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Issue #1723      March 16, 2016

Gardener’s Tale

At 6am it is still cool enough to take stock of which plants are in danger of succumbing to the heat and take measures to protect the vulnerable. Watering and transferring those too delicate to survive the day’s heat may save some.

It is the same with people. Some seem more resilient than others either through natural disposition or lived experience – who knows. The resilient ones appear externally to survive cruelty and harshness where for others the spirit dies under the onslaught.

Cutting the drooping acanthus leaves away reveals a fern which I did not think would survive and thrive, but hidden in this corner protected by the floppy acanthus leaves, it has tentatively sent forth the fronds of life. Joy to any gardener’s heart is to see a tired unhealthy plant revive.

I think of my friends down the road. If only we had the power to move them from the “factories producing mental illness”. Psychologists explain that their depression, anxiety and mental deterioration are caused by situational factors. Change the situation and their mental health will improve. I think of my rose which was dying behind the fence without enough sun. Moved to a pot and set against a warm brick wall, it is now thriving and rewarding me with delicate blooms.

In 2015 families with babies born in Australia received the ultimate reprieve. Instead of being sent back to Nauru, they were released to the community in Australia. We saw mothers who had been admitted to mother and baby units suffering deep depression, leave the detention camps and thrive. The babies and children too started sleeping through the night. Bedwetting and nightmares faded. These releases were part of a deal with a Minister who crafted the bribe in order to get an omnibus bill of horrors through the Senate. Even this could not sour the joy of seeing these young families released.

I see psychiatrist reports making assessments and recommendations that the patient’s condition will not improve until they are released to the community to recover and heal. These doctor’s recommendations are not favoured by our political masters. As a result doctors have few options to treat. When permitted, they admit the people to psychiatric hospitals for experimental therapies and drugs in lieu of the treatment which will cure their sickness but which the politicians will not allow.

Young women in particular have suffered severely in detention. Many came from the most appalling political, physical and sexual violence with hopes of protection in Australia. Here they are subjected to a loss of freedom and hope which is destroying their minds. They are being subjected to treatments such as TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) where a magnetic coil which emits electric stimulation is placed on the head for 40 minutes daily for 30 days. The patients tell me that they sleep for days on end. They return to the detention centre in a zombie like state struggling to remember the details of their lives. This is a treatment usually recommended as a last resort for Australian patients who have supportive and caring home environments, but who have not responded to the usual therapies. For the people in detention it is a therapy of first resort with heavy doses of drugs because removal from the damaging environment is refused.

Gardeners know that moving a plant to a place more suited to its needs, will see it grow and thrive. Again so it is with people; freedom is a more powerful therapy than any drug or experimental treatment. Yesterday a young boy told me that his destiny was to get out of detention. Such strange words from a child but said in such a heartfelt way. Now another year is ending. The longest refugee in detention faces his eighth Christmas behind the gates. Many others now waiting years in this limbo hell with no reprieve in sight. There are babies born in detention who are now starting to walk and who have never known any other life than this institutional existence. Our Prime Minister says that it is an exciting time to be in Australia. For the people in the maw of the refugee regime and the people witnessing their pain, the PM’s words ring hollow.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

Next article – Safe Schools – Homophobic misinformation campaign

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