Shared: what happened last Thursday – a hopeful take

The below text is from an email that I was sent last week on Friday. Hurrah for the development of politics of conscience (at long bloody last). Let’s keep it going.


This is a long email, but I’ve just returned from Parliament House, and I wanted to let you know exactly what happened.

Yesterday, Scott Morrison’s Government played games in the Senate and then fled the House of Representatives – leaving their entire policy agenda behind – to avoid a bill that would compel Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to transfer children, their families and anyone else in need of medical assessment and treatment from Manus and Nauru to care in Australia. 

But the Morrison Government’s cowardice didn’t stop Senators from an extraordinary coalition of conscience. They voted hour after hour after hour, up against a filibuster from the Government, Pauline Hanson and Cory Bernardi on the final day of sitting for 2018, to push the #KidsOffNauru legislation through the Senate. 

But the final Senate vote came one hour too late. By the time it had passed, the Morrison Government had already shut down the House of Representatives and literally fled the building. 

It was a bittersweet moment. But this legislation will still be waiting when the House of Representatives returns in February – and it will pass. When it does, within 48 hours of it becoming law, we will see the kids and their families off Nauru, and emergency flights of critically ill men and women from offshore detention touch down in Australia. 

But Clare, to come within one hour of passing a bill that would have brought children and critically ill people from Manus and Nauru to Australia BY SUNDAY was absolutely heartbreaking. 

Newly elected Dr Kerryn Phelps, who drove this Bill through in the first fortnight of her Federal career, slumped back in her chair as the Bill passed the Senate but the lights were already off in the House. 

These same scenes repeated themselves as Senators left the chamber. Senator Tim Storer who tabled the Bill, having worked night after night to finely balance competing considerations across the political spectrum, had his head buried in his hands. 

But the thing I most wanted to tell you, Clare, was that in that same moment that our politics most failed us, the incredible potential of politics and our democracy was also at its most evident. 

The extraordinary events of yesterday happened because politicians of principle genuinely listened to the people-powered movement in Australia, and the voices of those still detained. Politicians who knew that the treatment of those on Manus and Nauru isn’t about left and right – it’s about right and wrong. 

I watched the Australian Greens Senators huddle anxiously together outside the Chamber door (with Adam Bandt actually running across from the House of Representatives), trying to find a way through the Government’s filibuster. They knew they were just inches away from saving the lives of those in offshore detention, whose rights they had defended for decades. 

Greens Immigration spokesperson Senator Nick McKim stood shoulder to shoulder with Senator Storer to table the bill, working tirelessly with people from across the political spectrum hoping for a win especially for the oft-forgotten adults. As, McKim exited the Senate when it was all done, close to tears, all he could say was:“How can I tell those people in the camps they have to wait another three months for treatment, when they needed it yesterday.” 

I watched the women of the House of Representatives crossbench, Rebekha Sharkie, former Liberal MP Julia Banks, and Cathy McGowan embrace Dr Phelps and her Bill. They also stood in their own right to argue in different ways for a sensible solution to the medical crisis that has enveloped the children, and the adults in offshore detention. 

I watched Senator Derryn Hinch forced to battle Twitter trolls from his Senate seat, remaining emphatic that he stood with all kids, including those detained offshore – even as the Morrison Government cynically dangled legislation he had long fought for to entice him over to their side. He sat alongside Centre Alliance Senators Griff and Patrick, both weary and indignant at the antics of the Government playing with Parliamentary procedure to avoid following the clear desireof the Australian public to get kids off Nauru, and follow doctors’ orders with the women and men. 

There stood Andrew Wilkie and his staff, biting their nails as they watched the Senate filibuster and then the House of Representatives clock. Wilkie had put the initial #KidsOffNauru Bill forward in the House months ago, but had graciously worked with everyone else to help draft a new Bill and find a new pathway through the Senate to ensure it become law. He stood repeatedly in the House this week, as he has done for years and years, arguing for justice for the people detained in our name. 

And then, after so long of being ripped apart on this issue, I watched the Australian Labor Party. Penny Wong, on her feet for hours at the table in the Senate, stabbing her finger in righteous fury at the Government’s dirty tricks. Their Senators determined to hold, in the face of fear-mongering Government speeches about boats and borders, to the fundamental tenet that sick people should never be denied treatment. When Opposition Leader Bill Shorten stood before snapping cameras and said kids should be off Nauru late last night, he stood for the work of a united Labor caucus led by Shadow Immigration Minister Shayne Neumann, which went back and forth for months between lawyers, doctors and internal champions – intent on finding the way through, even from Opposition, to finally address the medical crisis offshore. 

What I saw yesterday was a coalition of conscience emerge. And it renewed my faith in the promise of our politics. 

I watched this coalition of conscience come together and come within one hour of delivering a historic defeat to a cruel Government which has let 12 people die on their watch in offshore detention. 

I saw politicians put aside party and ego. I saw them work together the way we always want them to. I saw them sneaking BBQ Shapes just off the Senate floor, because the filibuster meant they hadn’t eaten since 7am. I saw their faces crumple as they realised children would be spending another 3 months in detention, because the Government had thwarted them on timing. I saw them shake off the despair and go out with a grim smile for the media. And I saw them promise, on national television, that they would be waiting, when the Parliament returns on the 13th of February, to finally deliver care and safety to those offshore, and pass this Bill before the House so it becomes law. 

That’s why I wanted to email you right now even though the words aren’t polished and I’m still in my pyjamas. Because I want you to know that yesterday showed us that this fight is still worth it. I want you to know that every email you send, every phonecall you make, every protest you attend – it’s all worth it. 

Because while politics created the cruel offshore detention regime, it can also break it. 

Stay tuned for next steps. Because this movement won’t just sit waiting for February. We’re going to keep fighting, every step of the way alongside those people detained in our name. And now we know that we will win. 

Yours in hope, 

Shen and Renaire for the GetUp! team 

Ps. The Government’s going to come for this coalition of conscience before February. With Dutton’s usual lies about boats and brown men and what-not. We must be ready to fight back. 

A political rhyme

I thought my first post back after my accidental hiatus /

Would be full of funny musings, an update on my life’s status./

(Free from uni, qualified at last, job hunting and house-move planning set my time steadfast.) /

Or, perchance, a recipe post, I’m overdue for a few of those; /

Plenty of good meals I’ve made in the past two months or so.

Instead, today, I share a rant of politics and power, /

And how a scummy gov’ment contrived to shorten the hour/

And day of parliamentary dismissal,/

To ensure they wouldn’t lose a vote on the floor; no it’s not apocryphal.

Bad enough the week before, they ignored the message sent /

By striking students out to plead and shake some common sense /

Into the minds of climate-change-denying politicians, who are proving remarkably dense. /

This week’s fight was for a different cause, another long-fought war;/

Of words and desperate actions to free those forbidden from our shore; /

Their only “crime” to have fled for their lives, to a safer haven/

Through a dangerous voyage not lightly undertaken. /

A passage that’s NOT illegal, despite what some may say,/

All they want is hope, and we’ve taken it away. /

For six long years, they’ve languished in island hellholes;/ it’s made many sick, with malaise physical and of the souls. /

They’ve bled and struggled and DIED there, out of sight and mind, /

Of the Aussie gov’ment, who are wilfully blind, /

To the cries of anguish from detainees and friends; /

Willing to #bringthemhere and let their trauma end.

And what about the kids? The nation began to ask. #kidsout became the rallying cry; was that too much to ask?

Momentum slowly built, then took off with a rumble; /

When a new independent stood and declared her trouble,/

With the current practices, and made her stand clear. /

“Support my Bill, it’s past time now to bring these people cheer/

And the medical attention that they so sorely need. /

The gauntlet thrown, the players aligned themselves one-by-one; /

Amendments saw Labor at LAST stand up strong. /

For a moment, we felt the gasp, of fresh clear air, /

Heralding a new way forward, the day was nearly here. /

But before we could release our sighs of relief, /

The government went and slammed the door, a thief!/

They knew they’d lose a vote but fought it all the same; /

Continuing their endless turn of passing the blame. /

They trotted out the tired lines of “stopping the boats” and “protecting borders”, /

Ignoring how we all know how they’re false orders,/

Designed to give a reason to an unreasonable crime,/

Of locking up the innocent, for fear and power sublime. /

Yet they call themselves Christian? That I don’t understand, /

When the foundation family once sought refuge in other lands. /

Today’s government has cognitive dissonance of the highest order, /

Drunk on power and influence, and an imaginary world order.

A fact they forget, or they’re choosing to ignore,/

Next year is an election year when we can settle the score. /

They’re on the nose already and can only delay so much,/

When their time’s up, it’s up, regardless of what they do to try to keep in touch, /

Their fake promises and tax cuts will be seen for what they are,

And if they try the racist dog-whistle, well it won’t get far – /

They tried it at a local level last month and it was found quite bizarre./

So angry people discouraged by the latest conservative gasp, /

Let’s follow the State example and chuck them out on their arse!

Who Really Inhabits the Refugee Activism Space?

Every day, it seems, there are things going on in the world that are just plain awful. I glance at them and pick a few to get properly worked up about. Then I take action about those things in some way – like going to the Palm Sunday rally. It was blooming cold and a little wet, though luckily most of the wet had occurred the day before. Still, there was plenty of people there – some reports said 5,000. We listened to the speakers – of different faiths and backgrounds, young and old, male and female – give witness to the truths as they saw them. Including one articulate woman, Idil Ali, who had the courage to speak truths to the power of a dominant force in the refugee movement, the Action Collective. She’s part of RISE – Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees, a group that is run by refugees, for refugees. Why aren’t they more mainstream I wonder? Is it because they don’t quite fit the narrative that other “mainstream” activist groups want to send?

See video here:

At all of these rallies, the dominant presence are the loud, sometimes confrontational, people from the Refugee Action Collective or Network. There are other groups too – I need to do some investigation at some point into how the groups are connected.

In the lead-up to Sunday’s rally there was some friction – as mentioned in the video I think. It’s reminded me that we all need to be critical thinkers as activists, to make sure that the cause we’re fighting for is what we really think it should be.

I have a little motto for these things that I was given last year after hearing from a good speaker. Solidary and allyship, three bits of advice = 1. don’t be a dickhead – it’s their space/agenda/issue, not “yours”; 2. respect the main people affected by l-i-s-t-e-n-ing and following their lead in actions; 3. remember that issues are all connected (i.e. climate change issues are connected to refugee issues are connected to land rights issues and so on). Or, as RISE say, “Nothing About Us Without Us”.

A failure to listen properly has caused hurt here. But if that’s acknowledged and the wake-up call is heeded, things can improve.

There were some really good messages during the speeches. A moment that touched me was when one speaker asked us all to make hearts with our hands as she took a photo to send back to Nauru, to show those waiting in limbo that we’re still here, still pushing for change, still wanting to bring them here with us. Pressure is key – things are shifting. we can keep building momentum. Four years in limbo is far too long – let’s create change.




Still, we must protest and raise our voices. The US-Australia deal is all-but-dead…why can’t the government show some courage and bring them here to Australia? close the camps!

Excellent analysis by David Manne in the following article:

Also, a perspective from America focusing on the humanity at the US-Mexico border:

#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.]


What the F*** are We Doing?

TRIGGER WARNING – graphic imagery about food and mentions of rape, torture, murder.

Look, I wanted to write a positive refugee week post. I really did. I’ll do that tomorrow – positivity is important.

Right now, though…

Manus Lives Matter. A really good reminder from Sister Jane Keogh about how the men on Manus are people too. This sentiment is brought into sharp context when things like the image and situation below pop up in my newsfeed…


Ew. Shudders. And this is the standard we give to them?

Along with the injuries. The deaths. The rapes.

This is what my effing govt is subjecting desperate people to?! I don’t know how much better it would be under Labor, either. I don’t think it could be worse though.

Why can’t we have some politicians with principles on the front benches of Labor & the  Coalition stand up and drag the rest of their parties into a better place instead of a blooming race to the bottom?!
(I understand there are some working behind the scenes, but I mean someone or some people at Shadow-/ Cabinet-level or higher to have the actual political courage, decency and will to be public about it and work towards it. Something like Fraser did.)

They say they’re stopping “deaths at sea”. Do you know what stops “deaths at sea”?? Proper fricking processes like true multilateral co-operation, high supported intakes, and BLOOMING HUMAN DECENCY! 
We are better than this, for goodness’ sakes.
/rant over. This just makes me so despairing sometimes….
Hang Parliament and elect people of decency, dammit!
(Here’s a link to a website comparing the Greens, Labor and Coalition’s policies on asylum seekers. You see the problem.)
By the way, the trauma counsellor whose article I pointed to on Tuesday has been sacked for speaking out. They want us to be silent – but I. Will. Not!
As a health sciences uni student, I cannot. As a Catholic, I cannot. As someone with a reasonable sense of empathy I cannot.
I will keep talking about these situations and highlighting what’s going on until something changes.
“Before you vote, think of the children on Nauru.” – statement from activist group Grandmothers (& Friends) Against Refugee Detention.

Refugee Week: Chasing Asylum

Hi everyone. I’ve been absent a few weeks because my scheduled posts ran out completely, just when the uni calendar went to exam mode. I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, but it’s still pretty busy.


TRIGGER WARNING for links to torture, rape & violence. 😦

This week is Refugee Week in Australia. Last week, I watched the film Chasing Asylum. It’s a film about asylum seekers trying to come to Australia and the conditions in Nauru, Manus Island and Indonesia, as well as a bit of a history lesson in past politics from the 70s and Fraser to now. It was a very good summary of events and conditions. Hmph. Populist politics of fear is what’s driving the determination to keep asylum seekers away from Australia. It’s led to a lack of political will to do something humane instead.

I wish the film could be shown on public television. People need to see it.

Here’s the website for the film:
Check if there’s a screening near you, or host one.

Here’s the trailer for it:

You might have seen this article, too. It’s horrifying.

Hmph. This election, I’m voting for a party that denounces this stupidity and promises to fix it!

I’ll post about the better things of Refugee Week tomorrow.

I #StandforSanctuary

Across Australia this evening in over forty towns and cities there are gatherings in support of asylum seekers threatened with deportation. Below is some text I’ve copied from GetUp’s page about the event, since I couldn’t screenshot it. This includes a list of the towns and cities participating. There are more cities involved in the actions than listed, too, so have a squiz around your town tonight!

Also, check out the list, right at the bottom, of organisations supporting these actions. We will not stand down!

The 267 banner

Stand for Sanctuary

This is an emergency.

A High Court ruling on Wednesday means 267 people – 37 of whom are babies, including those in the photo above – could be sent to the abusive detention camps on Manus Island and Nauru within days.1

Together, we must stand in the government’s way.

We can’t waste any time. The government is ready to put these vulnerable men, women and kids on planes to hell – and only a huge public mobilisation is going to stop that happening.

In an incredible show of compassion and solidarity, churches around the country have opened their doors to offer sanctuary to the 267 people Malcolm Turnbull wants to deport. We stand with them.

On the evening of Monday 8 February, thousands of people will rally in capital cities and towns around the country to stand for sanctuary, and demonstrate that together, we will do everything we can to keep these babies, children, men and women safe. We will demand that the government let them stay.


On this page, you’ll find all the events we know are being organised. Some are being organised by GetUp! and our partners, others are grassroots mobilisations. If you can’t find your local town or community on this page, and would like to hold Stand for Sanctuary event, just shoot us an email at and we’ll put it up on the page!


Community organised events

Where: John Flynn Uniting Church Lawns, Todd Mall, Northern Territory
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
RSVP here

Where: Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 5:30pm
Organised by: Apollo Bay Rural Australians for Refugees

Where: Ararat Performing Arts Centre, Cnr Barkly and Vincent Street, Ararat, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
Organised by: Rurual Australians for Refugees, Grampians/Gariwerd

Where: Central Park, Armidale, NSW
When: Monday 8 February, 5:30pm
Organised by: Armidale Rural Australians for Refugees
RSVP here

Where: St Mark’s Church, Balnarring, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 7pm
RSVP here

Where: Beechworth Post Office, Corner Camp St and Ford St Beechworth, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm

Where: Littleton Gardens, Bega, NSW
When: Monday 8 February, 5pm
Organised by: Bega Rural Australians for Refugees
RSVP here

Where: Rosalind Park, Bendigo, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 7pm
Organised by: Rural Australians for Refugees, Bendigo
RSVP here

Where: Birregurra Drapery Courtyard, 69A Main St, Birregurra Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
Organised by: Birregurra Traders Association
RSVP here

Where: Leura Uniting Church, Leura, NSW
When: Monday 8 February, 5:30pm
Organised by: Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group

Where: Meet in front of the boat sheds, Boat Harbour Beach, Tasmania
When: Monday 8 February, 6:15pm

Where: Anzac Park, between Library and Senior Citizens building, Bunbury, Western Australia
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm

Where: Victory Park, Castlemaine, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
Organised by: Rural Australians for Refugees, Castlemaine

Where: Gosford Waterfront (near Gosford Swimming pool)
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
Organised by: Central Coast for Social Justice

Where: Dunkeld Town Park, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
Organised by: Dunkeld Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support Group
RSVP here

Where: Emerald Community House Hall, 356-358 Belgrave- Gembrook Road, Emerald, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 7pm
Organised by: Emerald Community House
RSVP here

Where: Crn La Trobe Tce and Ryrie St
When: Monday 8 February, 4pm
Organised by: Combined Refugee Action Group

Where: The Law Courts
When: Monday 8 February, 7pm

Where: Dunkeld Town Park, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
Organised by: Refugees Welcome Glen Innes Support Group

Where: Horsham Botanical Gardens, Horsham, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
RSVP here

Where: Cook Street plaza, Main street, Lithgow, NSW
When: Monday 8 February, 5pm
Organised by: Lithgow Asylum seeker and refugee support group

Where: Alma Bay, Magnetic Island, Queensland
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
RSVP here

Where: Meet at the horse trough in the Medium strip near the roundabout outside Mansfield Hotel
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
Organised by: Mansfield Rural Australians for Refugees
Wear White

Where: Cave Gardens
When: Monday 8 February, 5:30pm
RSVP here
Where: Myrtleford Piazza, Clyde St, Myrtleford, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 7:30pm
Organised by: Myrtleford Refugee Support Group

Where: Wesley Uniting Church, 150 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, NSW
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
Organised by: Hunter Asylum Seeker Advocacy
RSVP here

Where: Lions Park, cnr Noosa Parade and Noosa Drive, Queensland
When: Monday 8 February, 5:30pm
RSVP here

Where: Northam Uniting Church, Duke St, Northam, Western Australia
When: Monday 8 February, 7pm
Organised by: Northam Welcomes Asylum Seekers

Where: Queenscliff Uniting Church, Corner of Hesse and Stokes Street, Queenscliff, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 7pm
Organised by: Queenscliff Uniting Church
RSVP here

Where: Rye Community Playground, Point Nepean Rd, Rye Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
RSVP here

Where: St Philip’s Anglican church, Thompson Ave, Cowes, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
Organised by: Rural Australians for Refugees – Phillip Island

Where: Town Square, Argyle St, Picton, NSW
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
Organised by: Picton Uniting Church

Where: Semaphore foreshore, by the angel war memorial, Semaphore, South Australia
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
RSVP here

Where: 59 Junction Street, Nowra (outside Federal MP Anne Sudmalis’ office), NSW
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
RSVP here

Where: Wonthaggi under the mine whistle in Murray St, South Gippsland Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
Organised by: South Gippsland Rural Australians for Refugees

Where: Big Hill, Stawell, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm

Where: Picnic at CWA Park, cnr Railway Pde and Main Road, Tallarook, Victoria
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
RSVP here

Where: Fotheringham Park, near the clock, Victoria St, Taree, NSW
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
Organised by: Rural Australians for Refugees, Manning

Where: Bruxner Park, Rouse Street, Tenterfield, NSW
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm

Where: Otto’s Grotto, Fairway Park, Ulverstone, Tasmania
When: Monday 8 February, 5:30pm
Bring stuff for a BBQ

Where: North beach, Wollongong, NSW
When: Monday 8 February, 6pm
RSVP here
Where: Serbian Orthodox, 82 Kenny st, Wollongong Where: Monday 8th February 6pm
Organised by: Serbian Ladies Auxiliary

Keep checking back – we’ll be listing all the community organised events we hear about here.

Organising your own event (or thinking about it)? Awesome! Click here to let us know!

[1] ‘Asylum seeker families face deportation to Nauru after High Court ruling’, SBS news, 3 February 2016

Stand for Sanctuary banner


Not In My Name

Hmph. Well, the High Court have decided to find in favour of the Australian government. But this isn’t over yet – not by a long shot.

We must keep showing the government that we care about refugees and asylum seekers. We want them to stay. Reminder for fellow Australians that there are protests happening across Australia over the next few days – see my previous post for more info, I’ll stick it to the blog dashboard.

I’m really angry, though I have to say I’m not that surprised. The situation in Australian regarding asylum seeker rights has become so bad that I’m always expecting the worst but hoping for the best.

I said all I could say this morning. Here is a screenshot of the Anglican Parish of Gosford’s post earlier today. Father Rod makes a very, very pertinent point.






See more here for the ABC’s take on it. Quoting from the online article:

High Court throws out challenge to Nauru offshore immigration detention

Updated about an hour ago

The High Court has thrown out a challenge to the Australian Government’s immigration detention centre on Nauru.

Key points:

  • Majority of court’s bench found current Government arrangements valid under Constitution
  • Advocates back calls to allow dozens of children currently in Australia to remain
  • Sarah Hanson-Young says “sending 90 children to dangers of Nauru is child abuse”

The case was launched by a Bangladeshi detainee on Nauru who was brought to Australia for treatment after she experienced health issues during pregnancy.

She gave birth to her daughter in Brisbane, and brought the challenge to avoid being returned to the detention centre.

Lawyers for the woman argued that it was illegal for the Australian Government to fund and operate detention centres in a third country.

During the case the Government changed the law to close a loophole in the funding arrangements, which it feared could be undermined by the challenge.

Today a majority of the court’s bench found the current government arrangements were valid under the constitution.

Justice Michelle Gordon, the most recent appointment to the bench, issued the lone dissenting judgment that the laws rushed through in June were invalid.

Before the decision, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton flagged his intention to send a group of 160 adults, 37 babies and 54 children currently in Australia back to Nauru, should the Government win.

One of the children facing return to Nauru is a five-year-old boy allegedly raped at the detention centre, but Mr Dutton has said he will take concerns from doctors about the boy’s welfare into consideration.

The boy’s alleged attacker remains at the centre.

The lawyer leading the case against the Government, Daniel Webb from the Human Rights Law Centre, has criticised the Government for changing the law while the challenge was underway.

Mr Webb said they “shifted the goalposts”.

“Right now, I’m sure in the Immigration Minister’s office it’s high fives all round,” he said.

“They won in the High Court, but let me tell you, around the country right now there are 267 incredibly vulnerable people who will be terrified.”

Mr Webb urged the Government to allow the detainees to remain in Australia.

“Our government retains both legal and moral responsibility for what happens to innocent people in our care,” he said.

“The stroke of a pen is all that it would take for the Prime Minister or our Immigration Minister to do the decent thing and let these families stay.”

Read more by clicking on the link above.


Let Them Stay, All of Them

Front page of The Age, and other Fairfax papers, 02/02/16. Read the article here and sign GetUp’s petition to let them stay.

I’m really cross about this, but also tired, in a sense. Will the government ever start having a shred of decency or are we as Australians going to continue to be pariahs? Today, possibly as you read this blog post, the High Court will be determining whether or not the government has the right to send about 250 people – 37 babies, 160 adults and 50-odd other children (to quote the article above) – back to Nauru.

The article I’ve linked to above (the url under the picture) explains things very clearly.
If the government wins the case, then they’ll be able to move the people to Nauru and hopefully, they think, out of sight and mind (fat chance!). They’ll also be then able to claim that they’ve “reduced the numbers” of children in immigration (mainland) detention, as that’s where many of these kids are coming from. It’s duplicitous and unfair. Nauru is not a place for children, given the uncomfortable heat, lack of adequate medical care, and reports of brutality by guards and resentment from locals. Last night on 7:30, a report detailed some of the horrors these children have experienced and why they’re scared to go back. The situation is so bad that a group of teenagers on Nauru have composed a video and petition, asking to be released to Australia – asking for help.

On the other hand, if the refugee advocates win the case, then it is highly likely the group will instead be flown off to Christmas Island. Reports have surfaced of the government building a new “family detention facility” there. That is still detention.

It sickens me. The government just don’t care about anything other than being “tough on border security” it seems, heedless of those whose dignity they trample on in the process. (An article on has more regarding how and why this situation became the way it is.)

Not to mention the plight of people in community and other detention who have had their refugee claims dismissed and are facing deportation back to the countries they fled from, without being told their case particulars. They are living in limbo too.

There was a very good article in The Saturday Age on the weekend (30/01/16). In it, Michael Gordon discussed the situation and the current options for the government. I encourage you to read it. It is suggested that there are three options (with words in quotes taken from the article):

  1. Deliberately narrow option proposed by academic Robert Manne. “It would see the Nauru and Manus caseloads gradually and quietly settled in Australia, roughly according to how desperate their situations have become, with the other blunt edges of Australia’s policy, like turnbacks to Indonesia, remaining. Once the centres were empty, they would be mothballed, but retained as a weapon to deter future arrivals.” (Similar to the Howard government approach.)
  2. A small group of Coalition MPs have been “quietly urging Turnbull to act and focusing their attention on the potential to collaborate more closely with Indonesia, with turnbacks on the table. The reformers are acutely aware of the dynamics within the Turnbull government, knowing that supporters of the deposed Tony Abbott will exploit any perceived policy retreats. As a consequence, they are opting for discretion and caution.”
  3. The most long-term and ambitious approach, with “more than 30 experts, advocates, academics and government and non-government officials from Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar [working] together”. They aim to develop “a regional approach to mass people movements that would render unnecessary dangerous boats trips and the cruel policies Australia has developed to deter them.” (It is an ongoing discussion; the second of six planned meetings over three years was held recently.)

The right thing to do, here, requires political bravery. We can but hope that the right people have the courage to step forward and make the change, as some are doing in the third option above. Until then, we’ll just have to keep reminding them that we are better than this and can do better than the current situation.

Let them stay, drat it!!

To that end, there have been snap protests called…see if there’s one near you. If you’re in Canberra, there is a major protest going on at 11:15 tomorrow, after the verdict has been handed down, in front of High Court. If you can, come out and show the government that people care!