Spotlight on a Cause: Those Most Vulnerable

22/8/2013

The measure of a country’s greatness should be based on how well it cares for its most vulnerable populations” – Mahatma Gandhi

I began my International Relations honours thesis with this quote, extending it to include those who are also on our doorstep, having come across the seas fleeing persecution, in the hope of finding a place of refuge. This thesis was written nearly 10 years ago now, and expounded upon why Australia persisted with its mandatory detention policy, particularly of children and unaccompanied minors. Back then we were in the throes of the Pacific Solution, and keeping children behind razor wire for undetermined periods, allowing them to witness self-harm and far worse.

I couldn’t have fathomed that things could travel even further down hill from that point. But it has. The political spin, fear mongering, and blatant inaccuracies perpetuated by political bluster is unbelievable. That our two major parties are gaining our nation’s implicit approval to fight it out over who can be a bigger meanie to asylum-seekers, is just. freaking. crazy.

Care for you

I have wanted to curl in a corner, rocking back and forth with my fingers firmly shoved in to my ears over the horror we are dishing out to the most vulnerable people of our world. So rest assured, I could rant and write about this issue until the cows come home (even an Honours thesis wasn’t enough to cover off on it).

Instead, in the spirit of peace, I’m going to muster up the scraps of positivity I have about the situation and will forthrightly knit together as much of it as possible. As Martin Luther King Jr once said, ‘I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear”.

However, for some incisive up to date commentary on the issue, you can read a great article by Julian Burnside here, one by Tim Costello here, and take a look at this farcical ‘would be hilarious if it wasn’t so close to the truth’ cartoon by one of my favourite political cartoonists, First Dog on the Moon, here.

Choosing Fear over Love

We as as a collective, are addressing the issues of our world’s most vulnerable from a place of overwhelming fear, and not at all from a place of love or compassion. I think we’re better than that. I want to shine light on this situation, and bring more love in to the picture, by highlighting the amazing work that is being done to ‘crowd out’ the negativity and bottom-dwelling ‘policies’ we’re seeing from our major political parties.

Here are two I’d like to highlight:

Welcome to Australia

Founded by Pastor Brad Chilcott in 2011, Welcome to Australia‘s aim is to engage everyday Australians in the task of cultivating a culture of welcome in our nation. Welcome to Australia is determined to emphasise that the Australia we love is known for its diversity, compassion, generosity and commitment to giving all people a fair go.

The movement’s approach to effective social and political change is to actively create opportunities for genuine relationships to be built between people of all backgrounds, enabling them to share their stories.

I'm part of Welcome to Australia's One Million Welcomers Campaign

I’m part of Welcome to Australia’s One Million Welcomers Campaign

When we know one another’s stories, we’re far more likely to care about what ends up happening to each other – which, as an aside, is why media should be given access to asylum-seeker detention centres, to humanise the debate some more. How we can muster up full blown national grief for a fictional character who dies in a television series (Offspring), yet be seemingly oblivious to ‘another’ asylum-seeker boat sinking off the coast of our country, is beyond me.

Welcome to Australia plays a fantastic role in asylum seeker advocacy on a national stage, as well as providing grassroots support to newly arrived asylum seekers, an example being their Sounds Like Welcome initiative, which gifts musical instruments to musician asylum seekers who are unable to purchase their own. Just awesome, awesome work. Welcome to Australia also showcases a number of stories of refugees in Australia, which are well worth the read.

The Hot Potato (Asylum Seeker Resource Centre)

The asylum seeker debate is undoubtedly the ‘hot potato’ of Australian politics at the moment. In the interest of getting people truly engaged with the facts of the asylum seeker debate, the Hot Potato campaign has set off on a journey around Australia, driving a potato van and giving away 10,000 potatoes, in an aim to start 10 million conversations about this hot issue.

I think this initiative is awesome. They are actively debunking myths with a fantastic online resource and offline they’re enticing people with food, and very likely not just preaching to the converted (who can resist a free and tasty hot potato in flavours like African eggplant and tomato tagine, or Syrian Tahini and garlic labneh??).

You can keep up to date with their progress on the ASRC Facebook page. The last stop is in Brissie this Saturday, but their website will still be up to help you continue debunking the myths that surround this debate.

So the next time someone starts mouthing off that boat people are potential terrorists and a threat to our national security (Myth Number Six), you can respond to them by saying: No boat person has ever been proven to be a terrorist. Boat arrivals receive the most scrutinised security checks of all.

And maybe remind them how the 9/11 terrorists made their way in to the United States. By business class on aeroplanes.

Immigrant Nation

Unless you are one of our First Peoples, you are an immigrant, or you have an immigrant history. The irony of the oft quoted, ‘we grew here, you flew here’ chants so favoured by crowds of racist bogans, is not lost on our indigenous folk, that’s for sure.

And the fact that our country was officially ‘founded’ by the original boat people, aka The First Fleet, again that little rascal irony is doubled over in the corner laughing her socks off.

Our nation is built on immigration. We are a melting pot of cultural influences, and we are all the more vibrant, rich, and resilient for it. I urge you, if you’re so inclined, to do your bit to shine light on this issue, to more positively balance out the awfulness we are witnessing play out before us.

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8 comments :

  • Emma Shields

    I love this Carly. Thank you so much for speaking up and sharing some fab resources and information xoxo

  • Jessie

    Thank you so much, Carly, for sharing these initiatives and articles, and giving us such a great perspective on efforts to bring sense and compassion to the current madness.

  • Caroline

    Beautifully written, as all your posts are. I think if all refugees were greeted by your gorgeous face, they would feel instantly welcomed.
    Out of interest, what is your perspective on the point both sides of the political debate spout – that they are trying to break the “people smugglers’ business model”? If people arriving by boat are fast-tracked into the country over those waiting in refugee camps etc, would that not simply encourage more people smugglers and more asylum seekers to risk their lives making those treacherous journeys on leaky boats? I don’t think anyone except the cruellest, most ignorant folk want to see these obviously desperate people drown.

    • Carly

      Hey lovely, I don’t really have the space here to hash it all out, but suffice to say that the people smugglers’ business model is far more complex than what both sides of politics are making it out to be, and it will persist despite the PNG ‘solution’ (a good read: http://theconversation.com/the-myth-of-the-people-smugglers-business-model-16426).

      If the government was genuinely interested in stopping people from making the crossing on boats, they’d look at setting up a regional processing centre in Indonesia, perhaps with some other resettlement countries (USA, Canada, NZ), so that refugees there can be processed in a timely fashion and aren’t left languishing interminably. xx

  • SJ

    Carly for PM!! x

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