After word

Australia has a new Prime Minister.

More than 1200 refugees are still detained on Manus Island and Nauru. All are suffering severe psychological trauma and most have serious physical health conditions as well, including infections, kidney disease, untreated injuries and untreated cancer. Many have been beaten and violently sexually attacked.

Public knowledge has increased through work of activists and some media outlets.

The Federal government continues to use the courts to try to block efforts to provide health care to the refugees. There are several class actions being taken on behalf of the refugees.

Activists and the refugees themselves continue to try to end the stalemate through protests, publications, meetings, art projects, fundraising and advertising.

I stopped writing the letters to the PM early in 2018 for two reasons. The first was that as people heard about my project and observed my public protests they wanted to become involved. I started two street vigils on the South Coast of WA, at Albany and Denmark. People became informed and started their own projects to assist the refugees, most notably Dawn Barrington whose documentary about her trip to Manus Island can be seen here. The second reason I stopped writing was lack of time. I was invited to take part in several art exhibitions in 2018 which I could use as a platform to bring the plight of the refugees and the actions of Australia before the exhibition audiences.

Writing the letters was an act of witness and an attempt for justice. It enabled me to learn about Australia’s ongoing mistreatment of refugees. It also became a deep grounding for taking further actions and for informing my art practice. The letters document the deliberate running down and destruction of the Lombrun Reprocessing Centre on Manus Island (which has since been completely demolished), the forced removal of the men, five further deaths, and the removal of services from both Manus and Nauru which has left the refugees struggling to survive. The struggle for their freedom and justice continues.

On behalf of the 2nd person on Nauru

Dear Prime Minister,

05 May 2015
Critical Incident: Actual self-harm
Downgraded: No

On morning bus run [REDACTED] showed me a heart he had sewn into his hand using a needle and thread. I asked why and he said “I don’t know”. I notified [REDACTED] as soon as I got off the bus at OPC1 and she proceeded to take [REDACTED] to IHMS. [REDACTED] is [REDACTED] yrs of age.
— https://allwecantsee.com/incidents/sca15-0321/

On behalf of the 1st person on Nauru.

Dear Prime Minister,

In the ongoing art project titled 'All We Can't See', artists are invited to select one of the more than 2000 incidents reported in the "Nauru Files" and make an artwork in response. I will use my letters to you to remind you that these reported incidents happened to vulnerable people in our care, most of whom are still suffering under the same conditions now, 4 to 5 years later.

28 September 2014
Information
Incident: Threatened self-harm
Downgraded: Unknown

CW [REDACTED 1] and CW Manager [REDACTED 2] were having an extended conversation with various men who had stitched their lips together, with the assistance of TIS interpreter [REDACTED 3]. During the conversation a small crowd gathered and at approximately 1400 hours [REDACTED 4] entered the conversation and stated that people in the camp are very desperate. [REDACTED 4] explained that he is aware of a plan for at least 15 people to complete mass suicide by using fence posts (star pickets) as skeweres to stab themselves in the heart. [REDACTED 4] stated that he is not aware of the date for this plan. [REDACTED 4] stated that definitely more people will stitch their lips
— https://allwecantsee.com/incidents/sca14-0806/
Jamie Priesz: https://allwecantsee.com/incidents/sca14-0806/

Jamie Priesz: https://allwecantsee.com/incidents/sca14-0806/

Artist: Sara Tabaku https://allwecantsee.com/incidents/sca14-0806/

Artist: Sara Tabaku https://allwecantsee.com/incidents/sca14-0806/

 

In my first letter to you I asked that you respect the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights especially Article 14 (1) which states "Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution." When will you?

On behalf of the 631st man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

Since July 30 2016 I have been writing a letter a day for every refugee and asylum seeker detained on Manus Island. In that time conditions have drastically deteriorated, refugees have been violently relocated, services withdrawn and your Government now hides behind the fiction that since the men are no longer locked in Lombrun RPC they are now 'free.'

This is my 631st letter to you. After refoulements, deaths and some transfers to USA there are now approximately 630 men left on Manus and in Port Moresby. I will continue to write to you, a letter a day, for every refugee and asylum seeker on Nauru. I will continue to work, along with thousands of other Australians, to end offshore detention and see all these refugees have freedom and safety. It will happen, eventually, with you or without you

Witness for the 630th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

'Witness' (detail), 2018, Ruth Halbert, Stations of the Cross.  https://www.perthunitingchurch.org.au/stations/view/station-6

'Witness' (detail), 2018, Ruth Halbert, Stations of the Cross. https://www.perthunitingchurch.org.au/stations/view/station-6

The Government of Australia knowingly denies the human rights of the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru by illegal imprisonment (amounting to slavery) and torture. These crimes by the Government of Australia are racially motivated. The location of these criminal activities in two impoverished countries (Nauru and Papua New Guinea) is also an expression of Australia's racism and colonialism.

Witness for the 623rd man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

'Witness' (detail), 2018, Ruth Halbert, Stations of the Cross.  https://www.perthunitingchurch.org.au/stations/view/station-6

'Witness' (detail), 2018, Ruth Halbert, Stations of the Cross. https://www.perthunitingchurch.org.au/stations/view/station-6

This piece was stitched by a local singer-songwriter, Dawn Barrington, a few weeks before she went to Manus Island to take guitars to 2 of the refugees who had had theirs smashed when Australian and PNG officials forcibly removed the men from Lombrun RPC to Lorengau. Dawn's video of her trip to Manus, made with Tim Maisey, can be seen here.