It saddens me greatly to see the chorus of Aboriginal people calling for the Aurukun rape perpetrators to be sent to gaol. Some of those same spokespeople were calling for Aboriginal people to stay out of gaol in the 90s. The dominant colonial paradigm has only offered gaol or total neglect as the options to deal with such things as child rape or anything else in Aboriginal communities, despite the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody such as the strengthening of customary law, non custodial corrections options and Aboriginal corrections facilities.
Sending perpetrators to gaol will not heal them but make them worse through their gaol experience, which is a key source of the consciousness of rape and predatory sexuality. The prison sex ethic is reinforced and then sent back to the community upon release, eventually. This is not a new phenomenon, prison sexuality has been a big factor in Aboriginal communities for a long time, it is taking its toll today. Sending perpetrators to gaol is just perpetuating the cycle of violence. Increased sentences such as Rudd, Bligh and the Aboriginal leadership are calling for is no solution at all.
The youths involved in the Aurukun rape should be subjected to customary law men’s business and resolution, not gaol. Current law makes elders liable to charges of kidnap and child abuse if this were to occur.
All the focus is on the perpetrators and the poor little victim is offered little except counselling and detachment from family, community and culture. She needs to go through customary law womens business for her healing too, as a much greater priority than punishing or healing the perpetrators.
But in our continued denial of the history of the country we have outlawed customary law. We continue to insist that more police, prisons and the army- the colonial mode – intervening into Aboriginal lives will somehow deliver justice. But it makes things worse, it will just perpetuate the cycles of violence.