Recently, my family and I reveled in a five day holiday. I had one of those freeze frame moments when I was watching my two girls and husband laugh together as they splashed in the hotel heated pool. My youngest daughter waved her fairy wand around- giggly with too much pink lemonade. This pure joy is the stuff of being a kid. Surely those magical moments are a right for all children? But not, it seems, if you are a refugee desperate enough to flee your country on a leaky boat for the chance of a better life. What is the crime in that? I know as a mum I would do anything to save my children. I would beg, borrow, bribe, steal and buy my way on to any transport if it meant rescuing my family from famine, violence and war.
I’ve never understood some people’s venom against refugees. As a journalist I have always aimed to be balanced and objective. But there are times when my personal feelings have influenced how I’ve covered a story. I don’t think there’s a problem with that – I believe there are some matters you need to take a stand against. I remember getting into strife with a former boss for being too strident with a particular government minister. During the course of the interview I asked him how he felt about having children behind razor wire in Australia. I still reckon that was a valid question. I was told to back off if we wanted to have that politician on the program again.
However the issue of keeping children in detention is something that I will never back away from. And since having babies of my own I feel even more strongly about how we treat young asylum seekers. So it’s with increasing shame, anger and frustration that I watch as our government wants to send unaccompanied children back to Malaysia to face an uncertain and dangerous future. According to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, deporting unaccompanied children is illegal. It’s hard to comprehend
the psychological damage such a journey would have on young refugees. And in my gilded world I fret about separation anxiety my girls might have when I go to work. How pathetic!
The way our country treats new arrivals seems at odds with the image Australia has of an easy- going and compassionate nation. As a mother and journalist I have felt powerless when I watch images of young children and families arrive here with nothing but hope and brave, big hearts. Pretty quickly their optimism turns to shock, anxiety and depression when they find themselves locked in detention. Recently a former Immigration Officer told me she resigned after being told she was going to Christmas Island. She had enough of the pain and desperation and knew she would see more at that particular detention centre. So I vent my rage with like minded people but somehow it doesn’t seem enough.