This morning I woke up to see that our treatment of asylum seekers and refugees is so bad it has drawn the attention and condemnation of the Human Rights Watch in the US.
"Successive governments have prioritised domestic politics over Australia's international legal obligations to protect the rights of asylum seekers,"
"Too often, the Government has attempted to demonise those trying to reach Australia by boat and has insisted that officials refer to all asylum seekers who do so as 'illegal maritime arrivals'."
And yet our mainstream press seem unaware that the term ‘illegals’ bandied about by politicians for their own gain is in fact a LIE. And I thought that’s what good journalists did. Seek out those in government who lie to their people, to bring truth forward, rather than bury it under political spin. Instead, our papers are the flunkies following the bully in the playground, holding the voiceless and the helpless and the desperate down so the government can rain down punches.
How is it we can claim pride in this country?
We, who invented the apartheid system long before South Africa.
We who refused, until 1967, to make citizens of our original inhabitants, who stole their land, who demonise their struggle, who STILL make exceptions under the law for their continued subjugation in the Northern Territory.
We, who swindled the East Timorese out of gas and oil in the guise of aid.
We, who have cut our overseas aid despite promises made to the starving and the desperate.
We, who turned away escaping Jews in the war, forcing them to return to Germany and Poland and Holland and the holocaust. We weren’t the only ones who turned our back on those asylum seekers. Many countries did. But we can’t turn around and pat ourselves on the back for our spirit of ‘mateship’ can we? And we can’t pretend that it all stopped with World War Two. There have been genocides and holocausts around the world since. In Africa it is epidemic.
Yet we are still turning the desperate away.
Please tell me what makes a person coming in to Australia by plane more deserving than someone struggling across the sea by boat? Is it their money? Or their ability to forge documents well enough to fool airlines? Or their sheer luck in having an Australian embassy at which they can ‘get in the queue’? Maybe they were given time to collect the documents they needed and had the money to do so. But how much time does a woman have with militia at her door and hundreds dead in her village? How long would you stay to arrange the right documents?
And the children we promised never to imprison?
“…we've got over 1,000 children in closed detention, in isolated conditions, Christmas Island and in other detention centres around Australia.
"On Nauru, we have 850 people of whom about 125 are children and similar numbers, slightly greater, on Manus Island.
"Our concern is, as a matter of law, children should not be detained except as a matter of last resort and we are clearly not at the last resort level." Professor Gillian Triggs, Australian Human Rights Commission president.
So this Australia Day what will we be celebrating?
Will we be congratulating ourselves on a job well done?
Like the first Australians, I’m inclined to wear a black arm band.
Out of respect for all we have lost.