At Jesuit Refugee Service Australia (JRS), we have worked with more than fifty children, women, and men who have been medically evacuated from Manus Island and Nauru over the last few years. We have seen first hand how sick people had become on the islands.
A significant number of people on Nauru and Manus Island still languish on the islands with severe physical and mental illnesses that could have been treated, or cured with access to necessary care, and facilities.
In the last two years, a dying cancer patient was refused palliative care in Australia, a child was allegedly raped three times on Nauru before being evacuated to Australia, and a young man in Manus died of preventable sepsis because he was not treated fast or adequately enough.
In this dire context, JRS Australia welcomes the passage of the Urgent Medical Transfers Bill in the House of Representatives and the Senate. If implemented in good faith, the new legislation will ensure that upon the recommendation of two medical doctors, those requiring treatment unavailable in Nauru and Papua New Guinea will be evacuated to Australia for treatment in a timely manner.
JRS Australia Director Carolina Gottardo said, “The passage of the Medivac Bill will provide innocent people with the treatment they need and deserve. Australians should be proud that we as a community, a civil society, and a parliament have chosen to stand for fairness and human dignity in the face of blatant fear mongering.
‘We are a caring and sensible people, and have made it resoundingly clear that our political leaders cannot play politics with human lives. Today’s bill is the culmination of years of community pressure that began with the #LetThemStay campaign in 2017, continued with Kids Off Nauru and the Wentworth4Refugees initiative, and has finally resulted in legislative change.”
JRS acknowledges our civil society partners, the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Greens, and the team of Independent MPs and Senators who formed a ‘Coalition of Conscience’ to take this bill over the line.
We also acknowledge the strong Catholic leadership, spirit of welcome and solidarity for the children, women, and men on Manus Island and Nauru which contributed to the groundswell of pressure leading up to today.
Before Christmas, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Chair of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) issued a powerful statement calling on “politicians to consider a fresh return to Canberra in the new year, intent on putting an end to the intolerable situation on Nauru and Manus Island endured by asylum seekers whose plight continues to be our responsibility.”
Bishop Vincent Long, Chair of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council became an official Ambassador of the Kids Off Nauru campaign.
Sr Libby Rogerson IBVM, chair of Catholic Religious Australia’s social justice committee was part of an interfaith delegation to see Minister David Coleman and Opposition Immigration Spokesman Shayne Neumann on the issue.
Hundreds of parishioners helped put this issue on Dr Kerryn Phelps’ radar during the Wentworth by-election, a spirit that ultimately encouraged her to propose this bill. Across Australia, people wrote letters, called, or petitioned their local MPs; still others offered money, food, and love to families evacuated last year.
We are proud to be part of such a movement.
With thanks to the Jesuit Refugee Service Australia.