24th July 2013
A ROUND UP OF THE EVENING BY ELIZABETH SCANLON:
Wednesday night looked like being a pretty solitary vigil. The day’s news was filled with questions over what Australia had done to Nauru and how people – asylum seekers – living on Nauru handled the isolation and listlessness. The contrast between the struggle to emigrate and the ennui of having nowhere and nothing to call your own, exists as a constant reminder of the lack of status. In order for people to be citizens, they need to have a state. In order for them to have a state, the status of such nation-states as Nauru and PNG needs to be dignified by such as Australia – the dominant economy in the Asia-Pacific region.
A woman (Catherine – sp?) walked up the steps about five minutes after I arrived. She introduced herself and we began talking about how we came to hear of the vigil. She had come to see you, Janet, and returned tonight to sit with Thea and I after having spoken with you. Tonight, we spoke in incredulous tones of the horrific happenstance of Woomera. We’d spoken last night but my dulled mind hadn’t realised that this was the same protest as had seen people sew their lips together to protest detention.
Sylvia came to see us with her grandson within a few minutes. He arranged the candles in front of the signs – he is about three. We talked a little about the politics of the two major parties and the politicking surrounding the policy that will send all asylum seekers to PNG. An impeccably-dressed, elderly woman came by and expressed her disgust. ‘It’s a race to the bottom,’ she said, and then added, ‘It just makes me upset!’ as her eyes filled with tears.
Someone yelled out, ‘Go home!’ from a moving vehicle which moved even faster once the words had been uttered. I couldn’t help but find it funny. I don’t think you can change people.
Another person you’d spoken with, Narelle, arrived just before six to sit with the vigil. People wondered how you were and were happy for you, to hear that you were taking some rest. We didn’t really discuss what we felt – just that each of the people that arrived had been involved in mass action. There was talk of the way that socialist movement hijack these rallies and hand out their advertising literature. I don’t think it matters as much, if you’re well informed and can think for yourself. More and more, I realise that I am not and that I need someone to really help me to think things through. As I realised tonight, every time I come down to the vigil, I learn a little more and open my mind a little more to the idea that everything I think I know doesn’t prepare me at all, for the way these policies affect people. All people – in support of, solidarity with or against asylum seekers. What machinations these policies represent!
Zeth stopped by with his bike and a home-made cart. He jested that we had to shut the gates before all these refugees changed our country. The conversation turned to culture and the rich heritage of the refugee and indigenous people(; the remarkable ways in which the true nature of these people’s quality is hidden in our opinions – even well-intended – of policy and party).
Although there wasn’t the same intense discussion of the issues surrounding policy and protest, something else happened on Wednesday evening. I discovered that your vigil has affected people from all places and in all manner of ways. It has brought out into the open, an idea that this policy making is more than just common sense and that people have a moral and personal duty of care. That this duty of care extends to our obligations under international law isn’t noted within politics. The law has been made. Bad law, that seems to spell out a poor choice between a rock and a hard place.
AND FROM ME- JANET
WRITTEN ON 25TH July 2013
I am thinking with sorrow of the children who drowned on Tuesday evening. I am thinking of the father whose wife and children drowned. I am thinking of his shock. I am thinking of his despair. I am thinking of his unimaginable sorrow.
I am thinking too of how this could so easily have been avoided should the Australian Government invest the ridiculous amounts of money they put into incarcerating people in camps (that staff who have worked there have said: if your dog was living in such conditions you would be reported, charged, imprisoned) into building up UNHCR personnel and practice, increasing humanitarian entries, allowing people to take safe and dignified ways to Australia, caring for people in the community.
And I am thinking this could have been your daughter Mr Rudd -your wife.
Yes you not only have blood on your hands, you are bathing in it.
Sending love to all those who are suffering in detention. Thinking of you who are being raped, and again, and again. Oh Oh … Thinking of all who are being tortured…. Thinking of all who are treated worse than animals by a so-called ‘civilised’ nation…. I’ve always known though that there is something really wrong with those who resort to such rhetoric, creating an us and them.
Me, I’m with the them – definitely not the us. This kind of civilization stinks.
I will end with words from Uncle Walter Shaw, from the Tangentyere Council as quoted in ‘Aboriginal Solidarity with refugees’ by John Falzon 17 June 2012
“Aboriginal people, above all else, need to be empowered to solve our own problems, because non-Aboriginal people keep coming up with the same ‘solutions’, and they keep making it worse.
Australians don’t like their nation painted as a war-torn country, or a place ravaged by hunger or disease. But that is what Central Australia — my country — has become.
People from some of the most disadvantaged nations on earth choose to jump on a rusty old boat and risk their lives over dangerous seas. They come with nothing more than the shirt on their back to seek asylum in a country they believe offers them the best shot at a way of life everyone deserves — a life where basic human rights and dignity are respected.
These are the very same rights denied to my people.”
Thank you to Elizabeth and Thea and Lane for sitting the vigil and allowing me some rest. Much gratitude to you three.
Market Building Steps 5pm – 6.30pm. Come sign the new petition and/or pick up a copy to collect signatures.