A 14-YEAR-old manages to get both the Prime Minister and Kevin Rudd’s wife Therese Rein on the phone, and the media flocks to his home in a bid to be the first to tell his side of the story.
This is not a child protege, nor is it a 14-year-old whose talents will deliver Olympic glory.
This Year 9 teenager is a convicted drug felon, having been caught buying 3.6g of marijuana on the streets of Kuta, and the fact that today he is at home is testament to the narrow escape he’s had from the claws of the Indonesian legal system.
His get-out-of-jail-free card is not a good luck charm he is likely to ever try again, but why after all the publicity generated by the cases of Schapelle Corby and the Bali Nine do so many continue to dice with death in Bali?
The answer is two-fold. Firstly, our acceptance of drugs inAustralia has now reached the point where we think it is relatively “normal” for a 14-year-old to have an addiction to a drug he has been smoking for two years.
A 2008 survey of 24,000 Australian high school students found that 14 per cent of students aged 12-to-17 years used cannabis, peaking at 26 per cent for 17-year-olds.
The Australian Secondary Students Alcohol and Drug survey found 80 per cent of pupils between 12 and 17 had tried alcohol. Eleven per cent of 12-year-olds had used inhalants in the previous month, and by the age of 17, seven per cent of students had used amphetamines.
So why would we raise our eyebrows when a 14-year-old Australian school student conducts a drug deal on the streets of Indonesia?
The catch here relates to where he bought the drugs and the penalties for drug-taking inAustralia, compared to our close neighbours – who make no secret of their bid to stamp it out.
Many, perhaps most, Australians are angry at Schapelle Corby’s on-going punishment, believing she has been unfairly treated. Thousands have signed petitions or offered prayers for those members of the Bali Nine who decided to wrap drugs to their bodies and smuggle it back home. Didn’t they think that other young Australians would use it – and possibly die?
Instead of ongoing outrage, we sympathise with those caught and point the finger of blame at Indonesia.
We have to change that psyche. Drugs are deadly. And in Indonesia the punishment for using them can be deadly too. It’s not a secret. And disagreeing with it doesn’t change it. In fact, in this part of the world,Australia is the odd one out, with other countries mirroring Indonesia’s stance.
So if we are serious about tackling drug use, we need to look at whether we should be ridiculing another country’s policy, or adopting tougher penalties here. Instead, we give movie-star status to a teenager who should know better. We protect him getting from the airport to his home, we don’t use his name, and his family breathes a sigh of relief that he’s relatively unscathed “considering what he went through”.
The next 14-year-old won’t receive the same easy ride, and this one is lucky authorities did not want to make an example of him – particularly at a time when we are laying down tough laws netting Indonesian teenagers lured into people-smuggling rackets in a bid to feed their families.
The problem with drugs is not Indonesia, or how it punishes users. The problem is with us, and how we have “normalised” drug use here – to the point where we’re told experimentation is typical in teenage years. To that extent, it’s not this lad’s fault either. The problem is bigger than he is, and will only grow while we accept its use and refuse to confront the consequences. The Courier-Mail spelt this out graphically in its Drug Scourge investigation, which showed greater crime, a bigger road toll and increasing mental health issues.
Several weeks ago on the Gold Coast, I walked into the female toilets used by diners of an upmarket restaurant to see a well-dressed young man sniffing cocaine off a toilet seat. He apologised – for using the female toilet not the drug-taking – and continued on his high. No shame, but is there any wonder?
Source: Courier Mail Australia. Dec. 2011
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