Five years ago I first saw Australians protesting against asylum seekers being imprisoned in their local community.
Frighteningly, they weren’t protesting about these innocent humans being locked into detention indefinitely; instead, these citizens were annoyed that the detainees were locked up so close to their comfortable, quiet neighbourhood. News footage at the time even showed a young child holding a sign that said, “sink the boats”.
I decided that I didn’t want my own children growing up in a nation where it is socially acceptable to teach our children to fear and to exclude people who are different to them.
I wanted to do what I could to help people live as the tangible evidence of the Australia that I believe is possible – welcoming, compassionate, inclusive and fair. That’s why a few friends and I began Welcome to Australia.
My dream is that thousands of persecuted people can find protection, belonging and opportunity here in Australia. I despair of that dream being realised as long as our leaders are happy to manipulate public concerns through misinformation, baseless hysteria and the demonisation of people they’ve robbed of a right of reply.
Such people are willing to use the world’s most vulnerable people as expendable pawns in their political games. They’ll use fear and prejudice to gain popularity. They won’t hesitate to erode both our social harmony and our humanity in order to win elections. And I believe that as long as fear, prejudice and xenophobia attract voters, these people will employ them as weapons.