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Casualties of “Border Protection”

It ought not to surprise anyone that naval personnel are vulnerable to post traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of implementing the ALP and LNP governments’ asylum seeker policies.

This investigative report by the ABC describes in detail what sailors are required to do in so-called “border protection” actions.

Over a decade ago I interviewed staff at the Woomera and Baxter Detention Centres. Many of them described the same symptoms of PTSD as do the naval personnel interviewed by the ABC. Those staff were, like the navy, caught up in a culture of deliberate dehumanisation of asylum seekers that first requires a dehumanisation of the self, in order to be implemented to the satisfaction of political masters in Canberra.

Both major parties have long known that the best way to calm an outcry about waterborne asylum seekers is to hide them away from the public gaze, criminalise their perfectly legal right to come to this country by boat, and if possible never allow them to be seen as human. One sailor explained that the only way he could continue his work was to think of the asylum seekers as numbers, evidence that these dehumanising tactics work. Their consequences, however, manifest in both victim and perpetrator as post traumatic stress that can cripple a life and destroy a spirit.

Political masters are protected from the front-line traumas that are a direct consequence of their self-serving decisions, but in reality the blood both real and metaphorical of asylum seekers and the men and women who are directly involved with them, is on politicians’ hands and they cannot clean it off. The sight of MPs visiting workplaces is a common one, perhaps PM Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison might spend a day or two attempting to haul bodies from the sea and experiencing the horror of finding their hands full of drowned human flesh that has separated from drowned human bones.

One of the sailors interviewed expressed the opinion that current secrecy surrounding “Operation Sovereign Borders” exacerbates the difficulties and traumas experienced by those charged with its front-line implementation. The potential danger of secrecy is well-known to anyone who’s worked in mental health. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that the combination of the work they are called upon to do combined with the strict secrecy surrounding it, is likely to result in traumatic stress.

It’s outrageous that any government should demand its employees endure such extreme working conditions outside of war (despite what Morrison has claimed we are not at war with people smugglers, though many of us are at war with budgie smugglers) and purely to win that government votes. I can’t forget that the trauma endured by asylum seekers remains largely unacknowledged, is exacerbated by the continuation of dehumanisation after they’ve been despatched to off-shore detention centres, and ongoing uncertainty about their futures.

While a culture of dehumanisation adversely effects everyone involved, at least naval personnel and other staff have some hope of escape from their situations, and treatment.

Obviously the answer is for politicians to cease their barbaric practices and treat both their employees and the asylum seekers with at least a modicum of concern. Politicians are destroying people, literally, in their pursuit of power. Is it any wonder so many of us despise them?

This article was originally published on No Place for Sheep


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  1. Ricardo29

    Well said. Sooner Morrison can be charged in an international court over the barbarism of his treatment of asylum seekers the better. Sadly, I don’t expect much better from Labor.

  2. mars08

    But… ah… but… but… a 25 year-old Test cricket player died!!!! Priorities, people. Priorities!!!!

  3. Kyran

    Thank you for the article. It reminded me of a campaign by PBS in America during George Dubya’s foray into Iraq.
    As Howard did here, George was relying on patriotism to soothe the masses on a military folly that was becoming increasingly untenable. The civilian casualties in Iraq were not to be included in any “official” resume of fatalities. If we don’t count them, they don’t count. The public were, however, told of the military personnel who died in action, in numerical terms only. The disquiet in the American public increased with the numbers of deaths.
    PBS, at some point in time, started a campaign by finishing their broadcasts with a roll call of the deceased personnel on a daily basis. The roll call provided a photo of the soldier, along with their name, rank and a brief background, including their age and where they were from. They personalised the loss. I remember watching PBS Newshour on SBS infrequently and couldn’t help but notice many were from rural areas or of Afro-American heritage. Needless to say, I could only weep.
    The campaign was successful on many fronts and was instrumental in accelerating the demise of the folly. All the while, the “Administration” decried their lack of patriotism.
    Ricardo, I wait with bated breath for the day all of the ministers responsible for this barbarism (labor and liberal) get called to justice.
    I hear, every now and then, this policy is adhered to by the major parties because of a few seats that rely on “the Hanson vote”. I believe these seats are in Queensland and New South Wales.
    My great shame is that we, the people of Australia, are vicariously associated with these atrocities. Again, thank you, Ms Wilson. Take care

  4. stephentardrew

    Absolutely Mars8: what a travesty.

  5. MIssPamela

    The unnecessary death of anyone young is tragic. The deaths of Reza Barati, Leo Seemanpillai, and Hamid Kehazaei were tragic, as is the death of Phillip Hughes. The difference is Hughes died doing what he loved – not locked up and murdered, in fear of what the rest of his life would be or due to total medical neglect while in the “care” of Australian officials. Our priorities are all wrong when reporting the death of a cricketer is more important , for example, than truthfully reporting the mistreatment and abuse of two pregnant refugee women or the draconian Immigration bill that is being debated today.

  6. Annie B

    Sarah Hanson Young – having the guts to call the scum Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison – a sociopath – many times in her speech to the Senate. …… the video is 15 minutes long

    It made me feel ill – but I believe everything she had to say ……….

    Have a listen :

  7. MIssPamela

    There will now be many more casualties of this policy. Morrison now has unlimited powers and will use them. He is indeed a sociopath.

  8. Annie B

    This link ( I hope it works ) …… goes to the Facebook page of the Anglican Church of Gosford.

    A ” Fr. Rod – has written an excellent and longish article on the vileness of Scott Morrisons’ latest manouvre to destabilise and disenfranchise refugees to our country.

    It is well worth reading.


    If that doesn’t work …. this one might, as it comes from Google, and seems open to everyone.


    Either way, it is on here that the article is written ….. and is just above this photograph.

    It says much – if not all.


  9. stephentardrew


    The whole church, no matter what creed or denomination, must come out against this brutality or forever be sent to the margins of decency. Not just one church leader, and I must say I do admire Fr. Rod, but the titular heads of all churches. They either make a stand or fall into further irrelevancy and self inflicted hypocrisy.

  10. MIssPamela

    Uniting Church Statement:
    I am not a Christian, but hopefully other churches will follow publicly over the next few days. As Stephen said they will otherwise be practicing the same hypocrisy as Scott Morrison and the rest of our “Christian” members of our government.

  11. MIssPamela

    Scott Ludlum in debate yesterday- as usual calm and eloquent.

  12. Annie B


    What you have stated is so true. How to get the churches to acknowledge it ? Your entire comment would make them sit up and take notice.

    One Anglican priest ( out of so many ) …….. has made his statement, and must go on making his statements. ……. Others must follow.

    If anyone here prays to a God or a higher power – they’d best start doing so …. like right now. – – That strong and highly respected peoples will stand up against this unspeakably wretched Government, and particularly against Morrison ( I do not have any words left to describe him ) … to find a decent and humanitarian way.

    Is there a lawyer here on these threads, who might know how a Government can be ‘reported’ to a High Court – by a person or persons, or has that already been tried.

    There MUST be a way. …… Amnesty International is on their hammer.

    Even 7 News on line – has not minced words about the legislation and the atrocious outcomes that most likely will occur – especially if people are returned to the countries they fled in the first place – after 3 years here. ( link below )


    Miss Pamela …..

    Thanks for the link and your comments – and the video of Sen. Ludlum’s speech. ……… he was indeed calm and eloquent – as you said. A very good speech – but how many would hear it. The Chamber was mostly empty, and the MSM would not report it –

    I frankly think some of the MSM – perhaps for the first time in the history of news reporting – do not know which way to turn on this matter.

    Maybe the voices of the likes of Neil Mitchell – ( even Alan Jones might join in – he hasn’t been exactly in Abbott’s corner recently ) might be heard via radio – as this is incredibly disturbing news.

    From the 7 news on line article : https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/25696192/australia-toughens-up-immigration-but-lets-in-more-refugees/

    ” “We have got stronger borders at sea because of the powers we’ve given our maritime agency,” he ( Morrison ) told reporters.

    I shudder to think what those ‘powers’ might entail.


  13. Peter Lee

    So our naval personell are emotionally upset by the plight of the asylum seekers who they save at sea. Very understandable. Now explain that to Abbott and Morrison and the cross bench senators who supported the Government’s bill and ask them if they have any understanding of the feelings of the pote ntial asylum seekers.

  14. Annie B

    Peter Lee –

    The cross benchers will most likely bear forever, the knowledge that they didn’t stand up to the bullying and threat obviously used on them to have this legislation passed ….. I would say they’ll be haunted for a very long time – especially Ricky Muir who is a newbie to politics.

    No use explaining anything to Morrison and Abbott – their filthy minds are made up, they wouldn’t listen –

    but maybe they WILL listen to some legal condemnation, and hopefully punishment, through an international court of law.

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