#1134 for broadcast on 2CH Sydney, 4 October 2015
Human rights advocate and lawyer Julian Burnside delivered the 2015 Hamer Oration on Monday, saying that when the Tampa incident occurred in 2001, he knew nothing about our refugee policy, but knew it was wrong to treat human beings that way.
Fourteen years on, Mr Burnside remains a tireless advocate of asylum seekers in transit and in Australian immigration detention. On Monday he had this to say:
It is a hard thing to be forced by circumstances to leave the country of your birth in search for a place that is safe … in a country whose language and culture is radically different from your own.
How much worse must it be to find that your bid for freedom ends up with punishment as harsh as anything you might have experienced at home.
Mr Burnside said he had received many messages from asylum seekers saying, in substance: “In my home country they kill you quickly; in Australia they kill you slowly.”
Australia, we can do better.
I’m Rod Benson for the NSW Council of Churches.