Indigenous Western Australians are being locked up in droves over ridiculously minor offences. Gerry Georgatos reports.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA suffers the nation’s highest incarceration rate and the First Nations people of the State suffer.
One in 13 of the State’s adult First Nations' males are presently incarcerated. When will it end?
Recently, a 20-year-old impoverished woman was hauled before a Western Australian Court for being destitute and hungry. This forced her to attempt walking out of a Salvation Army op shop with a few hand-me downs.
The Western Australian Police disgraced themselves in charging her. The judicial system humiliated itself in failing to throw out the case and, worse, in fining her.
This young woman does it tough and needs support but instead gets slapped with more than $1,000 in fines.
Where’s the so-called diversionary alternatives? Where’s the psychosocial support? Where’s the compassion, the understanding?
“Stealing” $9.40 worth of food from Coles.
“Stealing” $15 worth of donated second-hand clothes from a Salvation Army op shop.
It’s hard to justify punishing someone for trying to keep themselves alive and sane.
"You realise my exasperation."
There’s a harrowingly skewed moral compass that chases down the poorest and most vulnerable for pennies. Contextually, billions of dollars that should be paid in tax are squirrelled away in tax havens by the top end of town. These outlaws are rarely pursued with the missionary fervour that hangs out to dry the poor.
The irony of the Salvos, a manifest benevolence to the poor, coming down hard on its brethren poor is dramatically breathtaking. Subsequent this young woman’s court ordeal, the Salvation Army management have discussed this young woman’s plight. They agreed that police should not have been called in and are inquiring further.
I shook my head as penalty after penalty – fines – were dished out to someone who cannot afford it. She now has $1,000 plus in fines she has no prospect of paying.
Do you think if this young woman could not afford $9.40 worth of food nor rags from an op shop, that she will all of a sudden be able to afford $1,000 in fines?
THIS IS NOT A ONCE OFF THING
My heart ached for this young woman. While she was reduced to a statistic in that Court, and denied love and compassion, I remembered Johnny Warramarrba.
Johnny was a 15-year-old orphan. He “stole” $90 worth of stationery.
Johnny’s mother died when he was a baby. Johnny’s dad was killed in a car accident when he was 11. His grandmother looked after him.
It was 9 February 2000, when he was arrested in his Groote Eylandt home for the stealing of $90 of stationery.
There was no salt-of-earth rapport, no counselling, but he was journeyed by police 800 kilometres to Darwin and jailed in Don Dale.