Why should a five month old baby be sent to Nauru? “If my son was living in the same conditions [as this baby] I’d be deemed an unfit parent” writes Eva Cripps in this compelling open letter to Tony Abbott.
Dear Prime Minister,
I know you are busy ‘securing our nation against the various challenges that we face at home and abroad’. I know same-sex marriage is low on your agenda. I know that hating on the ABC rates highly on your list of things to do.
However I have a question for you; an important question that thousands of Australians, in fact, the rest of the world, wants an answer to.
Since when has it been acceptable to house babies in stinking hot, rat-infested, leaky tents?
I know you are distracted by posing with your new Border Force commissioner, but this is a really important issue. And it’s an issue that Australians – the ones who haven’t bought into your fear tactics and scaremongering, want dealt with immediately.
You’re probably wondering why I’m writing to you. Surely I should be doing something useful, and non-controversial, like ironing my husband’s work shirt. But you see, Prime Minister, I have a son who is one month younger than Asha, the baby born to asylum seeker parents and just recently sent to your detention centre on Nauru.
And I am doing my job, as a parent, as a human being, as a person with a conscience, in speaking out and saying that it is unacceptable for babies and children to be held in detention.
The thing is, Mr Abbott, it is my taxes paying for those filthy facilities. My taxes paying for the guards to allegedly film themselves having sex with vulnerable and desperate women. My taxes, Mr Abbott, paying for a regime which includes rapes, sexual assaults on children and acts of violence.
And I object.
I want you to tell me, Mr Abbott, why my taxes should be used to pay for child abuse?
And I don’t want you to deny this is happening. Quite simply, Mr Abbott, when your department tells me that everything is fine, I don’t believe it.
But I do believe the many doctors, nurses, teachers and health workers who have spoken up about the inhumane conditions. I do believe the findings of the Moss Review, and the Forgotten Children report presented to you by the Australian Human Rights Commission. I believe the United Nations, who has stated that Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers in detention amounts to torture.
Do you know what else makes me believe these people above you, Mr Abbott, apart from them being professionals and ethically obliged to report abuse?
Your law which may see professionals, including these doctors, nurses and health workers, jailed for speaking out and advocating on behalf of their patients.
I’ll just repeat this, Mr Abbott, in case you don’t quite understand: Your law which may see professional people, who have witnessed, first hand, the conditions that these asylum seekers, including babies and children, are living in, jailed for reporting abuse.
I acknowledge Mr Dutton’s pitiful attempts to downplay the situation. He says that the laws don’t prevent ‘genuine concerns’ from being aired and ‘legitimate’ issues raised.
How do you define ‘genuine’ and ‘legitimate’ concerns, Mr Abbott? Is evidence of rape, sexual abuse, serious mental illness, and suicidal ideation not enough for you? What about murder, Mr Abbott? What about asylum seeker death from septicaemia? Clearly none of these things are of concern to you, Mr Abbott, or you would have done something about it.
Instead, what do you do?
You send a baby to Nauru.
Right now as I sit here breastfeeding my son (and I won’t apologise for making things awkward for you by talking about my breasts), I am thinking about baby Asha’s mother, and how she must be feeling. You see, Mr Abbott, unlike you I am able to empathise. And having a son almost the same age as Asha, I can barely imagine how stressful and traumatic it must be for her mother, struggling to feed her baby in that hell-hole on Nauru.
Of course I appreciate that you’ve never breastfed a child, Mr Abbott. And I understand that in the 1950’s, where most of your values date from, breastfeeding wasn’t considered cool – something practised by the uneducated and poor. But let me tell you something, Mr Abbott, babies need food. And if they are bottle fed formula, they need access to clean, fresh water, hygienic conditions and facilities to sterilize bottles.
Can you honestly tell me, Prime Minister, that Asha’s mother has access to these things? I want an honest answer, Mr Abbott, not another one of your lies.
So as I sit here, Mr Abbott, writing to you, with my son suckling away and filling his fat little tummy with milk, I wonder how the hell you can put a baby in detention. I wonder how the hell you expect Asha’s mother to feed her, when you have subjected her to such torturous and inhumane conditions that she is struggling to breastfeed.
How far do you want this to go, Mr Abbott? Do you want a baby to die?
Why, Mr Abbott, is it illegal for my son to be abused, yet not for baby Asha? Is it because my son was born in Australia? Asha was born in Australia too. Is it because her parents are not Australian? Neither were your parents, Mr Abbott. Is her skin not white enough?
If my son was living in the same conditions as baby Asha, I’d be deemed an unfit parent. Your policy, Mr Abbott, and your laws, which not only serve to endorse child abuse, but now make it unlawful to report it, make you unfit to be Prime Minister.
I want an answer, Mr Abbott. I want you to tell me just why you think abusing a baby, any baby, is acceptable.
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