I feel paralysed with horror at the reports coming out of Manus Island. As the effort to expel the six hundred men there enters its fourth hour, two men are already unconscious. One has epilepsy. Both desperately need medical attention. As horrifying as this situation is, I hope these will be the only injuries suffered today. I fear that they will not be.
There are conflicting reports that an officer of the Australian Federal Police is directing the efforts of the Papua New Guinean police. I do not know if this is true. However, it does not matter. I cannot be more eloquent than Behrouz Bouchani – an acclaimed journalist from Iran who has spent four years of his life now confined on Manus – in his final tweet before his phone was confiscated, directed at Peter Dutton: “You created this situation and you are responsible.”
The commitment of many Australians in protesting this humanitarian crisis has been overwhelming. I do not know about those in other cities, but there is a protest happening today at 5 pm at the corner of the Pitt and Market Street in Sydney. Up until now, many have already been willing to risk arrest to show, and have indeed been arrested for showing, solidarity with those on Manus. I have lived in Sydney for my whole life but am currently on exchange in Chile. I would not presume to know the feelings of those of you living outside of Australia’s main cities. However, the feelings of impotence I have felt about protesting the situation on Manus is one you might share. As powerful as social media is, how can a single post on Facebook generate the pressure we want to exert on the people who can change this situation?
In this context, a responsibility arises for those who can speak out to do so. For many, this responsibility means putting out feet to the street and taking part in protests. But what happens to it when someone is not able to manifest their support through channels like this one? What does that responsibility become if you can’t attend a protest in one of Australia’s urban centres because you are overseas or live in regional Australia?
That is why I asking you to help me amplify your voice. Let our politicians and, more importantly, the refugees on Manus know that as an Australian you are ashamed that the fair go for all has been substituted for a fair go for educated, white, English-speaking immigrants. If you feel a responsibility to speak out, but have felt impotent to do so, it does not matter whether you are overseas or in Broken Hill; take a photo telling us who and where you are and tell the Government that their treatment of refugees makes you #ashamedtobeaustralian.
Our individual voices may not be loud, but together, we can be deafening. Close the camps, bring them here and let them stay. Now.