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Support for Asylum Seekers During World Suicide Awareness Week

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Tags: Multicultural Affairs, Refugees

Ms O'CONNOR (Denison - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I warmly commend the member for Braddon, Mr Jaensch, for that moving and thoughtful contribution.  It is important we find the words and the ways as a community to talk about suicide and the devastating toll it has on people's lives, the loss of life and those terrible spider webs of grief that emanate from someone who has taken their life. 

I would also like to commend Lifeline on the incredible lifesaving work they do every day in our community.  When people are distressed, to know you can ring Lifeline and that there is a voice on the other end of the phone and, more importantly, a listening is critical.  R U OK? Day, an event which began in Tasmania, has now become a national event and nationally recognised as a day on which we remind ourselves to do what we should do every day and that is ask each other if we are okay.  If we have a family member, a colleague or a friend who is clearly struggling, it is important that we ask them if they are okay.  Often all they need to hear is that someone cares about their wellbeing.  For people in our community who are suffering from mental illness, who are enduring a psychotic episode, are bipolar or depressed and anxious, sometimes they are incapable of understanding how much they are valued and how loved they are.

I have attended a number of the Out of Shadows walks in Hobart and, as Mr Jaensch said, they are profoundly moving and quiet events at which we all come together as individuals, many of us who have been affected by suicide.  We remember people we love and have lost. 

When we talk about suicide we need to also recognise there are people in the care of the Australian Government - and I use the term 'care' quite loosely here - who are trapped on Manus and Nauru.  The files that were released by TheGuardian Australia some three weeks ago have within them 2116 incident reports.  Those incident reports talk of innocent people who are either thinking about taking their lives or people who have taken their lives.  Very recently, in Hobart, a young Iranian asylum seeker who had had his application for asylum rejected, Saeed Hassanloo, took his life.  The state of mind of someone who believes there is no hope is very difficult for those of us who are fundamentally optimistic to understand.  I would invite all members of the House to attend the readings of the Nauru files on Friday morning in Franklin Square between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.  Many of us from within the community will be reading out the Nauru files.  The stories of men, women and children in the most abject and desperate circumstances in Australia's name.  They are stories of children who are thinking about death.  They are stories of women who have been sexually assaulted and raped. 

When we talk about the impact of suicide and mental illness in our community, we need to think beyond Australia's borders.  I strongly encourage members of this House, whatever your party's policy is, to come along to Franklin Square on Friday and offer to read some of the files.  We cannot be deaf to the suffering of these people on Manus and Nauru.  We must not be deaf to them; we must bear witness and hear their stories.

I will be reading on the day.  I encourage other members of this House to do so too.  For every person in this place who is compassionate, who wants to see lives reach their full potential, I encourage you ever so strongly to advocate within your own parties to do something about the appalling way we treat asylum seekers in our community.