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Dear Editor, 

I was pleased to see various issues, about which I feel strongly, raised in the January edition of The Manning Community News.

Firstly, the article by about Rohingya refugees and Manus Island asylum seekers, in particular, struck a chord with me.  I have long been dismayed by the cruel treatment of people fleeing danger doled out by our government, and the huge amounts of government funds (our money!) paid daily to intermediary commercial firms – millions of dollars every day going to mistreat fellow human beings. Hosting a young Hazara asylum seeker in my home for 6 months in 2015 confirmed my sympathy for people fleeing personal danger. As with Imran Mohammad, Abbas was a young man from a perpetually persecuted group, whose family had been lifelong refugees who just wanted one of their young men to survive the ravages of the Taliban. Now they waste their young lives in limbo and worse.

I have been very disappointed with our local Federal member, Dr David Gillespie who, in several letters exchanged with me, continues to spout the untruths put out by Peter Dutton about our mistreatment of these people.  That a medically-trained man, who theoretically works on my behalf in Lyne electorate, can support the hopeless incarceration of people who have done nothing illegal (it is not illegal to seek asylum!) is surprising and deeply disappointing.

In  a recent letter to me  about the Manus Island debacle, Dr Gillespie states:  “. . . all refugees and failed asylum seekers have now been peacefully relocated to alternative accommodation”. Yet there is well-disseminated video footage of detainees being hit with metal bars, forced onto buses by men with guns, and having phones stomped on – their only line of communication with the outside world. I would not count this as ‘peaceful relocation’! Many of the local people on Manus Island are antagonistic – because they have had not say in the process – and many attacks on the asylum seekers have been recorded.  The guards are often aggressive. Dr Gillespie states to me: “Vandalism has also occurred to water infrastructure.” Yet it was aggrieved locals who smashed the water tanks – not the poor detainees themselves. Photos and eye-witness reports of visitors such as Rev. Tim Costello (of World Vision), Senator Nick McKim, and representatives of United Nations, show that ‘food, water, security and medical service’ are all woefully inadequate in Mr Dutton’s ‘hotel-like conditions’. I fear that Dr Gillespie has been misinformed. The photos and reports do not support this. I am horrified to also learn (from Behrouz Boochani, one of the young men detained there) that there are “no psychological facilities in Manus”. This for people who were likely traumatised over and over before even arriving in what their families hoped would be the safety of Australia.

Nauru, mentioned in the article, is another terrible example for which Australia will be judged in the future.  Anyone who has seen a photo of this small, flat island in the middle of nowhere will realised that the semantic difference between ‘incarceration’ and ‘freedom to move around’ means nothing on this isolated prison. Children are    growing up there – five years of substandard medical care, education, and mental health support.

In addition to the article about refugees, I was also pleased to see Elizabeth Farrelly’s article from the Sydney Morning Herald reprinted here. I am a passionate supporter of public education, and a community member (and past teacher), deeply disappointed with the current government’s watering down of Gonski recommendations too. The redress of disadvantage advocated by the Gonski report would seem to be a clear benefit, and our local schools in Wingham and Taree were beginning to gain assistance.

Although I would not agree with Elizabeth Farrelly that private schools should be banned, I am horrified that they continue to receive unfair proportions of public money. Dr Gillespie, your support for the 86% of local children attending public and Catholic schools, as opposed to the 14% at private schools, would be appreciated. This small group that benefits from our taxes, as well as the fees paid by parents, is greatly advantaged, to the detriment of the vast majority.

With regard to the article by Morgan Stewart and the White Ribbon movement, I would plead for adequate funding of non-religious refuges run by women and for women, as the Taree Women’s Refuge once was. There should be no need for community fundraising to give women in danger a safe haven. Again – attention Dr Gillespie, and  Mr Bromhead, state representative, with whom I have also been in correspondence. As has been pointed out many times, women are being murdered, and places in refuges are inadequate, as is oversight by a private, partisan group such as the Samaritans.

Thank you to Di Morrissey and the Manning Community News for continuing to air matters of interest to the local community, without fear or favour!

 

Heather McLaughlin

Taree West

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