Not a week goes by without another story of the damage we are doing to people who have come to seek protection on our shores.
At each new report – of self-harm, mental illness caused by indefinite detention, violence, child abuse, death and disease caused by our negligence – we must recognise, simply, that asylum seekers are people, just like us, with hopes and dreams of enjoying a better life.
Hopes to live in a nation of safety and opportunity; dreams of living free from violence and injustice; regarding Australia, they imagined a land where they could belong, contribute and plan for his future with confidence and certainty.
We see in their hopes and dreams a reflection of our own.
At the same time, as we are intentionally destroying people for the sake of our philosophy of “deterrence”, we also see a new push for Temporary Protection Visasto be implemented for the nearly 30,000 people now in onshore detention or on Bridging Visas around Australia.
We mourn for a nation that would willingly rob tens of thousands of people of the right to be reunited with their families.
A nation that would not offer the certainty, protection and opportunity to contribute that comes with citizenship, but instead would hold people in a state of perpetual insecurity.
We see in our nation a remarkable ability to deny the humanity of others, to not treat people the way we would like to be treated.
We see that division and prejudice are useful tools for gaining political support, and that not only asylum seekers, but also the health of Australian communities and our hard-won social harmony, are expendable in the pursuit of popularity and power.
We must learn to Walk Together. For the sake of asylum seekers, their children and our shared future. For the sake of migrants taking a different journey but sharing the same dreams.
For First Nations people striving for formal recognition. For people of diverse faiths, cultures and backgrounds.
For the sake of healthy communities and for the sake of our future.
It’s time we learned to Walk Together.
It’s time we reminded Australians that no matter who we are, where we come from or how we arrived in Australia – we’re common people with common dreams. We’re all seeking a place of safety, opportunity, belonging and equality. We all want to contribute to a society that accepts and values our contribution. We all want to live in a nation where our rights are protected equally, not because of our visa status, but because of our humanity.
We know that fear and division don’t help build better communities – and we believe that friendship, inclusion and compassion are the foundations of a better future for all people.
We’re common people, with common dreams. It’s time to Walk Together.
Brad Chilcott is the National Director of the Welcome to Australia organisation. For more information on the Walk Together initiative, please see walktogether.welcometoaustralia.org.au