By Bonny Burrows
Local grandmothers are incensed about the “inhumane” treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.
Sunday 8 October saw Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children (GADRC) La Trobe members protest outside Emerald Community House, demanding the Australian Government stop refugee and asylum seeker suffering and “bring them here”.
And they are due to protest outside MP Jason Wood’s Berwick office on Wednesday 11 October at 11am.
At the weekend the small but fiery group joined tens of thousands of people across Australia to protest against the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.
In recent months, United States authorities have been interviewing and vetting refugees on Manus Island and Nauru but it remains unclear how many Washington will agree to settle.
There are currently 1200 asylum seekers in the two offshore detention centres but Australian policies mean they will not be resettled on the mainland.
GADRC and other groups from across the country, along with McMillan MP Russell Broadbent, have been calling for this to be changed, but to no avail.
Member Judith Taylor said it wasn’t until the release of news outlet The Guardian’s Nauru Files that the general community became aware of the treatment of those in offshore detention.
But even then, Ms Taylor said many weren’t willing to stand up and say “this is wrong”.
“I think they think it’s the government’s problem, that we’re not evil people, the government’s not evil so what they’re doing must be right.
“But when you start reading what’s happen to these people, these people are suffering the most appalling, appalling torture and we’re doing nothing about it.
“I don’t understand why people aren’t getting upset about it.”
That’s why protests such as Sunday’s were important, she said, arguing that nothing would change without community pressure.
“We’ve just got to stop doing this to people, but the trouble is both sides of Parliament are supporting it,” Ms Taylor said.
“We need to put the pressure on.”
Despite the group’s disappointment that only a handful people participated in the local protest, Ms Taylor said it was worth the effort.
“People tooted us, gave us the thumbs up. Given our aim was to inform people we were reasonably happy with ourselves.
“And there was a huge rally in the city, so a lot of people were going there,” Ms Taylor said.
Mr Broadbent voiced his support for the settlement of refugees in Australia in a short speech to Parliament on 16 August, telling the floor it was “time for this Parliament to act to resolve the situation on Manus and Nauru”.
His speech was met with applause but no policy changes have been implemented so far.