In response to today’s ABC news item and the comments regarding accomodation at Curtin Detention Centre, I write the commentary below.

I expect the ‘hell hole’ my refugee advocate colleagues are alluding to refers to the fact that the asylum seekers are not free to leave and are therefore being treated like criminals when, in fact, they have not done anything illegal. The RAAF bases weren’t/aren’t prisons; I expect those servicemen and women who stay at those facilities are free to leave and friends and family are free to come and visit them. The accoms don’t sound too crash hot nor does the location and if the military need to look after servicemen and women better, then they should. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

When I was a young child, I was able to visit asylum seekers in their migration camps and they were free to leave their camp community to experience the values and culture of their new society. This was in the late 70s, early 80s. ALP’s policy of mandatory detention in the late 90s was radical and the subsequent governments’ commitments to uphold that policy are equally radical. I yearn for the past which is strange because I’m somehow pidgeon-holded as a ‘progressive’ when in this case I feel I am a conservative. Overturning this policy is not radical. Creating it in the first place was radical. Overturning it shows leadership and I see only the Greens showing this leadership. What are the leaders and MPs in the Labor and Liberal Party saying on this matter now? Where are their voices? Oh hang on, it’s an election year isn’t it? Party solidarity over human rights…

I live in Moorooka and I love my multicultural community. I was born and raised in multicultural Australia. I am a first generation Australia of mixed ethnicity. The cultural richness that diversity brings in its food, culture and language mirrors the beauty and excitement of diversity worldwide. What a wonderful world we live in! Where does this intolerance and discompassionate sentiment come from? Why hold in our hearts this suspicion and negativity when a spirit of welcome and love can bring people and families together. Remember, over 90% of claims that are assessed are genuine and these people stay with us in our communities. Why lock them up as a way to say welcome? Why not welcome them from word go within our communities? They need our support. These people have suffered and it’s our international obligation to ensure they suffer no longer.

If our Australian values are to give people a ‘fair go’ I would like to think that this includes those who have been tortured, traumatised and vilified and have nowhere else to go – not just you, me and our neighbour next door.

I was hoping the ALP, when it got into office, would overturn mandatory detention. This hasn’t happened and this latest action of reopening Curtin shows a complete lack of respect of human rights and our international obligations. I want to stand tall and proud about being an Australian like I did when I was a little tike. I want my Australia to shine once more. It cannot shine until onshore and offshore mandatory detention is relegated to our modern history books where it describes our inhumane approach to asylum seekers as a temporary ‘blip’.

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