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By John O’Loughlin
Until recently, hundreds of asylum seekers have been arriving in Australian waters in unseaworthy boats captained by people smugglers, their passengers hoping to live peacefully in this large land. Not many come these days because the Australian Liberal conservative government has an active policy of ‘turning the boats back’. It was recently alleged that officials paid the people smugglers to take their passengers back to where they came from, when intercepted by our navy. We became the people smugglers!
Those who arrived before this policy action are incarcerated in detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, countries not under Australian jurisdiction. The camp conditions are reported to be horrendous, while inmates remain under scrutiny for months, and sometimes years, in these camps. Many Australians, it might be most Australians but I don’t know, are horrified by the actions of our own government and protests are common. There is widespread sympathy for people fleeing the horrors of war and genocide on the other side of our world, and many want to take action to give these refugees a chance at a new life in our homeland.
A protest by the staff and doctors of the Royal Melbourne Children’s Hospital recently refused to allow some children to be released from hospital because they were refugees from Nauru who had been flown in for treatment and who would be returned to detention when they recovered. Thirty seven babies and some fifty older children and their families have now been allowed to stay with communities and individuals who have taken them into accommodation. Permanent residency is not yet assured for them.
My recent artworks are a small protest at the treatment my government is handing out to these suffering individuals and families. We are having an election soon and I hope my vote will make a difference for these people.