This article touches on a huge source of anxiety among refugees on bridging visas and living in communities such as ours. A High Court challenge is a flickering sign of hope that our Kafka-like systems will find an inch of redress. The toxic political polarisation that soaks our our waking moments, however, will take something more.
Sometimes, when one is greeted by a plethora of email messages in the morning, a particular message stands out and one feels that a kairos moment has just brushed by. This morning was such an occasion and I share it with you:
Please find attached a joint statement to the people of Australia on constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from the Australian Reconciliation Network.
An Open Letter to the People of Australia
On the fourth anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, the Australian Reconciliation Network encourages all Australians to consider carefully the recommendations made by the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
We believe that recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution is another positive step forward for our nation. The Panel has produced an excellent report that shows viable options exist to achieve this goal.
Many Australians would be surprised to learn that our Constitution currently allows Governments to discriminate against any group on the basis of race. We believe this is out of touch with modern Australia and does not reflect who we are as a nation today.
Historically it has been the Australian people who have lead the way towards reconciliation— overwhelmingly voting YES in the 1967 Referendum to count Aboriginal people in the census, walking across bridges in crowds of hundreds of thousands in a show of reconciliation, and turning out in droves to watch as Kevin Rudd made the formal Apology— unifying moments in our history that should not be forgotten.
Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution continues the unfinished business of the recommendations made by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation in 2000.
Extensive community consultations and polling that informed the Panel’s report suggest that changes are worthy and capable of support for a referendum.
We have before us a tremendous opportunity to define our nation’s story and take another step towards a reconciled nation. We share a vision for an Australia which recognises and is proud of our unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, and celebrates the diversity which makes our nation great.
We therefore encourage all Australians to consider carefully the Panel’s proposals to amend the Constitution.
Dr Tom Calma and Ms Melinda Cilento, Reconciliation Australia Co-Chairs
Kristy Masella and Kerrie Murphy, NSW Reconciliation Council Co-Chairs
Aunty Heather Castledine and Peter Jackson, Reconciliation Queensland Inc Co-Chairs
Renai Dean and Keith Gove, Reconciliation Victoria Co-Chairs
Jim Morrison and Keith Bodman, Reconciliation WA Co-Chairs
Prof Peter Buckskin PSM FACE and Hon. Robyn Layton QC, Reconciliation South Australia Co-Chairs
Imagine living out in the middle of nowhere, 1000 kilometers from anywhere. Nothing to see but flat horizon all around. A few prefab huts… and a slender steel ribbon disappearing in both directions, your only link to places east and west. Every day or so the behemoths trundle past with their long trail of passengers and cargo, but they don’t stop. Once a week, however, your train comes, and your small collection of neighbours gathers and becomes a village marketplace as the mini community restocks, banks, and collects mail from the Tea and Sugar train.
It was good to poke around the engines and carriages of this piece of history at the Port Adelaide Railway Museum.
She frowned with miscomprehension, “What did you say?”
“It’s not within Cooee of here,” I repeated. “In fact, you have to go south of the river to find it.”
“That word …Cuey?… I’ve not heard that before.”
It occurred to me that another word of our unique vernacular might be on its way out.
Pity. It’s very useful and expressive. Especially if you are lost or wanting to tell others where you are. The first European settlers of this land learned it from the local indigenous folk around Botany Bay. It’s not so much a word but a high pitched call meant to carry maximum distance over the airways – thus the context of my remark.
Anyhow, heres a demo…
Sustainable September is a Western Australian initiative designed to focus the community across a spectrum of social, environmental and economic actions. It coincides nicely with the the Season of Creation on the church calendar, marked particularly by the Uniting Church in Australia, and which began in 2000 and coincided unknowingly with a parallel season called the Time of Creation being developed by the European Christian Environmental Network.
Why all this fuss about the environment? Along with other concerned world citizens, many Christians have been waking to their mandate as stewards or carers of the planet. Regardless of faith stance, aware people know that the human species is well equipped to modify and manage natural environments. Greed and the lust for control have revealed what happens when the task is poorly managed or even dismissed. For Christians, contemplative action leads to a healing of the wounds of creation.
So today is Forests Sunday, followed (in Australia) by Land, Wilderness/Outback, and River Sundays. Other countries will vary the names of the Sundays according to the environmental concerns of their regions.
Today’s reflective focus on forests invites us to dwell on the sheer gift of being able to walk among trees, observe the life that is sustained, and cherish the artifacts that find their source in our forests sufficiently to ensure the sustainability of old growth forest through a concentration of the use of well managed plantation timber. While mindful of the great legislative challenges of deforestation in other countries, there is sufficient challenge in our own to ensure a striving for proper balance.
As we head towards refugee Sunday, Eureka Street offers some worthy material for reflection, e.g. Improving the refugee debate – Eureka Street.
It well makes the point that multiculturalism, the so called bête noir of our times is really of little account. This reflects a lunch-time conversation from which I have just emerged, where a bunch of us good-solid-British-heritage-stocked fourth-and-fifth generationists were comparing our ancestries and remarking how much more mottled our lines were than we realised. The makeup of this country has been thus varied for the last 200 years. Certainly, the ruling class were decidedly British in demeanour if not ethnicity, but those they ruled reveal a variety of cultural backgrounds. And in a land where Jack/Jill is as good as his/her master, the program is set for distinctions to either fade or be mutually celebrated. The politically manufactured zeitgeist of fear cannot and should not prevail given our collective story. But alas it has and it does but it need not. Just read this inspiring article in the same issue of Eureka street.
So one hopes that law interpreted by the High Court of Australia, as in the Malaysia case now awaiting determination, and the reasoned voices from the middle ground that are now being given some airplay, might begin to turn, or at least soften, the political perception of public opinion. Hope springs eternal!
Why can’t our government get it right with asylum seekers who arrive by boat?
The lawfulness of the disgraceful Malaysia deal is being tested before the full bench of the High Court today.
This morning’s headlines in the West Australian were like a breeze of fresh air through the stench of indifference and acrimony that usually surrounds this issue. A group of eminent Australians representing, among other professions, business and the arts, have called for a rethink of the detention strategies, advocating minimum holding for security and health checks and release into the community while asylum claims are ascertained. More humane, less expensive, win-win. They echo recent representations made by senior officials in Immigration to their political masters.
But how does our government respond ? “Let’s build floating detention centres.” Have they completely lost the plot? What kind of blinkered thinking seeks to take us back to the time Britain used floating hulks to imprison its burgeoning underclass. The irony is that when this strategy became unwieldy transportation to the great south land was deemed the solution. That’s right – they were sent out here as “boat people.” Go figure! Granted these $150 million vessels are intended to deliver intercepted asylum seekers swiftly to unnamed off-shore locations – but really?
I guess things have to reach the zenith of the point of ridiculous before uncommon common sense can break through.
Some have already dismissed the above referenced article because it is written by a former prime minister whose approach to immigration was more draconian than now. Some folks are tired of me posting and referring to articles on this topic. “Give it a rest,” they say.
My response is “Why?” Particularly when this article is referring to asylum seekers already received. Don’t we see what we have become? Once upon a time we had community goodwill and involvement in locally based refugee resettlement schemes that cost very little and gave firm footing for recipients to become contributing integrated members of our society.
Now we have officially sanctioned fear, prejudice and cynicism.
When did we become so mean-spirited and callous? Why do we cry over cattle but not our fellow human beings? How will we recover the community values of hospitality, generosity and a fair go for the battler that are all but a distant memory where those fleeing persecution, danger and death are concerned?
I’ll keep posting until there’s a seismic shift on current community and government values.
This one comes as a surprise. Just when you think human beings can’t be objectified much further, my country turns them into a trade commodity. “We’ll give you 800 of ours and, over time, we’ll take 4000 of yours.”
What does this solve? How is “people trading” morally superior to “people smuggling”?
De-mothballing the detention centre at Manus Island heralds a revisit to some of the darker aspects of Australia’s recent history on refugee policy.
In the foreseeable future, our government’s intransigent insistence on off-shore processing of asylum seeker assessment will polarise the Australian population even further as we discuss “them”. The genius of off-shore processing keeps us from encountering the individual human stories of despair and hope. Community based assessment was apparently “too successful” in integrating asylum seekers.
Here’s one story, evoked by the last refugee who languished alone at Manus Island for 10 months. Eventually, that which is hidden emerges.