Australians of the Year call for Manus refugees to be saved






Dear Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten,

We, as former Australians of the Year, representing the hearts and minds of the nation, are deeply concerned about the health and human disaster that is unfolding on Manus Island.

In the coming days, it is inevitable that people will become sick and even die through the lack of basic sanitation, food, water, and medical care.

Australians from all walks of life, from all sides of the political spectrum, are hoping that the Australian Government, with support from the Opposition, will now move to prevent these consequences of neglect. We believe that it is time to stop the unacceptable and internationally criticised treatment of the refugees on Manus Island, who, though innocent of any crime, have been incarcerated and now abandoned there.

This treatment does not represent who we are as Australians, or indeed as human beings.

We should not withhold water from people, nor withhold food; we should not leave seriously ill people to die without medication and treatment.

We are also concerned about Australia’s international reputation in human rights. It seems that both our major political parties have failed to meet their most basic obligations under the United Nations  Refugee Convention, one that our country helped to negotiate and which we signed in 1951.

The irony of Australia’s recent appointment to the UN Council for Human Rights is palpable. Do we now condemn our own actions?

We plead with you to immediately restore all essential services to the men on Manus Island. Please allow the Australian Medical Association to provide medical and preventive care, as they have recently offered, as soon as possible. At the same time please find safe haven for the acknowledged genuine refugees without any further delay.

We cannot see any good for Australia to pursue this policy in connection with Manus Island. We believe that the Australian Government is the one that needs to act in this matter and not the government of Papua New Guinea.

Yours sincerely,

Australians of the Year

2015 Rosie Batty

2013 Ita Buttrose

2011 Simon McKeon

2010 Patrick McGorry

2009 Mick Dodson

2007 Tim Flannery

2005 Fiona Wood

2003 Fiona Stanley

2000 Gustav Nossal

1997 Peter Doherty

1996 John Yu

1983 Robert de Castella


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