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?

End offshore detention #407

Dear Prime Minister,

Claire Higgins' article for the Lowy Institute reminds Australia that we used to have a humane and responsive policy towards asylum seekers. During Malcolm Fraser's Liberal government of the 1970s detention was considered abhorrent by Australians. Fraser's then Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Lou Engledow, concluded that detaining asylum seekers would "not stop boat arrivals nor produce a final answer." He described both detention and the idea of turning boats back as a "challenge to our humanity."

When Vietnamese asylum seekers were sailing into Darwin harbour in the late 1970s, newspaper editorials advised against holding people “behind wire fences patrolled by guards.”
Australia once ... [had] compassionate and humane reception procedures. ... UNHCR observers in the late 1970s [noted] how Australian authorities brought refugee boats into the harbour, sharing food and other supplies with the new arrivals. At the local quarantine station, asylum seekers could cook their own meals and assist in running the facility, which the UNHCR said was “a psychological benefit” ... The UN refugee agency noted high quality medical treatment was available ... and that staff showed “a high degree of compassion, interest and preparedness to help which are clearly of benefit to those arriving in a new environment.”
— Claire Higgins,

Prime Minister, the majority of Australians urge you to return to the previous Liberal party policy of humane treatment of asylum seekers. End detention now and allow asylum seekers to settle in peace and freedom in Australia.

Letters to Tyranny #77

Dear Prime Minister,

Please act immediately to remove all the detainees on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia so that they can get appropriate treatment for their physical and psychological health. You must also put in place swift and well-resourced processing for their refugee claims. The 30 000 refugees on mainland Australia who are still waiting to be permanently settled need immediate attention also. Change the name of DIBP to Department of Immigration and Refugee Resettlement and free Australia from this terrible period of punitive inhumanity towards people asking for our help.

Yours faithfully,

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #36

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the 36th asylum seeker on Manus Island, Mr XXX XXX, aged XX from XXX, I urge you to show leadership by changing Australia's policy on refugees to one of proactive compassion. As Ben Doherty concluded in his study of the change in rhetoric about asylum seekers:

The issue of mass irregular migration - of people seeking sanctuary in a country not their own - will be one of the planet's great challenges of the 21st Century. Already, more people are currently displaced from their homes than at almost any time in human history, and continued political instability, widespread poverty and climate disruption insist the issue will grow rather than diminish. Discussion of asylum seekers is discussion of some of the most vulnerable, disenfranchised and voiceless communities on earth. Governments should speak dispassionately when they discuss the policies and politics of asylum seekers. The media should report critically, objectively and factually. Their publics, whom they both exist to serve, will be better served for it.

Please bring the people in off-shore detention to Australia and lead the change in our language and policy from hostility to compassion.

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert