The footage devastating Australians this week.

Two wet, sad little kids standing in a slither of shade next to a garage door, pleading for their mum. Their hands have been cable tied together. They're visibly confused and terrified. 

The live-stream footage of seven-year-old Stuart and six-year-old Margaret being restrained by a man in a Broome neighbourhood has been republished and shared across both social and traditional media in the last 24 hours. 

It's gut churning to watch. 

Video via Today Show

WA Police were called to Cable Beach on Tuesday after receiving a call at around 1.35pm about children swimming in the backyard of a vacant property.

When they arrived, officers say they found two children linked together at their wrists by black ties. An eight-year-old boy was also restrained, but left the scene before officers arrived.

The tradesman who restrained them - a 45-year-old man - claims the children had trespassed to use the pool six times in the past and said the backyard was damaged. 

It wasn't even his house, he'd arrived at the address to do a job. But in his mind, he was performing a citizen's arrest on behalf of his client after noticing the kids had snuck in there (again). 

It was 34 degrees in Broome yesterday and yes; the kids were doing the wrong thing. They were trespassing - obviously enticed by the pool to cool off in on a hot WA day. But they're kids. It's mind-boggling to think a grown man thinks it's ok to physically restrain two young children in this way, for any reason.


Their mother Rowena spoke to A Current Affair last night, telling the program, "I feel very upset because I was like in a fright when I first walked in, because all I asked ... 'can you please let my children go and we can wait for the police to attend to us.'

"I was afraid of him as well because he's very big, he's a big male, you know.

"I [stood] behind the fence while he kept my children, still in the yard ... I had a bit of tears coming down, yeah."

Stuart and Margaret pleaded for their mum to rescue them. To bring them water. There was nothing that she could do but wait for more than an hour.

"If it was the other way around, if [an] Aboriginal man was holding three white children like that and saying to the families, 'oh youse wait till the cops come', if [the Aboriginal man went] to court ... he would've been gone," Rowena told ACA.

WA Greens senator Dorinda Cox also pointed out the racial element to the act.

"As a mother, watching these children begging for their freedom and in fear was like watching a slow repeat of the historical racially based abuse experienced by previous generations of First Nations people," she said. 

Stuart and Margaret sat crying in the sun for their mum, as they waited for police. Image: Nine.


The man has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault and granted bail, with police alleging the "force used to restrain the children was not proportionate in the circumstances".

WA Police Acting Assistant Commissioner for Regional WA Rod Wilde noted that while there is a power under the Criminal Investigations Act to make a citizen's arrest where people can be restrained, there are conditions. 

"Whatever force you apply to arrest someone needs to be reasonable, given the age of the person involved, the vulnerability, and all of those things that be taken into account by the court.

"In this case, it's the basis of the charges that it's disproportionate to what is reasonable in the circumstances."


Outrage has been widespread.

Commissioner for Children and Young People Jacqueline McGowan-Jones said she was "appalled" after seeing the footage.

"It would appear these are very young and small children. They appear to be quite frightened in the circumstances. He is quite a large man. And they appear to be very nervous," she told ABC radio.

She also responded to commentary in defence of the restraint because 'the kids were doing the wrong thing.'

"These children are only six and seven. They don't have the neurodevelopment to understand cause and effect and consequences and actions. And that is legally known," she retorted.

Frankly, it's disturbing to think anyone could explain away this kind of behaviour. 

There is no justification for instilling such fear into small children. For denying them water. For leaving them, shackled in the hot sun.

Stuart had nightmares last night. His mum had to cuddle him back to sleep. 

This is the kind of incident that leaves long-lasting effects on a child's mind, and in this instance - as Human rights lawyer and children’s advocate Hannah McGlade told The Queenslander - "Aboriginal people do not feel that non-Aboriginal children would have been tied up and treated in such a cruel manner".

Thank goodness for that video, as hard as it is to watch. 

This kind of behaviour shouldn't be hidden in the shadows. 

Feature image: ABC.