Imagine being held for four years in a foreign country with no idea what will happen to you after those four years end. Where is your family? You do not know. You are trapped behind a wire fence, powerless and voiceless.
This session, featuring Roger Cohen, Madeline Gleeson, and Jock Serong, chaired by Southern Cross University Vice Chancellor Adam Shoemaker was dedicated to ‘talking about stories which matter’, giving a voice to asylum seekers, and questioning Australia’s ethical involvement in offshore detention.
The discussion opened with Serong, author of On the Java Ridge, who pointed out the eerie fact that dystopian political fiction appears to be anticipating reality.
Throughout the session there appeared to be a consensus that Australia’s policy regarding offshore detention is shocking and bewildering.
Cohen, a columnist for The New York Times, explicitly expressed his disbelief at the Australian government. He recalled an anecdote of one of his first visits to Australia, during which he was reading an article regarding Manus Island in one of the leading newspapers.
‘It just leaped out to me that Peter Dutton was an idiot,’ he said.
He said that it was hard to believe that Australia was placing refugees in offshore detention, given Australia’s history as a penal colony where the British government sent its convicts to be out of sight and out of mind.
Now, given that Australia continuously promotes itself as a human rights advocate, he said that he felt ‘absolutely uncomfortable’ by our policy on offshore detention.
‘This is a stain for Australia,’ he said.
‘You cannot use cruelty towards 2,500 people as a deterrent,’ he said, which was met by a large round of applause.