Australia’s inhumane refugee policies are shaming us all and we all deserve that shame. Yes the Gillard Government deserve blame for giving in to the oppositions fear tactics and for not exposing their exaggerated claims about Australia being swamped with “illegal boat people”. Worst of all they adopted the cruel, impractical and expensive Liberal policies which both the media and the opposition are ironically now criticising them for. They caved in because the oppositions fear mongering was costing them votes.
The policies of our major parties are not designed to assist the refugees but to keep them out of Australian territory. Like the Wizard of Oz our political leaders have created a paper-mache monster to raise our fear levels. To ease our consciences we are of course not stopping refugees, we are “stopping the boats and the people smugglers”.
So what does that say about our courage and intelligence, especially those of us who have changed voting intentions on the basis of “border protection” , meaning not an invasion by malevolent forces but protecting us from men, women and children who are seeking our help.
Our response so far shows that when we hear unsubstantiated horror stories we give in to our fears instead of our using our reason. Furthermore it shows that in order to feel safe some of us are prepared to lock up innocent people and their children in harsh concentration camps out of sight, out of mind and with no end point to their suffering.
The most disappointing outcome of our blind fear is that we do not engage our intelligence in finding creative solutions to either the causes of the refugee crisis or how we can help the refugees to be settled in a new country without adding to their trauma.
Blind Freddy can see that most refugees are not coming straight from conflict to Australia. They are escaping from a lifetime spent in refugee camps with no identity no connections and little hope of an improved life for them or their families. No wonder they will risk their lives on a leaky boat, they have no life.
What can we do as a compassionate nation rather than a fearful nation to help their hopeless situation? Here are some ideas that would assist these people and help ourselves at the same time.
The first stage is to restore hope for people with no future and this may be achieved by diverting the massive funding from “border protection” and from shutting down our overseas concentration camps. With this funding the Government could build education facilities from primary to tertiary close to the major refugee camps.
By providing carefully targeted tertiary education and training to refugees it will make them more attractive as immigrants to Australia and to countries all over the world.
Another step would be to provide funding to speed up the processing of refugee claims and increase our refugee intake. Refugees who achieved required skill levels could be granted a speedier pathway to Australian citizenship.
The above measures would have a great impact on the morale of refugees by providing them a pathway out of their meaningless existence and lift their feelings of self-worth.
The advantages to Australia are that the flow of boats to our shores would be greatly diminished and when people arrived here as refugees they would be pre trained to take up employment meaning that they would not be welfare dependent for long periods.
A major bonus would be that our national psyche will be healed when the feeling of mean spirited, fear ridden, hatred and division that shrinks our imagination and diminishes our self-respect, is replaced by a new creative spirit of cooperation and connection to one another.