Monday, 1 April 2013

A child stolen from his parents.

Finally published is a story that every Australian should read, and as the same sort of thing went on in other countries, maybe that everyone should read.

‘The Pencil Case’ is a very powerful story, a story of a child and his sister, taken from parents who loved them to a place where no-one loved them. Paul’s parents were unable to provide decent housing, and sometimes he went hungry. So he was sentenced to a harsh prison for children, a place where living conditions were worse, he was always hungry, and he was routinely beaten by perverted evil women who liked to think they were ‘Brides of Christ.’

If he hadn’t refused to be confirmed as Catholic at the age of 12, he would have been taken to a different place, a place run by priests, a place where it is alleged that many suffered sexual abuse. Instead, he was beaten even more severely than usual, and taken to a different home, this time a home where the boys were treated far better.

A quote from the book:
‘Water-laden clouds blackened large expanses of grey sky and the wind cried and swept the town pavements clean of their litter the day Ern Stanley gathered up the voluminous legal file he had compiled over a month of journeying with me through time, and we drove through the gates of Dubbo airport. Later, Ern would remark that he came to associate the black day with the black story I told. Over a month of travel, listening, and observation, I had forced him to confront, full force, the ugly side of the society that fed him, and it scarred him.’

I have read the whole of this story, and also feel scarred. It is hard to stop thinking about it – so powerful. This is not a story of something a long time ago, or of a place far away. Paul is very close to my own age, I know the towns he speaks of. It is set in the fifties, an era of prosperity for Australia, and civilised values – civilised values apparently not shared by the Catholic church and its employees. The nuns separated brothers and sisters, allowed them no contact with family, deprived them of personal possessions, even of the clothes they arrived in, dressed them in poor clothes and half starved them. As if this was not enough, the poor children were repeatedly told they were scum, just as their parents were scum, and they were beaten on a regular basis.

Lorraine Cobcroft,
author of 'The Pencil Case.

Lorraine says that the nuns were brainwashed themselves and are not totally to blame. That they were convinced that the children were scum, and that only rigorous discipline, (frequent and often random 
beatings)  might save them from a life of crime.

I do not accept that. This was not the dark ages, this was the 1950s when I was a child. That one should not be cruel to children is as self evident as not being cruel to animals.

And then, of course, the Catholic Church. What sort of an organisation is it that when their employees bitterly damage children, are far more concerned with protecting the perpetrators and their own reputation than they are concerned with their crimes?

These nuns were guilty of criminal assault of children. This cannot and should not be dismissed. This is recent. These people are bad. They deserve public shame, if not to be actually thrown into prison.

This is the incident after Paul refused to be confirmed as Catholic.
“She beat me more savagely than I had ever been beaten before. She commenced the beating in her office, but I tried to run and she followed me and beat me in the hallway. I ran to the asphalt quadrangle between the kitchen and the playground. She followed me there and made a ceremony of beating me in front of fifty-eight pairs of watching eyes, stopping all pretence of play.
She beat me with the buckle end of her belt, and it cut my skin. She beat me until I fell to the ground, then she paused and ordered me to rise and beat me until I fell again. When, finally, I could not rise again, she thrashed and flogged, and when I curled up in a little ball to try to protect my tenderest parts from the blows, she kicked me again and again with that heavy black boot. All the while she shouted at me that I would take the Catholic faith, if she had to beat me to within an inch of my life to make me.
I would not yield.”

‘The Pencil Case’ is a story that should be heard. There are so few avenues for publication in Australia, and it is very much an Australian story. Lorraine has been told that it is 'too political' for publication - that it might finally have been acknowledged that Aboriginal people were taken from their parents for no good reason, but that no-one wanted to know that white kids also lost their families and lost their childhoods.

     Boys working in Ohio Boys' Home bootshop, 1960 mending shoes with rubber cut from old tyres.
Photo extracted from  'The Pencil Case.'

This story has just been published as an ebook.  The paperback is to follow.

Buy from Smashwords:

Also available from other online booksellers such as Amazon.   

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