An Australia day reflection

In a thoughtful piece entitled ” We all interpret the meanin of ‘Australian’’ — and ‘‘unAustralian’’ — through th prism of our own prejudices.”, social researcher and author Hugh Mackay writes

Moral blindness is, of course, a very contemporary problem as well. With the encouragement of leaders on both sides of politics, we risk becoming morally blind to our responsibilities towards those who have come here as refugees seeking asylum. We can tip-toe around this and speak of human rights abuses, or a failure to honour our international treaty obligations. But why mince words in the face of the intentional brutality – psychological and physical – being inflicted by Australia on asylum-seekers, including children, imprisoned in our offshore detention centres? Why not call our asylumseeker detention policy what it is: immoral.

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It’s immoral because it treats people who have committed no crime as if they were criminals. It’s immoral because it fails to honour a moral principle we would normally claim as one of Australia’s core values: fairness. It’s immoral because it fails the basic test of human decency: treating other people with dignity and respect. Would we really enshrine ‘‘the end justifies the means’’ as a principle to be celebrated on Australia Day?

He concludes by saying:

If Australia Day is for pondering Australian society – rather than simply rejoicing in the fact that we’re here, and it’s summer – perhaps we should stop asking ‘‘what is an Australian?’’ and focus on the kind of society we are creating.    There is much to be proud of, much to celebrate, much to look forward to.    But we should also acknowledge that all is not well. Millions of Australians, many of them young, suffer from depression or anxiety, domestic violence is rife, and there’s a tougher sense of mistrust and intolerance creeping into our culture. Stark and growing income inequality mocks our claim to be an egalitarian society. Social fragmentation and shrinking households increase the risk of loneliness.    On a day like this, we would do well to remember those trapped in the shadows of such trends. They, too, are Australians.

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