We cared so much about “our Schapelle”, why aren’t we behind Andrew and Myuran?
In October 2004, Schapelle Corby was arrested in Bali.
I was working in the office of the Queensland Attorney-General at the time. The phone rang non-stop. Ordinary Queenslanders were incensed. They were desperate to see Schapelle released. Most were sure she was innocent, that she had been set up. Even those who didn’t think she was innocent were certain she should be returned to Australia.
Callers told me in graphic detail how horrible prisoners were in “over there”. They asked me what I would do if she was my sister or my daughter. They told me I should be ashamed of myself for trying to tell them that it was a Federal issue and I couldn’t do anything about it.
I got abused – a lot.
People were very, very angry that ‘one of our own’ was alone in an Indonesian jail.
The calls, letters and the emails never really stopped. Even when the tide of public opinion seemed to turn against Schapelle and the Corby clan, the public still thought she deserved to come home and serve her time here. The public no longer thought her innocent, but they cared about Schapelle’s future nonetheless and were fascinated by her.
Flash forward 10 or so years.
In December 2014, a woman named Kalynda Davis was arrested for drug trafficking in China and was potentially set to face the firing squad for allegedly trying to smuggle up to 75kg of the drug ice to Australia. It was Schapelle all over again. People were desperate to hear any news on her case.
When she was released and sent home, Australia was relieved. We ate up every detail of an apparent “clandestine diplomatic rescue operation” led by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, which saved Kalynda’s life.
Just this weekend, the papers ran stories with the selfies that she had taken that week, enjoying her freedom (and “her new short haircut”) back in Australia.
Now, in January 2015, two Australian men, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are on death row.
Like Schapelle, they were convicted and had their appeals refused.
Like Schapelle, they have been serving time in an Indonesian prison.
And like Schapelle, their families have been on TV begging for mercy for their brothers and sons (and arguably, they are more relatable and able to engender sympathy than the antic-prone Corby family).
For more on the Bali 9: Families speak of their grief and plead to Tony Abbott for help.
And yet I cannot feel the same heat in the community…. People quite simply appear to care less.
They have from the start.
Why does the community care less? Why are people not moved to action by the plight of these men? Why are they not demanding that Chan and Sukumaran serve their time in this country?
At the very least, why are they not compelled to call on their government to ensure that these men live to see the next fortnight?