Robert van Krieken

Research, writing, translation

Robert van Krieken - Research, writing, translation

Submission to Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 25 Nov 2012

1. I am grateful to the Royal Commission’s Secretariat for this opportunity to provide commentary on the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. My background is in the history and sociology of childhood generally but also child welfare in Australia, and I have researched the legal and administrative contexts of the removal of Indigenous children from their families, in relation to the structures and policies of Australian child welfare agencies more broadly. I have also spent some time in Ireland where I became familiar with the various enquiries that have taken place there, and I believe there are some useful lessons that can be learnt from the Irish experience.

2. My main comment relates to the concern identified in the Consultation Paper to ‘identify what public and private organisations and institutions should do to prevent child sexual abuse from occurring’, as well as ‘what should be done by organisations and institutions when allegations are raised’, and possibly to examine ‘the need for changes to any laws, policies or practices within institutions, organisations and government agencies to better prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. The aim, then, is to identify what needs to be done to prevent child sexual abuse, what procedures ought to be in place when allegations are raised, and what policy, legal, administrative or structural reforms might be required.

3. The concern is that in order to achieve this aim, it is important to understand how and why child sexual abuse occurred in public and private institutions in the past, and what has been problematic about the institutional practices and procedures up to the present time.

4. It is clear from the experience so far In Australia but also in the course of the detailed Irish inquiries that what is at issue is as much a failure of organisational culture and institutional design, and it would be unfortunate in the extreme if the terms of reference excluded an examination of that aspect of the institutional abuse of children.

5. In my view, then, it is very important for the Royal Commission to include in its terms of reference an examination of the ways in which:
(a) the systems of management, administration, supervision, inspection and regulation of those institutions, and
(b) the manner in which responsible persons executed their functions
contributed both to the occurrence of the abuse and any deficiencies in the response to the abuse.

6. A clear view of how child sexual abuse is to be prevented and responded to adequately in the future will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to achieve without a well-founded understanding of exactly what it was about the management and organisation of public and private institutions responsible for the welfare of children that made it possible for so many to have suffered such traumatic childhoods.

Internationalizing Sociology

Like the world generally and all academic disciplines, sociology is structured globally in terms of a distinction very roughly, between a core and a periphery, with a semi-periphery lying between them. Often the core-periphery distinction will also be termed the North-South division. The origins of social science lie in the colonial powers of Europe, Great Britain and the United States and its concerns and points of reference remain there today.

The south – Asia, Australia, Latin America – has  been incorporated only as sources of exotic data or as adjuncts to northern knowledge.  Raewyn Connell, for example, observes that contemporary social theory ‘embeds the viewpoints, perspectives and problems of metropolitan society while presenting itself as universal knowledge’ (2007:vii–viii).   Continue reading

The Occupy Movement

These are my thoughts on the Occupy movement, for the revision of the Sociology textbook published by Pearson:

Culture jamming and Occupy Wall Street 

One of the oppositional movements referred to by Klein is culture jamming, described by Christine Harold (2004) as a world-wide political movement which ‘seeks to undermine the marketing rhetoric of multinational corporations, specifically through such practices as media hoaxing, corporate sabotage, billboard “liberation,” and trademark infringement’ (p. 190). Most often this is done through changing an advertisement to reveal what the protestor sees as the true meaning of the ad (sometimes referred to as ‘subvertising’), but also includes other forms of protest, art and political action. The Canadian Adbusters Media Foundation, founded in 1989, describes itself as “a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age”. publishing the activist anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters ( has been a prominent player, organizing evgents such as ‘Buy Nothing Day’, ‘Digital Detox Week’, ‘TV Turnoff Week’ and ‘Occupy Wall Street’. Its founder, Kalle Lasn, defines culture jamming as “is the art of creating a new kind of cool” A guiding concept is the importance of aesthetics in influencing how ordinary people think, and this has been mobilised by Adbusters ih the hope that the protests which emerge will “somehow change the power balance and make the world into a much more grass-roots, bottom-up kind of a place rather than the top-down Wall Street mega-corporate-driven system we now have.” (cited in Yardley, 2011) Continue reading

On the celebrification of the university

There has been considerable discussion of the ways in which universities around the world are experiencing enormous pressures, organized around a range of issues including the question of neoliberal strategies of management, the constant restructuring and deskilling of academic labour accompanied by insecurity and uncertainty, tightening financial constraints, the commodification of higher education, a global competitive dynamic which has set in motion a never-ending process of gradually ramping up the expectations placed on university academics, a process with no ceiling and no end. Unlike the builder or the carpenter who can say – ‘that looks pretty good’ – or even the academic who used to be able to say – ‘that was a good book’ – the message now is always ‘hmm….could do better’.

In universities today one can clearly see a number of facture lines that are growing longer and wider, dividing the academic community into, roughly: Continue reading

Celebrity Society: the Economics of Attention

We have an ambivalent relationship to celebrities. We are continuously fascinated by them, spend money on magazines to read about them and allow them to grab our attention in any number of ways. Celebrities are the aristocracy of the 20th and 21st centuries, or at least an important branch of the new nobility. It’s easy to lose count of the number of opinionistas moaning about the ‘cult of celebrity’.

Continue reading

Surrendering to Islamophobia

Both the Wall Street Journal and Janet Albrechtsen in The Australian believe that the recent judgment of a Dutch court that the Dutch MP Geert Wilders is to be prosecuted for inciting hatred and violence against Muslims in the Netherlands constitute yet another ‘assault on freedom of speech’. From their perspective, and Wilders’ own, a bit of muscular controversy is fine, all part of a healthy democracy. The idea that Wilders may have broken Dutch law means, says Albrechtsen, that ‘the tyranny of thought police has truly taken hold in the West’. For the Wall Street Journal it’s even more than that, it’s ‘the importation of Saudi blasphemy norms to Europe’, and ‘no small victory for Islamic regimes seeking to export their censorship laws to wherever Muslims reside’.

Albrechtsen concludes that it is important that Australia learn the appropriate lessons from the Dutch experience ‘before we make the same disastrous blunders’. But have any blunders been made by the Dutch? For anyone who takes the trouble actually to read the Dutch court’s judgment, not to mention paying attention to what Wilders has actually been saying the last few years, it becomes clear how misinformed this interpretation is.

Continue reading

Why the Dutch word ‘allochtoon’ should be abandoned

Both the Dutch Minister of Justice, Ernst Hirsch Ballin and the Minister for Housing and Integration, Ella Vogelaar, have breathed new life into the debate around the problems generated by the peculiar Dutch terminology around migrants – the distinction between ‘allochtoon‘ and ‘autochtoon‘ Dutch citizens.

Officially, according to the CBS, you’re either if you’re born outside the Netherlands, or have at least one parent born outside the country. However, the everyday usage of the term allochtoon tends to stretch to anyone with a non-Western background, giving it more of a racial effect, raising the bar to ever becoming autochtoon, or ‘native’, and reinforcing the ‘natives’ capacity to control who does or does not get recognized as genuine ‘insider’. Paul Scheffer observes the problems associated with this terminology, and although he has used the term allochtoon in the past, he now steadfastly avoids it, using terms such as ‘migrants and their children’ in its place. However, there has been only limited public debate about the question, and when it is raised, there is a tendency for commentators to pour scorn on the idea of changing the terminology by trivializing it, or by arguing that language has its own autonomous dynamics in any case.

As my own modest contribution to the debate, I thought I’d post a fragment from a longer piece that I’m writing which deals with the question: Continue reading

Council of the European Union – Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy


The explanations provided are intended to give direction to the common basic principle. The description is indicative, by no means exhaustive and will be further developed in the future.

1. Integration is a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of Member States.
Integration is a dynamic, long-term, and continuous two-way process of mutual accommodation, not a static outcome. It demands the participation not only of immigrants and their descendants but of every resident. The integration process involves adaptation by immigrants, both men and women, who all have rights and responsibilities in relation to their new country of residence. It also involves the receiving society, which should create the opportunities for the immigrants’ full economic, social, cultural, and political participation. Accordingly, Member States are encouraged to consider and involve both immigrants and national citizens in integration policy, and to communicate clearly their mutual rights and responsibilities. Continue reading

Frits Bolkestein’s comments on immigration in the Netherlands, in 1991

In 1991 Frits Bolkestein, then leader of the Dutch VVD party, made a speech to the Liberal International Conference in Luzern, titled ‘On the collapse of the Soviet Union’, which included comments on immigration and Islam in the Netherlands:

“The unsettled situation in Eastern Europe ripples over into Western Europe. Germany in particular has taken in a vast number of refugees from the East. The pressure in The Netherlands from people who want to settle there is also growing inexorably. Continue reading