Help flows after destruction
An old error is always more popular than a new truth. AAP/AP/Reuters You don’t see the best until you’ve witnessed the worst.
And so it was this week when a wave of public outrage directed at those responsible for senseless acts of vandalism at Kalgoorlie Cemetery turned into a tsunami of support from the local community as those charged with its care and maintenance started to clean up the mess.
Walking through the grounds and surveying the damage left behind by a group of juveniles last Saturday afternoon was heartbreaking and left many families in floods of tears — tears of sadness at such a desecration, tears of anger at how anyone in their right mind could do such a thing.
The infant memorial, due to open early next year, was a particular target for the wandering rabble. The grates over the fish pond were yanked off and thrown aside, the fish were found dead and pond stones were lifted and tossed across the grass.
Plants put in by volunteers in June had been ripped out.
The devastation stretched across some 200 sites, with glass domes, vases and headstones damaged or destroyed.
Volunteers from the Rotary Club of Kalgoorlie stepped forward and bought new plants and goldfish and Bunnings also donated plants, Planet Pet gave two tubs of fish food and staff from the cemetery said people had been dropping in or calling the office to find out how they could help.
What alarmed most was the ages of this little troop of six troublemakers. The police have referred three to the juvenile justice team and the rest are under the age of 10, so they cannot be held criminally responsible for their actions.
The obvious questions need to be asked. Where were the parents, and how have they failed so extraordinarily to teach their children right from wrong.
Why were they unsupervised and what on Earth could have prompted such wanton destruction?
Of course, the problems behind these questions run much deeper than simple lessons in morality.
But surely we can all agree the responsibility should start and end with the parents.
Talk of punishment ranged from forcing the children to help with the clean-up to making the parents foot the bill for the cost of repairs, none of which will happen.
The best lesson would be to have the children stand at each site as the grieving families set right the damage they caused. But that won’t happen either.
Some would say that’s too harsh a punishment; they are too young to understand the full ramifications of their actions, and with the right guidance they will in time regret what they have done and become upstanding members of the community.
Right now, that is of little comfort to those left picking up the pieces.
They want guarantees those responsible will learn from their mistakes, guarantees the parents will see their children’s behaviour as a wake-up call.
They — and we as a community — deserve at least that much. Daniel Newell is the editor of the Kalgoorlie Miner.
Signed Alston prints are available from www.westpix.com.au. Phone (08) 9482 2378
Damage to a memorial in Kalgoorlie Cemetery.