Standing up for human rights

By Fiona, Family Violence Outreach Worker

Protest_Parliament-House11072015-AbbieJedwab_SMSaturday’s protest on the steps of Parliament House in Melbourne.
Photo courtesy of Abbie Jedwab.

Last Saturday (11 July 2015), over 300 concerned community members, including Women’s Health West workers, teachers, social workers, ex-detention centre workers, and health professionals, came together for a silent protest on the steps of Parliament over the new laws designed to mute reports of violations of asylum seekers’ human rights.

The Human Rights Commission inquiry, The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention (2014), headed by Professor Gillian Triggs, exposed the living conditions of asylum seekers on Manus Island, Christmas Island and Nauru.

The Federal Government responded to the revelations by seeking to silence the professionals assisting them. Instead of investigating reports of abuse, significant barriers to safety and serious hygiene conditions, and rectifying their neglect of children, on 1 July 2015 the government instead introduced the Border Force Act. This act forbids health workers, teachers and other professionals from reporting human rights violations against asylum seekers in detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island.

Despite a professional and ethical mandate to report abuse and neglect, particularly of children, workers who do so will now be punished with up to two years in prison.

The seriousness of the Federal Government’s human rights abuses has led Federal MP Andrew Wilkie to formally request that the International Criminal Court prosecuting authority investigate the Federal Government’s treatment of people seeking asylum, and its contravention to international law.

The ‘We won’t be silenced’ petition has gathered over 500 signatures so far. Please sign and spread the word.

Twitter: #WeWontBeSilenced

Facebook: Health Workers, Teachers, and Community Against the BORDER FORCE ACT