activism

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 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 In that time conditions have drastically deteriorated, refugees have been violently relocated, services withdrawn and your Government now hides behind the fiction that since the men are no longer locked in Lombrun RPC they are now 'free.'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

Dear Prime Minister,

On Friday 23 March the annual Stations of the Cross exhibition opened at Wesley Church in Perth. My artwork, 'Witness', was made for Station 6: Veronica wipes Jesus' face. In the same way that Veronica was witness and comfort to Jesus' suffering in the face of the hostility of the crowd and the might of the state and priests, so are the Australian activists witness and comfort to the refugees' suffering on Manus and Nauru.

I hand wove face cloths and invited people to stitch their response to the refugees in offshore detention. This is what men and women, of different backgrounds and political beliefs have to say  about the men, women and children on Manus and Nauru.

 '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

Australia's slave trade

Dear Prime Minister,

On 12 March the sixth group of refugees was flown from Nauru to the US: seven men. Of the 2000+ refugees in offshore detention, only 146 have been sent to the US. These few have a chance to restart their lives, despite isolation and the financial burden of having to repay their airfares. But as Ai Wei Wei says the refugee swap with the US is

a complete insult to the understanding of refugees. It’s exactly like slave trading. You cannot deal with human beings by violating their [rights].
— Ai Wei Wei

He goes on to say:

If it’s not solved, it’s simply because we don’t want to solve it, because we benefit from the situation. Other people’s suffering and desperation is beneficial, so if those questions are not being answered, we will never solve the problem.
— Ai Wei Wei

We know

Dear Prime Minister,

Reneé Pettitt-Schipp is a poet and former teacher of English to asylum seekers on Christmas Island. She continues to use the power of her poetic language and her increasing audience to remind us, again and again, of what we have done and continue to do.

The Will of Water
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
- Rumi

out beyond the reef
beyond the horizon, beyond
the breakers
there is a space
that will break
that will break, that will
unmake you

out beyond the breakers
beyond borders, tankers, Customs
freighters
out beyond eyes
beyond sight and the light
of conscience

hear the timbre of strain
sing a low, sad song
this vessel was never meant
to contain such weight

out in the middle of
we will decide who comes
and in the thick of the circumstances
every fear of each imagined ending
will engulf you
for we are a land that will not
(a line that will not)
give

out where mothers
are grasping for children’s limbs
we are losing patience with pity, turn away
we will not witness, it will not stick
for we did not see
heard no screams
let me wash my hands
I know nothing
of the will of water

out beyond the ocean
and all its undoing
you had a dream. I will meet you there
for when each life is at last allowed its living
the world will be too full
to write about.
— Reneé Pettitt-Schipp

You cannot wash your hands clean of what you continue to do. We artists will see to it.

Bring all refugees and asylum seekers in offshore detention to freedom and safety now.

A stain

Dear Prime Minister,

Finalist for 2018 Young Australian of the Year, Kevin Kadirgamar, is a lawyer who assists asylum seekers and refugees suffering under our draconian, unfair laws. He says that our treatment of asylum seekers is

"a stain on the soul of our nation."

I agree with this remarkable young Australian when he says:

There is a duty of citizenship for all of us to stand up and say no, that is not the country that we are, we do not accept that, and to jealously guard Australian values. We all have the opportunity to help them find a much brighter future.
— Kevin Kadirgamar

How will your Government act to reflect the Australian beliefs of fairness and compassion?