It’s about a month out from the fire of July 19. The men have been rehoused in a new camp, back to the old green tents, long waits for showers, mozzies and rats.
Into this mix the government decides to throw a curve ball. Why? Because an election is looming.
So what’s the curve ball?
Someone in Canberra decides that family groups will now be transferred to Nauru from Christmas Island. What a wonderful idea! This will show the Australian public that we mean what we say with regard to asylum seekers and that we can be trusted to run the country for another term!
And, it all has to happen in the next two weeks.
But is it anyone in Canberra who has to make this happen? No…we’ll leave that to the staff of the service providers on Nauru, the same staff who have only just got 400 men resettled after a major traumatic incident.
So, two weeks to level ground, lay gravel, erect tents, organise medical facilities, catering, welfare services, power and phone connections and increase staff for all service providers because now rather than running one centre we’re running two. For the Salvos that meant establishing new teams for education and recreation, for cultural advisors, for general support staff, ensuring that there were case managers who were familiar with working with children. For me that meant I had two sites to oversee with regard to religious needs.
For the first time in my working life I was in a position of being directly impacted by a change in government policy. Not a position I care much for!
I realised how easily the decisions of others can directly and often negatively impact the lives of people. How the decision of someone in an office is seemingly much easier to make than the work it takes to implement that decision. How political decisions are not made in a vacuum but can have a dramatic impact on the lives of many many people.
I don’t know whether politicians make decisions lightly or only after much thought and consideration. However I do know that the consequences of those decisions are far-reaching.
And the impact it had on me was nothing to the reaction of some of the asylum seekers who may have by this time spent a couple of months on Christmas Island only to be transferred to Nauru, to find themselves literally in the middle of seeming nowhere. A number of people were hysterical on arrival, so upset by where they had been taken to…and I couldn’t blame them.
As I drove down the road to the new camp I thought what it must have been like for these people. They didn’t know where Nauru was. It was so hot. The road to the camp wound around and around. The camp itself was just tents, no buildings at all. Fans but no air-con. The camp was in a valley between hills – no breeze to cool it and a rain trap when the monsoons came.
Whoever thought this was a good idea…needed to think again!