Last year we shared snippets of HerCanberra readers and staff Christmas memories. This year, we…
Last night, hundreds of Canberrans attended Light the Dark – a candlelight vigil held all round Australia to demonstrate that not all Australians support our closed border policy and that many Australians want to do more to help asylum seekers.
HerCanberra writer Samara Gentle, and an anonymous contributor who will explain the reasons for her non-disclosure, were there. This is why…
A common refrain at these events is ‘not in my name’, but you won’t find many public servants rocking up to support these causes. As servants of the public we are required to be apolitical and to trust that the government of the day is making policies (which we then implement) that are in the best interests of the majority of Australians. If we are seen to be publicly critical of the government’s policy agenda we risk losing our jobs, or at the very least undergoing disciplinary action.
So what was I doing there, at risk of losing my job and ruining my career? I was there because I’m a proud servant of democracy. I believe in freedom of speech and I believe it’s time more of us stood up and said ‘sorry, but this policy is not in my name.’
I really just wanted to stay home and hug my babies, because I’m so grateful they’re alive and breathing. But instead of staying home and sticking my head in the sand I chose to take a stand. We’re so privileged to live in this country. We can’t possibly fathom the kinds of atrocities that would force a parent to make the kind of choice that might end in their child’s death, because it can only mean the alternative was worse.
People fleeing their country are not queue jumpers. They’re not illegal. They’re just trying to get the hell out of a terrifying situation by any means necessary. All parents just want to do whatever it takes to keep their babies out of harm’s way, even if that means taking a massive risk.
My heart will never stop breaking for these people who, by no fault of their own, suddenly find that the country they’re living in is a place from which they must flee, only to lose those most precious to them in the fleeing. Syria used to be a civilised, democratic country. It was destabilised by epic, unrelenting drought and poor governance. The resulting civil war, which has created the perfect power vacuum for hideous organisations to step in and play power games, is not the fault of the everyday citizens of Syria. It is not the fault of the mums and dads who suddenly find they must get their babies to safety, anywhere, before it’s too late.
We live in a country where the worst thing we can imagine is poor government. We need to do more to sweep away the ignorance underpinning statements like ‘go back to where you came from.’ If you’ve seen any images of Syria recently you’ll understand why they’d rather put their babies on a leaky boat than go back to what might face them at home.
Hug your babies. Be grateful that you can. And take some time to consider the facts about where these people are coming from and why it’s time we did more to help.
While the plight of Syrian refuges is not new, the visual given to the world by little Aylan Kurdi’s body washing up on a beach is new. For the first time the majority of the world has felt a personal pain in their heart at seeing the images. The topic is now being readily discussed on a global scale and unfortunately, as Australians, we are becoming a global embarrassment. The New York Times has already publicly shamed our refuge policies, “his (Tony Abbott) policies have been inhumane, of dubious legality and strikingly at odds with the country’s tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and war”.
I’ve been privy to a lot of conversations debating why, when there is other suffering in the world, are we focusing on this one little boy? This is the moment, the world is finally ready to talk about it. We have the media captive with interest and we can use this to do good and make local and global change. That’s why I attended Light the Dark, to be an extra, visible person to the media and politicians. While it’s easy to sign an online petition, it’s more important to be seen. A politician can ignore 100,000 signature, can they ignore 100,000 people coming together?
I have cousins, nieces and nephews similar to Aylan’s age and tears welled in my eyes when I saw his last photo. My chest became tight not only from the sadness but from the anger. Countries like Germany are not only opening up their homes, they are applauding the sight of refugees, providing them with clothes, toys, food and more. Yet Australia is sending adults and children to detention centres where they are sexually abused and bribed with marijuana for sex. For the first time in my life, I wish I was German.
Where do you stand on the issue of Australia’s refugee policy?