All things eventually come to an end.
And so it was with the involvement of The Salvation Army at the Off-Shore Processing Centres on Nauru and Manus Island.
When I found out I was on respite enjoying the Christmas decorations in the city. I was having lunch at Circular Quay and nearly finished some lovely fish and chips when I flicked through Facebook and found an article stating that the Salvos contract wasn’t being renewed. I immediately rang my line manager who confirmed it, at which I promptly burst into tears! What was I going to do with my life now?? I had given my heart to this work and although I knew that I couldn’t do more than another 12 months without being burnt-out I was in no way prepared to think about any other form of work.
I returned to Nauru with a level of anxiousness as I knew there would be staff from other service providers who would gladly “rub our noses in it.” And I wasn’t disappointed, although I didn’t receive any negative comments myself; after all, I was the only “white-shirted Salvo” on the island and that carried a measure of respect. However other staff found the attitudes of some staff both confronting and down-right rude. That rotation was tricky.
Then came my final three weeks. There were changes in leadership and I experienced a certain level of deceit and what felt like betrayal when one of our island contract managers told both me and our leadership team that she wouldn’t be returning to work with any of the other service providers, and then promptly reappeared as the welfare manager for Transfield! That said, those who stepped into her shoes were capable and loyal and in the end we finished the contract with people of integrity at the helm.
I had a personal level of satisfaction in finishing. After the fire of July 2013 being able to provide a communal prayer space for the asylum seekers proved extremely difficult. Prior to the fire there had been two mosque tents, a chapel tent and provision for Hindus to have a shrine. I understood that physical space was at a premium, but as the months went on it appeared to me that DIBP was being deliberately obstructive in this regard. In the last 2 weeks some headway was finally made when the prayer spaces were approved and allocated. I felt that my concerns re obstruction were confirmed when the Transfield manager questioned the procedure for applying for these spaces and the DIBP representative said that it needed to go ahead because it was a contractual obligation for the Salvos; as such I shouldn’t have had to fight for so many months to get it approved!
However, God has his way and on my very last day the tent in the single men’s camp was operational and the tent in the families’ camp was handed over to the leaders of both the Christian and Muslim communities who both were so thankful that they could have a designated space and I left them discussing ways to make it work for both their groups.
My time was done, sooner than I wanted. My work was complete; I had done all that I could do.