Cathy McGowan seeks com­pas­sion for Manus Is­land refugees

Myrtleford Times - - News - By JAMIE KRON­BORG

THE North­ern Vic­to­ria Refugee Net­work has wel­comed a spir­ited chal­lenge by Cathy McGowan (MHR, Indi) for fed­eral par­lia­ment to en­sure the hu­mane treat­ment of asy­lum seek­ers held on Manus Is­land.

Net­work co-or­di­na­tor Freida An­drews said Ms McGowan’s heart­felt call in the par­lia­ment’s Fed­er­a­tion Cham­ber on Au­gust 16 for res­o­lu­tion of the Manus cri­sis meant North East com­mu­ni­ties – and refugee ad­vo­cacy or­gan­i­sa­tions in Bright, Beech­worth and Wan­garatta – were be­ing heard.

An Aus­tralia In­sti­tute sur­vey early last year showed al­most 64 per cent of Indi elec­tors wanted asy­lum seek­ers who were found to be gen­uine refugees to be al­lowed to set­tle in Aus­tralia.

Ms McGowan told par­lia­ment the planned clo­sure by the end of Oc­to­ber of the Manus re­gional pro­cess­ing centre and its med­i­cal care, trauma sup­port and se­cu­rity ser­vices was “adding to a highly stress­ful sit­u­a­tion for those re­main­ing there”.

She said she found the sit­u­a­tion “ex­traor­di­nar­ily dis­tress­ing”.

“My of­fice is flooded with letters, phone calls and calls of the heart – ‘Cathy, what are we do­ing?’” she said.

But she wanted con­stituents and the “large numbers of peo­ple who’ve come to­gether un­der the North­ern Vic­to­ria Refugee Net­work” to know that their con­cerns had been heard.

Ms McGowan said she had been told by a Yackan­dan­dah cou­ple, among oth­ers, of “in­hu­mane and crim­i­nal treat­ment” of asy­lum seek­ers and refugees on Manus Is­land, off the coast of Pa­pua New Guinea.

She had sought and re­ceived a brief­ing from the of­fice of Im­mi­gra­tion and Bor­der Force Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton.

She said she un­der­stood the logic of the gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach but “I don’t get the heart of it”.

“I don’t believe we as a na­tion can be so, so… le­gal­is­tic in our ap­proach,” Ms McGowan said.

“Of course it’s im­por­tant to fol­low the rules, of course – but to lose our heart, to lose our care?

“To my com­mu­nity… I don’t know what else I can do.

“I bring your call of the heart here to the par­lia­ment.

“I talk to my col­leagues in par­lia­ment.

“I say we as a na­tion are much bet­ter than this.

“We are so good at solv­ing so many com­plex prob­lems – and we have a prob­lem in Manus, we know we do.

“But it’s not a rea­son not to ap­ply our best selves, not to ap­ply our Chris­tian prin­ci­ples – to love your neigh­bour as your­self.”

Ms McGowan said she was proud “to be part of a Chris­tian na­tion… but I don’t see what we’re do­ing in Manus is that”.

“While the law is im­por­tant, the heart is more im­por­tant,” she said.

“I know every sin­gle mem­ber of par­lia­ment is hear­ing the same call from con­stituents.”

COM­PAS­SION CALL: Cathy McGowan (MHR, Indi) said in par­lia­ment she found the Manus Is­land refugee sit­u­a­tion as dis­tress­ful

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