I don’t want this blog to be about politics.
But there are things happening in my home country that make me ashamed. I tried to write this entry earlier, but I was too upset, too angry.
Now I sit here as nighttime has fallen, and I am in my own home. I’m free to come and go, free to live a life without restraints and bars. Apparently I earned that right when my ancestors were sent here, as criminals, for such petty crimes as stealing gloves.
I grew up in this country, with an open mind and heart. I went to school and sang our national anthem and was told that it meant something, that the words were a part of Australian beliefs, a part of our way of life.
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
(By the way, the orchestral version of our national anthem – often played for Australian sporting victories – is by an immigrant from Hungary.)
Why, then, is our government treating the innocent of the refugee crisis like this? Why are reports of child and sexual abuse being ignored? Why is the plight and mental health of hundreds of people dismissed while they spend years locked up in off-shore detention?
At what point are we going to say, well, okay, seeking asylum is a human right. Kids shouldn’t be spending over 900 days in detention. Maybe we should be listening to the countless medical professionals who have expressed genuine distress at the levels of abuse and the mental well-being of these refugees.
This week, churches around the country have announced that if the refugee families at risk of being returned to detention can make their way to them, they will offer them sanctuary as best they can.
Late last year, Australia’s human rights record came under scrutiny from more than 100 countries at the UN.
“We are not role models on issues of asylum, we are pariahs.” – Prof Sarah Joseph, director of the Castan centre for human rights law
We have sustained failure to meet international standards for protecting asylum seekers.
Why, then, are we allowed to continue to treat refugees this way?
How can I sit comfortably knowing that my country – the country with ‘boundless plains to share’ – is perfectly content to lock people away (children, families, people convicted of no crime) and turn their back on claims of abuse? How can any of us be comfortable with the idea that report after report has been written that says we are doing appalling damage to the refugees, to the children?
Why are we content to let innocent babies – babies who were born in this country – be returned to detention? Are they not Australian? Do they not have a right to be safe and free of detention? To be protected from abuse?
I am not proud of my government. I am not proud of being associated with the way Australia is treating refugees. I hope for something to change, and I look to the future – where we will apologise, where we will claim we didn’t know – but we did know. We have no government to represent us. We have no opposition party worth a damn.