John Yu, Lydia Miller, Tom Uren & Susan Connelly
Today is Palm Sunday, and in the Christian tradition that provided me with my early values, it was a day where we bore witness to our beliefs in the days leading to Easter. That is why it is so appropriate that on Palm Sunday we join with other Australians, especially our friends who may choose different beliefs, to publicly declare our opposition to and our abhorrence with the inhuman manner in which refugee seekers are being treated in our country. I am delighted that so many of you share that concern.
I do not question the government's right to determine who shall stay in Australia, but I cannot condone the systematic destruction of the hope and spirit of people who have suffered hardship and pain to reach our shores. They are people who believe that they have been or are at risk of being persecuted in their own country. They are not illegal until their refugee status has been tested.
My primary concern is for the fair and humane treatment of children and young people. There is no justification in having children in detention, in having children behind barbed wire and bars. It is inconceivable that some of these children are there without their families, totally dependant on the good will and generosity of other adult detainees. These children live in fear, feeling unwanted and driven to despair. Is it any wonder that they do desperate things?
What we are ensuring is that these children and youngsters will grow up to be scarred adults whether that be in Australia or elsewhere. This is not the caring, fair go country that we know and love. Edmund Burke, in 18th century England said: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing". Let Palm Sunday 2002 be the beginning of some hope for those children because we just by being here, are doing something.
"We live in dangerous times."
The human family
I give my respect and honour the Gadigal and their ancestors on whose lands I speak. Australia has been a land of migration since 1788. It is one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world today. It is a country where peace and justice prevail, through the commitment of many people who believe that the rights and freedoms of human beings should be upheld. Today is testimony to the strength and will of that commitment. Just as we as citizens of Australia expect our rights to be obser