Saturday, July 18, 2015

Hundreds join silent protest against Border Force Act

"Shamed", "human", "citizen".

These were some of the labels people wrote across their mouths at the silent protest in Perth against the chilling effects of the new Border Force Act.

The protest was in opposition to the threat of penalties for health workers and educators who speak out on behalf of refugees in their care on Manus Island and Nauru. The Act runs counter to the professional ethics of these workers since they have a duty to protect their clients.

300 people joined the protest on the steps of Parliament House. Social workers, teachers, nurses, doctors, students, youth workers, community workers and psychologists were all specifically invited to attend and were well represented on the day.

However the crowd was very diverse.

"We oppose the intimidatory effects of this Act, we support those who have and will speak out against abuse in Australia's detention centres," organisers said in their invitation to the event. "And we will uphold our professional ethics and practice standards over the Border Force Act."

An open letter from health professionals working with families on Manus and Nauru has been published in opposition to the Act.

[Article and photos by Alex Bainbridge, first printed in Green Left Weekly #1061.]