LETTERS TO THE EDITOR | Transfer Nauru children, combating graffiti and drug-law reform

Generic image: Pixabay

Generic image: Pixabay

The St Vincent de Paul Society has urged the Federal Government to immediately remove asylum-seeker and refugee children and their families from Nauru, following an escalation in reports of catastrophic mental and physical ill health.

We urge Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum to support the immediate transfer of these children and their families from Nauru to Australia to get medical care. We’ve consistently raised concerns about off-shore processing and called for a durable and safe solution for all the men, women and children who remain trapped on Manus Island and Nauru.  

Recent deterioration of conditions on Nauru, the withdrawal of medical care by Médecins Sans Frontières and disturbing reports of children self-harming and refusing food and water show we must act now.

Earlier this week, St Vincent de Paul Society joined 62 faith-based organisations in a joint letter to the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition, urging them to bring the 85 children and their families to Australia and settle them here or in an appropriate third country that welcomes them.

The future remains uncertain for these children and about 1420 asylum-seekers and refugees who remain in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.  Fewer than 450 refugees have been resettled under the US deal, nearly two years after the deal was struck.

St Vincent de Paul, which has an active presence on Manus Island, stated that a similar emergency to that on Nauru is unfolding on Manus Island, with many cases of acute mental and physical ill health being untreated.

The human cost of off-shore processing has been profound and urgent action is required to stop further harm and loss of life. After enduring five years of deplorable conditions, endless uncertainty and substandard healthcare, the only humane and responsible option is to immediately secure and identify durable and safe solutions for everyone still languishing on Manus Island and Nauru, including acceptance of the New Zealand offer.

FRANK BRASSIL

Spokesperson, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council  

Let’s do better with graffiti

It’s time to come up with creative and fun ideas to remove and prevent graffiti vandalism. That’s what we did for Graffiti Removal Day last Sunday. Graffiti vandalism affects all types of property, such as community centres, libraries and sports facilities as well as homes and businesses. The day draws attention to the fight against graffiti vandalism and encourages people to get involved in removing and stopping it. Last year volunteers across NSW removed over 30,000 square metres or five football fields of graffiti from 460 sites. This year our focus was on not only removing ugly graffiti but also encouraging community groups to come up with ideas to deal with it.

We worked with Rotary and Lions Clubs, Scouts Australia, Girl Guides and Australian Air Force Cadets, churches and schools as well as local councils. Some councils and community groups made murals to cover walls regularly covered in graffiti and others planted trees. Volunteers were given free cleaning material, paint, safety equipment and training by our sponsors Dulux, Techni-clean, Australian Rail Track Corporation and Selleys. Football legend Mark Geyer was our event ambassador.

Thank you to all our volunteers

BOB AITKEN

Chairman, Graffiti Removal Day

Branson urges drug-law reform

Richard Branson became a passionate drug-law reform advocate after trying to help Boy George get treatment for a heroin addiction. Speaking at the launch of the Fair Treatment campaign at Sydney’s Town Hall, Branson recounted how several decades ago he had invited Boy George to his Oxford home with a health professional, to help with his addiction.

“Unfortunately the press found out where he was and the police came to arrest him,” he said. “I remember myself, Boy George and this doctor crawling through the undergrowth to a church graveyard where there was a car waiting. We managed to get to the car and escape but I heard a week later the police arrested Boy George and that was the end of his treatment. I thought this is just wrong. We need to start dealing with drugs as a health issue and not as a criminal issue.”

Sir Richard spoke on a panel with the medical director of the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, Dr Marianne Jauncey and the executive secretary of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Dr Khalid Tinasti to launch the Fair Treatment campaign.

Fair Treatment is led by the Uniting Church in NSW/ACT involving 55 organisations, including legal, medical, community and church groups. It seeks to create a world where no one dies or is harmed from drug use and people are not penalised by being unwell.

Dr Jauncey said in more than a decade of operations no one had died from an overdose at the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre. “If politicians have a child, brother or sister they wouldn’t want them locked up [for drugs]. They’d want them to get the best treatment,” Branson said.

JOE HUGHES

Account Director, Mango Communications

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