“How’s that, that bit alright?”
The child nods.
“There ya go. Alright, you keep chillin’ out, yeah?”
The child quietly responds. “Yeah.”
Chastened, the door closes and the child is left alone to think about what he’s done.
* * *
Without knowing the context, this could be any other scene between a child and an adult.
Maybe they are being sent to their bedroom for being naughty. Maybe they are being tucked into bed after a tantrum, being told there’s no dinner for misbehaving. Maybe they’ll fall into a deep – if not a little bit hungry – sleep until the morning, when they would get a hug and a gentle tap on the nose for acting up.
But this is not your ‘normal’ Australian interaction between an adult and a child.
For starters, the child is in chains. It’s a young boy and, at just 17, he is manacled to the floor by his feet and to a metal chair by his hands. His neck is bound and held to the chair with a black rope.
Is he crying? Perhaps, but you cannot see a face because it is underneath a hood. My guess is that he learnt to stop crying about being treated this way a long time ago.
Topless, his soft, child-like belly rests on the white prison-issue pants, breathing heavily. Without a face, or a voice, all we can see is a young and frightened boy.
This is not a man. This is not a hardened criminal. This is your little brother, your son, your teenage neighbour. This is Dylan Voller, and he is Australian. This is happening to him IN Australia. BY Australians.
I wonder if Dylan knows that to be Australian at the moment, apparently, is to be extremely lucky?
Whenever the topic of terrorism leaks into my day-to-day conversations – which, given the current climate, is quite often – so many of us find ourselves saying the same thing.
“We are so lucky to be in Australia. We’re so lucky to be isolated from the conflict in Europe. We are so lucky to be safe here.”
The unlucky? Well, the poor sods, they’re on the other side of the world. Genuine pity is expressed for those unlucky enough to be living in Paris, in Nice, in Munich. (For those with a slightly wider scope, a more distilled pity is held for those in Kabul and Turkey.)
We feel sorry for them. They are unlucky, and we are not. We feel blessed to be stranded 10,000 miles away here in Australia, where our version of the ‘war on terrorism’ is being fought with Halal snack packs and ignorant blonde television presenters.
We are the lucky country. Right?
Wrong. You, reader, might be. But for so many Australians – the poor, the indigenous, the Muslim, the female, the homeless, the elderly – they couldn’t be further from ‘lucky’ if they tried.