A school damaged. Trashed. Destroyed. Windows smashed, electrical wiring torn out, desks and preparatory work destroyed.
A $100,000 damage bill leaving a school that had only been opened by the Education Minister 24 hours earlier like a war zone.
The vandalisation of the high school shocking enough but even worse, the ages of the alleged offenders.
Images of the damage to Kalgoorlie Boulder Community High School via WA Education.
Three boys aged just 13 and another boy who has just turned 10.
An age where a young boy should be kicking a footy in the park, not ransacking a government building in the middle of the night. When a boy should be talking about the newest favour paddle pop out this summer and competing with his mates as to who can do the greatest ollie on his skateboard.
A 10-year-old who should be, in the dark of a weekend night, asleep in his bed with a loving parent or relative nearby watchful enough, and sober enough, to ensure their 10-year-old charge was safe.
But sadly this 10-year-old who allegedly committed this loathsome crime wasn’t safe or asleep. As the wheels of justice turn with his arrest and that of his three mates, talk has turned to how he really should be punished- if the allegations against him are proven true - and it’s not rehabilitation or engagement that authorities are calling for.
Nope it's a stick. A whack. A good hard beating with a cane is what the mayor of Kalgoorlie is calling for.
The young boy and the three teens arrested are from the Western Australian mining town of Kalgoorlie, a town in the spotlight this year after the death in August of 14-year-old Aboriginal boy Elijah Doughty, who was allegedly deliberately run down while riding a stolen motorbike.
Yesterday parents of the 1000 students at Kalgoorlie Boulder Community High School were asked to keep their children at home as the school repaired the damage, that came just over 24 hours after a high profile $45 million redevelopment was formally opened by Education Minister Peter Collier.
As the town simmers with anger at the vandalism one solution has been touted City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder mayor John Bowler has said he believes the state should reintroduce corporal punishment so parents could discipline naughty children by smacking them.
He said “a couple of whacks over the bum or the hand” might just be the ticket.
The damage to the Kalgoorlie Boulder Community High School via WA Education.
Mayor Bowler said “too often” if a youth enters juvenile detention “they just go away and come back better criminals,” Mr Bowler said, according to The West Australian.
“Maybe as a circuit breaker the magistrates would have the authority, with the consent of the parents, to give the child a couple of whacks over the bum or the hand.
“It might turn the kid's life around.”
Or, perhaps he has failed to consider it might further destroy it.
It might help re-enforce a kid’s view that violence is okay. It might undermine any trust that a child might have in authority. It might further hinder the child’s ability to regulate their emotions, to think rationally and cooperate.
City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder mayor John Bowler. Via Facebook.
As a commentator on Facebook wrote “Has it ever entered your mind that these kids behave this way because of receiving a few too many beatings from their parents already???"
We all should know from our deeply disturbing domestic violence statistics that the normalisation of violence in Australian culture is something we need to change, not legislate into a legal punishment.
There is no quick fix to the problems in towns like Kalgoorlie, towns with intense disadvantage, with casual racism an everyday problem, with poverty and domestic violence.
Violence is never the answer. Image via IStock.
Kalgoorlie itself has an entrenched problem with juvenile crime that has seen more than 150 students suspended from Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community High School so far this year.
It also has, as pointed out by Aboriginal elder Trevor Donaldson high homelessness, high poverty, a high suicide in Indigenous communities, mob, a high rate of deaths in custody and a high unemployment rate.
But to call for violence isn’t the solution. It’s never the solution. The solution is vast and complex and it starts with the families.
It then extends to community based programs, justice reinvestment – taking money out of prisons and putting it back into the community and engaging the local youth, not punishing them.
Kalgoorlie OIC senior sergeant Paul McComish said earlier this year when speaking on youth crime in the area that progress was being made.
“At the end of the day” he said “they are kids, they are doing the wrong thing, but I’m sure deep down they would really rather be doing good things.”
But in order to get them down that path as a society we have to agree that hitting them with a stick or a cane or beating them with a paddle or a strap is never going to help do those "good things."