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Armstrong tackles child abuse in new novel preoccupies me. Then, I am inviting readers into that conversation – in this case, about how far our responsibility for the children around us extends. ‘This is a question that genuinely interests me and I don’t think there’s an absolute answer, although I’ve come to an answer for myself.’

Michael McDonald

Acclaimed Mullumbimby author Sarah Armstrong takes on the painful issue of child abuse in her third novel, Promise. The promise comes from neighbour Anna who believes Charlie, the 5-year-old girl next door, is being abused. She takes the drastic step of driving away with the child when Anna’s reports to police and Family and Community Services (FACS) fail to remove Charlie from harm’s way. Promise explores the emotional, ethical and legal impact of taking responsibility for an abused child. Fortunately for Anna and Charlie – and for the reader – the dilemma is resolved happily. This is not the case for all children. Armstrong started writing Promise after seeing media reports about a twoyear-old boy who died and whose mother was charged with his murder. continued from page 12 Animals Australia and others who are dedicated to ending the live-export trade. The animals cannot speak for themselves, so we must speak for them. Lyn FitzGibbon Bangalow

Big mistake

The beginnings of civilisation with the Neolithic revolution can be seen as a vast mistake rather than a sign of Homo sapiens coming into its own. The signature of the revolution was ploughing and animal husbandry. Science has since found humans are able to eat healthily without animal products and ploughing has been one step forward, two steps back.

The way forward? ‘In a television report, the boy’s neighbours explained how they’d been worried and had called FACS with their concerns,’ Sarah said. ‘I put myself in the shoes of those neighbours and wondered if I would wish that I’d just picked up the boy and run to safety with him. ‘That formed the premise of my book, although it’s clearly not that little boy’s story in any way. In terms of real-life sources, I spoke to several people who work or have Moreover, egalitarianism, or the understanding one human is worth no more than another, was mostly continued by tribal, pre-literate peoples. The civilised instead regressed to hierarchical social structures. ‘Regressed’ because hierarchical structures are part of the hominid world, whereas civilisation was supposed to be an advance from the limitations of human hominid origins. The growth of narcissism in western society can be seen as children reaching adulthood without successfully negotiating the personal growth stages where the ‘me’ of childhood naturally metamorphoses to ‘us’. Idealistic young adults are one of the symptoms of successful ne-

worked in child protection, and I feel confident that the scenario I paint is plausible.’ Armstrong’s work is not about moving her readers to action, however.

Exploring issues

‘I don’t start work on a novel planning to motivate readers to take some kind of action. Rather, I am exploring an issue that concerns me. ‘I am, effectively, involved in a long conversation with myself about something that gotiation of childhood where they look outward and attempt to aid the whole rather than particularly themselves. The political movement of libertarianism, on the other hand, can be seen as narcissism operating as encouragement of a current dysfunctional competitive rather than cooperative (or reciprocal) economic system. Libertarianism can be conceived to be based in ‘me’ rather than ‘us’, in the immature rather than the grown human, in the law of the jungle rather than compassion. Civilisation has been mostly a process of causing humans to turn their backs on humanness. Geoff Dawe Uki

We often read of dire problems arising from the stretched services of agencies such as FACS. Does Sarah see a better way forward for children at risk? ‘I don’t profess to be any kind of expert on child protection. However, I suspect that the majority of people who work in services such as FACS are hard-working and good-hearted, and – most significantly – pushed to their absolute limit. ‘They appear to be underfunded, stressed beyond belief, and stretched way too

Important talks

Thanks, Victor Marsh, for your letter last week. It is important that we have these conversations regarding religion, lifestyle choices, etc. Though the majority of Christians who view the Bible in the light of the New Testament, like myself, may not agree with some lifestyle choices, religious convictions, etc, we do not hate, fear or want to see any harm come to anyone. No need for another phobia. Christians are the most persecuted people group in the world. Thousands are killed each year and tens of thousands have been imprisoned over the decades for their faith. That’s men, women and children, who were

thin. After that two-year old boy died and his mother was charged with his murder, the FACS workers at the local office went out on strike to protest their long-term lack of resources which meant that they couldn’t go and check up on him that week when he died. ‘If there are better ways forward for children at risk, I am not the person to identify or suggest them but, as a community member, I wish we placed greater value on child protection and pushed politicians to properly fund the sector.’ Northern rivers magistrate – and poet – David Heilpern will be launching Promise at the Mullumbimby Bowling Club on Saturday July 2, 2–4pm. ‘There’s a court scene in the book and, in the course of my research, David Heilpern showed me around the Lismore courts,’ said Sarah. ‘He seems the perfect perjust going about their lives (something you rarely see in the media). The persecution in its many forms is only going to get worse as the silencing of Christians shows no sign of abating. There are a lot of people who have been hurt (abused) out there. How they got to where they are (lifestyle) is being ignored. I know, who really wants to hear the truth? It hurts. Jesus heals the broken in heart and binds up their wounds, this is just one of his promises to us. Paul Hamill Bangalow

A little tweaking

The faceless men controlling the Liberals knew they

son to launch it as he would regularly see, in his court, the long-reaching effects – both personal and society-wide – of the abuse and neglect of children.’ If you want to attend the launch, RSVP ASAP to sarah@sarah-armstrong.com. Q Sarah Armstrong’s first novel, Salt Rain, was shortlisted for the 2005 Miles Franklin Award, the Queensland Premier’s Literary Prize and the Dobbie Literary Award. Her second novel, His Other House, was published in 2015 to wide critical acclaim. Sarah also won a Walkley Award in 1993 as a journalist with ABC Radio Current Affairs. See more at sarah-armstrong.com. Q If this article raises personal issues for you, you can call the National Child Abuse Helpline 1800 99 10 99, Lifeline 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.

would lose power if Abbott remained PM. With a little tweaking they allowed him to be replaced by Turnbull, to bring the people on side. Voters would love the integrity Turnbull promised enough to get the party over the line, they reasoned. They had the power, and were cocky enough to rein him in, to retreat from his promises. Abbott has already volunteered to take a seat in cabinet. With some more adjustment after re-election, it won’t be hard to get the Ship of State to re-adjust to the ‘right’ course, with or without Malcolm’s help. Simple as that. Hayo van der Woude Mullumbimby

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14 June 29, 2016 The Byron Shire Echo

Byron Shire Echo archives: www.echo.net.au/byron-echo

Byron Shire Echo – Issue 31.03 – 29/06/2016  

Free, independent weekly newspaper from the Byron Shire in northern NSW, Australia.

Byron Shire Echo – Issue 31.03 – 29/06/2016  

Free, independent weekly newspaper from the Byron Shire in northern NSW, Australia.