An Australian Christmas Carol – A badly written, reconstituted moral tale – Part 1

Mr Ebenezer Morrison lay his head on the pillow.

“I did good today real good. I won’t be given moral lectures by anyone…but I got ‘em… oh yes … Now I can send those illegals back whenever I like. They will never be Australian”. He smiled and with a belly full of Christmas cheer drifted off to sleep.

“Mr Morrison, Mr Morrison”

“Go away” mumbled Mr M.

“Mr Morrison, Mr Morrison”

Mr M bolted upright so hard he nearly fell out of bed. “Who’s there?”

“Ghost of Things Past”

“How did you get in? Security!”

“They can’t hear you I’m afraid. You’re going on a little trip because one day soon you’ll be rewarded for your actions”

Mr M was pretty scared by now. Mr Abbott wasn’t answering his phone. “Damn” He threw the phone on the floor.

“Now look I’m all for free speech but mark my words – after this I’ll be checking your IP activity – in the interests of national security of course”

The Ghost of Things Past swept Mr M out of bed and into the night.

“Where the hell are we? Get me out of this dump”.

“We’re at Christmas Island for Christmas”.

The Ghost of Things Past led Mr M to every face, told every story, but still Mr M could not feel.

” They’re illegal” he grunted.

“No Mr M they are not.”

Next stop was Naru, then an orange floatie-thing on the sea, then Sri Lanka and Cambodia.

“But…but… I’ve stopped the boats!…and I’ve stopped people drowning!”

“But Mr M it is not ‘either or’ – it is not drown or be locked up like animals”

“But I let the children go…” Mr M began to cry. “Pleease I just want to go home to my nice warm bed.” The tears came harder now.

“That’s what they all say Mr M. You still have time to redeem yourself. Let the people go”

Back home and safe, Mr M. promised he would change.  No longer could he say he didn’t understand the pain, desperation and other consequences of his actions, and his actions alone.

“ Er.. one last thing.” The Ghost of Things Past pulled out a list.  “Can you tell me where I can find this Abbott fellow?”

 Post Script:

Love First Dog on the Moon’s A very first Dog Christmas

Campaigning against Australia’s institutional abuse of abuse of children – We’re better than this

Yesterday I saw the We’re better than this campaign.

 

It is wonderful to see celebrities come out in protest of what counts amongst the worst travesties in Australian history. Australian celebrities are protesting against Australia’s treatment of refugee children. Hundreds of children are locked up in Australia, Naru and Christmas Island. Australia is committing the institutional abuse of children and breaching their responsibilities in terms of the United Nations Conventions we are party to – those on refugees and the rights of children. Children should not be held in such conditions…but neither should their families.

Australian actor, Bryan Brown, should be commended for leading such a charge but I do have a word of caution.  In one interview, Bryan mentioned placing children in the care of Australian families as one possible option. To be fair, he didn’t necessarily present this as the solution and in other interviews he places the responsibility squarely on the Australian government to find a solution.

We need to keep this campaign going and support it – but I have a couple of words of caution.

Our government must respond to the advice of experts in finding a solution, an area where, unfortunately, it doesn’t have a good track record. The danger is the government will respond in ways that are not so good. For example, women in detention are so desperate about their current situations, futures and their children’s well-being, losing custody of their children appears a good option. Many parents are reported to be so traumatised, they will need adequate psychosocial support, mental health and healthcare. All people will. Some Australian politicians and adoption campaigners would be all too willing to pursue adoption as the solution especially in some states. Authorities and politicians will no doubt have been inundated by inquiries from prospective adopters. Such as solution would be a further abuse of children, not to mention their families.  Note – this is not a criticism of adoption rather adoption is not the answer for children with families co-erced by circumstances and the abuse by government.

In my view, it is important that we do not conceptualise children as separate from their families because they are not. Even unaccompanied minors have families and they should be removed from detention centres but the focus should then be on healing and reunification strategies. For children with families, perhaps temporary removal is the lesser of two evils under current government policy but there is a word of warning here too. We know from studies on trauma and disasters that maintaining the care of families or carers is one of the most important things to a child’s recovery – something we shouldn’t forget. If removed, how will the government ensure ongoing contact with their families and the maintenance of relationships if families are separated. Will they arrange regular and frequent visits to or from Naru or Christmas Island for this to occur? To say the least, children will be anxious about parents and other family members who remain in detention and be traumatised by separation. For parents, it would simply be another breach of their rights, re-traumatisation and significant loss.

It seems to me that this campaign is about raising awareness and demanding action from the government and I say go for it – but perhaps there should also be a view on the solutions and not simply leave it to the government to decide what is best. Their track record is not good. The lesser solution is to address living conditions, provide education and health care and respond to the needs of refugees in detention. The humane and appropriate solution is to release refugees into the Australian community with the appropriate supports to assist them to rebuild their lives after the trauma Australia has imposed. Unaccompanied minors should be placed in homes preferably with members of their community or with Australian families who are properly prepared. Reunification strategies must proceed while the children heal.

So my message is keep up the good work celebrities but perhaps keeping an eye on the solutions is also important – at least make sure the government takes the advice of experts so we can avoid unintended consequences.  Keep the pressure up!

We are all guilty

We are in dangerous moral territory. Australian Liberal and Labor governments are guilty when it comes to the treatment of people seeking asylum. Our treatment of people has reached new heights of cruelty and we condone it by our silence. It is not just governments – everyday Australians are guilty because we allow it. Politicians do what they do because they can. International bodies sanction our appalling breaches of the most basic human rights by doing little. Our slide down a very slippery slope has been happening for a long time. Politicians say they have the support of the Australian people calling on poll results to back up inhumane decisions. But is this really what Australians think and do we really approve of the current state of affairs? Regardless of any personal beliefs we might hold about people who seek asylum, surely there is a line below which we do not go when it comes to the treatment of human beings.

I have known about the holocaust ever since I can remember because I am a child of post war immigrants and displaced persons. The Second World War was a time when many ordinary people lost their way blinded by their own prejudices, knew what was happening and did nothing. I am reminded of the Stuttgart Confession of Guilt, Martin Niemöller’s poem about doing nothing.  No matter how much secrecy and official mantras are used to sway and scare the public, we cannot say we didn’t know (thanks to quality, unbiased journalism). Sure our governments aren’t actively killing people in gas chambers but drownings at sea, death by violence and suicide, locking people up and depriving them of all hope and a sense of their own humanness is extreme. When you leave people with nothing, we shouldn’t be surprised about resistance, adverse health effects and despair. If you haven’t read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning you must. It is not just history that warns us about moral slippage. Research lays bare how easy it is for good people to dehumanise others. We only have to remember the Stanford Prison Experiment  and the Brown Eyed Blue Eyed Experiment.

Many Australians are speaking out. Australian academics are collecting signatures. Catholic Bishops are speaking out. Artists and whistleblowers are making their voices heard. Social workers and other professional groups are making their position known. Every Australian should be writing to the Prime Minister and the rest of world should not be silent. I don’t know who first said this but history will judge us. I suppose we can always blame the politicians and the politicians can say it’s what the Australian people wanted. No matter how we feel about the asylum seeker ‘problem’, the current state of affairs is not the answer.

…and on the 16th March 2014 the Australian people rallied in March in March (the video)