THE mother of a Jewish boy who was forced to kiss the feet of a Muslim child last year has provided moving testimony at a public hearing as part of the Victorian Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections last Thursday.
In October 2019, it was reported her 12-year-old son had endured months of antisemitic bullying, before he was told to bow down or face the threat of violence by nine other youths. He was subsequently stalked and physically assaulted.
But seven months since the The AJN broke the story that made national and international headlines, the mother has said, “The outcome for us in real terms, has been nothing. Nothing.”
She added, “I find it incomprehensible that my son endured six months of racial and religious torture and no one has apologised or been held accountable.”
Following the media reports, the Victorian Department of Education and Training undertook an urgent review. The outcome was a call for a series of measures, and the mother was offered a viewing of a heavily redacted report. She says she was left with no support from the law, the school or the state government.
“And why?” she asked through tears, “Because there is nothing in any rule book that says anyone had to, or has to. There have been absolutely no apologies to date. It’s a disgrace to what I perceive as the fabric of Australia.”
Reflecting on what has been “the most horrendous experience”, the mother revealed she feared for her son’s life in the six-week period after he left Cheltenham Secondary College and began at a new school.
“And when I wasn’t able to be at home with my son, and couldn’t contact him, I’d race home thinking my son had taken his own life,” she sobbed. “Nothing will ever undo what happened to us. But I will be damned if I will let one more parent, one more child suffer the way we have.”
Following her account, committee deputy chair and Brighton MP James Newbury empathised “as a parent”.
“The institutions have failed you. And as someone who is a part of those institutions, that upsets me greatly,” he said.
“So, I want you to know how sorry I am on hearing your story, and your son’s story – and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” he said before succumbing to tears.
Committee member and Member for Caulfield David Southwick echoed Newbury’s sentiments, adding, “It has been a complete failure of a system.”