By Jane Salmon
“We’ll Take That As a Comment.”
On QandA this week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said no one was being “tortured” offshore.
Torture is a strong word, sure.
A relative, Ron Cruikshank, a banker like you, Mr Turnbull, was incarcerated by the Japanese in Singapore in WW2. He returned, but he did not return a whole person.
What these stopping-the-boats hostages are going through is, because of the amount of time involved, becoming almost as damaging.
Sure, there are fewer beheadings, less work and a bit more rice, but the mental uncertainty is what harms people most. The incessant threat of physical harm from locals, the danger of machete attack and permanent harm is terrifying.
Then we have the “on-off” medical visits, the addictions to medications with sudden discontinuation. We have the pointless trips to Port Moresby for dubious medical care and the rounds and rounds of legal action.
Detainees see that legal action sometimes leads to rescue in arbitrary instances. Their hope comes from that.
The detainees in PNG and Nauru are, in my opinion, being tortured in the sense of prolonged alienation, isolation, fear and uncertainty.
Worry about family back home, the day to day frustration, waste of hope and dynamism is the same as for POWs. And that’s without the local racial tension, punishment in the isolation unit known as “Chauka”, the racial slurs from guards, the lies and lack of power over their situation. This has happened wholesale.
Rotten food, tropical diseases, limited work prospects and minimal funds adds pressure. No matter how much the government spends, the detainees live badly. Aussie donors are feeling their discomfort too. They resent this harm and their own donor fatigue. They blame you.
As an autism Mum from 2000, I cannot imagine the living hell of mothering an autistic child on Nauru without proper supports.
My great uncle was never the same. It was just one of about 10 cases of post-war trauma in the last 3 generations of my family.
One of the most damaged colleagues I have ever met was also a POW. He could only scowl and curse at the sky while we slogged alongside him.
Please consider what you are doing more carefully, Mr Turnbull.
We reap the blighted harvest of such cruelties for many decades afterwards.
We don’t just want gay marriage and rainbows, we want a diverse colourful Australia. Boat turn-backs without bribes and refugee processing or uplift from Indonesia and Malaysia are more effective for “breaking the people smuggler’s business model” than ongoing cruelty.
Merry Christmas, Mr Turnbull.