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  • Writer's pictureChandra Roulston

Blog: Take back our Humanity

Just when I thought we could not get any lower in our lack of humanity I was unfortunate enough to hear Parnell McGuinness speak on the ABC program The Drum.

She was arguing that it was justifiable not to bring a 10-year-old suicidal boy from offshore detention to Australia for medical treatment, because if we did medical professionals and advocates would argue for the boy to stay.

A 10-year-old boy. A suicidal child. A child found to be a genuine refugee and an Australian arguing he should be denied lifesaving medical assistance because it might lead to him staying in Australia.

That Parnell considers this 10-year-old’s case as tragic but “collateral damage” in our efforts to protect our borders shows the depth of fear and complete disassociation to humanity that some in our society have reached.

Parnell’s justification is an argument based in fear. She is not the only one who holds the view that if we do this for one person, then the floodgates will open. It is a familiar argument. Fear is an easy commodity to sell and an even easier one to buy.

But are we really losing our humanity that much that we fear a vulnerable child? A child we have detained in our name. A child we have numbered in a strategy to disassociate us from feeling for another human being. A strategy that is clearly working.

We live in a time where generations alive today have lived through unspeakable atrocities and claimed never again, and yet here we are in 2018 and we have people justifying the denial of medical assistance to a child and classing them as collateral damage in the name of protectionism. This is what fear buys, inhumanity.

My faith was restored, in some sense, when the other members on the panel raised responses to Parnell’s comments. Karen Middleton noting that we have a legal and moral duty to the people we incarcerate. While Francis Leach rightly noted that in a week where we are asking what having cheating cricketers says about us as a Nation, should we not also ask the same question about the damage done to people in offshore detention and what that says about us.

Right now, our actions as a Nation are not reflecting the society many of us seek. Only we can change that. Our humanity is not completely lost but we must hold on to it. We must keep pushing to restore it. We have to breakthrough and we must do it through contrast and opposition. Not in retaliation.

We must change numbers for names. Fear for compassion. Inhumanity for humanity.

The amazing turn out for the Palm Sunday rallies around the country on Sunday and the support for Nades and Priya tells me there is hope. The panel responding to Parnell tells me people will stand up.

I believe the reason many people have responded as they have in support of Nades and Priya is because we have shown them for who they are, human beings; a family; a part of our community. We have shared their story and as a result, leaders like Bill Shorten are taking note and stating that they deserve to be treated as more than a number.

This is how we change things. This is how we take back our humanity. Share this family's pictures, share their story, share compassion. Help us reclaim humanity.

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