Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Get married and live permanently in Australia. That is the choice facing the 9000 or so temporary refugees who are still crying out for help.

The good news is that the government has amended its refugee policy, in response to public opinion. Senator Amanda Vanstone, the Immigration Minister, is on record as saying that the Government has tweaked its much-criticized Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) scheme to give temporary refugees priority access to a pool of mainstream migration visas.

Although the good Senator is not getting soft on illegal migrants, she has made it transparently clear that the rules will be relaxed for those who wish to marry an Australian citizen. Or move to regional Australia for 12 months.

Of course, Senator Vanstone is thinking about marriage of a certain kind: that is the popularly accepted marriage of the Adam and Eve vintage; but not marriage between Adam and Steve, so to speak. Anyway, you get the drift!

Be that as it may, the relationship between marriage and freedom has now been firmly established in the minds of refugees and asylum-seekers who want to call Australia home. Many are rubbing their hands with glee!

But first they have to find the right partner.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


Improvement in literacy and numeracy is one of the greatest challenges of our time. And African children are aware of the nature of the problem because learning English as a second or third language is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Nevertheless, they are beginning to get a better grasp of the extremely liberal teaching and learning culture in Australian schools – a culture that is vastly different from the African school system where punishment for a wrong answer is the order of the day.

For the African child though, making sense of the new system is the real challenge; it is also part of the fun!

But the main objective is to develop an educational program that equips African children with the basic skills necessary to gain access to mainstream education and employment opportunities.

Although research in this area is still in its infancy, anecdotal evidence increasingly points to the link between literacy levels and long-term unemployment in the emerging African communities in Australia – a fact that should be of major concern to educational planners. And parents alike!

In fact, African children are great learners; they come to Australian schools with an open mind - wired to learn; so to speak, but with different cultural and linguistic experiences to begin with, as well as different levels of readiness for school work. It is, therefore, the responsibility of parents, teachers, and the school system (working together) to support their development of literacy and numeracy skills.

Friday, August 20, 2004


The Australian attitude towards asylum-seekers is changing rapidly – a welcome news for refugee advocates throughout the land.

A recent Newspoll report in the Australian newspaper shows that 61 per cent of voters now believe asylum-seekers should be allowed to enter Australia.

There is also a groundswell of support for change in the hard-line system of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) which prevent genuine refugees from staying permanently in Australia; and claiming full citizenship rights.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


The local council wants them to stay. And the decision could allow thousands of temporary refugees or people with Temporary Protection Visas (TPV) living in Australia to stay permanently in the country, if the Norwood, Payneham & St Peter’s amalgamated local government council in South Australia has its way.

The council has passed a motion asking the state government to lobby the Federal authorities on the issue. “The motion is about population, which is a concern of local government”, Councillor David Winderlich said in a recent statement.

“Here we have a long-standing problem and a group of people who have been terribly unlucky in life…We can do the humanitarian thing and do the right thing by them”.

The issue of a rapidly shrinking population is a fundamental one; a major concern for Australian political leaders of all persuasions. And the matter will not be allowed to rest.

In particular, South Australia is really keen to attract higher numbers of migrants and refugees to offset the threat of shrinking population and economic decline.

Currently, there are 9,500 temporary refugees or TPV holders in Australia who are allowed to stay for three years before being returned to their countries of origin, if in the opinion of policy makers, the conditions in their home countries seem to have improved.

The council’s decision is a step in the right direction. It will go a long way to help increase understanding and acceptance of temporary refugees; encouraging them to find a new home in Australia.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


African leaders have condemned the massacre in Burundi of Tutsis refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the current Chairman of the African Union, has called on the Burundi government to investigate the massacre and bring the murders to justice without delay, according to reports emanating from a special summit held in Pointe Noire, economic capital of DRC.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


All fair-minded Australians are genuinely concerned about the treatment of refugees. And would do anything to protect their welfare. The Public Advocate, John Harley, told a recent forum at the University of South Australia that “Australia’s treatment of refugees in detention” leaves a lot to be desired because it has failed the international human rights obligation.

Mr. Harley, who is the Chairperson of a new group, the Coalition of South Australians for Human Rights, would like to see a significant change in policy direction.

In his capacity as Public Advocate, Harley calls for the introduction of the Bill of Rights in South Australia, arguing quite convincingly that such legislation will provide legal protection for people whose rights are infringed by public policy.

Uppermost in his mind is the protection of refugees and the mentally ill.

Monday, August 09, 2004


A recent Australian High Court decision which endorses the Government’s right to keep stateless people in detention for life, has sent a big chill down the spin of asylum-seekers throughout the land.

But critics of this policy will not be silenced. In fact, they continue to argue that asylum-seekers are stateless people; that statelessness is not a crime. Therefore, they should not be detained.

In other words, detaining the stateless people for life is an enormous punishment for a crime they did not commit.

Sunday, August 08, 2004


The High Court of Australia, the highest court in the land, has ruled that the Migration Act gives the government all the legitimate power it needs to detain people indefinitely.

And asylum-seekers who are “stateless or lacked identification” could be detained forever under the law; if the government can find no other country to accept them.

Lawyers and fervent supporters of asylum-seekers draw attention to the ambiguity in the law; arguing that the court should look to the international human rights provisions for guidance on the issue.

Nevertheless, the court’s position remains unshakable - a big win for the Howard government. But bad news for those who want a more liberal asylum policy.

On the whole, the court’s asylum ruling will have a significant impact on the asylum-seekers whose cases are yet to be decided; and on those whose status in Australian society is difficult to determine.

Many Africans will be affected by this decision.

Asylum-seekers beware!

Saturday, August 07, 2004


One day, baby Jamal barely had the strength to cry. His poor mother was extremely worried.

In fact, “Jamal was starving to death and his mother was forced to watch, powerless to prevent it”, said Tim Costello, Chief Executive of World Vision Australia, who has just returned from Darfur in the Sudan.

Baby Jamal’s mother was turned away from the hospital because she had no money to pay for her son’s treatment. “All it costs to save Jamal’s life was $8”. And, at the nick of time, Costello came to the rescue!

The scene of hunger and desperation; of death and decay, has been repeated all over Southern Sudan. Thus, as conflict over land and water resources exploded into widespread violence and lawlessness in Darfur, an estimated 1.2 million people are still living in inhuman conditions in refugee camps, with no help in sight.

An additional 200,000 people have fled their homes and sought sanctuary in the neighbouring country, Chad, as the predominantly Arab militia engage in an orgy of violence and ethnic cleansing.

Meanwhile, the international community is increasing pressure on the Sudanese government to ensure peace and security in Darfur.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


Many Africans now languishing in the refugee camps in Kenya have visas to come to Australia but not the money to make the flight. Their fate totally depends on the random acts of kindness by individuals and groups.

Now, as luck would have it, the Maughan Uniting Church in Adelaide, South Australia, has come to the rescue. The great act of human kindness began in 2003 when the church welcomed its first group of four Sudanese refugees; and has since assisted 38 others to come to Australia. And more are on the way.

The church Minister , the Rev Dr. Elizabeth Vreugdenhil is on record as saying that “the church has found the need to reach out and help bring refugees to Australia” after hearing stories of their great suffering, extreme poverty, and deprivation.

And reaching out to help those in need is what Dr. Vreugdenhil does best. Through her insightful approach, the church’s action has helped save a lot of lives; and has also lifted a lot of people out of poverty. In fact, it has opened up numerous opportunities for African refugees in Australia.

In actual fact, the church does more than helping to facilitate the passage to Australia. It has worked hard to provide a support network for a congregation of about 200 Sudanese who use its facilities for worship every Sunday.

Thus, with a great deal of compassion and humility, the Uniting church groups are actively seeking opportunities to assist in the resettlement of African refugees in Adelaide.

Indeed, this is a great act of faith in humanity and the best gift ever to the emerging African community in Australia.