Stop with the selfish stance
People fleeing Afghanistan need our help, not negative public attitudes towards them
COVID-19 has changed us forever.
In some ways that will be for the good.
We might emerge from this pandemic a more resilient society.
But the coronavirus has also revealed a fundamental flaw.
We’ve developed a selfishness that would once have seemed alien to the Australian character.
And it seems the less we’ve been exposed to Covid, the more selfish we’ve become.
On Wednesday, Nine News Darwin posted a straight news report to its Facebook page about the arrival in the NT of hundreds of people rescued from Afghanistan.
Here’s a sample of the comments posted on the story:
“I hope after quarantine they then go to detention centre to be processed accordingly.”
“Should be 21 days quarantine just to ensure the safety of the rest of the population. Just my thoughts.”
“Here we go into lockdown again.”
“Yet actual Australian citizens can’t get back into there (sic) country.”
“Welcome terrorists let’s just bring the war to out (sic) own country.”
“Be (sic) they’ll all get housing n benefits.”
“Question why here like seriously why not some where (sic) else.”
What on earth have we become? These people, many Australians, the rest Afghans with Australian visas, have escaped from hell, and our biggest concern is that they might endanger our Covid-free utopia.
Would we prefer to see the men on that flight killed and the women forced to be the slaves of their male Taliban masters, just on the odd chance we might otherwise have to work from home for a couple of days?
Others seemed concerned these people might take our jobs, seemingly unaware we have so many jobs here we have to import workers from the Pacific Islands and East Timor to pick our fruit.
Asylum seekers have become a political football in recent times. Ahead of the 2010 election, Darwin was ground zero in this battle.
Our televisions were flooded with ads featuring opposition leader Tony Abbott and the CLP’s candidate Natasha Griggs telling us they’d stop the boats.
Not to be outdone, Labor prime minister Julia Gillard arrived in town, bizarrely accompanied by David Bradbury, the member for Lindsay in Western Sydney, to sell her regional processing policy.
“Whether you reside in Darwin, you reside in Sydney’s west, or you reside in any other part of the nation, Australians are concerned when they see boats on our horizon,” Ms Gillard said.
Yet we weren’t always so concerned. On April 26, 1976, the first boatload of refugees from Vietnam arrived in Darwin Harbour.
The 20-year-old captain Lam Binh, his younger brother and three friends made the treacherous 3500km journey to escape the Vietcong following the fall of Saigon.
On their arrival, Darwin welcomed them with open arms.
Many more would follow, among them 23-year-old Hieu Van Le, who would go on become the South Australian Governor.
As he stepped down from the role this week, Mr Le noted the similarities between his situation and what we are witnessing in Afghanistan today.
He said he hoped his story would encourage Australians to take a more positive view to the contribution refugees have made to our country.
“I hope that the story will tell to all Australians how fortunate we are to live in this country, and we are able to embrace people from other parts of the world, from all walks of life, and give them the opportunity,” he said
“And if they have the opportunity to thrive, they’re becoming the contributors to enrich our life in many, many ways and then improving and continuing to make our country one of the best countries in the world and one of the luckiest countries in the world.”
Others seemed concerned these people might take our jobs, seemingly unaware we have so many jobs here we have to import workers from the Pacific Islands and East Timor to pick our fruit
If Australia is the Lucky Country, then here in Darwin during Covid we’ve won Powerball 10 times over.
Surely our hearts have not hardened so much that we can’t share a little bit of that luck with people in need.