By Margaret Taylor – Activism Manager at Amnesty International
Australia – I loved you but I hate what you’ve become.
Australia – you were my adopted home – my first memory, my first love. But now you’ve become my worst nightmare and left nothing in my heart but feelings of loathing.
At first I went along with your larrikin antics, but my growing dis-ease at your casual racism and misogyny left me no choice but to speak out; to challenge your bullying ways.
But still I loved you.
Your genocidal attitudes to your indigenous people – was and is a shame scarcely to be borne. You added insult to injury with ludicrous justifications for stealing children. The heartbreak of the Stolen Generation is a weeping wound. Your ‘terra nullius – empty earth’ claim was equally farcical.
But then came that apology.
Ahh, you almost won me over with your sweet words. I felt hope in my heart , the possibility of a fresh start.
But in reality those words promised much but delivered no more than the status quo. The lies, the games and the discrimination continued unabated. And every Australia Day since I turn away from celebrations and instead mark Invasion Day.
For too long I’ve excused your boorish behaviour because of how your golden shores were so brutally colonised. My Aboriginal brothers and sisters shot down as vermin; the torturous treatment meted out within those convict settlements – irrespective of guilt or innocence, irrespective of youth, age or gender.
Despite your land abounding “in natures gift’s. Of beauty rich and rare”, despite owning a wealth and lifestyle most on this planet would gasp at – it is not enough. You are incapable of sharing with the world’s most vulnerable people – asylum seekers.
Rather you politically point-score at their expense – lying about who they really are – misrepresenting them as queue-jumpers, boat people, people smugglers, people who would throw their kids overboard.
You lie about asylum seekers to win elections; you prevent the truth of their off-shore detention hell from being told by gagging doctors, social workers, NGOs; you blame these innocents – these babies born on your shores, children attempting suicide as six year olds, violated women, because of the torment you’ve introduced them to. Then you hand over responsibility for their care to nations ill-equipped to manage a human rights problem of your making. What’s even more galling is that you spend billions of taxpayers dollars to deliver this obscenity. Then you advise none of this is your problem.
And throughout it all you sing your beautiful national anthem and every time you do you bring it shame –“ For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share”.
In reality, all you have shared with asylum seekers arriving by boat is pain.
In the middle of a sleepless night it’s a pain I have wished on you and all those who support you in your lying ways. But then comes the realisation that my vengeful wishes make me a little bit more like something I loathe. It makes me like YOU.
As dawn breaks, it comes with the news that protests at your callous treatment of asylum seekers have occurred nationwide, that churches are offering ‘sanctuary’, that State governments are confirming they have space for those 267 people.
As I wait to see what the good people of Australia will demand from you – I wish for you what I wish for asylum seekers. JUSTICE.
May you grant them the justice you have denied them so long. May you also face the justice you so richly deserve for your actions to date.