This inhumane response belittles us as a nation
It is with some alarm that I have seen the national political debate turn towards border protection in recent days. Like the debates that have preceded this one – myth appears to transcend the deep human dimension that is missed in the daily headlines.
There is no doubt that the current policies may need to be reviewed but this does not abdicate our responsibility as a state and nation to look after those who have come from circumstances that we cannot begin to comprehend.
In my community I spent a bit of time getting to know an “asylum seeker” who left Sierra Leone in the hope that he could make a better life for his family.
It was easy to be charmed by his smile and gentle demeanour but it hid a resounding pain. He told me about nights he would spend in his village when soldiers would come – their footsteps feared as if death itself.
They would randomly pick huts and without reason or explanation would execute some in his village to keep so-called “order” for the regime running the country. Every day for his wife and children was uncertain and every day was based on fear. I mean we all have our complaints about life in NSW but, can we truly understand what it would be like to live in these circumstances?
He went through the application process in this country and during the day he worked as a brickie impressing all on site with his strength and commitment to the job. He waited for two years to be processed while his wife and sons remained in Sierra Leone.
During this time many in my community supported him and he often came into my office to proudly share photos that he had just received of his family. It goes without saying that when his application was approved he could hardly contain his joy and many in my community wept when they heard he was reunited with his wife and children.
This state and this country gave this family a chance to escape a horror that no person or no family should endure. It is why I love Australia ... we support democracy, freedom of the individual and the chance to build a life through hard work. So, it is with some sadness that I dwell on Australia being marked as a nation without compassion.
There is sense in Heather Ridout’s call for a bi-partisan approach to this problem as I think it belittles us as a nation to play political football with people’s lives that by their nature have almost nowhere to turn. I acknowledge that some asylum seekers come without justification however I can assure you many come with no alternatives left in life.
My father actually visited every detention centre when he was in federal parliament and I can vividly remember the look on his face when he returned. He said he had never seen such human desperation. We can’t lose sight of this as a nation.
I believe in this state and this country and my hope is that we can celebrate as a nation as we give those a life that, through nothing more than circumstance of birth, has been denied in their homeland.
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