"I’ve been a volunteer worker all my adult life, and after 20 years overseas working with indigenous communities and refugees in various countries, I returned home to Australia.
I moved to rural Tasmania, looking for a quieter life in my retirement. This didn’t last long, as I became increasingly concerned about how we were treating refugees. I vividly remember my shock at seeing people who came to us seeking asylum being forced onto buses and imprisoned in offshore detention camps. After many months of calling and writing to politicians, I received a friend request on Facebook. This was the first of the men imprisoned on Manus that I would talk to, and eventually come to call my friend. Over the next few years I would become a regular correspondent with many of the men and became witness to a heartbreaking series of physical, emotional and psychological abuses that became a daily part of life in the Manus camp. I helped in the only way I could – talking to them, listening to their fears, and eventually helping them organise medical and legal documents to be sent to organisations like Doctors for Refugees, the AMA and Amnesty.
Over the last three years I have got to know so many brave, resilient and amazing people. They have so much to offer to any country that provides them refuge: there are world-class sportsmen, engineers, poets, musicians, journalists, scientists, artists. There are those who have never known safety, who have been persecuted for their religion, or for speaking out against political injustice, corruption or censorship. There are people of many religions and those who have lost their faith. They are sons, brothers, fathers, and grandfathers. But for the accident of where we are born, these could be our sons, our brothers, our fathers.
If it wasn’t enough that the accident of being on the wrong boat, at the wrong time, has condemned these people to four years of hellish incarceration, there are some for whom even the slight hope of a U.S. settlement deal or relocation to some third country is not an option. Almost 170 of the men currently on Manus have not been granted refugee status, in many cases due to a flawed determination process. For these men, the imminent closure of the camp leaves literally no options. Some have already been forcibly deported back to danger. Others, like those who fled Iran cannot be returned, or are stateless Rohingya and cannot legally stay in PNG. The only hope for these men is to have their refugee status appealed, so they have at least the slight chance of eventually finding somewhere to settle.
The conditions on Manus are growing worse daily. Sections of the camp are being demolished around the men in an attempt to force them out, power keeps going out and there is not enough food.
Many of my friends have stopped talking to me, or only offer one-word responses.
Our government intends to abandon them. We cannot.
They have nowhere to go. They have no-one else to turn to.
If we don’t act, nobody will."
Check out Anne & Helen's inspiring campaign here:
As well as their completed campaigns below: