When will this end? - Rabia Siddique


Today I was asked to comment on The Nauru Files: a cache of 2,000 leaked reports published by The Guardian, detailing the extreme trauma, abuse and sexual assault suffered by those seeking asylum from war and terror who are being detained indefinitely by the Australian government in the offshore detention camp of Nauru Island.

More than half of the incidents – just over 51 percent – involve children, despite only 18 percent of the detainee population being made up of children during the period the report covers.

These leaked documents reveal publicly what many of us already knew; the complete abrogation by the Australian government of its responsibilities, duty of care and international obligations towards these vulnerable, damaged, precious souls who fled their own nations in search of a safe haven and protection from harm.

nauruAnd what have we, under the auspices of policy, done to them?

We have shipped them offshore. We have, by indirect and direct lack of action, abused them, hidden them away, ignored them and punished them with the cruelest of treatment.

In international jurisprudence, indefinite detention is deemed to be cruel and inhumane treatment. In Australia it appears to be business as usual – at least on Manus Island and Nauru, and it seems, within our own shores with the treatment meted out to juvenile offenders in the Northern Territory, as recently exposed.

This is a matter of national shame.

What is happening to this country where we allow, by the policy-making of our elected officials, and therefore indirectly condone, the covering up of systematic abuse of children and the vulnerable, the shell-shocked, the emotionally wounded?

We are shocked. We are socially vocal. We ought to be appalled on a far more active level. Most of all, we must now do something about it – and fast.

Offshore detention does not work and should not continue.

How can we possibly say that we deserve to have a voice in condemning others for their actions internationally, when clearly we cannot keep our own backyard in humane order? If we cannot take our national, let alone international responsibilities as a humane nation, seriously?

This issue transcends race, colour, religion, ability, sexuality, age and political affiliations.

Our leaders – on all sides of the political fence – must act now, otherwise I will be forever more ashamed to call myself an Australian.

The question I ask now – is will they act – and are they ashamed?

Image courtesy of The Guardian

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