Immigration minister Peter Dutton announced on April 2 that for the first time in a decade there were no children in Australian detention centres. “When I got the call,” he said, “it was something I was proud of.” With the announcement came news that 196 of the 267 asylum seekers who lost the High Court case challenging the government's legal right to deport them to Nauru would be moved to community detention in Australia.
That the Australian government can find $6 million to fund a film aimed at convincing asylum seekers to not come to Australia and yet cut more than $50 million from Screen Australia speaks volumes about its priorities.
I feel privileged to have been able to spend several hours on the community picket outside Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane where people were rallying in solidarity with Asha. Asha is the refugee baby who was being treated for burns after an accident in Australia's notorious offshore refugee detention camp, in the increasingly dictatorial Pacific island state of Nauru.
The University of Sydney Resistance club held a #LetThemStay action on campus on February 24 which was endorsed by the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) and attended by Labor, Greens, socialists and LGBTIQ activists on campus.
Not for some years has there been so much justifiable outrage over bipartisan cruelty towards refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. The groundswell of community organising to keep the 267 asylum seekers, being threatened with deportation to Nauru and Manus Island, is a bright spot on an otherwise bleak horizon.
The #LetThemStay vigil outside Lady Cilento Hospital is a rare and remarkable moment for Brisbane, not only because it makes visible the resurgence of public concern about our government's inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, but because it's already one of the most significant radical uses of urban space this city has seen in decades.