#BlocktheBill Banning Refugees from Ever Setting Foot in Australia

I am getting tired of this. Yet again over the weekend the government have announced a new abhorrent law they wish to introduce. It would ban all refugees resettled in another country from ever setting foot in Australia. This is a move designed to shore up the far-right vote, wedge Labor and destroy the hope of refugees and asylum seekers currently in limbo on Nauru and Manus.

I heard Pauline Hanson crowing about it today. She believes that most refugees are economic. Yeah right. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2013:

“More than 90 per cent of asylum seekers who arrived by boat were found to be genuine refugees in the March quarter [2013], figures to be released on Monday show. But those who arrived by plane – despite being eligible for release into the community and not having to face years of detention on Nauru or Manus Island – were almost twice as likely to be rejected as refugees.”

Yet, the fuss is always around boat arrivals! Honestly. Turnbull also virtually quoted Howard today. This is how low it’s sunk. Turnbull sold his soul to get the Prime Ministership.

We must act to express our displeasure at this new low. Write/email, call or visit your local MP’s office as well as contacting Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, Prime Minister Turnbull and Minister for Immigration & Border Protection, Peter Dutton. The ASRC has put together a step-by-step approach for ringing MPs – here is a video about it (and why you should do it).

There are rallies in Australian capital cities on Saturday. These rallies have been organised for weeks as #BringThemHere rallies but now take on a different dimension. Please come along to one if you can.

There are better ways! More humane ways that actually benefit everyone in the long-term. This is just ridiculous…

The government are hypocrites. They call themselves Christians and yet it’s merely lip-service. If they were true to their faith, they’d bring them here, as suggested by a recent statement by Australian Bishops in support of refugees coming to Australia.

Below is an open letter I saw on a Facebook group, Refugee Action Collective, where it was displayed for sharing further. There are (perhaps) encouraging signs, with Bill Shorten and other Labor MPs speaking out about how awful this bill is. It remains to be seen what the final decision will be however, so let’s apply the pressure!

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten
Deputy Leader of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek
Shadow Minister of Immigration Shayne Neumann

Australia now has one of the most hostile asylum seeker institutional arrangements in the world. We we have come to accept that refugees and asylum seekers can be imprisoned indefinitely; that those who are intercepted by our navy should be forcibly turned back with no concern for what their fates will be; that the 28,500 in Australia will remain forever in limbo; and that those hapless souls we have marooned on remote Pacific Islands should never be allowed to settle in Australia even after several years.

The raison d’etre for this blatant human rights abuse is that we need to stop people smugglers and secure our borders. I know many asylum seekers, they are forever grateful to the agent that organised their transit to Australia because otherwise they would be dead. So in the tradition of Oskar Schindler and Nicholas Winton let’s call these people ‘alternative migration agents’ because the narrative that imagines them as some evil human trafficking cartel is a lie. Let’s be honest, just for once. And let’s admit that as the forcible turnback to point of departure of boats has succeeded in halting their trade anyway, the detainees of Manus and Nauru are not much more or less than the errant black slaves that Americans hung from trees for the crows to eat as a warning to others. Manus and Nauru are our “strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees”. They are heads on pikes, dingoes hanging from a trophy tree. I can’t express how appalled I am by the Coalition’s intense pogrom on refugees. What exactly have these people done that they deserve such abject cruelty?

Late last year doctors and nurses at the Royal Children’s Hospital announced that they would not return the handful of gravely damaged children under their care to a detention centre in Melbourne. The Minister, Peter Dutton, responded by saying that the result of their irresponsible behaviour would be naval officers pulling the bodies of dead children from the ocean. That is insane. Now he claims the new Bill he plans to introduce is in response to advocates ‘giving hope to’ detainees. The man is consumed by his own evil. This nation has now come to reflect that notion in Hannah Arendt’s ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ of the banality of evil. We think it is normal to hurt refugees. Please don’t let it become our norm.

We all know there are humane alternatives to the current policies, and cheaper. We know we could fund the UNHCR to process refugees in Indonesia, Malaysia etc. and then assist their passage to Australia in an organised fashion that would obviate the need for ‘people smugglers’ and rickety fishing boats. Remember in 2008 when Howard closed Nauru, the boats did NOT start coming again.

So this week, for the sake of this poor nation’s blackened heart and for those desperate men, women and children on Manus and Nauru, I am asking you to block Dutton’s Bill to “make it illegal for asylum seekers who try to come to Australia by boat to ever enter, even as tourists”. 

Shayne Chester



Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I’ve read it!

I largely liked it, too. In part I think because it was a bit of a nostalgia trip. There were a couple of things I was less keen on, but overall I gushed about it. As we’ve come to expect from Rowling, the book contained a number of great quotes about different things, such as pain and fear.

Anyone who doesn’t understand Dumbledore – and other characters – better by the end of the book/play, I’m surprised at you.

One thing that made it a bit different in tone to what I’m used to regarding a Potter story was that – as it was written as a play – the descriptions were a bit lighter on some things. They did include notes about characters’ expressions/ emotions, but still. Something didn’t quite sit well with me about it. Not in a bad way exactly, but – well – it’s a bit tricky at times to tell what certain characters are thinking, given that unless they have a monologue about it, their emotions and so on are usually seen through the judgement of other characters.

The story was unexpected. Overall, it was a nostalgia trip, an advice-giver and a bit of fun about family, friendship and fame.

Jenna has given a more detailed (mildly spoilery but not really) take on the advice-giving gems here.

And there’s another (quite spoiler-heavy in plot description) take. I agree with it – the play format is what makes it different. A “proper” book could’ve delved deeper into some things – but it would’ve been a different book then.

Walk Together 2016!

On Saturday (tomorrow) I’ll be walking in my hometown, hopefully with lots of people. It’s a celebration of diversity and showing we welcome all. Whatever your ethnicity, ability, manner of arrival, gender or sexuality… We welcome you. Let’s show that this Saturday!

From the website:

“Walk Together 2016 will be a huge celebration of diversity and a loud declaration that thousands of Australians believe we can become a nation known for our compassion, generosity and welcome.

Faced with increasing instances of fear and prejudice, it’s more important than ever for values of compassion and welcome to reign.

Join us – in your city; Saturday October 22

There are events in many capital & regional cities across Australia:

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Torrens Parade Grounds
Walking to: Elder Park
Invite your friends!

Time: 10.00am
Starting at: Kurilpa Park (Outside GOMA)
Walking to: Emma Miller Place
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Lake Burley Griffin
Walking to: Lake Burley Griffin
Invite your friends!

Time: 5.00om
Starting at: St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral
Walking to: Christ Church Anglican Cathedral
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Princes Park, Battery Point
Walking to: Parliament Lawns
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Parliament House, Spring Street
Walking to: State Library
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: St George’s Cathedral, St Georges Terrace
Walking to: Expresstival Festival, Forest Place
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Belmore Park (next to central station)
Walking to: Victoria Park
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Gateway Village, Lincoln Causeway, Wodonga
Walking to: Gateway Village, Lincoln Causeway, Wodonga
Invite your friends!

Time: 3.00pm
Starting at: Uniting Church Lawns in Todd Mall
Walking to: Uniting Church Lawns in Todd Mall
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Indigenous Playground Lake Wendouree
Walking to: Indigenous Playground Lake Wendouree
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Lake Weeroona
Walking to: Lake Weeroona
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Brian Mc Gowan Bridge (near roundabout at the Stadium)
Walking to: Memorial Park (Mann Street, opposite Gosford Anglican Church)
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Queen Square Moonta.
Walking to: Queen Square Moonta.
Invite your friends!

Time: TUESDAY 25th of October, 10.00am
Starting at: Dandenong Park, near Magistrates Court
Walking to: Dandenong Park, near Magistrates Court
Invite your friends!

Time: 10.00am
Starting at: Southport Broadwater Parklands
Walking to: Southport Broadwater Parklands
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Prince’s Square
Walking to: Royal Park
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: 91 Wembley Road, Logan Central
Walking to: Logan Gardens, Civic parade, LoganCentral
Invite your friends!

Time: SUNDAY 23rd October at 2.00pm
Starting at: Newcastle Museum
Walking to: Civic Park
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.30am
Starting at: the Rotunda at Queanbeyan Park
Walking to: picnic at the Rotunda at Queanbeyan Park
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Under the Mine Whistle Murray Street Wonthaggi
Walking to: Murray St between Woolworths and Mitchell Community House
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Cottontree Park, Maroochydore (near war memorial)
Walking to: Cottontree Park, Maroochydore
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at:
Walking to:
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at:
Walking to:
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: The Old Court House, High Street
Walking to: The Rose Garden, Aldinga Road
Invite your friends!

Time: 11.00am
Starting at: Wollongong Mall
Walking to: McCabe Park
Invite your friends!

#BringThemHere, drat it!

Anyone else see the Four Corners episode on Monday night?


😦 Those poor children…we need to get them out of there. They belong in Australia, where they can be safe, not on Nauru in indefinite limbo, too frightened to go to school. We’re torturing them – for that is what leaving them in that environment, exposing them to physical, psychological and other forms of abuse is. See here: convention_on_the_rights_of_the_child

They’ve been through hell in their birth countries and have been classified as genuine refugees. They’re no longer in the “detention centres” on Nauru…but their situation, living in a hostile community that doesn’t want them, hasn’t improved.

They should be here!

And the government has the frikking nerve to criticise the ABC and Amnesty International, whose scathing report on the situation was released yesterday. They’ve trotted out the “saving lives from drowning at sea” line again, insisting that the refugees are the responsibility of the Nauran government (which, by the by, has accused the ABC of being racist and an “embarrassment to journalism” after the program). Pathetic! The Australian government doesn’t care about the welfare of the people restricted on Nauru…all they care about is being “tough on borders”.

I’m sick of it.

When will politicians have the political and moral courage to admit that they are wrong in continuing this – and seek a better way? There needs to be a compromise, a true multilateral solution that focuses on the humanity, vulnerability and welfare of refugees and asylum seekers.

In the above link, Amnesty International suggests the following:

Amnesty International urges the Australian Government to show genuine leadership and adopt a better plan for refugees which could include:

  • Boosting Australia’s aid program to help neighbouring countries better protect and support refugees. When people are legally recognised, have safe accommodation, can send their kids to school, and can work and access health services, they won’t be forced to make dangerous journeys to Australia.
  • Making sure the most vulnerable people are resettled within our region and globally. Pressure on individual countries can be reduced if Australia works closely with New Zealand, Japan, the USA, Canada and others to ensure everyone does their fair share. This includes Australia welcoming a minimum of 30,000 refugees per year through its resettlement program.
  • Including refugees in existing visa programs. In addition to Australia’s core resettlement program, to recognise the valuable skills and qualifications of many refugees by including them when allocating student, work and family reunion visas.
  • Assessing refugee applications within a defined time period. When people know they will be assessed in an efficient and orderly way, they are less likely to make a dangerous boat journey.
  • Undertaking timely search and rescue operations. Instead of hazardous push-backs of boats at sea, Australia can run search and rescue operations that save lives.

How about it, politicians?

It’s upsetting. My heart goes out to those children and young people. I pray that the situation will improve – and until it does, you bet I’ll keep speaking out about it.

[Convention on the Rights of the Child accessed here.]


WT&TT: Not Just a Story (reblog)

This is so true and so important.

Not “Just Fiction”: Representation Matters

by Paganaidd

Every so often, when I criticize a work, I get a response of “OMG! It’s JUST a STORY!”. Last week, someone on Twitter told me I needed to learn the difference between reality and fiction (sadly, I was talking about politicians saying silly things in public and I’m pretty sure they’re real).

Yes. It’s just a story and no actual people are harmed in the creation of a work of fiction.  However, the story itself can harm people. Misrepresentation causes direct harm.

Stories are how humans understand and communicate their world. When my husband,Bryan, gives his workshop on Digital Storytelling, he asks the audience, “What is a story?”. There is always a flurry of answers, but when he asks, “What is NOT a story?” the room goes silent.

Read more by clicking on the linked title.

WT&TT: Characters Who Quit

A good article about why YA and other fiction needs characters who quit (and fail).

The Importance of Giving Up: Why YA Needs More Quitters

Ableism, Choice and Society Bull****

I don’t know if any of you watched the most recent (3/10/16) episode of Australian Story. It was a doozy. The story was about two young adults, Michael and Taylor, who are in love and want to get married, move in together and have children.

Link to the episode on the Australian Story website.

Here’s the kicker, though. They happen to have Down Syndrome, which seems to make things a little complicated. And, unfortunately, ableist.

Reminder: ableist/ableism = prejudice/discrimination against people with disabilities (PWD). Often involves thinking for or about PWD instead of with them – i.e. reducing a disabled person’s agency/ability to act for their own selves in a situation by taking away their choice/s.

I’m sorry to say that this is what was happening in the program. I have no doubt that the parents of Michael and Taylor mean well. They’ve obviously done a good job of raising the young adults, who seem very lovely. They obviously care for their children. I even think that at least some of the concerns raised are valid. However. They are only valid in the sense that they apply to all young people (disabled or not) at some point or other as we negotiate relationships, identity and life decisions. Questions of maturity will be asked at times, as will other questions, for any number of reasons – out of concern; natural parental etc. worries (exacerbated in different ways for different families due to individual situations); or simply because you can’t please everyone, to name a few.

The difficulty of the situation outlined in the program is that Michael and Taylor’s neuro-diversity means they find certain things difficult that others just take for granted. This is unfortunately where the ableism I mentioned earlier comes in.

Claire Pullen has brilliantly dissected the situation here, for Daily Life. Read the article, please. She articulates things far better than I could – at one point while reading it, I exclaimed aloud, “Exactly! Oh my gosh, YES!” and I had a lump in my throat by the end of it, due to her eloquence.

As she articulates, the problem with how Michael and Taylor’s situation is discussed is that, in their concern, their parents have asked questions of them that amount to hoops that non-disabled adults are not asked to jump through before being “allowed” to move in together and have children. The crux of the matter is that Michael and Taylor are not being given very much agency in this…their parents’ worries have led them to control the situation. This control includes speculating about whether one or both of the young adults could be prevented from having children in a permanent fashion, through sterilisation!

To put it another way, here is part of a statement from Downs Syndrome Australia (full statement via this link – scroll to the last heading on the page) about this:

“Down Syndrome Australia believes that people with Down syndrome should be supported to have the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities as other people in the community, including in making decisions about who to marry and whether or not to have children. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability Article 23  specifically protects the rights of people with disabilities to make decisions about whether or not to have children.

People with Down syndrome may need additional support and appropriate information before making a decision about whether or not to have a child.  This may include consideration of what services and support will be available after the child is born and how they will meet the needs of a child.  These are the same issues that people without a disability also need to consider before deciding to have a child.

Families may not always agree with the decision of the person with Down syndrome but as adults they have the right to make that decision regardless.

I have highlighted in red the part that I feel is the most important.

Simply, where is “the village” in this situation? The parents of Michael and Taylor are “not ready” to “let” their children go. They worry the burden of care of any children will fall on them. These are concerns that need airing, along with those about maturity and so on, so that the right support can be found. There would be ways of testing the maturity levels of the young adults (particularly Taylor, as her parents seem to be most concerned about that aspect), surely. Also, help can be (and seemingly is being) provided to help the young adults work through scenarios to ensure that they aren’t just following some “unrealistic” dream (as their parents fear they are).

Couldn’t these issues be addressed through the NDIS and other community support? It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. No-one, whether they are disabled or neurotypical/physically-able, parents in isolation. Humans are social – we help each other, don’t we?

Let me be clear, I’m not blaming the parents. They are sincere in caring about their children and want what’s best for them. But their current approach of control is unfortunately not the best one – what’s “best” in one person’s/group’s eyes is not what’s best in another’s. As Claire Pullen puts it (with my emphasis in red again),

“…I feel for Taylor and Michael’s parents. It was clear they feel a high degree of obligation and responsibility for their adult children, and the prospect of doing it all again for grandchildren is not appealing. But this has led to situations like telling the couple they can have just one daytime date per month, and could talk about their engagement in five years.

Contrary to the parents though, I don’t agree they “have to” have this much control and involvement in their children’s lives.”

Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen from comments online and things, it’s a shared problem. The situation on Australian Story the other night was just one example of how disability frequently means agency being removed/not given or assumed. This supports the idea of the social model of disability, as opposed to the medical one.

A quote from Persons With Disabilities Australia, below, explains the distinction.

“The social model of disability contrasts with what is called the medical model of disability.

According to the medical model of disability, ‘disability’ is a health condition dealt with by medical professionals. People with disability are thought to be different to ‘what is normal’or abnormal. ‘Disability’ is seen ‘to be a problem of the individual. From the medical model, a person with disability is in need of being fixed or cured. From this point of view, disability is a tragedy and people with disability are to be pitied. The medical model of disability is all about what a person cannot do and cannot be.

The social model sees  ‘disability’ is the result of the interaction between people living with impairments and an environment filled with physical, attitudinal, communication and social barriers. It therefore carries the implication that the physical, attitudinal, communication and social environment must change to enable people living with impairments to participate in society on an equal basis with others.

A social model perspective does not deny the reality of impairment nor its impact on the individual.  However, it does challenge the physical, attitudinal, communication and social environment to accommodate impairment as an expected incident of human diversity.”

Young people (indeed, all people), disabled or otherwise, are allowed to make their own choices. Whether or not others agree. As someone on Facebook said in a comment (to paraphrase): “Disability only becomes complex when support isn’t given”.

Michael and Taylor, for what it’s worth, you have my support. Thanks, to you and your parents, for being brave and sharing your story….it certainly seems to have got people talking!







Click to access WWDA_Sub_SenateInquiry_Sterilisation_March2013.pdf