Compassion for refugees well overdue

Hundreds of people turned out in Perth for the Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees on Sunday 29 March. The crowd gathered at St George’s Cathedral in Perth before peacefully marching through the CBD calling for humane policies for asylum seekers and refugees in Australia. The event was organised by the Perth Justice4Refugees network, comprised of more than 20 community groups and churches.

Tim Winton, multi-award winning West Australian author spoke powerful words to the crowd.

“We’re here to call a spade a spade, to declare that what has become political common sense in Australia over the past 15 years is actually nonsense. And not just harmless nonsense; it’s vicious, despicable nonsense.  For something foul is festering in the heart of our community, something shameful and rotten,” he said.

“If current refugee policy is common sense, then I refuse to accept it. I dissent. And many of my countrymen and women dissent alongside me. I don’t pretend to have a geopolitical answer to the worldwide problem of asylum seekers. Fifty million people are currently displaced by war and famine and persecution. I don’t envy those who make the decisions in these matters, those who’ve sought and gained the power to make decisions in this matter. I’m no expert, no politician. But I know when something’s wrong. And what my country is doing is wrong.

“Prime Minister, forget the boats for a moment. Turn back your heart. Turn back from this path to brutality. Turn back from piling trauma upon the traumatised. Because it shames us. It grinds innocent people to despair and self-harm and suicide. It ruins the lives of children. Give these people back their faces, their humanity. Don’t avert your gaze and don’t hide them from us.”

IMG_7072Also present was prominent businesswoman and philanthropist Janet Holmes à Court AC and former Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia and Senior Australian of the Year Fred Chaney AO.

Rev Steve Francis, moderator of the Uniting Church in WA is calling for a compassionate response.

“Many people seeking our help are struggling to cope with the misery our detention regime creates. Even those who are released are not afforded many of the basic securities and opportunities needed to thrive in our community. The time for a compassionate policy change on refugees is well overdue,” said Steve.

Similar events were also held in major cities around Australia.

To read Tim Winton’s speech in full visit http://www.smh.com.au/comment/tim-wintons-palm-sunday-plea-start-the-soulsearching-australia-20150329-1ma5so.html

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