Officers and Board members of the Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District travelled to Hobart over 10-13 October to participate in the FECCA 2019 conference. Several staff members made presentations to the Conference, and Board Members spent time gaining valuable insights.
Highlights from this conference included the launch of FECCA’s Reconciliation Action Plan, the many inclusions in presentations of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the oft-repeated maxim that multiculturalism must move forward and work for an inclusion of the Uluru Statement of the Heart in both the national conversation and the Constitution.
October is Mental Health Month and we heard much information about Mental Health and settlement: new arrivals, boat people, refugees and asylum Seekers. The impact of the journey and the endless waiting for a resolution to asylum and refugee status causes much mental suffering, particularly for those who came here by boat many years ago.
In another session Emeritus Professor Des Cahill of RMIT spoke on the extreme right and the missing dialogues about the activities of the extremist right groups in Australia. Recently a mosque was defaced and the fellow who was responsible for the Christchurch killings was graffiti as a Saint on the mosque walls. Des Cahill asked, “Where is the debate on these matters?”
Rev. Tim Costello was on the same panel and spoke about the religious discrimination bill and the effect it is having on Australians. The senior fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity said a “toxic” debate around asylum seekers in the past decade had “damaged the Australian soul” and contributed to a paralysing fear of others that had crept into public discourse. “It worries me that some of the loudest voices in terms of faith seem to have the most fear. Their fear of being persecuted as Christians in this country — I don’t get that.
“We’ve just elected our first Pentecostal prime minister who can pray publicly. “It seems to me that fear of the other is where that starts. “Fear paralyses us. I actually think Gandhi got it right, he said, ‘we think the real enemy is hate, it’s not. The real enemy is fear’. Fear of others leads to hate.”
David Manne spoke on Human Rights and Refugee Rights. He shared with us that Immigration policy is immensely complex and challenging. There is no magic bullet. But going forward, Australia can and must develop a plan for refugees that has humanitarian outcomes at its heart. It must end its deterrence and detention strategy and instead treat asylum seekers in accordance with its obligations under the Refugee Convention. It must focus on the plight of people seeking asylum in the Asia-Pacific region — not on how to stop them getting to Australia, but on the root causes of why they’re trying to get there in the first place.