Australia's mandatory detention policy for asylum seekers has long been a stain on our international reputation. As of January this year, 1061 people — including 146 children — were locked up in immigration detention facilities, with no indication of when or how they would be released.
Thankfully, that could all change with the High Court this week ruling that indefinite immigration detention is unlawful.
Like many in our community, I have been appalled by how our nation has treated asylum seekers over the years. In 2015, I worked with the 'We're Better Than This' campaign to protest the cruel conditions in which children were being detained, particularly on Nauru and Christmas Island. More recently in Parliament I have used North Sydney's voice to second the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2022, and to draw attention to the Government's inhumane, immoral, and frankly wasteful spending on offshore detention of refugees.
With the latest UNHCR Mid-year Trends Report estimating that there are now a staggering 114 million people displaced by war and conflict, it is clear that we in the lucky country can and should do more to support those in desperate need. Our government has agreed to grant residency to 20,000 asylum seekers next year but that still falls short of the initial promise of 27,000 places. I’m sure many would agree: we are better than this.
Parliamentary sittings resume in Canberra next week and I look forward to continuing to work with the Parliamentary Joint Committee for Human Rights, and with my team on a proposed Royal Commission into Australia’s Immigration Detention Policies.
Over the past few months, my team and I have heard from a number of North Sydney residents who have been affected by lengthy, nationwide delays to Centrelink services, particularly Age Pension claims.
Services Australia is hiring 3,000 additional staff to address these delivery issues. In the meantime, my team has been in regular contact with Services Australia Chatswood, including visiting their new office last week to draw attention to the needs of local residents and advocating for those in urgent need.
If there is anything that we can help you with, please do get in touch.