By Keeping Mum
What is there to say when a Government Department breaks people’s trust and, worse, their privacy? And, worse again, when vulnerable children are involved, who have been through more than any human should in their lifetime?
Many children struggle every day at school. They struggle to get there, they get dragged into classrooms, they are locked in cupboards or cages, they are bullied by their peers and the very adults who are trusted with their care, they self-harm and some of them fantasise about, or worse yet, attempt to, end their lives to remove themselves from this existence.
And in some cases, these children are removed from school and their lives improve. Then their parents, poor, misguided individuals that they are, try to make the world a better place by writing a submission against unwise, unreasonable education regulations that would jeopardise the lives of other children, children they do not know, who will at some time be placed in the same situation but without the same advantages. They detail the challenges their child has faced, the hell-on-earth that child has endured and that they have survived. They ask that their submission be kept anonymous, to protect their child, who has already been through so much.
And the Department fails.
The Victorian Department of Education has failed children on so many levels. I would start with “Let me count the ways” but it would forever ruin a very lovely piece of writing for me and likely others so I will refrain. But suffice to say that what they have done (or failed to do in this case) is horrific.
My own child suffered at school. I detailed his challenges in one of my submissions, and asked that it be kept anonymous and all details withheld. The Department has failed me, but worse, they have failed my child.
I was not going to write that submission. I was going to stick with the other, dry submission I wrote, and leave it alone, because the story is not my story to tell. It’s my son’s story.
I am sitting here, crying and typing at the same time (and yes, that is as difficult as you might imagine), because I have failed my child. I am crying for him, for what should have been kept private, for him to tell alone. I should not have written that submission. I was going to leave it alone, but as time rolled on towards the 28th February deadline, it became increasingly and glaringly obvious that the Government was too arrogant and too rigid to unbend and listen to our concerns. It became obvious that nothing short of blood letting was going to sway them, and perhaps not even that. Worse yet, other parties, who claim to be Grass Roots, were also refusing to listen and making assumptions about us that are grossly untrue.
So, I wrote it.
We all, as a community, opened our hearts, and let people into the hardest times of our lives. When our children were at their lowest, when we were beyond terrified for them and grieving the loss of their innocence. All we asked was that our names be separated from our experiences. We shared our stories so others could understand the need. I would not say we shared our stories willingly, but we thought, if we remained anonymous, that we could put these stories into the collective consciousness and achieve something great.
I now see I was stupid and misguided.
I look back, and I wonder, how could I have trusted a Government Department to look after my child? They have failed him and other children so many times, on so many levels, how, how could I have trusted them? They are horrifically poor at record-keeping (4% compliance on a recent audit), and, even worse, with caring about children’s welfare. How could I have trusted them?
I should never have written that submission. But I should never have felt I had to write that submission. For if we had been heard, we would not have had to resort to exposing the very worst time of our lives for all and sundry to see. We could have kept it private, and in the past, acknowledged but not dredged up and re-lived in a futile attempt to have some bureaucrats listen to our side of the story.
And now, we are faced with one more bungling from the DET, who would have us believe that they have our children’s best interests at heart. We are faced with one more truth about a Department who cannot acknowledge their own limitations. They would have us believe that they are the beacon who will guide our children to a better quality education than would be had without their ‘assistance’.
I am sorry, my beautiful, wonderful boy. I should never have done it. Shame on me. And shame on the DET for failing us all. Again.