Fighting by writing hopefully igniting

THE pen is mightier than the sword? Yeah, maybe. If the pen is able to write whatever it chooses.


Major Sandra Nottle (the supervisor I reported to in the Order) would likely believe the pen is mightier than the sword, but prayer and the spiritual armour of God is more powerful than the pen.

Yeah, maybe. If the prayer is able to command whatever it chooses.

Sandra often described our struggles every day in the Salvation Army as a battle between light and darkness. We’d have to attend prayer sessions in the morning before we started work, and in these sessions when I tried disguising extracurricular nap-time with prayer, she often used passages of the bible I cannot recall to highlight her point.

You have to admit, it's pretty cool though
You have to admit, it’s pretty cool though

I have enormous respect for Sandra and do not want to analyse this belief too much, but there are times I have been cynical of this view.

Not this week.

I had plans to write this blog about the year and certain key moments after. I want to write about the lady on the train who called me beautiful. I want to write about the aftermath of the Black Saturday fires. I want to write about Red Shield Appeal and about the two gay Christmas elves, and when I reported on the boy who died.

But I need to share the present feelings before they become the past.

Last week a foster couple came to meet me at my office. They told me of two children suffering severe medical problems who were returned to their indigenous community by the QLD Department of Communities. The medical problems were worsening, the couple said.

There are huge issues connected to this. The children weren’t being looked after. The Department were closed and wouldn’t give any details and cited the Child Protection Act of 1999 in the name of protecting the children but no doubt trying to cover their asses. And then you have to understand their reluctant to remove Indigenous children from their community because of the controversial policies with the Australian Government involving the stolen generation.

And so the protection of children are still being overruled by politics. When they told me their story I asked questions, I wanted to know their agenda, and they were open. They had paperwork to back their claims and after a weekend of worry I decided to write the story.

I thought that when the story was published it would be huge. I thought it would reach the city papers. I thought it might make the Sydney Morning Herald. Naive as I was, I thought it would be international.

I thought the editor wouldn’t believe in the story but to my surprise he did.

And then the Department warned us not to publish the story. We compromised. We published the story but took out all names and any information about the medical conditions.

The article is published here.

Then it was time to write an opinion piece. The editor told me to make the opinion piece powerful, but not to use inflammatory language. I knew what I had to do. I was scared. But I wrote it anyway. And then I handed it to my editor.

He read it quietly. “I can change it if it’s not appropriate,” I said.

“It’s really good. It’s the only way we could have gone about it,” he replied.

The next morning I was shaking, paranoid that everyone in town was watching me, judging me, thinking less of me.

And I was frustrated too. See, the Federal Budget was announced. And Ben Affleck’s first photograph as Batman was published.

You have to admit, it's pretty cool though.
You have to admit, it’s pretty cool though.

Of course, I’ve used this picture as my featured image. I thought it would trick more people into reading this, but I don’t believe the meaning behind Batman contradicts this blog.

Nobody gave a damn about policies regarding the treatment of children. We instead cared about how the Australian Government would reward or damn us.

I felt that somehow that if we won, my own personal cost was too great. Somehow I’d combined my past with my journalist persona, and I have this fear that somehow I’ve demolished a wall, and now I risk the past affecting my present and future.


Brave Move By Foster Parents

IT WAS not easy writing about the Mount Isa based couple who expressed concern for the welfare of two children they once provided care for, and the difficulty they are having with the Department of Communities. I rarely tell people that I spent three years in a foster home. People look at you differently when they learn this and there is a stigma attached. But I want to share this fact even if I am thought less of, because there is nothing wrong with it. I would like foster parents to know that their love and compassion can make a difference, as it did to me. And I would like the children to know they will not be children forever. They become adults too who can lead fulfilling and amazing lives, with the ability to empathise and relate to people who might be suffering for a wide range of reasons. The couple were willing to be named in this article and we wanted them to be as well. However, we cannot do so without identifying the children. We were reminded this several times by the department. It is frustrating we cannot do so because how can the media hold the government accountable if it is blockaded from the facts, even if it is in the name of protecting children? I fear for the couple and the trouble they might be in. They have done a brave thing and I hope other foster couples can relate to their situation. We talk of child abuse in the government system as if it is in the past. Even without the foster couple’s opinion, I know first hand it is not. – Chris Burns


2 thoughts on “Fighting by writing hopefully igniting

  1. Good for you! It is very difficult to keep a government in check with so many rules and regulations. That’s the same here. Post-Vietnam the media was further restricted here as many believe it’s the media’s fault we “lost” the war. That wasn’t it, but the military and others made a case for it and the public ended up supporting the idea. That same public now complains that the media is covering up too much information or just plain not sharing it. Though it also is because many media outlets are now owned by major corporations that also don’t want to lambaste themselves (or in essence) when something goes wrong. I can’t help but feel that things will turn around again. There’s that feeling in the air when people are tired of limited information coming forth about all kinds of things. It may mean more reliable, honest news from bloggers or other online sources instead, but it may happen. Keep up the good work! 🙂

    • p.s. – sorry been so absent! I’m working to climb out of my own hole that’s swallowed me whole for the last month and a half oy; hoping to get back on track now myself 🙂

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