and progressively erased from collective memory, referred to as the Great Australian Silence. However, can a partial half-truth or a historical revision of past events really unite the Australian nation? The constructed National Apology was flawless in its meticulous choice of discourse, and exemplified strategies of state-denial and state omission. ‘Mistreatments, mistakes, injustices, wrong-doings of the past’ NOT forced abduction which was sanctioned by colonial and post-colonial laws, underpinned by assumptions of superiority of the migrants (and their descendants).  All done in a bid to Westernise and civilise the Aborigines while eradicating their culture.  No mention at all of other state-sanctioned ‘crimes’ such as murders, land grabbing or cultural genocide or annihilation. In fact John Howard did not accept “that genocide had been practised against the Indigenous people”. ​

If the Australian Government truly wishes to strive towards Indigenous justice and bring together all Australian people and atone for its past, surely this must begin by being honest and acknowledging its state-sanctioned ‘crimes’ which have resulted in intergenerational trauma. While the Aboriginal people patiently wait, and show remarkable dignity and fortitude they continue to suffer a multitude of harms ranging from: physical, financial, economic, denial of cultural safety, emotional and psychological abuse, which have been (and are still being) inflicted upon them by the Australian Government’s constructed apologetic half-truths about past (and present) events.

Originally posted on:  sharonhartles.weebly.com

 

Contact

Sharon Hartles, MA Postgraduate Crime and Justice student with the Open University

Email: sh28739@ou.ac.uk

Twitter: @shartles1

Images: courtesy of Flickr