Posted tagged ‘public policy’

Some sense

April 5, 2011

The storm surrounding Kevin Rudd and his admission about ETS negotiations within the Labour Party has drowned out the good sense he talked about refugees last night on Q & A. Asked a question about asylum seeker policy, Kevin’s reaction was to say “let’s put this into context …” And he did – 42 million people worldwide who are refugees, people fleeing violence and strife, with no home.

Let’s repeat those – no home, 42 million.

He called it what it is – a humanitarian emergency that we need to deal with as a global community, where we work together to protect and serve the members of our human family who are most vulnerable. If only we heard this more often from political leaders, our community attitude towards refugees and asylum seekers might not be so bogged down in fear and untruthfulness. The context, the real issues, and the human stories get lost in the barrage of insults about queue jumpers and border protection and let’s face it, plain old selfishness and xenophobia.

As is often the case, it is those who are most vulnerable who very often get hurt the most, and in Australia, we are a long way from a mature public approach to migration and people movement. I wonder if we’ll ever get there?

Others following the former PM’s lead on this one would help.

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A handful of sand

August 16, 2010

Today, 16th August, marks the 35th anniversary of the day Prime Minister Gough Whitlam poured a handful of sand through the fingers of Gurindji man Vincent Lingiari, to symbolise the restoration of land ownership to the Gurindji people.

Source: National Library of Australia.

 

The story began on Wave Hill station, a large cattle station about 600 km south of Darwin in the Northern Territory. For many years after European settlement it was run by the British pastoral company called Vesteys. Vesteys employed the local Indigenous people, the Gurindji, to work on Wave Hill, but working conditions were very poor and the Gurindji people were paid much less than the other workers.

In 1966, Vincent Lingiari, a prominent Gurindji man who worked at Wave Hill, led a walk off of Indigenous workers as a protest against the poor pay and conditions. The protesters established the Wattie Creek Camp and demanded the return of some of their traditional lands.

The strike lasted for 8 years – “We know how to wait”, Vincent said. “We want them Vestey mob all go away from here. Wave Hill Aboriginal people bin called Gurindji. We been here long time before them Vestey mob. This is our country, all this bin Gurindji country … We want this land, we strike for that.”

Vincent Lingiari travelled all over Australia to address meetings and raise support for the strike. The protest eventually led to the Commonwealth Land Rights Act of 1976 which gave Indigenous Australians freehold title to traditional lands in the Northern Territory and powers to make decisions about mining and development on those lands. 

The story is told really well in “From little things, big things grow” by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody

An act of patience and bravery well worth remembering.

Slogans and bumper stickers

August 6, 2010

Sick of ignorant slogans, bad policy and blatant lies by national leaders, a mate and I have written some slogans of our own in an attempt to add our voice to the current public discourse, if you can call it that, about asylum seekers and the Australian community.

I am appalled at our nation’s leaders inability to speak fairly and compassionately about refugees and displaced people. Australia has the resources and the responsibility to take a lead in helping some of the most vulnerable people in the world. As the third wealthiest country on the globe, the wealthiest in our region by a substantial margin, and as a country that has been continually strengthened by various waves of immigration, a welcome rather than a rejection is entirely reasonable.

The bumper stickers are now printed and ready to go, and welcomerefugees.org is up and running.

As well as a place to order bumper stickers, the website gives a valuable perspective about people who are refugees and the way we can respond as an Australian community. The fact sheets provided by GetUp or the Edmund Rice Centre for Social Justice are a good place to start in being more informed, and so are the stories on the SBS “How far we’ve come” website.