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Category Archives: Social Justice

Nauru’s Refugee Stain: Australia’s Continued Offshore Processing Regime

The last refugee, for now, has left the small, guano-producing state of Nauru. For a decade, the Pacific Island state served as one of Australia’s offshore prisons for refugees and asylum seekers, a cruel deterrent to those daring to exercise their right to seek asylum via the sea.

Since July 2013, 3,127 people making the naval journey to Australia to seek sanctuary found themselves in carceral facilities in Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, told that they would never resettle on the Australian mainland. Such persons were duly euphemised as “transitory persons” to be hurried on to third country destinations, if not returned to their country of origin, a form of vacant reasoning typical of a callous bureaucracy.

The wisdom here was that other countries would not only be more suitable for such persons, but keener candidates to pull their weight in terms of processing and accepting refugees. For the Australian Commonwealth, outsourcing responsibilities from protecting citizens to shielding vulnerable arrivals from harm, has become a matter of dark habit.

Many of those remaining refugees held on the Australian mainland are the subjects of acute care, and all await transfer to third countries such as Canada under its private sponsorship program, the United States, New Zealand or other destinations.

In the meantime, 80 remain in PNG. The situation there is marred by a fundamental legal peculiarity. In October 2017, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea found the Manus Island Centre to be both illegal and unconstitutional. (PNG, unlike Australia, has a constitution prohibiting violations of personal liberty, even for non-PNG nationals.) Its closure led to the removal of the detainees to various transition centres devoid of basic amenities, including water, electricity and medical support.

Both PNG and Australia proceeded to squabble over responsibility, despite the obvious fact that the latter exercises effective control over the facilities and those being held in them. Emilie McDonnell of Human Rights Watch deems it indisputable “that Australia bears primary responsibility for those in offshore detention under its policies and has an ongoing legal duty to find a durable solution.”

The offshore concentration camp system established and prosecuted by respective federal governments has become the envy for autocrats, populists and reactionaries the world over. Fact-finding missions have been made by European Union members states. The model is mesmerising officials in the UK. Its credentials of cruelty and suffering are beyond doubt: 14 deaths since 2012, marked by gross medical neglect, suicide and murder by overly enthusiastic guards. Spokesperson for the Refugee Action Collective, Ian Rintoul, suggested that the legacy on Nauru “will forever stain the record of both sides of Australian politics.”

The absence of any refugee inmates in Nauru’s detention facility does not herald its closure. Far from it: the Albanese government has, according to Federal Budget figures, promised to spend A$486 million this year on the facility.

The Department of Home Affairs continues to tersely state that the position of the government “on maritime smuggling and irregular maritime ventures has not changed. Any person entering Australia by boat without a valid visa will be returned or taken to a regional processing country for protection claims assessment. Unauthorised maritime arrivals will not settle in Australia.”

For anyone concerned about the welfare of such persons held in captivity, the department makes a feeble assurance: “All transitory persons in Nauru reside in community accommodation and have access to health and welfare services. Transitory persons have work rights and can operate businesses.” These people have evidently not been to the prison idyll they so praise. But not to worry, a wounded conscience could also be put to rest by the fact that there were “currently no minors under regional processing arrangements” on the island.

In Senate estimates, it was also revealed that the government would continue forking out $350 million annually to maintain the Nauru facility as a “contingency” for any future arrivals. According to a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs, the processing centre was “ready to receive and process any new unauthorised maritime arrivals, future-proofing Australia’s response to maritime people-smuggling.” And so, old canards are recycled in their staleness and counterfeit quality.

Another unsavoury aspect to this needless cost to the Australian budget is the recipient of such taxpayer largesse. The Albanese government has an ongoing contract with the US prison company, Management and Training Corporation (MTC), which is responsible for running the facilities till September 2025 at the cost of A$422 million.

MTC has a spotty resume, though it trumpets its record as a “leader in social impact.” Impact is certainly not an issue, if maladministration, wrongful death, poor medical care and a failing performance in rehabilitation count in the equation. In 2015, then Arizona governor Dough Ducey cancelled MTC’s contract after a withering state department of corrections report into a riot at Kingman prison identifying “a culture of disorganisation, disengagement and disregard for state policies.” As a 2021 lawsuit filed in the District Court of the Southern District of California pungently alleged, MTC “is a private corporation that traffics in human captivity for profit.”

The very fact that MTC Australia advertises itself as a provider of “evidence-based rehabilitation programs and other services to approximately 1,000 male inmates in Australia” begs that old question as to why they need to oversee refugees and asylum seekers in the first place. But the answer is glaringly evident: anyone daring to make the perilous journey across the seas to the world’s largest island continent are seen as presumptively criminal, trafficked by actual criminals. Such a sickness of attitude and policy continues to keep the Australian political imagination captive and defiant before law and decency.


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Australia’s Humanitarian Visa System is Inhumane: An Open Letter to Immigration Minister Andrew Giles

By Loz Lawrey

Dear Minister Giles,

Since my previous emails to you of 14 and 25 April and 5 May 2023 have received no answer from your office I write once again to express my concern at the treatment by Home Affairs of my friend Abdul, an Afghan citizen of Hazara ethnicity, whose application for a humanitarian visa to Australia appears to be lost in an immigration bureaucratic black hole.

Your department’s refusal to respond to genuine enquiries from members of the public enquiring as to the progress and current status of humanitarian visa applications is causing great misery to many desperate applicants who must wait in limbo for years on end while your Special Humanitarian Processing Centre (SHPC) refuses to even communicate with them about the case.

What on earth is going on?

I have been deeply shocked to realise that humanitarian visa applications lodged by desperate people whose lives are at risk can take four years or more to process. Four years!

Surely an application for a humanitarian visa is a cry for help? For prompt and timely humanitarian rescue from an inhumane situation?

I’m also astounded at the cruelty of a system which leaves applicants in the dark for so long and does not respond to requests for updated information on the progress of their visa assessments.

My friend Abdul first applied for Australia’s assistance and compassion in October 2021, after the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

His father and brother had in previous months been murdered by Taliban members in Ghazni Province.

Abdul’s appeal to Australia for help came in the form of a photo of his bare back, lacerated with whip marks. The photo was captioned: “Please save my life!”

He had been detained by the Taliban, tortured, questioned and, amazingly, released.

He then went into hiding, living in fear of possible execution by the new religiofascist regime which had taken control of the country he loved.

I’m guessing that by now Abdul was living in a state of shock at the impact the Taliban takeover had upon his life. Suddenly his dreams of contributing to society in some positive way, of working and perhaps starting a family, were shattered. His life had become a struggle for survival.

A graduate of the University of Kabul, Abdul entered the workforce in January 2016, working as a reporter for the Afghan Peoples’ Voice Weekly.

He then spent a year working in education as a teacher at Kabul’s National Institute of Educational Planning.

By the time of the Taliban arrival in Kabul in August 2021, Abdul had spent two and a half years working in a management position for Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, promoting democracy and the need for free elections and the importance to all citizens of voting and having a say in the country’s direction.

At the age of 27 Abdul was a contributing citizen in his own country. He was, in fact, helping to rebuild his country after years of conflict.

Non-religious, with deeply held values around empathy, egalitarianism, human rights and the importance of democracy for the common good, Abdul has achieved an admirable level of education and a great breadth of work experience.

The Taliban are intolerant of Afghans of Hazara ethnicity. Hazaras are of Persian descent and whilst long-time residents of Afghanistan, they have always suffered similar racist “othering” as do African-Americans in the USA.

As I’m sure you already know Minister Giles, under the current Taliban regime all Hazaras resident in Afghanistan are at risk of detainment and possible execution.

Abdul realised that he would not survive for long by remaining in Kabul.

He applied for a visa to neighbouring Pakistan. The refusal took three months to arrive.

Like many others, Abdul could see no future for a safe life in Afghanistan and so paid a guide to lead him across the border on foot.

Now he lives as an illegal refugee in Pakistan. He is safer there, but he cannot work and lives under threat of repatriation to Afghanistan should he attract the attention of the local authorities.

For Abdul, repatriation to Afghanistan means almost certain death.

In his current situation, Abdul is a man without rights or citizenship.

Yet does he not deserve a place in the world? Does Australia not need new citizens?

I believe the horrors which have been inflicted upon him and his family have caused him to suffer a form of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

He continues to live in a constant state of anxiety due to the insecurity of his situation.

I have made it clear to your department that as Abdul’s proposer I commit to paying for all his travel to and resettlement costs in Australia.

He is desperate to come here to our country and is prepared to undertake any work available to him.

Surely, since approving Abdul’s application will cost your government nothing,

there is no reason to perpetuate the trauma he continues to suffer?

Every day he is forced to wait and wonder whether Australia will ever accept him damages him even more.

Why do these humanitarian visa applications take such an inhumanely long time to process?

Applicants wait in the dark for years for a decision on their case, demeaned, disrespected and unable to build a decent life in their place of refuge.

As refugees, they do not enjoy the rights of citizenship. They are forced to live in limbo while years of their lives are stolen by the structural cruelty of bureaucracy.

Minister Giles, you have not replied to my previous letters, so I am sharing this latest one with the Australian public.

Your government has recently announced that Australia’s 2023-24 permanent migration program level has been set at 190,000.

Surely such a number could include my friend Abdul?

Surely granting him a humanitarian visa would be the humane thing to do?

Best Regards,

Loz Lawrey


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Desperate PNG refugee attempts self-immolation after years of neglect

Refugee Action Coalition Media Release

A 46-year-old Iranian refugee doused himself, and an office, in petrol yesterday morning (Wednesday 10 May) threatening to set himself alight.

Abolfath Gheitasi, had gone to the offices of Chatswood at Waigani in Port Moresby, the supposed service provider for refugees in PNG company around 9.15am Wednesday morning, carrying petrol and a lighter. He had poured the petrol over himself, and inside and outside the building.

Firefighters were called to the building, and after a stand-off, with security and PNG immigration officers, Abolfath eventually handed them the lighter.

“The attempted suicide highlights the desperate circumstances for the 88 refugees and asylum seeker still being held in PNG,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

Abolfath was one of the first refugees to be transferred to Manus Island after the Rudd government implemented the Pacific Solution II in July 2013. He was accepted to go to the US and did a medical for transfer to the US, three years ago, but is still waiting.

Besides the torture of Manus Island, refugees now in Port Moresby had gone several weeks without income support from Chatswood. PNG officials and UNHCR were warned about Abolfath’s deteriorating situation and threats of self-harm two months ago.

The lack of support for refugees in PNG and Nauru was one of the features of Labor’s budget failure to address the urgent needs of refugees and asylum seekers. Labor has refused to transfer sick refuges from PNG even though refugees are still being transferred from Nauru.

The neglect is also highlighted by the announcement of US president Joe Biden’s visit to PNG to sign a defence pact with PNG and a $32 million assistance package, while dozens of refugees in PNG are still waiting to be resettled in the US. A new joint Australia-US-PNG military deal is expanding the navy base on Manus Island, ironically the base, where refugees were held after 2013.

“It is almost ten years since refugees were transferred by a Labor government to Manus Island. Labor has a particular responsibility to those they dumped there. Refugees are waiting forlornly for resettlement in the US or NZ,“ said Rintoul. “It’s time for Labor to end the mistreatment and uncertainty and bring them to Australia.”


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Trashing Asylum: The UK’s Illegal Migration Bill

He was standing before a lectern at Downing Street. The words on the support looked eerily similar to those used by the politicians of another country. According to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Stop the Boats was the way to go. It harked back to the same approach used by Australia’s Tony Abbott, who won the 2013 election on precisely that platform.

The UK Illegal Migration Bill is fabulously own-goaled, bankrupt and unprincipled. For one thing, it certainly is a labour of love in terms of the illegal, as the title suggests. In time, the courts may well also find fault with this ghastly bit of proposed legislation, which has already sailed through two readings in the Commons and resting in the Committee stage.

On Good Morning Britain, Home Secretary Suella Braverman had to concede she was running “novel arguments” about dealing with such irregular migration, not making mention of Australia’s own novel experiment which did, and still continues, to besmirch and taint international refugee law.

In her statement on whether the bill would be consistent with the European Convention of Human Rights, enshrined by the UK Human Rights Act, Braverman was brazen to the point of being quixotic: “I am unable to make a statement that, in my view, the provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill are compatible with the Convention rights, but the Government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill.”

The long title of the bill does not even bother to conceal its purposes. It makes “provision for and in connection with the removal from the United Kingdom of persons who have entered or arrived in breach of immigration control.” It furnishes a detention regime, deals with unaccompanied children, makes some remarks about “victims of slavery or human trafficking” and, more to the point makes “provision about the inadmissibility of certain protection and certain human rights claims relating to immigration.”

The central purpose of the bill is to destroy the very basis of seeking asylum in Britain, along with the process that accompanies it. Much of this is inspired by the fact that the United Kingdom does not do the business of processing asylums particularly well. Glorious Britannia now receives fewer applications for asylum than Germany, France or Spain. Despite having fewer numbers, its backlog remains heftier than any of those three states.

The proposed instrument essentially declares illegal in advance any unauthorised arrival, an absurd proposition given that most asylum seekers arriving by boat will not, obviously, have the paperwork handy. (This is a nice trick borrowed from Fortress Australia.) Those seeking asylum by boat will be automatically detained for 28 days. During this time, those detained will be unable to make a legal challenge nor seek bail. After the expiration of time, a claim for bail can be made, or the Home Secretary can release them.

In truth, the authorities can refuse to process the claim, thereby deferring responsibility to some other source or agency. Dark, gloomy detention centres are promised, as are third countries such as Rwanda or a return across the English Channel back to France or another European state. Then comes the issue of return to the country of origin, a state of affairs in gross breach of the non-refoulement obligation of international refugee law. It is fantastically crude, a declaration of savage intent.

Even with these provisions, chaos is likely to ensue, given that the options are, as Ian Dunt points out, essentially off the table. The Rwandan solution has so far failed to materialise, bogged down in litigation. Were there to be any sent, these would amount to a few hundred at best and hardly arrest the tide of boat arrivals. The UK has also failed to secure return agreements with other European states. The most likely scenario: a large, incarcerated, miserable population housed in a burgeoning concentration camp system, a nodding acknowledgement to Australia’s own version used in the Pacific on Manus Island and Nauru.

Even some conservative voices have expressed worry about the nature of it. Former Tory PM Theresa May has questioned the breakneck speed with which the Bill is being debated, wondering if Sunak and company are acting in undue haste to supersede fresh and as yet untested legislation. “I am concerned that the government have acted on Albania and the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, when neither has been in place long enough to be able to assess their impact. I do not expect government to introduce legislation to supersede legislation recently made, the impact of which is not yet known.”

Sadly, the entire issue of discussing the critical aspects of the bill were lost in the media firestorm caused by an innocuous tweet from England’s football darling and veteran commentator Gary Lineker. “There is no huge influx,” went the tweet. “We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”



According to the BBC, fast becoming a fiefdom of Tory regulation, he was. Suspension from the Match of the Day followed. Within a few days, a humiliated management had to concede defeat and accept his return to the program. Solidarity for Lineker had been vast and vocal, though much of it seemed to be focused on his shabby treatment rather than the asylum seeker issue. In terms of defeating this bill, such debates will do little to box the demons that are about to be unleashed.


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High Court fight for safe housing in remote Indigenous communities has far-reaching implications for renters nationwide

Grata Fund: Media Release

On Thursday 16 March from 9.45am, the High Court of Australia will consider whether compensation is available for distress or disappointment suffered by First Nations people living in dilapidated housing in remote communities. It is the first residential tenancy case being heard by Australia’s highest court in a generation.

Whilst this case is brought by remote Indigenous public housing tenants, the High Court’s decision will likely impact all renters across Australia. Approximately one in three Australian households are renters and more than half of Northern Territorians are renters.

The case is a culmination of a fight for housing justice that started more than seven years ago when tenants Enid Young and Mr Conway (who passed away during the case) from the remote Northern Territory community, Santa Teresa began proceedings with 68 other tenants from that community. That battle has already established that the legal standard for ‘habitable’ premises requires that the premises be not only safe, but also reasonably comfortable. This High Court hearing is the next step and examines if compensation should be paid for the distress and disappointment suffered by tenants when housing does not meet legal standards.

Badly maintained houses have left many people in Santa Teresa without electricity, hot water, cooking facilities or functioning toilets for weeks, months and even years at a time. The lead tenant in this case, Ms Young, endured more than five years without being provided a door for an external doorway of her home. Without a front door, Ms Young felt unsafe in her own home and was fearful that her home could be invaded by snakes or her possession stolen when she left the house. Another tenant, a young mother, regularly had to wake up multiple times a night to mop up leaking sewage to protect her young children’s health. The High Court will now consider how compensation should be paid for distress caused by these types of breaches.

Dan Kelly, Solicitor at Australian Lawyers for Remote Aboriginal Rights (ALRAR), says: “This case is the culmination of a long struggle for housing justice, led by the remote community of Santa Teresa. Housing is a human right, and the deplorable state of housing in remote communities, its impacts on health, education and employment opportunities, should not be tolerated in a country as wealthy as Australia. As it stands, legal action such as this is the only way remote communities can enforce their basic rights to habitable housing.

Isabelle Reinecke, Executive Director, Grata Fund says: “Tenants from Santa Teresa have been fighting for decent homes for their families, against the sometimes very hostile NT Government, for years. Today, they’ve reached the highest court in the country where they will argue that renters should be compensated for the distress caused by their landlord’s failure to complete repairs to ensure their homes were safe and habitable. Through this landmark case, First Nations community members from the small remote town of Santa Teresa are leading the way and fighting for better housing conditions for all Australians.

Ms Young, the late Mr Conway and the community of Santa Teresa are being represented by ALRAR at no cost to the community. Grata Fund has provided funding and support to the community throughout the legal journey.

Joel Dignam, Healthy Homes for Renters, says: “With more and more people paying through the nose for their rental home, it’s essential that the place is at least habitable. What’s important to recognise is that this should include that people can comfortably and liveably use the home. We hear from many renters who can’t use their bedrooms in summer because they get too hot, and end up sleeping in the lounge, sometimes for weeks on end. Landlords should be held accountable for making sure that rental homes are habitable, and this means more than just a few walls and a roof, it means that people should be able to live a full and decent life in their homes.

At the same time, Santa Teresa and other remote Indigenous communities are experiencing significant distress as a result of the NT Government’s recent introduction of the new rent rate hike that will see rent increases for 68% of remote renters. These rent hikes, regardless how dilapidated the house, will push tenants even further into poverty, at a time where cost of living stress is impacting Australians nationwide. The rent increases are up to 300% previous rent rates.

Skye Thompson, CEO, Aboriginal Housing NT says: “Aboriginal families living remotely across the Territory have been left to live in dilapidated homes that make elderly people sick, are unfit for young children and unsafe for far too long. We need homes that are culturally appropriate, energy efficient, keep our families safe with services delivered through an Aboriginal community-controlled system. We’re ready to work on the solutions, and we look forward to continuing to work in true partnership with the Northern Territory and Australian Governments to deal with the systemic issues that remote housing has been plagued with for far too long,

It is expected that a decision by the High Court in the Santa Teresa housing compensation case will be reached later this year.

Grata Fund advocates for a strong and functioning democracy by using circuit breaking litigation to hold the powerful to account. Grata is Australia’s first specialist non-profit strategic litigation incubator and funder. Grata develops, funds, and builds sophisticated campaign architecture around high impact, strategic litigation brought by people and communities in Australia. We focus on communities, cases and campaigns that have the potential to break systemic gridlocks across human rights, climate action and democratic freedoms.

In February 2018, the Santa Teresa community won at the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal and established the Santa Teresa community’s right to ‘habitable housing’ – defined as ‘at least safe’.

The case went to the NT Supreme Court, which found in favour of the community. It confirmed their right to habitable housing, but said that habitable meant not only safe, but reasonably comfortable, judged against contemporary standards. This is a much stronger definition.

In February 2022, the NT Court of Appeal confirmed that the NT Government must provide decent housing, and rejected the NT Government’s third attempt to water down its obligations.

The community’s fight has had a huge impact that will not only benefit the 76 remote communities in the NT, but all tenants in the NT. Thanks to their efforts, all landlords – public or private – are now required to keep their properties in a decent condition.


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Neo-Nazi sentenced to jail for attack on anti-racist’s house

Media Release

Desmond Liddington, a neo-Nazi extremist who pleaded guilty to his part in the attack on the home of Black Lives Matter activist Padraic ‘Paddy’ Gibson, in 2021, has been sentenced to two and a half years in jail with a non-parole period of 18 months.

Liddington was sentenced in the Sutherland local court, yesterday, 6 February, for his role in the 2021 house attack. He was one of three men who attacked Gibson’s Arncliffe home on 4 December 2021. The men, dressed in clothing with nationalist insignia, ripped a security screen off a front window and smashed in the glass.

All three men have been charged over the attack on Gibson’s house. Liddington’s co-accused, Max Ferrer, pleaded guilty and recently received a non-custodial sentence. The third man has pleaded not guilty and will face trial on 21 March, 2023.

In sentencing, the Magistrate specifically noted that the offence was “motivated by hatred or prejudice” indicating that the offences were more serious, and should be judged as “race/hate crimes”.

Liddington and his co-accused were described as being members of Firm 22 “who hold extreme right-wing views and adhere to white supremacist ideology.” The Magistrate found there was “a degree of planning behind the attack” and they had “committed crimes based on their right-wing beliefs.” Liddington was identified as the leader of Firm 22.

Anti-fascist organisations believe that Liddington’s group, Firm 22, was also behind the attacks on homeless Indigenous people in Sydney in 2021.

“This case has exposed the existence of a violent neo-Nazi street gang, Firm 22, that is actively recruiting and is confident to carry out attacks here in Sydney, with a membership base up and down the coast,” said Gibson.

“They pose a serious danger to anyone who doesn’t conform to their fantasy of White Australia and must be shut down. It’s good that Liddington has faced a jail sentence for what was obviously a race/hate crime. But strong sentences will not be enough to deal with the threat of the far right.”

“In recent weeks, Premier Dominic Perrottet has stated that it was ‘pleasing’ to see that climate activist Violet Coco had been sentenced to 15 months in prison for peacefully blocking a road. But Liddington’s co-accused Max Ferrer was recently given a non-custodial sentence for the violent and destructive attack on our house.

“Where is Perrottet’s condemnation and call for action against the far-right thugs that have grown in confidence under his government?

“Neo-nazi groups have been able to grow in Australia because of the political environment created by racist policy and rhetoric coming from conservative politicians. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant racism has been a cornerstone of conservative politics for decades.

Ten Jewish headstones in a South Maitland cemetery were spray-painted with the Nazi symbol just last weekend, while neo-Nazis were recorded giving the Nazi salute on Elwood beach in Victoria in January this year.

“Aboriginal people are subject to dehumanising policies like the NT Intervention, while the Black Lives Matter movement has been demonised. Aboriginal people continue to die in custody without those responsible being held to account,” Gibson added.

“Everyone must remain vigilant. We haven’t let this attack stop our ongoing efforts to fight racism. Support from our multicultural neighbourhood, our friends, family, colleagues and union workmates, including efforts to fundraise for security upgrades on our house, has been amazing. We express solidarity with all victims of far right violence, particularly people of colour and LGTBI people.”


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Home Affairs Escalation Required

By Jane Salmon

As Sent to Andrew Giles, Clare O’Neil, Anthony Albanese, Tony Burke, Chris Bowen, Richard Marles, Penny Wong, Bill Shorten, Ged Kearney.

Happy New Year, Ministers!

Medical Transfer from Offshore is Not Enough
Medical Treatment is Urgently Needed

Nur Mohammed Dhali from Nauru was Medevacced to Brisbane on 23 December as you may recall.

He is being kept in solitary in Room 707 at a Meriton Hotel in Herschel Street Brisbane. He has not yet seen a doctor, despite promises.

He is told that he is isolated because he is in “quarantine”. However, other concurrent arrivals from Nauru are not in quarantine.

This is completely unacceptable, even at this time of year.

His medical care has not started. He has been under guard, denied company, a case manager, a SIM card, walks around the building, outings and the treatment he urgently needs.

Labor is supposed to improve the human rights record of the Immigration Department.

There are many pressing matters. It is a difficult time of year, but keeping 3 Medevacuees in solitary for ten days is abuse.

A quick escalation of this matter and a prompt review of Nur, including the long awaited MRI will prevent this from becoming “nuclear”.

We don’t seem to have come far enough since Djokovic was housed at Park Hotel. And didn’t that get messy for Dutton and Morrison!

Djokovic stay highlights refugee concerns at Melbourne detention hotel:

Park Hotel detainees housed alongside Novak Djokovic describe ‘disgusting’ and ‘cruel’ conditions

Park Hotel detainees housed alongside Djokovic speak out:

Djokovic stay highlights refugee concerns at Melbourne detention hotel

The, ahem, ball is in your court.

Thank you,

Jane Salmon
Refugee Advocate, Sydney.


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Our very own Marie Antoinette moment

It is a sign of the times that, within the worst cost-of-living crisis in Australia for nearly a century, we are even contemplating the return of the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne.

We are in the grip of an inequality tsunami. Never have so many gone hungry. Never have so many been actually homeless. Never have the wage-earners of this country struggled so hard to make ends meet.

The last four years have seen arguably the worst bushfire season in recorded history, a severe drought, and now catastrophic floods down the entire east coast, from Queensland to Tasmania.

There is a meaningless debate as to whether floods are worse than bushfires. It does not matter; both devastate the land, and blight the lives of the humans who live anywhere near them. Of course the damage to the economy leaks out to the region, the state, and the whole country.

Although Australia is a land of weather extremes, it becomes clearer every day that something is indeed very wrong. Not only with our own weather and climate, but that of the entire planet.

Deadly floods in parts of Europe, and then drought with the following summer. Record temperatures in Britain and across Scandinavia. In North America, heatwaves and wildfires to the west, and ruinous floods and hurricanes to the east.

South America’s rainfall patterns are out of whack, Andean glaciers are melting, while the Amazon disappears, square mile by square mile. The continent is heating up, and millions are leaving for the United States.

In the Arctic Ocean winter ice is becoming a novelty. The Antarctic is calving icebergs bigger than buildings. Penguins in the south, and polar bears in the north are becoming the sacrificial victims of our negligence.

A pandemic which has so far killed millions, and continues to kill the unvaccinated, and the vulnerable. A special group in Australia, the elderly, are being covertly sacrificed to our hedonism and greed.

Africa is reeling from crop failures, drought and the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Very few are vaccinated, and millions are moving out of their homes, in search of a better life. Nigeria is in the grip of floods, and in the neighbouring Indian sub-continent both Pakistan and Bangladesh have been battered by great heat last year, and now flooding rains.

There is a war in Ukraine. The parallels with Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 are chilling, and the level of destruction and suffering inflicted on the Ukrainian civilians is almost mediaeval in its mindless cruelty.

Of course, with the invasion, Russia has destroyed the goal of transitioning away from fossil fuel, because winter is coming, and Europe depends on Russian gas for its heating needs.

This feeds into the developed countries’ apparent reluctance to do anything meaningful about reducing emissions. So the earth is caught in a pincer movement, between allowing millions of Ukrainians to die of the cold, or allow human civilisation to be cooked by climate change.

And what does Australia do at this time of existential threats? We party. We go to the races, and we waste millions of dollars on pretentious food and wine, while 3 million of our fellow citizens are having to skip meals, and sleep in cars.

One must admire such wilful blindness. Even as the middle class complain of the rise in interest rates, and business complains that one of these days workers MIGHT get a small pay rise, they are guzzling French Champagne, and eating canapes.

Never mind the 3 million Australians who are struggling for life, under the misapprehension that in Australia we do not allow our fellows to starve to death.

As Marie Antoinette was rumoured to have said, “let them eat cake,” we are just about in the same league, with our tone deaf response to inequality, and our clamour to not see the misery around us.

Our federal government continues to dally, trailing its coat on tax cuts for the rich. How many of them, from all the parties, will find that parliamentary business leaves them no choice but to be in the environs of Flemington at around the time the races kick off.

If caught out, they will apologise, and pay it back. No three months in jail for them, for defrauding their employer. Just apologise, and pay it back.

Hunter S. Thompson wrote his famous piece on the Kentucky Derby, and the beasts who debase themselves in and around the racetrack. Read it here and weep.


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Farhad Bandesh gets the letter

By Jane Salmon

This sadistic letter (see letter at the bottom of this article) is doing the rounds of Medevac survivors on Bridging Visas. It shows that Labor have yet to end the abuse meted out to those held offshore since 2013. This outrageous immigration stance reduces Labor to the low moral level of Dutton, Morrison and Abbott who used refugees as mere deterrents. Labor’s position is an electoral bonus for the Greens and Teal Independents.

My response:

Going to NZ is brutal for people such as Farhad Bandesh who has long standing friendships, business partnerships and started to build a life here. His cohort has already been bullied with iron bars on Manus at Australia’s behest, made sick, been held in hotel detention and pushed from pillar to post by Australia. We have yet to heal or compensate them adequately. Enough is enough. Farhad has a business here. NZ is splendid, though smaller and less diverse.

It is legal under the Geneva Convention to seek asylum by any means.

The so called “Sovereign Borders” doctrine is rubbish. “Push” factors outweigh any “pull” factors. People only resort to boats if there are no other options. Naval interception happens.

If the Labor Federal Government can create an orderly and efficient visa process and boats will be less attractive. They have so far baulked at this challenge.

Australia has yet to sort out regional processing pathways and processes. Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan remain unstable and unsafe as do Myanmar, Uyghur China and Sri Lanka, parts of Africa. The fact that Bangladesh, Turkey and Pakistan are drawing the majority of refugees speaks for itself.

Why is it that Shorten can start overhauling the NDIS in days … but Giles and O’Neill are still listening to and being stymied by the old guard?

We have a workforce shortage exacerbated by short-sighted racist policies.

Farhad is contributing to industry, commerce, tax and culture. What’s not to love? Ditto Moz, Thanush and their friends.

Labor will be judged by their deeds, not their rhetoric. Their actions have not significantly separated them from racist bigoted (thug) leaders like Dutton, Abbott, Morrison or Molan to date.

The culture of Home Affairs, ABF, Immigration and their contractors is unacceptable. There seems to be no capacity for change. Pezullo should not be retained.

Ongoing displacement and abuse of this cohort is intolerable. They need to heal. Healing from trauma takes peace, consistency and security.

People like Farhad, Moz and Thanush are contributors not takers. They are forgiving, resilient and capable. Their departure to the NZ or US would be our loss. That they can tolerate Australians after the abuse they have suffered at our hands is remarkable.

As an Australian citizen of 66 years, I (like others) are being denied the opportunity to maintain and develop established friendships with them.

I can promise Albo that if he behaves like Morrison he will be treated like Morrison.

Refugee advocates don’t discriminate.

Albanese needs to show moral courage.

Ending the abuse of the Bilo family was great.

But it is now overdue for Labor to prove it wasn’t a shallow gesture. End all the ongoing abuse and repair the damage.

The refugee sector will judge Labor by its acts. They end the suffering or we will help turn every marginal Teal and Green.

They get on with it or can expect a world of pain.

On the other hand, we will be very grateful for acts that substantively differentiate the current Immigration regime from that administered by Dutton, Tudge, Andrews, Morrison.

Albo, O’Neill, Giles may expect the political fate of Keneally if they further harm our refugee friends. These people are as much victims of Labor’s moral cowardice as of (bogan racist security nuts on the conservative side of politics) LNP.

Talk is cheap. Action is what matters.

As someone who has spent years trying to provide 24/7 mental health support to traumatised victims of sovereign borders policy these letters seems incredibly destructive of any hard won equanimity. It is violent to maintain this abuse. I resent the vicarious distress.

We have not yet offered reparation or fully addressed the mental and physical harm of offshore.

Pamela Curr can describe the birth trauma of women on Nauru in great detail.

These men deserve our love and care. They deserve a fair go within Australia.

Anything less is intolerable.

Jimmy Barnes, Jim Moginie of Midnight Oil, Miss Higgins, Mark Seymour, Simon Holmes a Court, artists, Angus McDonald, Craig Foster and the independent political bloc or Teals, the Bilo campaign, Gillian Triggs AND many rural Australians have demonstrated their care. Many want to share Australia with Farhad, Thanush, Moz and their cohort.

Finally the signatories to these letters are shameless and obsessively vindictive. They have already abused these men in detention using Australian taxpayer money for 9 years, opposed them in court and then demanded costs.

On the other hand, we’ll celebrate every good thing Labor does. It’s up to them. We are a very cohesive community, either way.

*(Some lawyers, Human Rights Watch and others like RCOA might have suggested that these letters carry very little legal weight but that the government will ramp up the harassment.)


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When does neglect under “Sovereign Borders” become a war crime?

By Jane Salmon

Afghans living overseas are certainly refugees since the fall of Kabul and US withdrawal a year ago. Therefore, the Hazara minority, who have been abused under every Afghan government for hundreds of years have been refugees even longer.

Australia has had a longstanding policy of not letting many refugees in via Indonesia, even though those already there have no rights while stranded in Indonesia and nowhere else to go. That is, we try to neutralise any attraction Australia may offer to refugees under the “Sovereign Borders” doctrine of deterrence.

As a result, there are Hazaras stuck on our doorstep in Indonesia, unable to work, nor to go forward or back. This is stranger when we consider that Australia has not met our own intake quotas over Covid and has a labour shortage.

Many people have now caught up with the Alfred Pek film about refugees in Indonesia called “Freedom Street” which outlines some of the issues.

The Australian Government gives an agency called the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) money to manage the Afghan refugees in Indonesia over there … rather than here.

And this is where 13500 of them experience limbo since fleeing Afghanistan.

Perhaps then it is unsurprising that, following the US and Australian withdrawal from Afghanistan a year ago, Australia has messed around refugees from Afghanistan too.

We have not systematically uplifted or accepted our fair share of military assistants or interpreters let alone regular Afghan refugees. The turn backs at the airport, the lack of a systematic way out, the chaos of stranding female professionals (banned from working and learning by the Taliban) and even of preventing family members of refugees detained in Australia from accessing help will challenge the imagination of the average Aussie. High profile sportswomen or judges may get through but they are the exception that proves an overall rule.

Australia has, as stated, a policy of preventing regional processing from logical staging posts like Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia. There is no proper queue for Aussie asylum seeker visas. Not only does this prevent Australia from benefitting from the skills and education of some of the most clever refugees available to our dwindling labour force, but it is also cruel.

We won’t let the Hazaras in Indonesia come here. Yet they have few other options. They certainly cannot go back.

Worse, the Hazaras kept at our behest on the streets of Indonesia for a decade are still not obtaining solutions or even adequate day to day support from Australia.

Rather than let them arrive and thrive, Australia flips thousands of taxpayer dollars per stranded refugee to IOM rather than bring them here. IOM in turn sell the refugees to the lowest cost service provider or contractor. After a while, these practices resemble people trafficking for profit.

I spoke to a couple of Hazaras in Indonesia over the weekend.

One, Ghaznavi, is a gorgeous young chap who turned his hand to baking bread and tiling, despite work bans and his very apparent higher education.

I was surprised to hear that his biggest concern is not getting off the streets or fundraising sponsorship to Canada. His priority is obtaining money to help his beloved Mum with medical bills. She is in turn stranded in Quetta, Pakistan with what appears to be throat cancer.

On Friday night I stared at the pile of his mother’s medical receipts and the pathology notes he had shared, realising that Medicare had covered very similar pathology and chemotherapy when I was being treated for advanced breast cancer over twelve years ago. The cruel contrast in our situations was hard to contemplate.

“I only have one Mum. However the cost is very high because my mum has no Identity of Pakistan. We are Afghan and the cost is expected higher.”

Undaunted, the Hazara diaspora in Indonesia has attempted to create educational opportunities for their kids by running their own schools. Cesarua is home to one such, though Prime Minister skipped it on his Indo tour in early June.

And this unity if purpose is also how a pair of highly qualified Hazara people met in Indonesia, had children and huddle in an unlit room in Timor. They are together, married but relatively broke and without work rights in Indonesia.

Alireza Quanbari has multiple degrees (automotive engineering AND political science) but is not entitled to work. His brilliant wife Kubara Hasani has a bachelor’s degree in industrial management. They have two children, Ava who is 6, and Benjamin, 4, to raise in Kupang – Nusa Tinggara Timor or NTT.

IOM pays for budget services and a small amount per head. No matter how much IOM is given, the actual supports are scant and delivered cheaply.

So when Alireza’s pregnant wife needed a caesarean, she was told she must deliver naturally to save on medical costs to IOM’s “health provider”.

“Our first child had to be delivered by caesarean section because she was big, but IOM to reduce the cost, decided my wife had to give birth naturally. So my child was stuck in the vaginal canal for hours and she did not get enough oxygen. Many of her current problems are caused by the same negligence”.

As anticipated, their first born child became stuck in the birth canal, suffered anoxia and was eventually born with intellectual challenges and additional needs. There was damage to the health of Alireza’s poor wife Kubani, too.

Is IOM, acting as an agent of Australia, denying a woman in labour an emergency caesarean a crime against her human rights? Because that’s almost how it looks from here.

When, on Saturday night when my strapping adult son bemoans his autism, I can comfort him that at least he had an optimal birth, access to therapies, food, power, wifi, school and even higher study.

Alireza’s intelligent and highly educated family on the other hand have nothing except two children with intellectual challenges share a windowless, power free single room without their own sanitation.

This literal accident of birth is unfathomable. In a colonised and militarised country occupied by first Soviet and then Allied forces, very intelligent and educated Hazaras have faced racial discrimination as systematic as that facing the Jews of Europe during World War II. If they fled Afghanistan, they are abused all over again by Australia in the name of deterrence and of reducing “pull factors” under the Sovereign Borders doctrine.

Four similar refugees died of diseases like strokes in less than twenty days in July in Indonesia. The stranded refugee suicide rate runs at around 8.43% of the overall population of 13500.

When I look into the eyes of any Australian Government leader from the past decade, this is what I see. I see women (with more grace, education and humanity than I) and their children being denied a basic right like proper birth care. I see bogan racists voting to deny them a chance to live better.

What are we Aussies doing about this since the May federal election? Surely any of us with compassion want to see these people who have been subjected to medical neglect by Australia’s proxies (IOM), here and safe and given opportunity. We need them as much as they need us.

These intelligent, cultured people offer our communities revelation and our consciences salvation, rather than any sort of inundation.

Australia have warehoused especially vulnerable Afghan refugees in Indonesia in an impossible situation even while the Allies armed forces coalition utilised their home country as a strategic stepping stone.

We babble on about Russian abuses in the Ukraine, but overlook our own. Isn’t being denied an emergency caesarean for the sake of funding on a par with other war crimes? And isn’t it closer to home?

Our Immigration system needs a lot of fixing. Minister Clare O’Neil has sent out her deputy Andrew Giles to meet with community groups begging for a fair go such as Permanent Residency and an end to the visa processing backlog.

It is to be hoped that the more elusive Home Affairs Minister has her sleeves rolled up and is getting on with the many tasks required to fix this decade old mess of immigration visas, including those for refugees stuck in Indonesia.

If Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong can arrange 3000 visas to Solomon Islanders in the first week of this Government, it is pitiful that we STILL have such a mess on our hands by the 12th week.

Our involvement in the Afghan war makes us accountable for the wellbeing of Afghans. It is no different from the accountability of allied troops for Jewish war orphans in occupied Europe, or those affected by the bombing of Japan, Korea or Vietnam*. The Allies used their homeland to settle scores rather than our own. Even a hardened warrior like Jim Molan should be able to comprehend that.

*As a career soldier’s daughter, I still find it appropriate to support a Vietnamese orphanage.


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Refugees and Changing Political Narratives

By Andrew Klein

The challenges of the Global Refugee Crisis often appear unmet or lost in the narrative of political leaders attempting to use the ‘latest military’ problem to divert funding from genuine refugee problems.

In other cases, such as Haiti, the UN response led to an increase in local problems such as disease spread by UN military personnel and allegations of the selling of services and goods for sexual and other favours.

There is no doubt that aid and assistance have by their very nature taken on a ‘corporate approach’ and as such is due for a serious independent audit and review of the nature of contracts and world’s best practice responses to a humanitarian crisis.

The inability to provide housing that is more substantial than plastic tents speaks for itself and raises concerns. The world is facing a global shift in populations and both Internal and external refugees seeking to either escape from either life-threatening situations or in some cases the search for a better economic life.

The West is often seen as frowning on those that become refugees for economic reasons; this is nonsense as the very desire to better oneself and to provide for families is otherwise seen as an admirable quality in human beings.

The crisis in Africa and Syria have now become the reading material of students, which gives an indication of how long these matters have not been addressed, though huge amounts of funds have been channelled to various locations. Syria and the displacement of persons due to the actions of the Islamic State have reached new heights and the response has been woeful.

It has become apparent to me that an entire new language has developed to minimise the impact of what it means to be a refugee. One that allows the conscience of others to rest comfortably as other matters are addressed.

Uganda is another case in point where ordinary people are willing to re-build, to learn and to contribute to their society. It would not be too difficult to provide not only proper housing but the infra-structure that young refugees will need to be educated, i.e. IT Services and PC’s. Decent Housing and stability is essential for any family group to thrive. The provision of required documentation is not a major hurdle in these days of mega data and the ability to put ‘standing armies’ in the field.

The abilities of western armies to provide quality housing, communication and other ‘comforts’ can be observed in operational areas. If this can be done for armies, this can be done for refugees as long as the profiteering and corruption is curtailed.

Refugees as people must be seen as an investment in the future and not a burden. Cultures survive because they are diverse and can draw on the skills provided by such diversity. Not to embrace diversity is to insulate and isolate oneself from the potential that human beings bring. The danger lies in creating persons who become generational refugees, with all the fears and uncertainties that apply. These same individuals may easily become so disenchanted with the promises made and broken that they are either forced into a life which many would regard as undesirable (prostitution, low level crime etc.) or on the other hand be driven into the hands of those recruiting for the many groups funded to create ‘terror’, and there seems plenty of funding and recruiters available for this.

No State and body of States can function with such variables and leave themselves open to social unrest for years to come. It is time to address the ‘refugee’ problem seriously, eliminate corruption and provide quality of life to those who, for whatever reason, have been driven to become refugees.

Australia’s solutions over the last nine years leads one to doubt not just the humanity but the sanity of those who implemented the Morrison solutions. The United Kingdom under the apparently intellectually challenged and spoilt man-child Boris Johnson is merrily heading down the path that Australia created.

The same self-serving populist speak and a rather bizarre solution, sending refugees and asylum seekers to Rwanda. What would we find if we followed the money trails, both in Australia and the United Kingdom? There are still many questions left unanswered and the mainstream media is complicit by giving race baiting and populist propaganda oxygen.


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The transphobia “moral” panic

People contributing to anti trans rhetoric are playing a much more dangerous game than they realise.

The current wave of anti-trans sentiment will lead to more violence and victimisation. Initially the attacks will hit people who are visibly trans women. Eventually, it will spread to anyone who is LGBTQI+. The same forces promoting this violence are those aiming to limit women’s rights, and ultimately purge their countries of unwelcome categories of people.

Be very sure you know what you are doing if you join in.

In America over one weekend in Pride Month alone, extremism monitors tracked “seven in-person extremist activities targeting LGBTQ people.” In the most dramatic event, 31 uniformed men in balaclavas were dragged from a U-Haul vehicle before they could create a “riot” at a Pride event in Idaho.

American political aspirants and preachers demanded death penalties for homosexuality in a year when 250 anti LGBTQI+ bills were introduced around that nation. In Ohio laws were passed that would allow the genital inspection of secondary and tertiary female student athletes. In Idaho, the law would make it a life-sentence felony for parents or doctors to help trans youth gain puberty delaying treatment, including making it a trafficking offence to take them out of the state in pursuit of medical care.

This hysteria feels much more extreme than in Australia, but as we saw on our streets over the pandemic, the violence of the turbulent world of American politics is brought here through internet swamps. Trump flags and nooses appeared in our street protests. Australians unknowingly appealed to American constitutional amendments for protection from health measures. Most Australians were shocked to see violent brawls with the police on our streets apparently emerging out of nowhere.

And in the global sewers of the internet, the reasons for the panic are clear. Of all the manifold bigotries that pervade the space, the one with the most convergence is that gay or trans people are pedophiles. That facts dismiss this as nonsense is no help; facts long since ceased having traction in this sphere.

This iteration of social contagion is not surprising. It is easier to absorb a “moral” panic when it confirms feelings of discomfort or incomprehension. Again, when it builds on earlier waves of “moral” panic, the new variant can confirm previous prejudice.

The “save our children” hysteria of the QAnon movement crescendoed in the worst of the pandemic. Lonely and frightened people sat at home on their computers absorbing a fantasy built on earlier waves of child stealing (and sacrificing) panics. Some of the people caught up in the QAnon cult would have been immersed in the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s where childcare operators were persecuted over baseless accusations of mass child abuse. QAnon proved they hadn’t been fools to believe.

The trans panic of this moment calls upon earlier fear and horror at the existence of Queer people in general. It was only in 1994 that mainland Australia legalised homosexuality, with Tasmania following three years later. The religious campaign against marriage equality during the postal vote in 2017 harnessed all the risks and threats that conservative Australians might dread.

The success of the equality vote brought change. Queer people in Australia described feeling accepted and finally welcome as part of the community. People felt newly safe to hold hands with their partner in the street.

These changes are recent and fragile. The Religious Right is fighting hard to limit equality, then ultimately to reverse it. This is most clearly apparent in the United States, but Australia saw Scott Morrison’s faction echoing its strategies. His religious discrimination bill aimed to grant religious groups the right to practise discrimination. In the election, Morrison’s decision to harness Katherine Deves’s feminist transphobia aimed to draw in a fresh base for his religious bigotry.

*And this feminist support for transphobia needs to be seen for what it is. How the far right is turning feminists into fascists” traces the trajectory from some early radical feminist movements to the new anti-trans “feminism.” It is as likely to celebrate women for their child-bearing capacity as it is to echo ethnonationalist ideas. While feminisms are a broad range of beliefs, this kind seems grim.

The American Religious Right which Scott Morrison aimed to inject into Australian politics is infused with the theocratic belief in the absolute necessity for Evangelical/Pentecostal Christians to purify society. Christian Nationalism demands that all sexual activity in the state is procreative and within marriage. All men must be strong patriarchs. All women must be submissive wives. The Religious Right has not, however, placed itself at the centre of American “conservative” politics by being clumsy. It has deployed any strategy to achieve its aims, and encouraging women outside the churches to define their value in their reproductive capacity has been useful. It both works to aid the Religious Right’s war on women’s reproductive freedom as well as gaining allies against the LGBTQI+ people who would blur the boundaries.

They have convinced a sizeable proportion of America that progressives demand abortion up to the point of birth. The ludicrous parallel distortion is the depiction of trans women as a threat to other women. Both nightmare boogeymen prevent rational discussion of the issue, but rational discussion was never the goal.

The issue in America is driven from the top by well-funded Christian Libertarian thinktanks, and from the ground in the post-QAnon MAGA base. Republican politicians believe they have the key to minority rule in juggling these interest groups. In Australia, the nascent Religious Right is regrouping after Scott Morrison’s defeat. The secular version of their talking points is being amplified on Sky News, funnelled free-to-air into the regions.

When decent Australians allow themselves to be carried along by the wave of this moral panic, they are not defending women. What they are doing is becoming caught up on the rational-sounding fringes of a hysteria that will lead to violence.

The overlapping groups attacking LGBTQI+ people in America include Christian fascists and post QAnon conspiracy theorists alongside a range of other extremist factions. Anti-LGBTQI action has overtaken all the other cross-pollination opportunities” like CRT, pandemic health measures and abortion access.

The violence in Australia is unlikely to look like militia in U-Hauls, but how many bashings or murders would be acceptable? The attack on trans people – or abortion – are not ends in themselves but trojan horse missions with the aim to replace our democratic projects with theocracy, and our freedoms to shape our lives with stringent rules of chaste behaviour.

We need to work together, just like the overlapping groups that despise us.


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Beyond Bilo

Advocates look to RESET Australia’s Refugee Policy After #HometoBiloela

Media Release 12 June 2022

“This is a weekend of rejoicing for thousands of Australians as Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharnicaa returned home to Biloela. Their fabled journey of suffering and abuse and yesterday’s fanfare return to Biloela have been very public.

It is a story that resonates with warm Australians on a deep human, almost mythical, level. We feel proud to be generous and compassionate,” reflected Fabia Claridge, co-convener of People Just Like Us.

“We have fixated on confected racist false narratives for too long.”

The ordeals of this iconic refugee family are not unique. Australia needs the contribution of migrants and refugees on all levels,” says PJLU (People Just Like Us).” (1)

Refugee organisation “People Just Like Us” (or PJLU) is calling for ALL refugees and asylum seekers on Bridging Visas to be given permanent protection: not just TPV & SHEV holders. (2)

“Let’s not kowtow to the Shadow cabinet. They are no longer in government. Progressives have been elected instead.

Forever finding reasons NOT to act on asylum seekers has proven morally and politically debilitating. It is to give in to racist slurs and xenophobia. As Bill Shorten has found with NDIS, it is also a lawyers’ picnic at taxpayer expense. Let’s quickly settle the refugee backlog, so we have oxygen for the other enormous issues we need to tackle as a nation,” Claridge said.

“First, the minister of immigration has ‘god powers’ legislated by the LNP. Why not use them to cut through the red tape, the endless court hearings and reviews, the before and after dates, the Kafkaesque morass – all designed to delay and block?”

Next, when we see the decisive action announced this week by Foreign Minister Senator Wong to grant 3,000 visas per year, giving Pacific Islanders a pathway to permanency, we see how easy it is to act when you really want to. We applaud this. It shows that where there is a will, there IS a way.

“We applaud that Labor has already promised to give permanent residency to people holding Temporary Protection visas and SHEV visas. They are already here working by our side, sitting on the train next to us, paying taxes. They just need security and safety so they can help build a better, more harmonious future. No one need be left behind, as Prime Minister Albanese has said.”

“Thousands of others (families, sons, daughters, husbands, fathers, mothers) are in the same predicament as the Nadesalingam family. All are the victims of a flawed and biased system under the Liberal government for the last 9 years. Bullied into silence, they have been deliberately kept secret. They too have lived in fear of deportation to danger. Many, like the Tamil family, come from persecuted groups within danger zones such as the Rohingya and the Hazara from Afghanistan.”

An “amnesty” or permanent truce in the war on refugees would be a logical step in the refugee policy reset.

While not every asylum seeker coming by boat has a strong claim, Australia has illegally detained and tortured them (according to the Refugee Convention) for more than 9, 10 years. They have actually been persecuted by our government under our own cruel refugee policy. Therefore, they deserve the permanent protection/ residency from Australia.

An important aspect of this is to decouple refugees issues from national “security” concepts. This false narrative has debased our whole nation,” concludes Ms Claridge. “Mode of arrival has nothing to do with refugee needs, character, skills or objectives.”

Credlin must acknowledge that cruelty does not work. The boats never actually stopped. Stealthy turnbacks or refoulements occurred constantly.

Secondly, the incoming Australian Federal Government is urged to work with UNHCR and Indonesia to set up the “safe passage” for refugees trapped in Indonesia.

“This cohort of refugees in Indonesia are clearly within the purview of Australia since they have been warehoused there for almost a decade at the behest of Australia and at our expense”, says Claridge.

“They are about 13,700 in number. Half are Afghan. Stateless Rohingya languish there, too. Previous governments have paid to maintain a secretive network of detention centres throughout Indonesia (via IOM).

Some of those have now been closed, but refugees are still trapped there with no work rights, no study rights and no right to travel internally within Indonesia. Indonesia is not a signatory to The Refugee Convention. It is also a multi-racial nation facing economic challenges.

“Indonesia is an open prison for stranded refugees. People cannot plan a future or get on with their lives. Record rates of refugee suicide are testimony to desperation and despair. This system is deliberately designed to steal essential hope. Daily protests on the streets are met with police bashings. Sadly, during Prime Minister Albanese’s visit to Makassar some of our friends were forcibly locked up so that they could not protest.”

“By making a visit to Indonesia a top priority this week Prime Minister Albanese and Foreign Minister Wong established that they esteem collegiate relations with our near neighbour. Both in Asia and in the Pacific, they understand it’s time for Australia to embrace equality and to end the arrogant colonial behaviour of the previous government.”

Ms Claridge emphasised, “It is both neighbourly and strategic to resolve this backlog of suffering on our doorstep.”

“People Just Like Us is therefore calling for a one-off intake of refugees from Indonesia to clear the backlog at source. This is where most boats come from. Give people a better option and they will never risk their children’s’ lives on a boat. Time and again we have been told that.

Given the hiatus in migrant intake over the past few years, it is a perfect time to do this. Australia currently needs all sorts of workers, skilled and ‘unskilled’”. (3)

“A one-off intake of refugees from Indonesia can demonstrate Australia’s willingness to reset the whole future of regional cooperation in the refugee space. A regional solution reset would systematically manage the flow of people through SE Asia rather than merely deter desperate people by creating insurmountable blockages.”

For details, please contact People Just Like Us.


(1) “Raising Australia’s refugee intake would boost economy by billions, Oxfam says” by Helen Davidson (The Guardian, 28 Aug 2019).

(2) The number of those who need asylum has not been transparent and needs clarification: roughly 29,210 in total; including BVs (Backlog) 9,705, PNG, Nauru and Medevac around 500 (less those opting to go to US, NZ and CA), and TPVs and SHEV holders roughly 19,000.

(3) “When we open up, open up big: economists say we need more migrants” by Peter Martin (The Conversation, 20 Feb 2022).


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Advocates calling for more collaboration with Indonesia on refugee issues

People Just Like Us (PJLU) Media Release

Representatives of the new Albanese Labor Government visited Indonesia this week. Refugee advocacy group, People Just Like Us, today urges that the newly elected Labor Government takes the chance to “reset” our relationship with our Asian neighbours on refugee issues by setting up “safe passage” for those refugees trapped in Indonesia.

There are around 14,000 refugees trapped in Indonesia for more than a decade, among them more than 7,000 were from Afghanistan.

In the last ten years, Australia accepted only 54 people annually on average from Indonesia. There have been daily refugee protests on the streets in all major cities in Indonesia. People are losing hopes and dying.

“We need to significantly increase the refugee intake from Indonesia. We should work with Indonesia government and UNHCR to take more refugees from our region. No one will risk their own precious life to come to Australia by boat if they know there is orderly pass-way existed. Refugees are willing to wait for a reasonable time for assessment and process,” said Fabia Clairage, convenor of People Just Like Us.

“Furthermore, it would demonstrate that Australia is proactive about a regional solution and demonstrate that Australia is prepared to do some heavy lifting as a country built on migration. It would be an opportunity to support our neighbour Indonesia by removing the suffering families suiciding on its streets and bringing them to Australia. It would also mark a departure from the colonial behaviour of dumping on our neighbours those we choose to reject.

“It will save the government’s budget on ‘border protection’ whilst enhancing our ability to safely and fairly assess the refugees right on our doorstep,” she concludes.

For details, please contact People Just Like Us.




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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.”


“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.


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:

The Greatest Menace” podcast

Freedom is Mine Exhibition:


Image from The Pride Centre (Photo by Peter Casamento)


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