What we did doesn’t end today

It seems that we’re extremely close to an announcement that the refugees illegally imprisoned in Australian-funded and managed island trauma factories will be sent to a variety of other countries as part of some byzantine Government negotiations.

I’m writing this quickly to make a point regarding this announcement – the specifics don’t matter. The arrangements don’t matter. What matters is the people (including children) at the centre of all this.

In the coming days, weeks, months and years ahead, these people seem likely to be shipped to new homes. Some of them may be good places. Some of them may not. This is not the point right now.

What will also happen in the coming days, weeks, months and years ahead is that we’ll start to forget. The camps may close, and we’ll start to believe that it was all worth it. That the proven physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse we heaped on these people who dared to ask for our help and protection was worth it.

We’ll start to believe that it’s over. That this nasty part of our social and cultural history is done. We did what we had to do.

But it’s not over. The traumas suffered by these people will stay with them for the rest of their lives. For children who have known little else by the dirt and wire and pain of these places, we have possibly broken them beyond ever being put back together.

What measures will be in place to see what happens to these people? Will we even bother? Even if we do – it will be a bland report dropped on some bureaucrats deaths. They will be far away – where we always wanted them to be. Just not here, we pleaded.

We did what we had to do.

We didn’t have to do any of this. And it doesn’t end in the coming days, weeks, months and years ahead. We must try to remember.

Closing the camps, and sending these people far away, doesn’t change what happened. What we allowed to happen.

By Liam McNicholas

I am an experienced early childhood teacher, writer and advocate. As well as managing community not-for-profit early childhood operations in a variety of roles, I have advocated for children's human rights; the need for investment in early childhood education; and for professional recognition and wages for those working in early childhood education and care.

I am available to be commissioned for freelance writing, editing, event speaking and consulting work.

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