LET THEM STAY: Anne Tuart founder of The Lismore Amnesty Action Group.
LET THEM STAY: Anne Tuart founder of The Lismore Amnesty Action Group. Sophie Moeller

Letter to the editor - The Rule Of Law

I WAS not an activist. I live in Australia. We are nice, hospitable people who believe in a fair go for all. We believe in rule of law, don't we?

On February 17, 2014, Riza Barati was murdered by his guards in the Manus Island detention facility.

When I heard this on the news I assumed people would be held to account and the facility would be closed, the asylum seekers moved to safety in Australia.

We can't go around allowing people to be killed. Nothing happened. Two Australian Wilson Security guards were repatriated to Australia and live in Townsville.

I was living in Townsville at the time. A PNG national was charged and sentenced. He escaped, hasn't been apprehended and, as far as I know, lives on Manus.

This was too much for me. I needed to learn more. I joined the local Amnesty group.

I had been living in a bubble.

The truth is being hidden from the public. Is the media apathetic or controlled by vested interests? The government passed laws preventing people speaking out.

I moved to Lismore and intended to join the Lismore Amnesty group.

There wasn't one. We started a group on October 17, 2015. We wrote letters. One night someone said: "I am not driving into town just to write letters. We need to do something”. So it began.

On February 18, 2016, there was a "Let Them Stay” rally in front of the federal member's office. Sixty-two people came. I said "okay, same time next month” but people wanted to do it all again next week! That was 2.5 years ago now. The next vigil had 43 people and slowly the number has reduced to a core 12.

We have held many activities including two marches around the CBD with 250 people in attendance. We have a stall on the first Sunday at the car boot market, we have done street theatre and organised movies on human rights.

We seek appointments with our federal member and write him a letter every week.

Last week marked five years of indefinite detention of people who have broken no law. I get deeply upset and try not to think about the awfully inhumane treatment of these poor people.

I try to keep focused on what I can do. If I dwell on it I just start to cry.

All I do is rally the troops and get things organised but the ALP is planning to discuss the party's asylum and refugee policy at the upcoming national conference in Adelaide.

We urge delegates to heed the reports of the wide range of NGOs, human rights groups and professionals in the field who have been consistently calling for an end to the crushing and punitive treatment of people detained indefinitely offshore.

It is time to put this shameful chapter in our history behind us.

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