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Category Archives: Social Justice

The savagery of ignorance – We will decide

By David Ayliffe

“We will decide”

When the savagery of ignorance

makes the savagery of innocence

The cruellest cut of all.

“Who will come.”

As the wise men drive past

Eyes-glazed staring at the crying eyes

of the children at the windows of their prison,

hotel of leisure.

“To this country.”

They are determined to do nothing to ease

that suffering of the rejected ones –

the comfort of their cars too great.

“And the manner in which.”

That savagery of ignorance

Makes the savagery of innocence

The cruellest cut of all.

“They come.”

Still,

“I stopped the boats.”

the child King proudly says.

Staring at the windows

Where the sinners,

mothers’ sons and daughters

hang crucified

outside the city of the damned.

Yet he prays wearing out the carpet next to his bed.

But the prophets of hate

still preach at the gate

till their words become blood

on the ground.

“They have a go and get a go.”

What then of the suffering children?

We will decide who will come to this country and the manner in which they come.


Freedom Is Mine – Victorian Pride Centre

I wrote the above poem about the work to which I am committed supporting LGBTQI+ refugees from Africa and other places. Yes, my poem is political but I do not apologise.

I have just attended the launch of the “FREEDOM IS MINE” exhibition at Melbourne’s beautiful Victorian Pride Centre, St Kilda. FREEDOM IS MINE is a raw and powerful portrait exhibition of LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum in Australia, members of not for profit Many Coloured Sky’s Queer Refugee and Asylum Seeker Peers (QRASP) community.

This was a powerful evening. I found the photographs and the brief text that accompanies each one very moving indeed.

Consider just one:

“For an LGBTQI+ person, life is like a boat on the ocean.

Waves will try to knock you down and push you back to where you started.

But if you fight through them, the entire ocean is yours.”

The person who wrote this is discovering a whole new world of promise, an entire ocean. On the way though there are far too many who have drowned. Not because of politicians’ descriptions of leaking boats, but because of words that people say that put holes in their hearts and in their minds and a violent world that will not accept them for who they are.

 

Image from The Pride Centre

In Australia, But Seeking Welcome

A real welcome for the wonderful volunteers working with Many Coloured Sky would be for their efforts in our community to be recognised with permanent residency. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to hear the stories of refugees still suffering their lack of acceptance from the land they love, but committed to caring for each other along the way, and working tirelessly to that end.

Thank You, Malcolm Farr

In the poem, I use the expression “The Savagery of Ignorance.” It is a very powerful expression but not my own. Veteran journalist Malcolm Farr used it on ABC television’s The Drum recently when commenting in a segment about a new podcast “The Greatest Menace.” The podcast focuses on the world’s only known “gay prison,” which operated in Cooma, NSW, to house men convicted of homosexual offences. Can you believe it? Ah, Australia we have so much to be proud of in our history(!)

Farr’s comment related to a phrase used in 1958 by a then NSW Police Commissioner: “Homosexuality is the “greatest menacefacing Australia.” It was because of attitudes like that the gay prison in Cooma was established. So cruel that the horrendous practise of gay conversion therapy, normally attributed to ultra-conservative religious groups, was then practised in that prison by the State.

Talk about injustice.

Preachers Of Hate

In the poem, I speak of the preachers of hate. We haven’t moved far enough from that repulsive statement by a forgotten police commission in the late 1950s. During the dreaded 2017 plebiscite under the Prime Ministership of a man we had such hopes for, Malcolm Turnbull, every gay, lesbian and trans person in Australia was put on public display to be judged by the populace of Australia as to whether they were worthy of having their love relationships recognised or not. At the time perhaps it was the only way to get past the hard right in his party who were so against it and who still wield power and control. Thankfully back then Australia proved the hard right politicians just how wrong they were.

Yet it was only in 1997 that Tasmania became the last Australian state to change the repressive laws that criminalised homosexuality. Only twenty-four years ago! And it was just over a year ago that South Australia became the last state to abolish the “gay panic” laws that allowed that defence to be made to reduce a murder charge to manslaughter. Incredible.

Religious Discrimination

Not surprising then that in the last weeks of sitting of the current government, that furphy of a Religious Discrimination Law was being discussed – a promise of another conservative Prime Minister. If passed it would, give conservatives their way and enable Government-funded religious schools the enshrined right to discriminate against people who didn’t comply with their beliefs. It would include gay and trans people. Ironically, just prior to this in the news we were horrified to read of Citipoint School, part of the Hillsong network, where parents were required to sign agreeing to a definition of sexuality that precluded anyone but heterosexuals and that would give the school the right to dismiss gay and trans students for the crime of being themselves.

Shame.

All of this is bad enough in Australia but take the words of the preachers of hate to other continents, say, Africa and those words became the fuel for a fire that literally destroys people because of their sexuality. The preachers and politicians literally have blood on their hands and don’t care. Many countries in Africa still criminalise homosexuality both in public and private. In private? The organisation with which I am associated, “Humanity in Need – Rainbow Refugees” deals with LGBTQI+ refugees from Uganda who have fled persecution from families, churches, neighbours and the state. Oftentimes gay men or lesbians will tell of their partners being killed by their families or their neighbours and police turning a blind eye. Fearing retribution against themselves, they flee to Kenya where there are two refugee camps (that Kenya plans to close) but where also homosexuals and trans people are outlawed. So much for asylum. So much for refuge.

 

Image from The Pride Centre

Homophobic Gangs Rape And Kill

In the camps homophobic refugee gangs will persecute, abuse, beat up and rape LGBTQI+ refugees. In the view of these gangs the LGBTQI+ people are not human after all. They have heard enough preaching against these “vessels of the devil” so their attacks for some become “God’s work.” The words of the preachers of hate from America whose message is clear through social media and YouTube inspires them. So too are the words of conservative people in Australia and other countries.

We have seen community blocks in Kakuma Refugee Camp burnt to the ground with people inside killed or injured so badly that they cannot survive. We know of lesbians raped by the mobs, and sometimes even by the police, to help cure them of the evil that makes them who they are.

Recently we supported:

  • a man to have surgery after his nose was slashed off by a machete wielded by someone who saw the devil in him.
  • a lesbian to have surgery to repair internal damage because of rape.
  • a young boy to be reunited with his birth father – the boy faced violent attacks from his community because his birth father was gay and therefore the innocent boy was contaminated.
  • a food program to supplement the meagre supplies the UNHCR is able to give refugees
  • medical care when in some cases it has been denied, and
  • we continue to help fund safe houses in Nairobi where LGBTQI+ folk desperate to find safety in welcoming countries find some security.

What then of the man whose rotting foot may soon be amputated because we can’t raise the money to pay the medical bills that will save him.? Or the ex-Kakuma refugee (who fled in fear after murders and violence there), and who is about to be deported back to Uganda from Somalia to face possible death because he lacks bail money? And so many more.

I wrote the poem and do this work because as a Christian I am angered by the hatred that conservative religious people and others vomit that leads to this violence. There is a direct link between their religiously inspired hatred and lives lost. Homophobia hidden behind ancient religious texts is the worst kind. It purports to be holy, but it is simply wholly wrong.

Humanity Needs Us

Why is it that few churches, who purport to preach a Gospel of a loving God, will out themselves to support these least of the least.

After all, you don’t have to be a person of colour to care about race.

You don’t have to be an Aborigine to care about the injustice against our First Nations People. You also don’t have to be an LGBTQI+ person to fight for equality and mercy for the LBGTQI+ community.

Please join us.

Don’t be like the child king in the poem who boasts of stopping boats.

Don’t be like the wise men comfortable in their Commonwealth cars and unable to empathise with the genuine plight of refugees held in detention either in this country or those seeking refuge from abuse in their own.

We are currently developing a partnership that will enable tax deductibility for donations supporting our development work in Africa. This will be announced soon.

Meanwhile, your regular donation, no matter how small will help us demonstrate Australia is no longer the place of the 1950s where we alone of all countries in the world had a recognised prison designated for homosexual men. It will demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of people who supported same-sex marriage are truly representative of a new Australia that values humanity and equality first and not on ancient beliefs that condemn some for being different whilst rewarding others for being the same. Please donate to support our work for refugees in Kenya here:

https://chuffed.org/pay/campaign/75217

The Greatest Menace” podcast

Freedom is Mine Exhibition:

https://pridecentre.org.au/visual-arts-at-the-pride-centre/

http://www.threeforallfoundation.org/

 

Image from The Pride Centre (Photo by Peter Casamento)

 

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Australia’s structural cruelty goes beyond refugee policy

By Stuart Rees

Australia’s reprehensible treatment of refugees now goes beyond cruelty, and instead could be described as evil.

Cruelty fostered by government policies is evident in harm to the bodies and minds of powerless individuals, but in regard to Australia’s treatment of refugees, the charge of cruelty now reads like an understatement.

Morally reprehensible, years-long dehumanising treatment of refugees in Melbourne’s Park Hotel illustrates evil equivalent to a permanent virus which we are told we must learn to live with.

To reframe a description of an Australian government’s policies from cruel to evil, I acknowledge the insights and outrage of Crikey commentator Guy Rundle. Writing on January 12, he refers to the treatment of Park Hotel refugees as “an evil that manifests itself in plain sight”, his charge confirmed by the experiences of 24-year-old detainee Mehdi Ali, who was only 15 when first imprisoned, after he tried to escape oppression in Iran by travelling to Australia by boat.

Powerful, proud Canberra politicians have been so preoccupied with appearing strong towards powerless refugees that they appear to enjoy inflicting psychological harm, a practice described by Rundle as “just straight existential horror, weaponized to create permanent damage”.

Under the “Set Them Free” banner, Australia’s religious leaders have identified the hypocrisy of a prime minister who professes a Christian faith which should oblige him “to stand up for truth, for justice, for the poor, the hungry and homeless”. Instead, although not referring to evil, the narrator of a campaign video, Reverend Tim Costello, argues that “Australia treats dogs better than it treats refugees”.

Speaking of evil needs careful caveats. Degrees of evil could be plotted on a continuum, from one miscarriage of justice to headless bodies piled high in the streets of a Syrian town taken by ISIS. The latter macabre picture could be easily recognised as evil, but extremes of cruelty do not imply that apparently lesser acts might be tolerated. One evil act allowed becomes contagious, one refugee unjustly punished metastasises into a policy’s natural order.

A second caveat concerns a world wide spread of evil. The morally repugnant treatment of refugees by an Australian government compares to the policies of other states, where potential for evil is massaged by authoritarianism, by disdain for democracy and for human rights.

Massive death tolls from responses to riots by prisoners crammed in South American jails, most recently in Ecuador, show taken for granted evils in prisons, not only in poor countries.

The UK’s Ministry of Justice records that in the past year, prisoner suicides increased by 28 per cent. Distinguished Observer journalist Nick Cohen describes a mental health disaster. When Covid hit, 80,000 inmates had to stay in their cells for 23 hours per day. An estimated 70 per cent of inmates already suffered from two or more mental health conditions.

Australia’s treatment of Indigenous prisoners is also beyond belief. In The Saturday Paper of January 29, Dechlan Brennan recalls the 2008 death of a Ngaanyatjarra elder Mr Ward who suffocated in a Western Australian prison van when the temperature was 56 degrees Celsius The same author describes northern WA’s Roebourne jail where 80 per cent of prisoners are Indigenous, a majority have pre-existing mental health conditions and temperatures inside prison cells hover around 50C.

As a means of assessing policies, the criterion “evil” produces many candidates, including UK, US, Australian politicians and judiciary obsessed with revenge towards courageous Australian citizens Julian Assange, Bernard Collaery, David McBride and the Sri Lankan Bilolea family. The cruelty becoming evil in these cases is so deep seated as to make the policies structural, almost inherent in national psyche, therefore more difficult to eradicate.

In a country which in Rundle’s terms has become “a leading edge laboratory for new techniques of managed dehumanisation”, abuse of refugees has become normal. In the weeks preceding a federal election, such normality needs to be replaced by resolve to respect human rights, to speak of kindness and generosity as features of a common humanity, that priceless, easily available vaccine.

In her inimitable commentary on the evils of an old normality, Arundhati Roy provides an inspiring alternative. She writes of a chance, “… to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.” Covid, she says, is “a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

On that journey, abolishing evil towards all refugees, towards Assange, Collaery, McBride and the Bilolea family would be a start.

Stuart Rees OAM is Professor Emeritus, Univ. of Sydney, recipient of the Jerusalem (Al Quds) Peace Prize and author of the recent Policy Press book ‘Cruelty or Humanity’.

 

 

 

This article was originally published on Pearls and Irritations.

 

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Long-term immigration detention has again become a pointless exercise in cruelty

By Peter Hughes

The Howard government released long-term detainees into the community, but the current Coalition government refuses to do so for political reasons.

Novak Djokovic’s few days at the Park Hotel in Carlton briefly shone light on the ongoing horrific plight of long-term immigration detainees.

The most publicised case at the Park Hotel was that of Mehdi, a 24-year-old refugee who had been in one form of immigration detention or another for nine years since the age of 15. However, he, and the luckless people who have spent years locked up in the now notorious Carlton hotel, were quickly forgotten by the media as soon as Djokovic was out of the country.

It is interesting to reflect that the full Federal Court was specially convened on a Sunday to allow a wealthy tennis player who had spent just a few days in immigration detention to pursue his case to remain in Australia. But no such action has occurred for the refugees, stateless persons, asylum seekers and others who have spent years in immigration detention.

There is a strong sense of déjà vu about the current situation. The Howard government allowed a situation to develop where there was a caseload of long-term immigration detainees. These were mostly, but not always, asylum seekers who had arrived by sea. The most notable was Peter Qasim, who had been detained for seven years. A rigid policy enshrined in the Migration Act meant that people without a right to remain in Australia either left the country or stayed in detention indefinitely, even though it might be quite impracticable for them to return to their home country.

Under pressure from Liberal moderates, led by Petro Georgio, Howard in 2005 accepted the need to do something about the folly and cruelty of keeping people in immigration detention for year after year when their cases could not be effectively progressed.

The Department of Immigration came up with a new visa tool – a specialised bridging visa – and a new ministerial power (both of which were legislated) to give the government more legal flexibility to get people out of detention. The Howard government was then able to progressively use these tools to get long-term detainees into the community. This didn’t necessarily mean that the individuals were permitted to stay permanently in Australia or given access to a wide range of benefits. It was simply that the outstanding matters they had with the Australian government could be resolved while they were living in the community.

Around that time there was also the scandal of Cornelia Rau, an Australian permanent resident who was wrongly held in immigration detention for months. Several external reviews, including one by former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer, reflected on the damage to the mental health of detainees and how desensitised the system had become to the use of extraordinary powers to detain people.

Following the election of the Rudd Labor government in 2007, immigration minister Chris Evans introduced reforms to allow the department to continue to pursue its legitimate immigration compliance role, but with much less use of detention. The scope for different forms of detention, including community detention outside of formal institutions, was expanded.

So how is it that we are back in a similar situation of overuse of immigration detention and a caseload of long-term detainees? With the return of a Coalition government under Tony Abbott in 2013, a much harsher approach to the use of detention was progressively reintroduced under the new Department of Immigration and Border Protection and, subsequently, the Department of Home Affairs. The lessons of the Howard years were forgotten.

According to Department of Home Affairs statistics, in September 2021 there were 1459 people in closed immigration detention – 510 of them had spent more than two years in detention and 117 had spent more than five years. Reputedly, a small number have been in detention for over 10 years. The detainees are a mixed bunch ranging from maritime refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and visa overstayers through to people whose visas were cancelled on character grounds.

Why are they in detention at all? The actual policy purpose of immigration detention has always been to briefly hold people, such as asylum seekers arriving by sea, for identification, health checks and application processing. It is also used to assist in the removal of people unlawfully in Australia who may be at risk of absconding from the immigration authorities.

None of this is a justification for incarcerating people for years simply because the legal power exists and their cases have not been resolved. It just becomes a pointless exercise in cruelty. No purpose whatsoever is advanced by holding people in detention for such a long time if their case is not being effectively progressed either towards the granting of a visa or removal from Australia. If a person’s case has not been resolved in three, four or up to 10 years, it is unlikely that keeping them in detention any longer will help. And for the budget minded, immigration detention is expensive for the taxpayer.

The Morrison government should urgently review the situation of long-term detainees. It should start with those who have been detained for over two years with a view to releasing them into the community. The tools that were created under the Howard government still exist. The priority should be to get the longest-term detainees, people found to be refugees, stateless persons and other vulnerable cases out into the community as soon as possible. Other types of cases in long-term detention should be reviewed progressively. Some of them will be more difficult, such as those whose visas have been cancelled on character grounds or who have a qualified/adverse security assessment. There is nearly always a non-detention solution if you want there to be one. Release into the community may or may not come with a longer-term visa, depending on the individual situation.

Sadly, based on practice to date, it is hard to see any of this happening. The Morrison government appears to be locked into the position of showing how tough it can be on asylum seekers who arrived by sea and those migrants whose visas have been cancelled. Tired mantras are used about deterrence and the imminent risks of further boat arrivals if the slightest sensible compassion is shown towards long-term asylum seeker detainees. So we are led to believe that if asylum seekers in detention in Australia (or in offshore processing centres) are facilitated in being resettled in the United States, there will be no pull factor for further maritime asylum seekers, but the same logic does not apply to releasing someone into the Australian community, even on a very restricted visa. It doesn’t add up.

It is likely that in the run-up to the election the government will be happy to leave the current cruel status quo in place in order to show its toughness. Resolving the problem in a humane way will be a job for a potential Labor government.

Peter Hughes is a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development. He had a long career in the Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Citizenship, retiring as Deputy Secretary in 2011. He was awarded the Public Service Medal in 2005 for outstanding public service in the development of policies and programs to increase citizenship, multicultural harmony and the settlement of refugees.

This article was originally published on Pearls and Irritations.

 

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The Omicron Murders?

So who will speak on behalf of the dead?

Will they ever lie as forgotten sacrifices in the putrid side gutters of the golden path to profit and mindless economic growth?

Who decided to let a sickness reign unfettered across our land? Was it a collective decision? Did the People agree? Or did one person grab the power and decide to unleash the tide?

Who decided that profit is more precious than life?

Death by accident is accidental death not planned. Death by murder is a crime. But death by Government Policy?

Political fingers at a deniable remove. It wasn’t us. No overt signs of blood on their grabbing strangling hands.

It wasn’t Corporate us. Without growing profit, nothing will trickle down to where nothing ever has or will. We deserve our rewards.

It wasn’t little old Investor us. Who cares if that’s another grandmother, or grandfather, or mother, or father, or child, or stranger, gone. We’ve six houses and we want more. Open things up. Give us our freedoms.

We voted for them. But it wasn’t us. They cater to us because we vote for them. Give us money, more tax breaks, feed our avaricious aspirations. But it wasn’t us, we are just voters. Not killers at all.

Culpability. Hard to define. Hard to pin in place.

The Old and Sick are quietly expendable. More deaths today. More tomorrow.

Government Policy. Who decides it? Who supports it? Who profits by it? Who are these proxies?

Because murder by proxy is still murder indeed.

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Time to end the ‘criminality with impunity’ of Australia’s immigration detention regime

By Max Costello

The unfitness for office of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his coalition government now stands comprehensively exposed. Yet the apparent criminality of Liberal-National cruelty to immigration detainees has somehow remained largely unexposed, unprevented, and unpunished for nearly a decade.

In late August 2014, a formerly fit, healthy, 24 year-old Iranian man, Hamid Khazaei, a detainee in an Australian immigration detention facility (IDF) on PNG’s Manus Island, was belatedly flown here for medical care but arrived, brain dead, at a Brisbane hospital. An infected lesion on his leg had led to sepsis. Life support was turned off on 5 September.

The July 2018 report of Queensland coroner Mr Terry Ryan’s inquest said the death was “preventable”, and identified, among the contributing factors:

(1) Immigration’s failure to stock, at the Manus clinic, Meropenem, an antibiotic that would “safely and effectively treat” most common tropical infections “including Mr Khazaei’s”; and

(2) the “overly bureaucratic” approvals process for medical evacuations, involving at least four levels of public servants in Canberra, that had delayed Mr Khazaei’s airlift.

So, why wasn’t the Immigration department subsequently brought to book? And why, when 21 of 45 detainees in a Melbourne hotel IDF contracted COVID-19 in October 2021 (ABC 7.30, 28/10/21), after being denied vaccines for six months until August (Australian Border Force statement, 29/11/21), has the successor department, Home Affairs, not yet been held to account?

Q: Is there a law against such dangerous neglect? A: Yes, but it’s rarely enforced. Allow me to explain.

What applicable law has been, and is being, apparently broken?

The maltreatment of detainees in the variously named IDFs was and is apparently criminal, because it exposes detainees to preventable risks to their health and safety, thereby contravening criminal offence provisions of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth) (WHS Act): it commenced on 1 January 2012.

The WHS Act applies to all Commonwealth workplaces, including IDFs, wherever located: s12F(3) gives the Act “extended geographical jurisdiction” over Commonwealth workplaces located in countries that, like PNG and Nauru, lack a WHS law. Thus the WHS Act applied to the Manus Island regional processing centre (RPC) until it closed on 31/10/17, and could re-apply to the long empty Nauru RPC if re-occupied.

The Act calls a Commonwealth workplace operator a “person conducting a business or undertaking” (a ‘PCBU’). At IDFs, the PCBU is the Commonwealth of Australia – effectively, the relevant government department, namely Home Affairs, and in particular its Australian Border Force (ABF) unit, whose website says, “We are responsible for the management … of [IDFs] including the health and welfare of detainees”. To assist at IDFs, the Commonwealth contracts Serco Australia Pty Ltd (Serco) to provide “garrison services” (e.g., security guards), and International Health and Medical Services Pty Ltd (IHMS).

But IHMS doctors can’t directly refer detainees to specialist external health facilities: they may only recommend such care to a non-medical body, ABF, which decides whether such care will be arranged. Often it’s refused or delayed, as detailed by Health Care Denied: Medevac and the long wait for essential medical treatment in Australian immigration detention (Public Interest Advocacy Centre, 3/12/21).

The WHS Act’s s19 imposes on PCBUs like Immigration/Home Affairs/ABF a “primary duty of care” to “ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health [including psychological health] and safety of workers [19(1)] and other persons [e.g., IDF detainees, 19(2)] is not put at risk …”.

Section 18 defines “so far as is reasonably practicable” in process terms: PCBUs must identify all potential dangers to health and safety; risk assess each one (how likely to eventuate, how harmful if it does) to tease out all the significant risks; then find available and suitable ways to “eliminate or minimise” each one. Section 17 prioritises elimination: minimisation is sufficient only if elimination is not realistically achievable. In short, the s19(1) & (2) duty is both exacting and pro-actively preventative.

Also, the onerous s27 requires a PCBU’s “officers” (senior decision-makers) to “exercise due diligence to ensure that [their PCBU] complies with [every Act] duty or obligation”.

Non-compliance with s19, s27, and any other “health and safety duty”, is a serious criminal offence.

What the WHS Act’s regulator, Comcare, should do, but has rarely done

Comcare’s key function is “to monitor and enforce compliance with this Act” – s152(b). Since the Act commenced on 1/1/12, Comcare, in relation to IDF detainees, has used two enforcement modes: orders to comply (“improvement notices”) and prosecutions. Comcare’s Annual Reports since 2011–12 record one prosecution: on 3/3/21, two charges each were laid against IHMS and (effectively) Home Affairs, alleging breaches of the s19 duty to ensure the mental health of a detainee at Sydney’s Villawood IDF (prior to his 2019 suicide). The next mention is on 21/12/21. Annual Reports of the Immigration/Home Affairs department show that it incurred nine WHS Act improvement notices from 2011–12 to 2020–21.

Two examples of Comcare non-enforcement in relation to IDF detainees

In February 2019, another refugee advocate and I urged Comcare to prosecute re the Khazaei matter. We suggested that the coroner’s two contributing factors implied grave breaches of the s19(2) duty. On 9/8/19, Comcare emailed me to ‘explain’ why no charges had been laid: “After assessing the Coroner’s Report …, it did not appear to Comcare that an offence had been committed against the WHS Act”. Thus the Khazaei family was denied justice.

Home Affairs/ABF is yet to incur Comcare enforcement action over its neglect of a Melbourne IDF’s 45 detainees. Does Comcare truly believe that denying access to vaccines for 6 months, and other ‘COVID risk’ behaviours (such as making openable windows un-openable), are not serious breaches of the Act?

So, what is to be done? Can the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner discipline Comcare?

No. The Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006 (Cth) (LEIC Act) only gives the Commissioner power over law enforcement bodies that are designated as a “law enforcement agency” by that Act or its regulations. Comcare is not. It must be, ASAP. But even then, since the LEIC Act doesn’t refer to agency integrity, just natural person corruption, the Commissioner could only tackle an individual Comcare staffer who “engages in corrupt conduct”, not agency-wide corruption. Thus Comcare would stay ‘captured’ by Home Affairs/ABF re IDF detainees. Clearly, the Act must be amended to empower the Commissioner to deal incisively with blatantly non-enforcing agencies.

Could the media have relentlessly exposed, and Parliament ended, the ‘criminality with impunity’?

Yes. But inexcusably they haven’t, despite being apprised by, e.g., Anna Talbot’s 149-page report, Untold Damage – workplace health and safety in immigration (Australian Lawyers Alliance, 10/6/16). To my knowledge, no Senate Estimates Committee has asked Secretary Pezzullo or Commissioner Outram to instance due diligence steps they have taken to ensure Home Affairs/ABF compliance with the WHS Act at IDFs, or asked Comcare’s CEO why Comcare has so rarely enforced the Act in relation to detainees. Many (most?) Commonwealth politicians have called for a commission to tackle federal level corruption, but not one of them has publicly called out, much less campaigned against, almost a decade of apparent federal level criminality (with near total impunity) at IDFs.

Max Costello, now retired, is a former prosecuting solicitor with WorkSafe Victoria, and a lecturer in Employment Law at Melbourne’s RMIT University. He wrote “Offshore Crimes” (The Monthly online, 22/9/16) and several subsequent refugee-related pieces in Pearls and Irritations. He also co-authored with Robert Richter QC submission 75 to the 2019 Senate Committee considering the government bill aimed at repealing the Medevac amendments to the Migration Act.

 

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Australian Government Must Continue Pressure on Indonesian Government on Human Rights in West Papua

Media Release – Catholic Justice & Peace Commission, Brisbane

The Australian Government must continue pressuring the Indonesian Government to make arrangements to enable a UN human rights mission to West Papua to take place without further delay.

This call was made by Brisbane’s Catholic Justice & Peace Commission on the 7th anniversary of the killing by Indonesian soldiers of 4 teenage boys in the Paniai District in the Highlands of West Papua.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo, agreed to a request from the UN for this mission in February 2018, but it is yet to happen.

“The UN mission needs to go ahead without further delay,” Mr. Arndt said.

“The Australian Government has expressed its support for the UN mission both in correspondence to our Commission and in answers to questions at recent Estimates hearings in the Senate,” he said.

“We hope the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister will continue to pressure the Indonesian Government so that an independent investigation into the Paniai massacre and many other human rights violations in West Papua can happen,” he said.

“We have met with the families of the boys killed in Paniai and they have waited far too long for justice,” he said.

“Many other victims’ families and survivors have waited too long for justice too,” he added.

Mr. Arndt said that the Commission has been engaging this year with MPs and Senators to maintain Australian support for the UN mission and to build pressure on the Indonesian Government.

“We are encouraged to see good support for action on West Papua among MPs and Senators from the Government, the Opposition and from the cross benches,” Mr. Arndt said.

“A number of questions on West Papua were asked at Senate Estimates hearings this year,” he said.

“A motion on West Papua was also put on the House of Representatives notice paper by Government MP, George Christensen, and Tasmanian Independent MP, Andrew Wilkie in November and we hope this will be debated in the House when it returns in February 2022,” Mr. Arndt said.

“Our Commission continues to keep in touch with Catholic priests and leaders from other churches in West Papua and also with victims’ families,” he said.

“They have waited far too long for justice and we will continue to offer them our support and solidarity,” he said.

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Manufactured Cruelties: Belarus, Poland and the Refugee Crisis

Refugee crises are often manufactured by governments. They can be done at the source: war, famine, rapacious institutions. They can also be manufactured by the refusal of governments to accept those seeking asylum, sanctuary and refuge.

The latter is very much in evidence in Europe: governments of the European Union are staring down desperate humans keen to travel into the EU; Belarus, engaging in its own form of mega-trafficking, has become a conduit for the movement of asylum seekers and migrants fleeing from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.

Despite being granted Belarussian visas at considerable cost, many being initially housed in government hotels, their stay is only intended as temporary. After brief respite, they are pushed towards the country’s border with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. How they get there is not entirely clear. Some migrants are escorted by uniformed men; others pay additional fees to be transported. It has also been reported that Belarusian security forces have furnished instructions and tools – axes and wire cutters – to aid the crossing of the border. Attempts by Belarussian personnel to destroy border fences near Czeremcha, and disorientate Polish soldiers with stroboscopes and lasers, have also been noted.

Once at the border, the migrants are not allowed to approach any checkpoints to seek asylum. Nor are they allowed to return to Minsk, threatened by Belarusian border guards who insist on keeping them there.

Trapped in purgatorial fashion along the border, the migrants find themselves sleeping in rude conditions and left at the mercy of the elements. There have inadequate supplies, lack warm clothing and are starving. One estimate has put the death toll at nine.

All political sides are making hay from this suffering. Lukashenko can be accused of being an opportunistic trafficker of desperate folk and keen on jailing opponents in a desperate bit to stay in power, but Poland’s Law and Justice Party has happily stirred xenophobic hysteria. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and President Adrzej Duda are part of an administration that does not shy away from demonising arrivals they associate with terrorists with kinky characteristics. Doing so supplies an appropriate distraction from accusations of corruption, galloping inflation and a troubling rise in COVID-19 numbers.

In September, the Minister of the Interior, Mariusz Kamiński, and the National Defence Minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, appeared at a press conference to show a picture of a man copulating with a cow. The content had been allegedly found on a phone belonging to an Afghan migrant lurking in the woods. Spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, Stanisław Żaryn, suggested that this was an act “associated with sexual disorders,” signalling a government campaign to link refugees with zoophilia and paedophilia.

In a gesture of such refined generosity, TVP Info, the main propaganda outlet of the ruling party, ran a video with a suitably prurient title: “He raped a cow and wanted to enter Poland?” There were two problems with the footage: the material, recorded on a VHS videotape, was drawn from bestiality porn from the 1970s; and the animal in question was a mare, not a cow.

Earlier this month, Duda signed a bill into law to construct what was described as “a high-tech barrier on the border with Belarus to guard against an influx of irregular migrants.” The barrier, valued at some €350 million, was “needed due to increased migratory pressure from Belarus.” The right to asylum had all but entirely vanished.

Liz Throssell, spokesperson from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), is adamant that, “The human rights of migrants and refugees have to come first.” Unfortunately, she was far from informative on what solutions might be pursued on the Belarus-EU border. “It is really important they must be respected under international human rights refugee law, but as for the political dimension to this, I would leave that to others to address”.

Along the Belarus-Polish border, refugees and migrants have been instrumentalised, their rights assiduously ignored. Lukashenko has been accused of using a form of “hybrid” warfare by throwing migrants at the border like willing assailants of rabid intent. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, makes the point. “It is a hybrid attack, a brutal attack, a violent attack and a shameful attack.” Such nasty terminology has turned those wishing to make their way to the EU into foot soldiers in a political cause they wish to play no part in. Wedged in between this vicious play of power, these unfortunates trapped on the border find themselves divested of their humanity, their desires, their wishes.

The EU is also playing its own vile game, falling back upon frontier states who have held themselves up to be saviours of European civilisation. “It is important that Lukashenko understands that [the regime’s] behaviour comes with a price,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned after talks with US President Joe Biden. Sanctions are being considered against the airlines that have been accused of facilitating human trafficking.

There is one final perversion in all this. In essentially condemning human trafficking, the EU and its counterparts are condemning the right to asylum, which such trafficking aids. With that sentiment, von der Leyen would regard Oskar Schindler and his more recent equivalent, Iraq’s Ali Al Jenabi, as traffickers worthy of punishment.

 

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Dear Mr Morrison: “I ask you not to forget Afghanistan”

Nazdana Sultanfar lives in Afghanistan. Below is a letter she wrote to our Prime Minister asking that her country and the appalling treatment of Afghan women not be forgotten.

Dear Mr. Morrison,

As the whole world is witnessing a change in Afghanistan’s political system, with this regime change in Afghanistan, we are witnessing many collapses. These include the unemployment of thousands of people, the closing of the gates of universities and schools and government offices.

I am Nazdana Sultanfar, a Law and Political Science student, as well as a civil and social activist.

It has been two years since I started my studies at the university, and I have been working in social and cultural work and defending women’s rights. In my activities, I pursue two major goals:

  1. Changing the attitude of Afghan society towards women
  2. Informing women about their rights and status in a family, community and government.

I had and will have big goals. My biggest goal is to be a legal analyst in my community and save my community from misery by making a law. But with the rise of the Taliban, all my activities came to an end. And all my dreams remain like a nightmare. With the university closed, it is impossible to achieve my goals, and I am not only thinking about my future, but also thinking about the future of my generation, especially Afghan girls, who are called the second gender in Afghanistan. Hearing these two words is painful and upsetting to me.

The purpose of my hard work was to prove to men that a woman is not the second gender, but a woman like me is a human being and has equal value, responsibility and rights, Mr. Morrison! Another big problem in Afghanistan is increasing rate of poverty and unemployment, which will cause unprecedented human catastrophe. If poverty and unemployment are not prevented or a specific plan is not implemented, it will be a total humanitarian collapse. It is very painful for me and all Afghan citizens for the moment. Streets are full of women, men, children and the disabled; asleep and awake, hungry and thirsty for a little help to find a piece of bread, and get five Afghanis. I am so upset that I sleep for long hours and I talk to myself and I think that the only logical solution is for me and my generation to study. Then we will end this current situation with science and knowledge.

In addition to poverty and unemployment there is apparent ethnic and gender discrimination in Afghanistan. These two terms have been on the rise in Afghanistan for many years. We see girls deprived from school and university, women banned from work.

Apart from gender discrimination, ethnic discrimination is rampant in Afghanistan, and a single ethnic government has been established, and all decisions are made by the Pashtuns with the idea of ​​Talibani. In the shadow of this government the most vulnerable people are the Hazara people, who have no national or international support. Hundreds of young people with all their dreams and aspirations went underground and slept forever. With the coming to power of the Taliban, the Hazara people are the hardest hit, Mr. Morrison! As a young Afghan, I have no authority or power to do for my community and country. The only thing I could do was to study and gain knowledge. But unfortunately, the gate of the university is closed for me and my generation. The only thing I could do was write this letter to your Excellency, expressing the common pains of the Afghan people. I always follow your Twitter and Facebook.

I ask you not to forget Afghanistan, especially Afghan women.

Best regards,

Nazdana Sultanfar

Nazdana Sultanfar is a second-year student at the Faculty of Law and Political Science of Kabul University, a social, cultural and women’s rights activist

 

 

 

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Law Council calls for more clarity about proposed family violence regimes

Law Council of Australia Media Release

While the Law Council of Australia strongly supports the intent of the Family Law Amendment (Federal Family Violence Orders) Bill 2021, there are several issues within the legislation that need clarification.

Speaking after the public hearing before the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, President of the Law Council Dr Jacoba Brasch QC said, “while the Bill is designed to make things easier for vulnerable people, we are looking for some clarity on how the proposed scheme will actually work and how it would interact with existing state and territory Family Violence Order regimes.

“The Law Council is also concerned about the potential impact of this scheme on the workload of federal family law courts.

“It appears that the proposed Bill only allows for a person experiencing family violence, who has proceedings before the family law courts, to seek a final Federal Family Violence Order (FFVO) and not an interim order.

“This means that a person experiencing family violence and who needs urgent or immediate protection, will still seek remedies from the state and territory courts.

“It is also not clear how a person would apply for and obtain a FFVO, and when that might happen.

“It is critical that the government engage closely with the courts and legal assistance bodies to ensure that any measures proposed are accompanied by adequate resourcing for the courts, their support services, and the legal assistance sector, to cope with the additional workload we envisage will arise should the FFVO regime come into effect.

The Law Council is also concerned that the Bill may inadvertently create opportunities for perpetrators of family violence to delay determination of family violence and family law issues, by increasing the number, length and cost of family law and family violence proceedings through an additional FFVO pathway.

Given the serious nature of the Law Council’s concerns, more information about how the scheme will operate and how quickly a final FFVO can be granted is needed.”

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Denmark Offshores the Right to Asylum

This has been a fantasy of Danish governments for some time. There have been gazes of admiration towards countries like Australia, where processing refugees and asylum-seekers is a task offloaded, with cash incentives, to third countries (Papua New Guinea and Nauru come to mind). Danish politicians, notably a good number among the Social Democrats, have dreamed about doing the same to countries in Africa, returning to that customary pattern of making poorer states undertake onerous burdens best undertaken by more affluent states.

The government of Mette Frederiksen has now secured amendments to the Danish Aliens Act that authorises the transfer of asylum seekers to other countries as their applications are being processed. The measure was secured on June 3 by a vote of 70 to 24, though critics must surely look at the absence of 85 MPs as telling. The measure is not automatic: the Danish government will have to secure (or bribe) the trust of third party states to assume their share.

Government spokesman Rasmus Stoklund left few doubts as to what the new law entailed. “If you apply for asylum in Denmark, you know that you will be sent back to a country outside Europe, and therefore we hope that people stop seeking asylum in Denmark.”

Stoklund’s language of warning evokes parallels with Australia’s own campaign of discouragement, marked by a highly-budgeted effort featuring such savage products as No Way. You Will Not Make Australia Home. In the video, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, then chief of Australia’s effort to repel naval arrivals known as Operation Sovereign Borders, is stern in threatening that “if you travel by boat without a visa you will never make Australia home.” Other delights involve a graphic novel, translated into 18 different languages, promising trauma and suffering to those who end up in a detention centre in the Pacific, and the feature film Journey, where an Iranian mother and her child seek sanctuary in Australia. The Danish propaganda arm will have some catching up to do.

Who then, are the third country candidates? Denmark already has a memorandum of understanding with the Rwandan government that covers migration, asylum, return and repatriation. Its purpose is to target an asylum system which supposedly gives incentives to “children, women and women to embark on dangerous journeys along migratory routes, while human traffickers earn fortunes.” When it was made, Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Nils Muižnieks could see the writing on the wall, calling it “unconscionable” and even “potentially unlawful.” But for Rwanda, just as it is with Pacific island states such as Nauru, money is to be made. Such countries effectively replace demonised people smugglers as approved traffickers and middlemen.

The response to the legislation from those in the business of advocating for refugees and the right to asylum has been uniform in curtness and distress. Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, voiced strong opposition to “efforts that seek to externalise or outsource asylum and international protection obligations to other countries.”

UNHCR spokesman Babar Balloch could only make the relevant point that the legislation ran “counter to the letter and spirit of the 1951 Refugee Convention.” Moves to externalise “asylum processing and protecting of refugees to a third country… seriously risk setting in motion a process of gradual erosion of the international protection system, which has withstood the test of time over the last 70 years.”

Balloch is evidently not as attentive as he thinks: those wishing to externalise such obligations have well and truly set this train in motion. The 2018 EU summit went so far as to debate the building of offshore processing centres in Morocco, Algeria and Libya to plug arrival routes via the Mediterranean. The UK government is also toying with the idea of an offshore asylum system.

Bill Frelick of Human Rights Watch’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Division distils the relevant principle being sacrificed. “By sending people to a third country, what you are essentially doing is taking what is a legal right and making it a discretionary political choice.” It is an increasingly attractive, if grotesque policy, for wealthier countries with little appetite to share the burdens of sharing the processing claims under the UNHCR’s Global Compact on Refugees.

Unfortunately for Frelkick and their like, the Danish government is proving derivatively consistent. It has been opting out of the European asylum system since the 2000s, doing its bit to fragment an already incoherent approach in the bloc. The centre right government of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, just by way of example, was proud to reduce the number of asylum seekers and those wishing to settle in Denmark. In 2004, 1,607 people were granted asylum compared to 6,263 three years prior.

The approach of the current government is to negate the very right to seeking asylum in Denmark, aided by third countries. And there is not much left to do, given that the country received a mere 1,515 asylum applications in 2020, its lowest in two decades. Of those, 601 were granted permits to stay.

Lurking, as it always does in these situations, is the Australian example. The right to asylum is vanishing before the efforts of bureaucrats and border closing populists. The UN Refugee Convention, like other documents speaking to freedoms and rights, is becoming a doomed relic.

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Can legislation named after a Russian help persecuted Muslims in China?

By Bahtiyar Bora

The Uyghur people of north-west China are now the most persecuted group on the planet with one million people locked up in “re-education” camps and numerous atrocities occurring daily.

The U.S. government, the parliaments of the U.K., Canada and The Netherlands now all say it is clearly genocide.

The brutal regime of Xi Jinping is trying to eradicate Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims.

And while there’s been an avalanche of bad publicity in recent years for the Chinese government it continues to deny its actions and presses on with inhumane policies.

In recent weeks New Zealand stood up against the regime with a unanimous parliamentary vote condemning what it called “severe human rights abuses.”

The resolution was put forward by ACT Party MP Brooke van Velden:

“Our conscience requires that we support this motion,” she said.

“Genocide does not require a war, it does not need to be sudden, it can be slow and deliberate and that is what is happening here.”

But worldwide criticism alone will not save my brothers and sisters in East Turkistan (Xinjiang).

One measure that could put serious pressure on Beijing is the so called “Magnitsky Act”. This legislation is designed to punish individual members of a government who are inflicting human rights abuses.

The law, which is being implemented in several countries, is named after a Russian citizen, Sergei Magnitsky, who was a tax advisor who exposed Kremlin corruption back in the early 2000’s.

For his whistleblowing he was jailed for 358 days. While in prison he developed pancreatitis and a blocked gall bladder, and was denied medical care. An investigation found that he had been physically assaulted shortly before his death.

Now his former colleague Bill Browder has travelled the globe promoting the Magnitsky Act which can be used to freeze the assets of human rights abusers and deny visas for international travel.

A form of the Magnitsky act is now before the Australian Parliament and has the backing of a multi-party committee.

But so far the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not supported the legislation.

So now four Australian based Uyghur organisation have written to the PM urging him to support the bill and get it passed by the parliament.

In part our letter to Scott Morrison says:

Uyghurs in East Turkistan, Xinjiang China are suffering horrific human rights abuses, which a number of countries have determined to be genocide.

It is not just Uyghurs who are being abused. Tibetans, Hong Kongers, and others are being subjected to outrageous crimes against humanity and democracy by the CCP.

The legislation you are considering provides hope for thousands who have escaped persecution to call Australia home.

If Australia is serious about stopping the blatant abuse of Uyghur Muslims it must take stronger action against the Chinese government.

Passing Magnitsky legislation is one important way it could do that.

Almost very Australian Uyghur has family and friends still in Xinjiang, and it has been extremely distressing not to have communication, or finding out they have been sentenced to imprisonment or taken to work in labour camps.

Some would say making the Magnitsky Act part of Australian law is the least we can do.

We often boast of how important our democratic ideals are. Now is the time to truly live up to those ideals.

Bahtiyar Bora, Australian Uyghur Association

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Australia’s genocidal identity

Horrified barely scratches the surface of how I felt the day I learnt what is defined as genocide. After being directed to the United Nations 1948 Genocide Convention website. My heart sank reading Article II.

(Excerpt from the Article II of UN Website) In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Australia has a genocidal history

Looking through the eyes of my own Aboriginal ancestors, genocides were abundant in my personal history. My family line descends from the Stolen Generations, more than 60-years of what is considered the last definition of genocide. Like most First Nation People, my clans were victims of poisoned water holes massacring dozens at a time. Plus, retaliatory mass murders after colonial violence such as women raped resulted in a payback spearing or killing. Watching ABC’s The Pacific in the Wake of Capitan Cook, I heard a Maori woman describe herself as both coloniser and colonised. The line stuck me deeply. Having grown up knowing my ancestors oppressed my ancestors, was a hard place for a child let alone an adult. This statement was another take on my own words.

The founding of Australia was dark and unpleasant to say the least. Those who continue to deny the history, please read some of my other articles on The AIMN. Relevant topics can be found here, or here, or here. Colonialism has been determined to portray a nomadic people whom were dying out naturally. Considered from the Indigenous perspective this was a means of justifying the conquering of the people and illegal seizure of lands. Phrases such as ‘punitive expeditions’ and ‘disperse the natives’ frequent Australia’s history books. A means of disguising the actions of mass murder used against the Indigenous Peoples. Currently, the world is up in arms at China over the fourth item on the description. But Australia is ignoring the implications of what constitutes genocide enacted within our own shores. We always have!

On the 8th July 1949 Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The last ‘officially sanctioned’ act of genocide against the Indigenous People occurred in the 1930s. Sadly there are records of unsanctioned acts occurring much later than the official records reflect; covered up for fear of punishment. Historians are researching historical records in an attempt to bring more of these to light and improve the records of Australian history.

Whilst the majority of Australians believe genocide is not something Australia would participate in today, there are those like me who feel we cross the line when the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations are concerned. Yes, even today in 2021! Historically the treatment of Indigenous Peoples was one of traumatic extremes. Australia’s history books belie this truth. But the words ‘war’ and ‘extermination’ have been used together to describe the treatment on more than one occasion.

“While Bathurst with its surrounding vicinity is engaged in an exterminating war, peace reigns around the ever verdant valley of Wellington.” And, When martial law had run its course extermination is the word that most aptly describes the result. As the old Roman said, “They made a solitude and called it peace’. The last effort of a doomed race thus ended.” (Excerpt from Aboriginal Sovereignty, Kevin Gilbert).

This is where the story of the Myall Creek Massacre provides the evidence not only of the massacre of the twenty eight Aborigines killed at Myall Creek but also of countless other massacres. Following his inquiry which he conducted in the Big (Gwydir) River district around Myall Creek, Police Magistrate Edward Denny Day reported to Governor George Gipps, “There is a war of extermination against the blacks in that part of the colony.” Additionally on 18th December 1838 on the morning seven of the perpetrators of the Myall Creek Massacre were to hang, the Head Gaoler, Henry Keck reported to Governor Gipps that all the men had confessed but they had said they “didn’t know it was against the law to kill blacks because it had happened so often throughout the colony.” Quite clearly those two quotes provide irrefutable evidence of just how common and widespread massacres of Aboriginal people were at that time so much so that any sceptics who choose to deny it are simply “burying their heads in the sand.” (Excerpt from the Myall Creek Massacre Website).

Today’s genocidal identity

Looking through the eyes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today, I argue the genocides against us never ended. The White Australia Policy and some of the others that outrightly disadvantaged First Nations Peoples were abolished. Sadly, many of the values remain in the hearts of some Australian’s today. We have had the same beliefs displayed by government and media identities today; fuelling the divide drawn in the line 233 years ago.

Racially driven profiling stems from the historic values founding the “Lucky Country”. Systematic racism exists because of the beliefs at the core of the country. Foundations that have never been addressed since they were established. Whilst they are no longer legally viable in the open, many disappeared beneath the surface layer. Our populations have always been unfairly targeted by the colonial system since invasion. In many ways we still are.

Genocide is not merely described as mass murder. Personally, I focus on the second item on the definition list. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to the group. But because the definition states “genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Australia has been able to get away with actions that should be classed as genocides upon the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Laws preventing murder and upholding human rights have enabled the ‘Lucky County’ to refuse the truth about Australia’s current day acts of genocide.

Deaths in Custody

1991 saw the release of the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report. Sadly, First Nations People are still the highest incarcerated demographic in the world. Statistically, 23% of the population in March 2021 were imprisoned. Accountability of deaths in custody is lacking while investigations are conducted by internal forces. Occasions when failures in duty of care are directly responsible for deaths, little is changed to prevent similar occurrences.

Australia has the tools to reduce the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Instead of enacting the steps needed, political willpower is used on other means such as creating further punitive measures.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders die in custody 11 times more frequently than other nationalities. Whilst some consider this comparative under certain conditions, facts are the demographic make-up 3% of the overall population: Meaning these statistics are much higher than the rest of Australian society. If one person a month died behind bars it would take 39.5 years to reach the 474 deaths recorded on the 30th anniversary. Over the months either side of the anniversary a further seven First Nations People died in custody. Proving the system is failing yet still the remaining recommendations have not been implemented over state and federal levels.

These facts fall within the description of both the first and second definition of genocide: Killing members of the group and causing serious bodily and mental harm. The circumstances of history have imposed upon First Nations People the conditions that calculated their deaths. There are many who would suggest not enough has changed with the system to justify not meeting the terms of the third description of genocide too.

Health Disparities

My argument is that Australia has enacted decades of genocide resulting from the lack of health care as per the standards of Australian citizens. We have breached the conditions of the first three definitions. Indigenous People in remote communities have been unable to access medical treatments, and preventative measures have been outright denied. These health issues have long-term effects resulting in serious bodily and mental harm to a large population of the Indigenous Populations. And part three; deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to bring about physical death, due to the lack of preventative measures and treatments not made available to remote Indigenous communities.

Decades of reports have shown the First nations People die on average 10 years earlier than other Australians. Directly caused by the third, fourth and fifth world conditions of our communities covered below. Health disparities have been noted for generations, as have recommended solutions. Many have been left without action. Creating with numerous acts of wilful blindness by Australian governments. Preventive measures have not been enacted and the treatments are inaccessible to the communities in need.

  • Diseases at epidemic levels (Trachoma, Acute Rheumatic Disease, Rheumatic Heart Disease, Diabetes, Kidney and Heart Diseases, Iron Deficiencies etc). Preventative measures regarding overpopulation and the need for more housing has been ignored for decades. If Australia established adequate housing conditions, many health issues directly resulting from overpopulation (Acute Rheumatic Disease, Trachoma etc) would not be experienced at epidemic levels.
  • Lack of health services in communities means First Nations children are born with comorbidities. As per Closing the Gap these will not see any visible improvements for another 50 years. Treatments are not made readily available resulting in health disparities to be present. If training for health care workers was more easily accessible these communities would have a better chance of supporting themselves.
  • Aboriginal Australians are arguably one of the most traumatised people in the world” yet mental health and trauma have been overlooked within the First Nation Communities. Suicide rates within our demographics are higher due to the circumstances of communities and traumas that have never been adequately addressed within our populations.

Third, Fourth and Fifth World Conditions

This section is highly focused at the third definition: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in par.” Wilful blindness plays a part in the conditions intended to cause the death of the First Nations People.

  • Housing circumstances: as previously stated; the housing conditions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are dire! They have been in need of immediate attention for generations. But blind eyes have been turned away from the issue of overpopulation and poor inadequate quality. In 2020 the NT government were condemned by the current Indigenous Affairs Minister before some progress was made. Many feel it is too little too late. Hundreds have already had their health impacted by the poor circumstances. Minimal work being undertake will not improve the disadvantage caused by the inadequate housing conditions.
  • High levels of Uranium found in the drinking water at Laramba has been left for the community to resolve. If this was in Sydney the local, state, and federal governments would be in an uproar flying into action. Sadly, the Aboriginal community has been left to find solutions to the uranium on their own. Australians don’t need scientists or doctors to tell us that uranium kills, yet Australia has enacted more wilful blindness in this situation.
  • Lack of fresh & healthy food at reasonable prices. Again, if the prices experienced in rural areas were seen in Canberra an uproar would ensue and changes would result. Over the past decade three inquiries into the prices and conditions of foods available to remote Aboriginal populations has resulted in no changes. I have spoken to many who have to decide if $10 a lettuce is something they can afford to budget for only to get to the shops and find the ‘fresh food’ is half rotted, forcing individuals to make less than healthy choices in their weekly shopping. The lack of access to fresh, healthy foods has caused a wide array of health disparities. These contribute to the overall poor health, short life expectancies, and many of the higher-than-normal suicide rates. Creating both serious bodily and mental harm. Plus, part three of the genocide act, conditions calculated to bring about physical destruction.
  • Birritjimi – situated near Nhulunbuy – contains houses that were abandoned when a Rio Tinto mine site was closed. These houses were built in the 1970s and have received minimal upkeep since then. Residents of the area describe being able to ‘feel’ electricity running through the walls.

Systematic Racism

Racial discrimination is classified as a hate crime by many societies. Conducted upon a national scale within Australia, it is a breach of both domestic and international human rights standards. Systematic racism exists within most of the colonial systems of Australia, resulting in a high level of disadvantage experienced at the expense of the First Nations. Police, Corrections and Child Protective services have arguably always heavily persecuted the Indigenous Peoples at a much higher rate than any others within Australia. Generations of advocacy has highlighted many of these issues, but they have often been refuted or deflected and dismissed. Inadequately addressing problem areas does not make them go away; they prevail in the background.

While Australia persists in disregarding the existence of systematic racism within the constraints of the society, we will continue seeing the deep racial divide we have experienced since the invasion.

Racism creates a feeling of terror, when committed on a national level for generations it creates intergenerational traumas. Meeting the definition for the second definition of genocide; causing a high level of mental harm. Suicide and domestic/family violence levels as a result of homelessness/overpopulation could be applied to category three; deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to bring about physical destruction. Due to the repeated wilful blindness perpetrated against these problem areas from Australian Governments and citizens.

Opinions regularly expressed by News Commenters on shows such as SkyNews are extremely racist. In 2018 Channel 7 released a segment on the Sunrise show suggesting it was appropriate to begin another Stolen Generation. Something they offered an apology for in early January 2021 as a voice over reading the words on the screen. Even with such an unacceptable apology, the damage has already been done. The all-white panel has influenced the beliefs of the wider population; many who have never even met an Indigenous Person in their life. Those views have been passed onto friends, family and children. This flow on of a misrepresented opinion of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders will only continue the racism and oppression we face as nations daily.

Homelessness

Homelessness has always been a crisis within the Indigenous communities of Australia. Ignored by the wider community and governments for generations. These rates of homelessness impact a wide range of areas within the nations. From health and education through to domestic and family violence and the substance abuse often used to undermine our peoples.

Noted on Twitter by an acquaintance I have a great amount of respect for @TiddaPage, she wrote to me “Great thread Jen also First Nations People experience homelessness at 14 % higher than non-Indigenous counterparts a large number are children between 10 and 16 yrs.”

 

 

Over the years many Indigenous Communities have been closed. Many were shut due to the costs associated with providing water and other essential services, but these closures resulted in further dispossession of cultural connections causing mental harm. This could arguably be a case for part three of the genocide definition. As these measures disconnect the cultural aspects of the belief system, resulting in high levels of depression and other mental illnesses.

The lack of houses for the population has created a huge discrepancy in homelessness. Community do not have enough houses to provide for the people and squeeze two, three sometimes four bodies into single beds so everyone has a roof to sleep under. This level of homelessness causes even higher rates of overpopulation results in higher-than-normal health complications.

Australia’s wilful blindness regarding the levels of homelessness within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples could be considered under definition two and three of the genocide act.

Serious Mental Harm

  • Destruction of Sacred Sites and cultural heritage, combined with a lack of action towards language and culture retention. Colonisation has wiped out so much our history and knowledge. These days our Elders are crying out for assistance in retaining what we have left. Minimal work has been done to ensure our cultures and way of life survive into the future. Forcibly assimilating people into a culture is a violation of human rights. It also erases the people in a way, meaning the way of life is being killed.
  • Intergenerational trauma has not been addressed and is often denied by Australians.
  • Fights for stolen wages are demeaning while cause for a great deal of anxiety & depression.
  • Impacts of the higher suicide rates.
  • Denial of Aboriginal history, for example: sovereignty, dispossession, genocides, slavery. The constant favouritism towards the colonial history tells the oldest living cultures in the world they are not valuable.
  • The anthem was written in 1878 when we were literally in chains, slaughtered by the dozens, or left to starve when our food had been eradicated and water sources poisoned. This for some are open wounds still causing agony. Promoting small steps as a positive creates as much harm as the past has. Many welcomed New Year’s Eve 2020 with tears of pain, our voices once again overlooked. Scott Morrison altered a single word in an action considered further assimilation. Enforcing colonialism over Indigenous Cultures is traumatic, it causes trauma.
  • Australia Day is highly polarising. Invasion Day is merely one of the titles we apply to 26th January. We have voiced how much pain celebrating on this day causes us. For what we would count as a lifetime; this pain has been ignored or ridiculed by the wider Australian population.
  • Representing Australia’s Flag with the Union Jack causes many in this country to feel sick to their stomach. The symbol pushed into our soil and proclaimed British property. Our own flags are refused by governments which tells us we too have been refused as included in the term Australia.

Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Child Protective Services released data in 2019 showing 15.6% of First Nations children are living in out of home care. This statistic increased by 39% in 2020. Times extended family members have come forward to ask for the children of their family they have been denied with barely even an assessment to determine their suitability. These children are instead handed to other people who do not have the same cultural beliefs, language, or values.

Statistically, First Nations People are the highest demographic involved with Child Protective Services in Australia. Many suggest these relationships have not improved (nor have the interactions reduced) since the Stolen Generations occurred, meaning they feel this act of genocide never ceased.

Australia’s history with genocide may not be as far behind us as many would choose to believe, the facts speak for themselves. If government departments honestly wanted to see these truths change, initiatives such as Closing the Gap would not consider fifty years a suitable time frame to stop infants being born with comorbidities. Actively work at resolving the level of health disparities seen within the First Nations communities.

Without systematic changes across the board, my opinion will always be that acts of genocide still occur in Australia on a daily basis. Unless Australia actively works at preventing the genocidal identity within our own shores, it is hypocritical to accuse others of the same crime.

Until such a time, we rightfully deserved to have more than 30 countries point their fingers at Australia in February 2021 and accuse us of human rights violations. We are much worse than a violator of human rights. We have spent 233 years covering up acts of genocide against the oldest living cultures in the world! Shame on the Lucky Country. It truly is only lucky for some.

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The cycle must be broken

On the 10th August 1987 Australia announced the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The final report and recommendations were signed on 15th April 1991. It has now been 30 years since those pages were signed and submitted for review by the government at the time. 30 years on we have lost almost 500 more people, without any new changes being brought into effect to minimise the high number of incarcerations nor the loss of lives. Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Ken Wyatt has often said; “The cycle must be broken,” but still we see no changes that would prevent these deaths nor reduce the number of individuals criminalised by the justice system.

Listening to an episode of The Quicky Podcast I was shocked to learn that Australians often suggest they are not racist, yet we are one of the few countries who do not adequately track racial profiling. These services do not release information regarding the racial breakdown of their interactions with communities. 2020 saw two instances where this data was released to the public. A judge in NSW requested police provide the information to the court. The data they produced showed that individuals of African or Middle Eastern background were 2.5 times more likely to be stopped than other nationalities. WA Police released data to The Guardian under the FOI Act showing police officers were 3.2 times more likely to stop and charge a someone of Aboriginal background than automated systems such as traffic cameras.

These two cases show a clear bias towards certain races, who have obviously been targeted by police officers. Tracking this data and releasing the information to the public would go a long way to providing accountability and correcting the racially discriminatory actions perpetrated by those who’s motto is to “Serve and Protect.” Similarly, courts releasing statistics on the sentences handed down to the different nationalities would show where one race is more heavily prosecuted than other races for similar crimes.

At the time of the Royal Commission the statistics showed 14% of the population inside the correctional system were Aboriginal People. Today that figure has more than doubled. We have lobbied for a National Indigenous Target for years, and governments have committed to do this but none have provided any information regarding how these targets will be reached. Many of the Aboriginal People I know and have spoken to believe the Royal Commission made no impact on their lives or their communities. They tell me there was no point in the commission because 30 years on and there are still no clear indicators regarding what recommendations were implemented or to what level they applied (in full, part or noted). In my own opinion the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody is just another colonial document, as Marcia Langton has said about the Constitution.

Since the Royal Commission it has been revealed that all too many Aboriginal deaths in custody have resulted from a lack of duty of care. Such as the case of Ms Day in Victoria who died after being left fatally injured on the floor for three hours. Nobody has been held accountable for this neglect of duty of care. Now if this was the public sector each and every individual who had neglected their duty of care would not simply have been sacked; they would have faced criminal charges for the breach. Nonetheless, when the neglect to duty of care involves an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Person who dies as a result of the justice system, nobody is held accountable. Not even the individuals who have been found guilty of these breaches. This to me is extremely telling, and it shows how much racial profiling occurs and is completely and utterly overlooked by the “powers that be” in this country!

Media have a great deal of responsibility for these issues. Take for instance the 11-year-old boy discussed on ABC’s The Drum on 12/4/2021. A newspaper headline showed on the episode that read; “Boys sad end to a life of trouble.” Instead of portraying him as an 11-year-old boy, media painted him as an intentional criminal: Listing a range of accounts of assault and other crimes such as burglaries that didn’t happen. At the time of his death he had a police curfew and needed to be home by 7 pm. The same night he died he had been at the Police and Community Youth Club. He took his own life that night in his bedroom. Twenty-four-years-ago he had faced racism and discrimination by the police, however an inquiry suggested it was not severe enough to have forced him to take his own life. He would be 35 if he had not been racially profiled by those who ‘serve and protect’.

Indigenous People are not innately criminal; we have something called the Lore of Obligation that obligates our people to protect regardless what it is we are protecting. This includes upholding legal requirements. However, we have faced unfair persecution at the hands of the Colonial System for 233 years. Changing the theme of these interactions should not be on mob; we are the victims in this instance. Responsibility lies with the justice system, as they are the ones who have created this narrative of criminalising the Indigenous Peoples. Perpetrators are responsible for making recompense, not the victims.

The fact that the NT Government have numerous occasions where SOLELY Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth have been in their detention centres should tell the country a lot. Instead, we are faced with racist remarks such as; “They should stop breaking the law and they won’t get arrested.” Or we have politicians like Amanda Stoker who laughed at Senator Dodson while he discussed the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in the Senate. But when an Indigenous Person is arrested for something a non-Indigenous Person is not arrested for, then there is a clear issue in the system. More so in the racist opinions shared by Australians regarding the incarceration rates of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations. Yes, this shame falls upon the heads of all Aussies, whether they care to accept it or not!

 

 

Time and again governments create new programs that will further criminalise the Indigenous Nations of these lands. The history of the police with mobs has always included a large degree of racially discriminatory people and processes. Just this year QLD instigated a new program that will see youth walk around with electronic monitoring systems, instead of providing services that will prevent those youths from committing the crimes they have been found guilty of. This Government has chosen to further criminalise individuals over providing services to support these families and prevent the criminal behaviour from being a ‘thing’ for them.

Amy Thunig discussed on The Drum that Indigenous students are excluded from formal education in the form of suspension. In QLD 25% of fixed term and permanent exclusions are Indigenous children when they represent merely 10% of the school population. In NSW 25% of short or long-term suspensions are Indigenous children, who comprise simply 8% of the NSW student population. These statistics start in kindergarten and show how quick Australia is to hyper-surveil and over-punish Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

 

Image from solidarity.net.au

 

Ms Thunig went on to explain that NSW Government set up the Suspect Target Management Program, where they identified a list of individuals they thought may commit an offence. Nobody on the list had committed an offence but they suspected they would, which led the system to stop and interrogate these individuals for not committing any criminal activities. The youngest person on that list was a nine-year-old, which we all know is under the age of criminal responsibility in this country, yet the NSW Police Service still attended this nine-year-old’s home and integrated them. Indigenous People make up a total of 5.6% of the youth population in NSW, 51% of the children identified on that list were Indigenous. This is racial profiling – aka racism – on the part of the police system!

Before I go, let this fact sink in: since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 474 people have died. That, statistically, is one person a month since the recommendations were released 30-years-ago. ONE A MONTH FOR THIRTY-YEARS! So before you claim we simply need to stop breaking laws, please think long and hard about the system you are defending in place of the lives lost!

How can Australians say human rights are high on the list of priorities in this country, when we clearly only value those rights for the colonial side of this country? Quite simply we cannot value human rights, not while we tell the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders they deserve to die for crimes nobody else would pay with their lives for. Sadly, until Colonial Australia acknowledges this fact, they will continue to fail at equality.

I say it over and again, we are only the “Lucky Country” for Colonial Australia! We are only a first world country for the same portion of the population. Until we behave like a first world country we do not deserve the title!

 

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Morrison’s undermining of sexual violence

We know the men of Australia are sick of hearing about sexual violence, but quite frankly that’s too bad for them. Women are sick of experiencing these crimes and it is high time Aussie males faced these ugly truths.

Within my circles I have not yet met a woman who can say she has not been assaulted, harassed, or targeted in one manner or another. Yes, that’s right guys, not a single one who has not experienced some form of sexual violence at the hands of Aussie men. Lately the cries of #EnoughIsEnough have been a resounding roar, and I couldn’t be happier with that news.

Sadly, little action has truly be seen on this front. Yes, Scott Morrison has decided to finally act on the Respect@Work report. But then he made what has become his typical move when dealing with sensitive topics. At almost the same time as he tabled the details of the changes, he held a press conference. Leaving no time for anyone to read the reference material prior to presenting. Just like he did when he announced the report from the Inquiry into Aged Care. This time he and Michaelia Cash said we will do this, and we will do that, and all will be fixed with regards to sexual violence in our society. I don’t call him Half-Job-Morrison without reason. Every policy released by his Government seems to, in my opinion, leak like a sift.

Discussing the recommendations accepted by the government Laura Tingle is not backwards in coming forward. She writes in her article titled The government’s credentials for dealing with COVID are turning to dust amid vaccine confusion “It took some time to get clarification that the act would be tweaked to make clear that politicians and judges aren’t exempt from the act, but that in itself would not create a sackable offence, even though it might open them up to civil proceedings by victims.”

Personally, I do not think it is right for someone guilty of – or allegedly guilty of – perpetrating sexual violence to work within Parliament nor the justice system. Considering 51% of the population are women, I dare say the Government would receive a resounding “yes” if they asked Australian’s whether they wanted a Minister to be sacked for sexual violence towards staff within Parliament House. The fact we have to wait four years before we can vote someone out for committing crimes like these is absurd. I would prefer to have the authority to sack anyone found guilty of sexual harassment the moment they are found guilty. Especially when they do so within what should be the pillars of Australian society. Instead, the Parliament of Australia has become something straight out of a tabloid news column. Except Aussie women have made it more than obvious they have the proof in numbers that sexual violence is a heavy part of our society.

Time the men of this country come to terms with the hard truths and finally judge themselves with the same standards they place upon the women the stand alongside. Time they all practised what they preached. Men who witness sexual harassment in the workplace and say nothing, their silence is a mechanism that enables this behaviour to continue. This silence makes them complicit in the crime. Women are harassed for their outfits and looks, diminished by their co-workers based upon their gender. We have for decades suffered the injustices of being raped within the workplace at a rate of 1 in 3. Is this worthy of the society we wish to be? Are these facts synonymous with what should be “the Lucky Country” as we call ourselves? I say all the time, Australia is only lucky for some.

How can the men of this country say they are ready to face these crimes, when our own Prime Minister uses political gaslighting tactics towards victims of sexual violence? And does so on the international stage provided to that position. When we have had a man win the position of Prime Minister after using the words “Ditch the Witch” and “Julia is Bob Brown’s Bitch”. How can men suggest they are ready to accept these crimes against the women of our society as wrong?

One in five women in Australia “have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.” Given that we women make up 51% of the population, consequently if we are speaking mathematically, 5% of 49 means that 2.45% of the Australian males are perpetrators of sexual violence. These statistics do not take into account the various other forms of violence, but this data is not as easily accessible in our current system. But when people like me cannot find a single woman who has not been sexually violated, odds are the statistics showing the percentage of males who commit these crimes are much higher than 2.45%.

Consent has been discussed over and over again of late, it’s clear that many men do not understand the concept of what consent entails. But this confuses me. As a mother I teach my eight- and nine-year-olds the basis of gaining consent. They must ask each other if they want to play a game, or if they want what the other is holding. The fact that grown adults cannot understand what my young children can understand is completely and utterly mind boggling. Did Oz grow up without a moral compass? It seems so.

Well guys, the basis is that you must know with absolute certainty the other person is happy with your behaviour and actions. Body language is a key indicator. Is she pulling her upper body away from you (i.e. leaning in the opposite direction) then she’s not keen on how close you are to her? Is she looking away from you more than she is at you? Then she is more than likely looking for an escape. Has she used short one worded answers to your uninvited questions? She more than likely doesn’t want to continue the conversation.

Until the Australian male stops toxic masculinity in its tracks, Australia will fail the test of upholding equal human rights. The Lucky Country will remain lucky merely to some, and we will be condemned by our international neighbours. Australia’s shortcomings are many, before we can truly claim to be a “first world country” we must behave like one.

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The unsung heroines of #March4Justice

Despite protestations to the contrary by mainstream media and the Liberal government, Twitter is a force for good.

When word of a now infamous tweet spread, asking whether women could circle Parliament in protest at the misogyny and rape allegations emanating from the Liberal Government, hundreds of female volunteers from around Australia rallied to the call.

Within days women from all walks of life and from all corners of the country came together as one – to organise, build and promote Australia’s biggest female-led protest Australia has seen in decades.

These unsung heroines swung into action from March 1st and didn’t stop until March 15th came around.

In a mere fortnight, the volunteer women pulled off a history making event. A project like this would normally take at least 6 months of work. Many of the volunteers were activists, many were not, some had never been to a protest before in their lives, several were themselves survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence, many were triggered by the memories the Brittany Higgins and the alleged Christian Porter rape horror story brought up, but they were all prepared to go to great lengths to ensure March4Justice was the success it was.

Their efforts paid off because by March 15th the phrase and hashtag #March4Justice had imprinted itself firmly on the nation’s psyche. Approximately 100,000 Australians marched for justice across 2 days – Sunday 14th (in Perth and Cairns) and Monday 15th March elsewhere around Australia – with the message being spread throughout the land that “enough is enough.” History was made on the Ides of March (15th March) in Canberra, and around 50 other locations around the nation.

At the centre of the national volunteer team were the women behind the social media. A group of amazing professional women worked around the clock to spread the message of March4Justice. Without them who would have known that this massive event was being organised?

Within 2 weeks they had built a following across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat of well over 65k across the various platforms, with a reach of 460k on FB alone.

I headed up the social media team. I consider myself a passionate human rights activist, and when I was invited to lead the social media team, I was only too happy to use my marketing skills and experience to do so. I put my small business (www.templesandmarkets.com.au) on hold and my other activist work (Reclaim the News) on hold and worked an average of 18-hour days for 2 weeks. My objective was to get as many people as possible from around the country to the protests, and if they couldn’t attend, to encourage them to support the movement. The social media team created and encouraged engagement across all social media platforms and answered an endless stream of follower and media messages that were coming through the Facebook page in particular.

My gratitude and admiration runs deep for the women I worked alongside with on the social team. We all gave up time with our families and our paid work and other responsibilities for the March4Justice cause. What a ride we all went on. The team, none of whom knew each other before M4J, will remain lifelong friends. We all faced daily trolling including unwarranted and cruel accusations of racism and transphobia, as well as being faced with tragic victim and survivor stories that were coming through to us on social media message platforms. None of us are counsellors so inevitably this took a heavy toll on our own wellbeing.

Judith’s Whyimarch video:

 

 

Claudia Zappia may be a familiar name for many. Sydney based actor, singer, dancer Claudia was one of the very first volunteers to put her hand up for content creation and social media management too. Claudia lives with chronic illness – EDS, a connective tissue disorder autoimmune disease and she is also a mentor for other EDS sufferers from around the world.

Claudia rallied a team of incredible creatives like herself to build up an Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat following for the movement. She live-streamed the march to followers from Canberra.

Her health has deteriorated since giving up time for the movement, but she is so proud of what she and the other volunteers achieved.

Claudia’s Whyimarch video:

 

 

Marcella Brassett was the campaign lead for March4Justice. Marcella has 15 years of professional experience in activist campaigns. She works for Australia’s largest independent not for profit who support and empower people seeking asylum and refugees. Marcella was at the forefront of the nationwide campaign. She wrote the campaign strategy and communications plan and the hashtags #march4justice and #whyimarch were ideas that came from her. The hashtag #march4justice is likely to be used for many years to come by Australians standing up for good and is destined to have its own chapter in future history books.

Bridie McLennan, herself a survivor, knew she wouldn’t be able to attend a march due to heath reasons, but was determined to contribute in other ways. And that she did, in spades.

Like me, Bridie also put her business (www.emergencybk.com.au) on hold and threw herself into the cause. She realised that if events were to be organised in multiple locations, they would likely be done through Facebook Groups and Events. Off her own back Bridie created the Twitter account @WomensMarchAus (now @WomensEventAus), sent out her first tweet and it took off from there.

Bridie created and frequently updated a Google spreadsheet that could be accessed and shared anywhere, with details of all 50 events, including links to more info. She sourced the information through hunting through FB Event pages, FB Groups, websites, contacting organisations, tips from followers, contacting MP’s State and Federal and more. She also answered thousands of questions from Followers, helped 30+ regional organisers with checklists and info on event accessibility, where to find additional info, linked up regional teams with each other so they could share resources and knowledge, tweeted info about what people not able to march could do and much more. The spreadsheet was used/posted by multiple non-official march Facebook groups to help their followers find events near them and multiple media outlets, journalists and politicians as a source for information – including a retweet by the ABC’s Laura Tingle

Bridie says; “I’m so proud of the work accomplished in record breaking time, by amazing women and allies, organising 50+ events across the country. The people behind the scenes, like myself and others running social media (Twitter, FB, Instagram, TikTok etc) who put our lives on hold and were central to ensuring attendees, media and politicians, had access to accurate and up to date info, critical to the success of the marches and how many ended up attending.”

Bridie had direct contact with many regional event organisers across the country. For example:

Talbot, Victoria – Organiser Fiona Somerville. Bridie tracked Fiona down through joining Talbot Community Group, and messaging admins of that group that she had heard someone might be organising an event.

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