Gerry Georgatos The young boy convicted of marijuana possession will be home in Australia come Christmas. How many of Indonesia's most impoverished children, aged 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 years of age will be in an Australian adult prison on Christmas Day? More than fifty - even though the Prime Minister says 'only' 17, the Attorney-General says 27, the Australian Federal Police say 32.
These children, who have committed no crime under international and humanitarian laws, in assisting in the safe passage of Asylum Seekers to our shores, as cooks and deckhands have been wrongly remanded or convicted as perceived people smugglers.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd have cried out in outrage for an Australian child who was before an appropriate jurisdiction in Indonesia however they have done absolutely nothing to remedy the fact that Indonesian children are in Australian adult prisons.
Many for far too long passed the buck, especially Ministers for Corrective Services, Attorney-Generals, Justice Departments, the Department of Immmigration and Citizenship (which has the audacity to be a sponsor of the Human Rights Awards for the Australian Human Rights Commission), even the Australian Federal Police, and for quite some time much of the mainstream news media (it has not been easy pushing the news media to consider the news worthiness and the throughcare journalism of these children languishing in our prisons). Most importantly the buck, where it should have stopped, was also passed on into abysmal silence by the Office of the Prime Minister of Australia, Miss Julia Gillard - whom I met in person about these children languishing in adult prisons - on July 20. Her lack of moral leadership has been a disgrace.
It took quite some time to get the Australian Greens on board to ask questions in the Australian Senate and the Estimates, however finally in October after meeting with Senators Lee Rhiannon and Sarah Hansen-Young this has finally come - and it was pivotal.
The Australian Human Rights Commission, its Human Rights Unit, is now on board with a national review and inquiry and this too is pivotal.
Many have worked very hard, and the saw the of news journalists and lawyers on board is growing - however many children still continue to languish - please let us not forget the Indonesian children who were fisher people convicted of fishing in excised waters - they are not part of the terms of reference of the various reviews or of the questions in the Senate - I came across them before I came across the young cooks and deckhands in our adult prisons.
What has been achieved thus far is attrituble to the likes of lawyers such as Terry Fisher, Mark Plunkett, David Svoboda, Edwina Lloyd and others. They have carved out the manner and ethos with which lawyers should represent their clients. Thanks to the news journalists, particularly Jane Hammond of The West Australian who broke the first serious article on the issues, followed by Lindsay Murdoch of The Age, whose articles were syndicated across the country, followed by Steve Pennells of The West Australian who went to Indonesia to investigate, and journalists Alana Buckley-Carr, Chris Jackman, Mark Dodd, Natalie O'Brien, Hagar Cohen, Debbie Guest, and more. However special thanks to the ABC for its persistence and in particular to Steve Cannane of The DRUM.
Much is owed to Eko Waluyo, a Sydney based university student and Indonesian human rights activist whom along with Edwina Lloyd, a lawyer representing an intellectually impaired fifteen year old Indonesian child in a Sydney adult prison, coordinated with me four community forums in Sydney which contributed to making a pivotal difference and gaining the attention of news media, of national and international agencies, of lawyers and of our citizenry, and which coalesced Indonesian Embassy and Consular officials. Eventually, UNICEF in Geneva was tabled the plight of Indonesian children in Australian adult prisons.
The whole story and of what needs to be done will be featured by Indymedia and other sites tommorrow. Importantly, one must applaud that such a site as Indymedia Australia is available to ensure people are heard and the truth unfettered, because I do know that news media - Australia wide - and government and lawyers right across the country and various other agencies have been following the unfolding campaign and dissemination on this site - Indymedia Australia.
When enough rise, change happens.
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