Over the past few years, I have been absolutely heartened by the support that the Australian public has shown for Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharunicaa, the Tamil family who have spent years working in, contributing to and building relationships in Biloela, Queensland.
We have seen peaceful protests, thousands of signatures on online petitions and even staunch supporters of Australia’s refugee policy, standing up to say enough is enough for this family.
Today we have seen the Court, again rule in their favour but there is no end to their detention and no end to their suffering.
Watch: Hani found solace through poetry while detained on Christmas Island. Post continues below.
Ripped away from their home in the middle of the night in 2018, spending month after month languishing in detention centres on Christmas Island, Priya, Nades and their daughters have become the human faces of how Australia treats people seeking asylum.
Their faces, their stories and their treatment have made it impossible for people to go on ignoring what these policies mean in the reality.
Now, Australia knows the price of deterrence. Now, Australia knows that real people, people who are only looking for a safe and happy life for their children, people who might be your neighbour, or your colleague, or your friend; are the victims of policies misunderstood and so blindly accepted by many.
As a country, we have adopted punitive policies and made capricious decisions about people’s rights and treatment.
We have a system that means, if you were forced to arrive in Australia by boat an arbitrary tick-a-box exercise by a federal officer will have determined whether you will have been allowed to stay here in Australia on a temporary protection visa or whether you are still enduring nearly eight years of indefinite detention having been sent to Nauru or Manus Island for so-called ‘Offshore Processing’.
We have a system that means that if you miss an arbitrary date, regardless of how or why you missed this date, be it language difficulties, health issues, a misunderstanding of what the date meant, your protection claims will not be automatically assessed, and you may have no opportunity to be heard.
We have a system that has no policy in place to protect children from detention nor any independent voice to determine their best interests, as has been reflected throughout the last almost three years of Kopika and Tharunicaa’s lives.