How could our government separate this mum from her sick baby?

There is something seriously wrong when a mother, any mother, is forced by the Australian government to leave her newborn baby.

I am outraged that an asylum seeker was allowed only limited contact with her sick newborn shortly after giving birth. This poor Myanmar woman went through hell to get here so she can give her children a better life. Her country is riddled with fighting, rape, massacres, entire villages being burned to the ground.

The 31-year-old known as Latifa traveled here by boat with her husband and two other children, aged four and seven. The family spent a decade in a Malaysian refugee camp before coming here by boat, spending time on Nauru before finally being transferred to a detention centre in Brisbane.

And what do we do? Welcome them with open arms, assure them they don't have to be afraid anymore?


We treat them like the criminals they fled.

Latifa gave birth to a baby boy in Brisbane's Mater Children's Hospital last week. She called him Farus. He was beautiful, but gravely ill. He was having trouble breathing and needed constant monitoring. Her heart must have been in her throat with fear.

What happened next is a moment of shame for the entire country.

The little boy needed to stay in hospital. Latifa was forced to return to the detention centre, away from her baby who needed her, just four days after giving birth to him.

Because she's a refugee.

Does that mean she's worth less than other mothers? That her love is less? That she cares for her child less? That her sick baby needs her less.

No, it doesn't.

We are a kind country, a loving country, a country full of compassion and family and children who will do anything for each other. We go to the aid of lost children, help carry prams up and down stairs, donate massive amounts of money to countries suffering hardship.

It's time our immigration policy reflected this, even in a small way, even if it's just by allowing a mother to remain with her sick child.

Latifa has only been allowed to be with her son from 10am until 4pm each day. It's just not enough. We have removed her chance to bond, to establish breastfeeding, to comfort her baby, to comfort herself by holding him, kissing him, smelling him...Her husband Niza hasn't even seen his new son.


There is no stronger emotional connection than that between a mother and a child. That's why when mums leave their babies for the first time, even just to go to the shops, it physically hurts. That's why sick children recover better when their mum is there to hug them and hold them and kiss them and calm them.

My sister's second child, a girl, was born very sick and was placed immediately into Neonatal Intensive Care. They didn't have a bed for my sister. So she slept in the waiting room, in the visitors room, on the lounge in the foyer, on the floor, in chairs, expressing milk, napping and spending hours holding her little girl's hand. Eventually a bed was found for my sister by the compassionate staff at the hospital.

I am guessing that Latifa would have slept on the floor next to her beautiful baby boy as long as was necessary, if it weren't for the immigration officials who dragged her away each day.

Instead of rectifying the situation, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has defended the move. He maintains it's common practice that mums aren't given beds just because their baby is sick. True, except for the fact we are normally free to stay near, because while this sick baby needs all the medical attention we can provide, it needs its mother more.

Asylum seekers are people, just like you and me. It is an accident of birth that we were born in a country without riots and street fighting, with plenty of food and water and the peace of knowing we can sleep without being murdered or having to hear our children being attacked or our husbands being killed.

Australia is better than this.

Please remind the world of what it is that Australia stands for. Please join in the movement to end the mistreatment of asylum seekers. After all, most of us came here from foreign lands. Most of our parents arrived by boat, or their parents did.

Latifa has now been reunited with her baby. He is with his family in the Brisbane detention centre. Meantime, the Mater Hospital in Brisbane is trying to distance itself from the incident and Morrison's comments that separating sick newborns from their parents is 'common practice' at the hospital.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced an enquiry into the incident.

Help families like this get the lives they deserve at

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