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Letters to Editor

This page includes letters sent by our members to newspapers.

They will cover many topics and could provide inspiration for others to make their views know to the public through newspapers

Email addresses to local papers below: ( Nambucca Guardian News) ( Bellingen Courier Sun) ( Coffs Coast Advocate)

 Letter to Editors Local Papers

June 17: It saddens me greatly to read that 50 male asylum seekers have self-harmed or attempted suicide since the federal election on Manus Island and in Port Moresby. The question I ask repeatedly is “Why have we and our politicians lost so much empathy towards others in need of help and compassion?” Come on my fellow Australians, let’s embrace and support others in need and not be afraid of them. I urge everyone to petition their federal representatives to exercise their natural humanity and change this cruel practice.         Robin Hesketh, Bellingen

Dear Editor (June 4)
Last week, a boat carrying a group of Sri Lankan asylum seekers was intercepted by the Australian navy and escorted to Christmas Island. Press reports suggest that they were detained for a couple of days before being returned by air to Sri Lanka. It is alleged that their asylum claims were considered and summarily rejected. In the meantime, several thousand asylum seekers in Australia have been waiting for up to seven years for their claims to protection to be determined. It seems extraordinary that, when it suits their purpose, the government can determine asylum cases in a matter of days, but others have to wait years, in the hope that they will give up and return home to danger. Can’t we do better than this, in the interests of humanity?

Georgina Spinaze

2 May 2019

Vote for Compassion

I am part of a group who advocates for refugees in the Bellingen, Coffs and Nambucca area. You may have seen us standing by the side of the road with our signs supporting refugees.

 Occasionally passers by call out “Send them Home.”  So I have decided to tell you about a certain family of four who are my friends in Sydney who can’t go home to their Middle Eastern country which they left in a hurry in fear of their lives.
 They were in the last boatload of asylum seekers to land on Christmas Island before the government decided to send all boat people to offshore detention.  After six turbulent years of learning a new language, dealing with the trauma of their lives, missing their extended family members left behind and looking for jobs, they are living in Sydney.

 They receive no money from the Government. The sons are settled at school, the father, a former school principal, is working and studying as a tradesman and the mother, a B.Sc graduate, is working in Aged care and continuing her studies.

 They love Australia, They love their work and each month they donate money from their minimal wages to St Vinnies because, as the mother explained to me:
 “ When we were dependent on money from the Government we made a pact with each other that when we had jobs we would give back to Australia.”

 It is people like these, who are still waiting for a permanent visa, that some politicians and passers-by want to: “….send home.” I want people like these to be my neighbours.

 Vote for compassion

 Margaret Henley

16 April 2019

Treatment of refugees

This government is prepared to spend over $100million to give the prime minister an opportunity to make a press announcement. It employs hundreds of staff to guard no-one. Surely this money would be better spent treating their traumas and not heaping more traumas on them by their continued detention and besmirching their good names with implied criminality and intent to commit acts of terror.

There are still 915 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru, we as a nation are culpable of continuing the torture of these people as we knowingly continue treatment that causes harm. There is a very clear distinction between protecting our borders and the care of refugees and asylum seekers and it is not as our leaders portray it.

Earlier the prime minister alleged that there were 60 suspects, he was repeatedly asked for a specific number, he refused to answer the question, yet the police had told him that there was only suspect.

After the atrocity in Christchurch by an Australian citizen who only migrated to New Zealand in 2017 Scott Morrison is trying to distance himself from the statements he made as border protection minister and as prime minister inciting fear and distrust within our community. He is trying to shrug off his complicity in this terror attack so as to gain political advantage. True leaders try to unite the nations and not divide them, in my opinion this man and his cabinet are not fit to govern.

Nearer election day do not be suprised to read that a people smuggling boat has “slipped” through the Border Protection cordon either. The old trick.

Robin Hesketh

27 March 2019

Published in Bellingen Courier Sun 27 March 2019

Dear editor,
The Christchurch tragedy
We have all been deeply saddened and outraged by the  recent terrible events in Christchurch. We ask ourselves: How could it possibly be that in the 21st Century, 50 innocent worshippers could be gunned down in cold blood by a young, white, male political extremist? How did we get to this? The appalling truth is that events like this, particularly in the USA, have become all too frequent in recent years. 
The Christchurch victims came from all walks of life, and from all corners of the globe. Some of them had traveled from overseas to visit family members. A number of them were refugees: Syrians, Palestinians, Afghans, Bangladeshis, Iraqis and others from war-torn parts of the world. 

They had found refuge in a welcoming country, a country where they finally felt safe, where they at last could begin to rebuild their shattered lives and to contribute to their communities.

Without doubt, when seeking an explanation for such atrocities, we can point to the internet as a terrible and rich resource for those who want to share their white supremacist hatred. But that is only a part of it. We surely need to have a cold, hard look at how some of our politicians, shock jocks, and media commentators have been fueling the fires of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment over many years in Australia.

When will we acknowledge, and then attempt to deal with, the fact that, as a society, we seem to have normalized the politics of fear and intolerance?

When will we recognize that the unspeakable seems to be the new normal, that it’s OK, according to the nation’s ex-Attorney General, George Brandis, to be a bigot? 
When will we, as a nation, collectively reject the demonizing of those arriving on our shores by boat, or looking too dark-skinned, or appearing too religious?

When will we unequivocally condemn the dog-whistling, which in recent times has become a foghorn, of leading politicians who warn darkly of “single males”, “rapists” and “paedophiles” who might find their way to our shores? People who, according to the same Minister, will take our jobs, live off the dole, kick patients off waiting lists, and kick people out of their social housing. The same Minister who is then outraged when it is put to him that this kind of talk fuels the flames of anti-Muslim and racist sentiment.

When will we finally call time on the highly-paid shock jocks and other media commentators who, on a daily basis, single out Muslims as being “unaustralian”, unwilling to integrate or to contribute to Australian society?

When will we finally and collectively assert that it’s not OK for the Murdoch press to produce 2,891 anti-Islamic stories in a single year?

When will we finally, and unequivocally, condemn those politicians who thrive on the politics of fear, and who readily play the race card for purely political motives? It is surely not OK for a Senator to turn up to parliament wearing a burka to promote herself and her anti-Muslim beliefs. 

It is surely not OK for another senator to travel the length and breadth of the country to attend far-right meetings, at taxpayers’ expense, and to blame all Muslims for the appalling tragedy in Christchurch. Surely, these people should have no place in our parliament.

As Craig Foster, ex-Socceroo, tweeted last week: “Australia is waking up today to a recognition that we have allowed Muslim Australia, our own brothers and sisters, to be demonized and marginalized. My thanks to all those who are demanding a new national conversation about Muslim Australia, refugees, multiculturalism and racism. God knows, we need it.”

Mike Griffin
Valla Beach NSW 2448

27 March 2019

Published in Bellingen Courier Sun on 27 March 2019

Let’s Stop the Hate Speech

I was born in Australia over 70 years ago. All of my life I have had to listen to so-called White Australians publicly denigrating people of all minority groups such as Muslims, Asians, Aboriginal people and gay people.
When the use of this hate speech is so prevalent is it any wonder that this culminates in the appalling tragedy in Christchurch.
Especially when this racist, bigoted and xenophobic language is fully embraced for purely political purposes by some of our leading politicians. When, for example, the Minister for Immigration hysterically and erroneously states that a small number of refugees from Manus Island and Nauru coming to our shores for urgent medical treatment will take our jobs, kick patients off hospital waiting lists and evict people out of their social housing. This is base politics at its lowest and most dangerous level.
In the absence of any leadership from our politicians, we all, as citizens of this great country, need to take personal responsibility to avoid using racist and bigoted language and to condemn and call out all who resort to this hate speech.

Paul Bartholomew

Boambee East

20 March 2019

published in the Bellingen Courier Sun 20 March 2019

The Medevac Legislation-Some Facts
This new legislation, enabling the medical evacuation of sick people, applies only to people currently on Manus Island and Nauru. It does not apply to any future asylum seekers.
The Minister retains the right to reject medical transfers on a number of grounds including security risk or if the person has a substantial criminal record.
Prior to this legislation, 879 sick people and their families have been transferred to Australia for treatment, often as a result of intervention by the courts. This has not resulted in any new boat arrivals. Not one!
In recent years an armada of Australian navy vessels has prevented asylum-seeker boats from entering Australian waters. Some 34 boats carrying more than 1,000 people have been turned back into Indonesian waters. This turn-back policy has the explicit support of the Coalition and the Labor party.
The Government claims that some men on Manus have committed serious offences. If so, why haven’t they been deported already back to their home countries?
The hysteria created by the Morrison Government over this Medevac legislation is deliberately deceitful and inflammatory in pursuit of a base political agenda based on fear and bigotry.
The reality is that the great majority of the 970 people remaining on Manus Island and Nauru have been assessed by UNHCR and Border Force officials as legitimate refugees. They have committed no crime. All they have done is to exercise their legal right under the Refugee Convention to seek asylum in this country. Australia and nearly every country in the world is a signatory to this Refugee Convention.
Surely it is time to end the persecution and cruelty that these people have endured for six long years. They should be immediately resettled in Australia, the USA, New Zealand or another safe country.

Paul Bartholomew
Boambee East

23 February2019

Printed on 28 February 2019  in The Guardian News with a big heading as main letter of the week.

Dear Editor,

Our Home Affairs Minister , Peter Dutton, has awarded a contract worth half a billion dollars over two years to a company registered to a beach shack on Kangaroo Island . The company,  Paladin Holdings, has been awarded the tender to provide security and administration for the Manus Island Detention Centre . Paladin Holdings is being paid $20 million each month for this service of which $17 million is estimated to be profit. There was no open and proper tendering process for this contract.

Why does our government prefer to spend such vast amounts of taxpayers’ money, most of which goes directly into the pockets of private providers, rather than spending a small fraction of this amount bringing these refugees to Australia and giving them a fresh start in life ?

Many of the men detained on Manus Island have been skilled workers and professionals in their home countries and they would have much to contribute to our communities. 

It’s time to put an end to this deliberately cruel and inhumane policy .
Many of us were taught to believe that Australia is the country of ‘The Fair Go’. We are good at talking the talk and now we need to walk the walk.

Marlene Griffin
Valla Beach

15 February 2019

Three lies

The Morrison/ Dutton claims following the passage of the medical evacuation bill are dramatic, designed to confuse and are lies.

Lie number  1- ‘the boats will restart’. The boat trade never stopped! Some 15 boats each carrying 100 refugees left Indonesian shores each year from 2014 to 2018. That’s  a total of 6,000.

Lie number 2- there will be a ‘flood of boat arrivals to our shores’. None of the 6000 refugees leaving Indonesia from 2014 to 2018 became ‘boat arrivals to our shores. Our Navy detected them as they entered our waters and sent them back to Indonesia.

Lie number 3, ‘we must open the detention centre on Christmas Island’. Why? Refugees leaving Indonesia are detected in turn back and sent back to Indonesia. Christmas Island has no place in the turn back operation. 

Try listening to the blatherings of these two and run a fact check on them.  Trump’s record is 85 lies/100 statements. These two give him a good run!

Dr Michael Blockey

Letter to Bellingen Courier Sun

2 February 2019

Refugees and asylum seekers
Dear reader,
 I am saddened by the way both the Coalition and the ALP play upon our fears in their treatment of both refugees and asylum seekers under the pretext of border protection. Firstly they imply that they have broken Australian laws, but won’t test it in a court of law, secondly they try and de-humanise them by not referring to them by name and thirdly their trauma is continued by the way they are treated in detention. The whole aim is to desensitise us to their trauma and to get us used to suspending our natural empathy towards someone in distress. Yet these same people harp on about giving people a “fair go”, hypocrites I cry.
Good leaders unite a nation, not divide it. So I urge people to let their candidates know that if they want your vote, they need to demonstrate some empathy to those in need.
Robin Hesketh


Letter to Fairfax Newspapers and Coffs Coast Advocate

15 January 2019

Dear Editor
A few months ago, there were more than 200 children trapped on Nauru. Following the national campaign to get children off Nauru, in which a local support group for asylum seekers and refugees played an energetic part, the number of children remaining on the island is down to single figures. We now need to redouble our efforts, both locally and nationally, to evacuate the remaining 1000+ asylum seekers and refugees from Nauru and Manus.
You can help these people by writing to or phoning both current politicians and candidates for the federal election. Pressure from the public does work especially in an election year.

Margaret Henley

16 December 2018

letter to Coffs Coast Advocate

No Merry Christmas on Nauru or Manus Island

Spare a thought this Christmas for the more than 1200 people who are about to spend their 6th Christmas detained indefinitely on Nauru or Manus Island. Some have been separated from their families living in Australia all this time.
These people have committed no offence. They have simply exercised their legal right to seek asylum in Australia in order to escape war, persecution or torture in their home countries.
Surely we can stop pretending to use these detainees as pawns to supposedly deter people smugglers. Both the Government and Opposition have authorised the Australian Navy to turn back any boats that attempt to bring asylum seekers to Australia.
After more than 5 years incarcerated in cruel and inhumane conditions in these detention centres these people are bereft of hope.
There have now been 7 deaths on Manus and 5 on Nauru. Many more have tried to kill themselves. In recent months on Manus one man tried to hang himself, another tried to set himself on fire, and a third swallowed razor blades and nail clippers. Yet the Australian Government has cut mental health support in half and ended torture and trauma counselling.
It is clear that the situation is at crisis point. This cruelty must stop.
We must demand that the Government end offshore detention immediately and bring these long-suffering people to Australia or another safe third country.

Paul Bartholomew

Boambee East

15 December 2018

letter recommending book by Manus Island detainee

In the SMH Spectrum published December 8-9 a group of Australian writers told us about the books they loved in 2018. Five of these writers recommended a book that I have just finished reading. It is called  “No Friend but the Mountain” by journalist and Manus Island detainee, Behrouz Boochani. Eminent writer Michelle de Kretser wrote…”Boochani bears lucid, poetic and devastating witness to the insane barbarity enacted in our name”.
I also recommend this book. We bought our copy at a Coffs Harbour bookshop.

Georgina Spinaze

28 November 2018

Turn back hasn’t stopped the boats
There is considerable disagreement within the Coalition about turn back. Morrison has always claimed that turn back stopped the boats, or more specifically that he had stopped the boats. Peter Dutton, who followed Morrison as Immigration Minister (IM), never challenged that claim.
But 3 months ago he and Morrison had a bruising tussle for the PM job. And to punish Dutton for running against him, Morrison relieved Dutton of his job as IM. Dutton was vengeful. What better way to hurt Morrison than to burst his bubble about turn back. In parliament he told us that Morrison was lying, that the boats had never stopped. He said that, in the last 4 years, some 33 boats carrying 3300 refugees had taken to the high seas heading for Australia, a rate of 825/year
Which of the two combatants is correct? There is no evidence to support Morrison’s claim. But there are two pieces of evidence to back Dutton’s figures.
First, the Immigration Department (ID) stated that 1500 refugees had been turned back by our Navy in 2014. So a year into turn back, the boats had not stopped.
Second, Matt Broomfield, a journalist who writes for New Arab, was in Indonesia in October 2017. He went to detention camps and found 4700 of Australia’s refugees there. The other refugees in Indonesia were people waiting to board boats. They were not yet Australia’s refugees. He concluded that the 4700 refugees held in the camps were refugees turned back by our Navy. They told Matt they started arriving in the camps in 2014, the year turn back began.  This is about  940/year turned back and dumped into camps, not too different from the 825/year claimed by Dutton.
I conclude that the beastly Dutton is right and once again, Morrison is lying.
In short, the boats never stopped!

Dr  Michael Blockey

24 November 2018

With so many issues clamouring for media attention lately, it’s no wonder the plight of the poor, traumatised people still locked away in remote Nauru and Manus Island have faded from media attention. We need to remind ourselves that their plight is our responsibility, because the barbarous treatment they still receive (out of sight) after five years is done in our name. Both Labour and Coalition parties have acted in contravention of Human Rights agreements. We cannot turn our backs.
Nor can we accept the blatantly distorted argument that they’re locked in the prisons as a deterrent to other would-be boat arrivals. The boats are stopped now, thanks to militant Australian border protection strategies. So the cruel treatment inflicted on vulnerable children and adults is also pointless.
Elections are happening: Victoria last Saturday, NSW next March, and a Federal election due any time before May 2019, so the current Morrison government, rather than change policies, is quietly having desperately ill and mentally disturbed children flown from Nauru to Australia for treatment. The unstated aim seems to be to dispose of these people from the two ‘concentration camps’ (they are this, in effect) so that by election time it will no longer be an embarrassment for them.
New Zealand has offered to take 150 asylum seekers each year, but the only way this government will consent is on the proviso that they never be permitted to enter Australia, as is normal with New Zealand citizens. This is not good enough.
We must keep this issue alive in the public domain. We cannot rest until we force our political leaders to close these barbarous centres and allow the suffering people holed up there to become citizens here or in New Zealand. Thirteen have died there already in our name. They are not terrorists. They are humans like us, but not so lucky.   
Suzanne Ferris

20 November 2018

letter sent to Nambucca Guardian, Bellingen Courier Sun and Coffs Advocate and publication confirmed in Nambucca Guardian News

A Million Dollars a Day !!!

The  Brisbane-based company, Canstruct,  was awarded a contract last year to provide “ welfare and garrison services” for running Australia’s offshore immigration detention centre on Nauru. With a turnover of $212 million during 2017  the company has made a very healthy profit through overseeing the misery and hardship of  asylum seekers and refugees detained  on the island. 

News was announced this week that the company’s contract has now been extended to April 2019 . The extension comes with a hefty increase in payment from $28.9 million to $34.4 million per month. That works out at more  than a million dollars a day to maintain our government’s cruel detention regime.

In addition, our government spent $326,000 in  legal costs last year fighting requests for the  medical transfer of desperately ill children and families requiring medical care in Australia. We as Australian tax payers are footing these astronomical  bills. 

It would cost much less than 10% of this astronomical sum to settle these families in the community in our own country . The asylum seekers on Nauru  have committed no crimes and under international law they are entitled to seek our protection. 

It is not necessary to detain people indefinitely on remote islands to keep our borders secure. Our navy is employed to protect our borders as part of a rigorous border protection plan so why do we need to continue to keep families in offshore detention ? There is a rising tide of opinion stating that we want this cruel policy to end. Let it be soon. 

Marlene Griffin

Valla Beach

28 October 2018

I hope that many of the readers of the Courier Sun noticed that last Thursday Oct 25th, one of the Government's own MP, Julia Banks, stood up in parliament and said “ We have a humanitarian obligation to get these children and their families off Nauru”

I believe there are very many Australians who support Ms Banks’ statement and I encourage those of you who are reading this to write to Ms Banks, praising her for her words. It is time we welcomed all asylum seekers and refugees on both Nauru and Manus Islands either to Australia or to New Zealand.

The boats have been effectively stopped by a large flotilla of both Australian and Indonesian navy boats and keeping legitimate asylum seekers marooned on these islands is doing nothing to deter future asylum seekers attempting to sail to Australia.

Margaret Henley


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