Australia – bad for autistic people

29 Nov

Recent events in Australia seem to indicate that if you are autistic then it would be a bad place to be. For a start, you can get away with murdering autistic kids.

Daniela Dawes suffocated her 10-year-old son, Jason, at their western Sydney home in August 2003, before attempting to commit suicide. She was placed on a five-year good behaviour bond after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

No prison time whatsoever for killing her son. Of course, it was good to see that the Australian legal system had its priorities right:

Handing down his findings on October 13, Deputy State Coroner Carl Milovanovich said the case was one of the more difficult he had dealt with. He said that, aside from the “tragic outcome” of the boy’s death, there had been a family breakdown and domestic violence. “Perhaps professional, timely and appropriate resourcing at an early stage may have avoided many of those outcomes,” Mr Milovanovich said.

Yeah, perhaps. Now how about legal justice for Jason? Or doesn’t he count?

And how is poor, poor Ms Dawes doing now? She’s still finding time for the odd threat:

Asked about how she was coping with the loss of her son, Mrs Dawes said: “Every day is an absolute struggle. My boy should be with me and the reason that he’s not is a result of my depression. The unfortunate case here is that parents that are struggling with disabled children do suffer depression and there is a strong possibility that this tragedy could happen again.”

So, confirmation that in Australia at least, you literally can get away with murder. Sickening.

But then, why should we be surprised? The disposable nature of disability was emphasised at the highest level of Australian government recently when Federal Community Services Minister, John Cobb MP:

…..told a group of people with disabilities that if he had a disabled child he would send it to live in an institution

Queensland Advocacy chief Kevin Cocks, who was present, claimed Mr Cobb said that “if he had a child with a disability and it was going to cause stress he would get rid of it”. “He said he had lots of children in his family and if he had a child that would cause stress he would get rid of it – they were his words,” he said.

People with Disability Australia president Heidi Forrest said she left the room in tears.

“I’ve got a child with a disability too,” Ms Forrest said. “I love my son and that was kind of saying that I’m no good for trying to have my son.”

Ms Forrest said the meeting was held to discuss advocacy for the disabled, not “shutting them away or picking and choosing who you want to live in our society”.

“Our concern was that if what he said is indicative about what the Government thinks then we’re in a lot of trouble,” she said.

I think Ms Forrest is absolutely right – Australia is in trouble. John Cobb (who’s email details you can get on his contact page) seems to have sanctioned the belief that disabled people are surplus to requirements in Australia. If only there were more fine, upstanding citizens like Daniela Dawes then Australia wouldn’t have to worry any more.

6 Responses to “Australia – bad for autistic people”

  1. Friend in California November 29, 2006 at 15:47 #

    Kevin –
    I am continually stunned by how these murderous parents choose to deal with their disabled children.
    I attended an autism conference here in the U.S. in August. Part of the conference schedule was a fathers-only luncheon, which I thought was a great idea. Until, that is, the moderator of the luncheon asked the question of the 30 or so dads in attendance: “How many of us have considered taking our own lives or the lives of our children?” I was shocked at the question, but even more so at the response – over half the room raised their hands to indicate “yes”. This is quite a statement on the state of our society. Why is there such a sense of entitlement in people these days that they “deserve” to have a family life straight out of a Norman Rockwell print? Why is it so hard for some to feel joy and pride in their children – regardless of whether their children are NT, autistic, or anything else. And how on earth do their thoughts wind so far down the path of evil, resulting in murder, abandonment, or even shame?

  2. sophia8 November 29, 2006 at 16:25 #

    Friend in California – thinking about doing something is not the same as doing it.
    Personally, I’ve often thought about suicide or murder (I don’t have a disabled child btw, I’ve merely been through difficult times). But I’ve never done it.
    You ask: “And how on earth do their thoughts wind so far down the path of evil, resulting in murder, abandonment, or even shame?”
    Think about it – none of those dads who raised their hands in response to the question were dead, or had dead children. So, although their thoughts had been at some point – in your view – “evil”, there was no resulting “murder, abandonment, or even shame”.

    But as to parents who do kill their disabled childen, I wouldn’t be quite so harsh on depressed parents as Kevin is. However, if a depressed person has the lucidity and energy to plan a murder, then they almost certainly aren’t seriously depressed (I have first-hand experience of depression). And, if they’re capable of planning and carrying out such an act, they are just as capable of recognising that they’re doing the wrong thing.
    Yes, society’s atitudes towards those who are (so-called) “less than perfect” certainly encourage this type of infanticide.

  3. Kev November 29, 2006 at 16:29 #

    _”Think about it – none of those dads who raised their hands in response to the question were dead, or had dead children.”_

    I think FIC’s point was that it was worrying to see how ‘acceptable’ that question was. Can you imagine such a question arising during a get together for Dad’s of non disabled kids?

  4. LB November 29, 2006 at 17:56 #

    Many of those fathers probably thought those were unacceptable thoughts – now they have confirmation that this is supposedly normal. This was not a private session with a therapist so what conclusions did some of these fathers get from this. This is also actually a form of manipulation to connect the group – much like a gang initiation or something. If anyone who raised their hand later tried to stand up and disagree with the group consensus than I’m sure there previous action would have been brought up to keep them in line.

  5. Friend in California November 29, 2006 at 18:19 #

    You are correct, Kevin. What surprised me first is that the question was asked at all, and second that I was one of the few in the room to whom it was a new concept. This is a thought that had never even crossed my mind as a possiblity. I acknowledge that clinical depression can lead to poor decision making, as indicated by Sophia, but there should never, ever be a viable excuse for deliberately taking the life of a child.

  6. sophia8 November 29, 2006 at 20:32 #

    Thanks, Kevin, for explaining. I neatly illustrated your point, didn’t I, by seeing it as normal to be bought to the brink of murder or suicide by looking after a disabled child. 😦

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