Ink Painting – Reza Barati

Reza Barati 2014

Australia has been moving back into harsh ‘detention centre’ policies for many years now. We have used these options many times in our short history. They are horrific, destructive places where people are completely disempowered and suffer a great deal. I once did a research project on our creation of an internment camp on Torrens Island, in which Australians of German origin suddenly found that their new home feared and hated them. There was no trial or right of appeal. Conditions started off reasonably but became brutal over time and under cruel leadership. I read letters the men sent, week after week, to local authorities pleading for better conditions and right of trial. It was painful to witness our brutality, and how readily we forget the shameful chapters of our past while holding other cultures accountable for theirs.

I’m heartbroken by the way we change the rules when things become ‘political’. People who are otherwise for kindness, for generosity, people who decry bullying and abuse, who try to lead decent lives, people who are angry when children are hurt by adults, somehow step back and start talking about the bigger picture, about deterrents and legality. Individual pain becomes irrelevant. Individual responsibility is diffused. The simplicity of the Golden Rule is left behind.

Reza Barati died recently in one of the Australian off-shore camps, at Manus Island. He was a person. He had a life ahead of him, people to love, a world of wisdom and mistakes and joy that has been taken from him.

I didn’t vote for this. I don’t want this. This is not being done in my name. I’m sorry.

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