Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

What if Australia’s offshore detention centres are actually a defence program?


Childen-in-detention Australia’s offshore ‘detention centres’ don’t make logical sense…

We know that most refugee arrivals are by plane, not boatand over 90% in each case, once processed were found to be genuine refugees. Yet we are somehow at war with boats?

We have claimed its all about saving lives lost at sea from unscrupulous people smugglers, and yet in our detention centres these same people we apparently care so deeply for have been psychologically tortured and deliberately left in harms way with reports of rapes, sexual abuse of children and even allowing locals in to bash to death and seriously injure inmates.

It is known that as policy they confiscated children’s eye glasses, prosthetic limbs, medications as a supposed ‘self harm risk’. And yet these children were deliberately stripped of their identities, referred to only by their arrival date numbers, left vulnerable to institutionalised sexual abuse from guards and to ensure this would go unchallenged brought in a new law to prosecute whistleblowers for up to two years.

They banned journalists, then when that failed they rubber stamped $8000 non-refundable journalist visas (so if their application was refused they lost their $8000) to make it near impossible for a journalist to enter. Even when two journalists fund raised for $20,000 to get two of them in, their visa applications were rejected, so its clear that in fact journalists are not only not welcome but not allowed. And yet inmates are able to call their relatives with their mobile phones to recount the horrors of what it is like for them in these detention centres.

We call them detention centres, pass them off as offshore processing facilities, and yet on arrival they were shown video to inform them that they would be there for a very very long time (asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children have been there for years) and that even if their applications for asylum were ever approved they would never be resettled in Australia.

We are told that their imprisonment is a ‘deterrent’ and they are ‘sending a message’. Arriving into Australian waters by boat without a visa is a breach of our sovereign borders, UNLESS you are an asylum seeker. Under the refugee act, to which Australia is signatory, it IS LEGAL for people seeking asylum to do so by boat, without visas in order to be processed by the country they arrive in.

Immigration is not a ‘defence issue’. But our government has intentionally made the seeking of a asylum a ‘defence issue’, shrouded in secrecy as is usual in defence. But many bizarre things happen in ‘defence’.

False imprisonment, deprivation of freedom, ever present threat, psychological torment, physical torture, the stripping away of identity, deliberate incitement, deliberate endangerment, rendition, hostage taking, human shields… these have all been used to gain information, deter others and ‘send a message’.

What if what you feared Australia’s good reputation as a kind, generous, welcoming country? What if you feared being the only country in the middle of Asia which didn’t have an Asian national language, had over valued and over invested instead in your British and American ties and feared Indonesia’s threats to set a ‘flood of refugees’ upon Australia?

What if you were afraid of home grown terrorism, home grown socialism, or just plain home grown dissent? How might you ‘send a message’ whilst still maintaining your good face for the sake of tourism and commerce? You could make an example of someone… but what if you feared uprising… then you’d best make an example of ‘outsiders’. And if Australian’s felt this was unnerving, then remind them continually of the potential threat, or questionable morality of these ‘outsiders’.

And what sends a ‘message’? The rape of young women? The sexual abuse of unaccompanied children? The indefinite imprisonment of dehumanised people, stripped of identity and now only referred to by ‘their number’ who day in day out have no jobs, no purpose, no future? How much more unnerving would this message be if you had created a secretive prison environment where your political pawns could be incited to self harm and revolt and then put deliberately in harms way, even causing deaths, and you could wash your hands of all responsibility? How much stronger the message might be if it were clear whistleblowers could be imprisoned and journalists were unable to independently verify anything that was going on. Hey, just for the icing on the cake, what if you left your political pawns with mobile phones so they could ‘send a message’ to all other outsiders and do your job for you? My, what nice clean hands you have.

Donna Williams, BA Hons, Dip Ed.
Author, artist,and presenter.

I acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of this country throughout Australia, and their connection to land and community.

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