RSS

Category Archives: immigration

Apology to forgotten Australians

Yesterday was a great day in Parliament.

THEY were called the ”forgotten Australians”.

But the more than half a million state wards, foster children and former child migrants were renamed the ”remembered Australians” yesterday by Kevin Rudd, as he apologised on behalf of the nation for the abuse and neglect they suffered in church and state care.

Mr Rudd and the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, fought back tears as they delivered the historic apology in the Great Hall of Parliament House…

You can see a powerful documentary on these matters on ABC at 8.30 tonight.

Meanwhile I have been interviewing an old Darlington resident and activist, Bev Hunter, about the suburb a university swallowed – and I have been going down memory lane rather a bit myself in the process. That’s the current South Sydney Herald project and the deadline is 24 hours off…

See you later.

Update 2.00 pm

Article done. Here is a sneak preview:

Shuffling the years with Bev Hunter

Like old Dan in Judith Wright’s “South of My Days” John and Bev Hunter have seventy years of Darlington memories hived up in them like old honey. “It was a great place. We had the best of it,” Bev recalls. “It was a really safe area. You could leave your key in the door, or leave it open, or the key under the mat. You never got shut out.” …

Wait for the December/January South Sydney Herald for the rest.

Advertisements
 

Tags:

On being too clever

Let me draw your attention to Recommendation 1 of the recent HREOC report on Christmas Island.

cats

That and the rest of the report strikes just the right note as far as I am concerned. This piece of legalistic chicanery came via the Howard administration and is as shameful and Dickensian now as it was then. Repealing this and much more is what the Rudd government should have attempted from Day One. Instead Rudd was sucked in – no doubt for what he saw as clever political reasons – by the rhetoric of his predecessors – including, let it be said, that of the later Hawke and Keating administrations.

Life would have been a lot simpler all round, and the deepening mire of the Oceanic Viking avoided, if this had been done. The 78 Tamils could easily have been brought here for processing, and should be.

I am not an open borders romantic. We do have the right to determine who stays here, if not even the possibility of determining 100% who comes here. People forget in their obsession with boats that the majority actually fly in.

For more see immigration on this blog.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on November 11, 2009 in Australia, human rights, immigration, Kevin Rudd, politics

 

Sunday Floating Life photo 33 AND Friday poem 18

Is that confusing enough for you?

Peter Skrzynecki’s “Immigrants at Central Station, 1951” was the subject of my tuition session yesterday. The coachee is doing the ESL course in English. On my way I took some pictures of Central from the perspective of the speaker in the poem – as I read it anyway. (We read the poem carefully so he could see why I had chosen my angles.) Of course it isn’t 1951 any more, but I do vividly remember migrant camps, and Central Station in the 1950s. What follows the poem is a sketch commentary around that HSC topic de jour — “Belonging”.

CIMG3512

Immigrants at Central Station, 1951

It was sad to hear
The train’s whistle this morning
At the railway station.
All night it had rained.
The air was crowded
With a dampness that slowly
Sank into our thoughts –
But we ate it all:
The silence, the cold, the benevolence
Of empty streets.

Time waited anxiously with us
Behind upturned collars
And space hemmed us
Against each other
Like cattle bought for slaughter.

Families stood
With blankets and packed cases –
Keeping children by their sides,
Watching pigeons
That watched them.

But it was sad to hear
The train’s whistle so suddenly –
To the right of our shoulders
Like a word of command.
The signal at the platform’s end
Turned red and dropped
Like a guillotine –
Cutting us off from the space of eyesight

While time ran ahead
Along glistening tracks of steel.

Peter Skrzynecki’s “Immigrants at Central Station” describes a family who with other families has just arrived in Sydney from a migrant camp in western NSW. The poem is about the poet’s own family. As well as describing the scene, the poet tells us a lot about their feeling of not belonging in this new place and their fears about the future.

Their journey to Sydney had been through a night of rain, cutting them off from the landscape they were passing through, making them feel uncomfortable, and echoing their feelings

The air was crowded

With a dampness that slowly

Sank into our thoughts –

The families each huddle together not just for warmth but also because the only sense of belonging they have left is to the family and their few possessions represented by their luggage. In this city whose cold “benevolence” has controlled their lives for years now they feel anxious and lonely. They do not know anyone in those “empty streets”. They don’t even really know where they are going next, or what it will be like when they get there. They feel like “cattle bought for slaughter” or people about to face the guillotine. They have had very little choice in life up to now. But there is nothing they can do except to accept what they are given.

But we ate it all:

The silence, the cold, the benevolence

Of empty streets.

The whistle of the departing train which had left them at Central is a “sad” sound – the poet uses the word twice. The tracks back to where they came from are also tracks into their future. Like the steel of a guillotine blade the tracks are “glistening tracks of steel”. It could be though that the last image offers a little hope, as “glistening” does suggest light.

CIMG3514a

— Photos – Neil Whitfield 1 November 2009

 

Tags: ,

… and on

Following on yesterday I commend Jim Belshaw’s post Refugees and a contempt for the ordinary person.

… I do not think that either Mr Rudd or Mr Howard before him know how deeply upset we are.

There are, as Neil noted, some 16 million refugees globally excluding internally displaced persons. There is no way Australia could manage this current number. Hard choices have to be made…

I also congratulate the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes.

The Labor Party has found a leader’s voice on boat people and immigration – but it’s not the Prime Minister’s.

The task has fallen to a most unlikely candidate, a 28-year-old right-wing union leader who grew up poor in the Blue Mountains. It’s the voice of the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, the very outfit that led the creation of White Australia a century ago.

While Kevin Rudd continued to duck and weave yesterday to avoid antagonising anti-immigrant sentiment in the outer suburbs, Paul Howes confronted it. Howes is saying plainly what Rudd has not dared. He was in Canberra yesterday speaking in favour of humanity and strongly setting out Labor’s policy in favour of immigration.

”The immaturity in political debate in Australia sometimes makes me sick,” Howes said. ”There are politicians in both the Liberal and Labor parties who are exploiting the issue of race to whip up fear in the community. Question time is dominated by 78 people on a boat. We have around 50,000 visa overstayers every year,” he said of people who arrive by plane rather than boat. ”Is anyone saying this is a national crisis? One reason there is no outrage is that these people are mainly white and speak English. Is anyone demanding we clean out the backpackers’ hostels of Bondi and Surry Hills?”…

On Sri Lanka at the moment see Sri Lanka: it’s only business as usual so why the fuss?

 

The beat goes on

I am still frustrated by the undue attention being given to “boat people” as such and the lack of proportion in the whole debate. A reminder about proportion can be found in the recent UNHCR Report.

The number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide stood at 42 million at the end of last year amid a sharp slowdown in repatriation and more prolonged conflicts resulting in protracted displacement. The total includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million internally displaced people uprooted within their own countries, according to UNHCR’s annual "Global Trends" report released today.

The new report says 80 percent of the world’s refugees are in developing nations, as are the vast majority of internally displaced people – a population with whom the UN refugee agency is increasingly involved. Many have been uprooted for years with no end in sight.

Although the overall total of 42 million uprooted people at year’s end represents a drop of about 700,000 over the previous year, new displacement in 2009 – not reflected in the annual report – has already more than offset the decline.

"In 2009, we have already seen substantial new displacements, namely in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia," UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said. "While some displacements may be short-lived, others can take years and even decades to resolve. We continue to face several longer-term internal displacement situations in places like Colombia, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. Each of these conflicts has also generated refugees who flee beyond their own borders."

The report counts 29 different groups of 25,000 or more refugees in 22 nations who have been in exile for five years or longer and for whom there are no immediate solutions in sight. This means at least 5.7 million refugees are living in limbo…

And we are stressing about a few thousand. Not to mention the much greater number of over-stayers and so on who come in the “front door” by plane.

It’s all politicking really, as I said in the previous entry and it has to be admitted the Rudd government has not been all that brilliant, as Michelle Grattan says. Even Gerard Henderson has a real point in his column last Monday: Wielding the whip on asylum seekers: both sides have done it.

But I am appalled by comments like this one attached to Michelle Grattan’s article:

there is an easy way to fix this problem… simply refuse to let any illegal entrants to our country from coming ashore.. and wait until the boat sinks. the people smugglers and illegals will soon learn that australia is the hardest target in the world. problem solved! .. they are ILLEGALLY entering the country and deserve no sympathy whatsoever, just like if i illegally enter another country, then i deserve no sympathy either.

Sure…

 

Politicking boats and people movement

Here we are in deja vu land again. I ranted about these matters frequently in the past, the main rant being Massaging the Asylum Seekers (2001 – 2007).

Now as then an increase in boat arrivals has prompted a range of responses, some of the foolish and atavistic, others paranoid, and some sensible. (The atavism comes to mind as I reread that brilliant expression of deep invasion anxiety, The Lord of the Rings.) Could the boat people include some terrorists trying to enter the country? Well, you can’t categorically say no, but it would seem more likely they would arrive by plane, or even more likely be born here or already in the country. Most people in boats enter into their risky and often expensive project in order to get away from situations of civil war and terrorism, after all.

Rather than rave again I think I’ll just say the recent enquiry into Christmas Island deserves to be implemented. Here it is: HREOC report on Christmas Island.

For current policy see Managing Australia’s Borders from the Department of Immigration. I do accept the need on political, social and environmental grounds for border management. I do not accept the hysteria the topic generates.

Back in 2007 I commented on my rant linked at the head of this post: “It seems likely that some of the worst aspects of those years will be corrected by the Rudd government. Already, the Pacific “Solution” has begun to be overturned.” I have not been entirely disappointed but we could do better.

 

Two (on the face of it) stories of lack of imagination, even common sense

Well that’s how I react at first. What do you think?

1. Byzantine rules for overseas trained doctors

Many years ago a member of the subject’s family told me about a Vietnamese brain surgeon who could only get a job as a cleaner in a regional hospital in a large northern city. His former life became known to the hospital staff, so that when serious accident cases were brought in for whom flight to a major hospital in one of the capitals appeared life-threatening the cleaner was called in to perform the necessary surgery. Who knows how many lives that cleaner saved! Later he did qualify for practice in Australia.

Of course there is a good case for safeguarding local medical standards. What the procedures are you may find here, so long as the acronymomania doesn’t put you off: OTDs, FRACGP or FACRRM. How the system may be reformed is set out by the ATDOA.

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald we read of a Canadian “associate professor in Canada with 16 years’ clinical experience, [who] is now a senior lecturer in general practice at the Australian National University medical school.”

Her plight stems from a long-running dispute with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners over the recognition of her Canadian qualifications. She had been granted only provisional Medicare status because of the lack of the Australian qualification.

A spokeswoman for the federal Department of Health said the department had tried unsuccessfully to contact Dr Douglas yesterday to discuss options that would satisfy the rules and allow her to stay in Canberra.

”The department remains willing to discuss all available options,” the spokeswoman said. ”Medical practitioners working in academic positions may be eligible for a class exemption under section 19AB of the Act as there is a clear public interest in practitioners undertaking academic medical work.”

About 3000 overseas-trained doctors a year are granted temporary permits and provisional practising rights, mainly in places where doctors are scarce.

Nathan Pinskier, an adviser to Medicare on general practitioner issues, said he heard of cases similar to Dr Douglas’s every month, highlighting the need for changes to deal with the conflict between workforce and competency requirements….

Having applied for permanent residence she lost her provisional Medicare status, locking her out of the health care funding provisions.

2. Losing some of the best agricultural land in NSW

These days we are concerned about carbon footprints and the distances food has to travel before it reaches our tables, so it would seem to make sense to safeguard agriculture and horticulture in the Sydney basin and close regions like the Hawkesbury and Illawarra, with their long tradition of providing fruit, vegetables, dairy and other produce. Sadly much of the best land for these purposes has long been built over and continues to be built over. For some idea of what produce is involved see Agriculture – Statistics – Sydney (SD). (That site is no longer updated.) Hawkesbury producers have fought back in their own way.

Property developers have a rather different perspective.

PRESERVING the farms on Sydney’s fringe in the name of agricultural self-sufficiency will cripple the city’s growth, putting extra pressure on renters and home owners, a property developers’ lobby group says.

”The costs of that are further restrictions on our supply of new housing. Sydney has already seen over the past 10 years what happens when you don’t allow for adequate growth outward. Rents have gone up by 22 per cent in the past two years for three-bedroom houses,” said Aaron Gadiel, chief executive officer of the Urban Taskforce.

His comments follow revelations in a report by Peter Malcolm and Riad Fahd from the NSW Department of Industry and Investment that agriculture is shrinking dramatically in the Sydney basin and just 1050 vegetable farms remain.

The report recommended a review into whether these farms should be expanded to make the metropolis more self-sufficient in produce, but Mr Gadiel said that retaining existing agricultural land may not improve the carbon footprint of the city’s vegetable consumers…

However, the chairman of the NSW Farmers’ Association horticulture committee, Peter Darley, said that the city needed to retain its farms because they had a more reliable water source than those further west, especially during drought.

”You must also maintain food security close to your population base,” he said.

Sydney farmers can eliminate the ”middle man” because they are within 50 kilometres of the market, but if they moved further west, they would have to employ more people to move the produce, increasing the cost of vegetables, he said.

There have been attempts in the past to seriously decentralise, but all seem to have led nowhere.

Have we made a rod for our own backs?