Issues of Justice: Meeting our Local Politicians
On the 17th of June, a group of senior students, supported by Santa staff and Sam Dariol of Jesuit Social Services, organised and ran a meeting with Greens candidate Ms Alex Bhathal, who was contesting the seat of Batman in the recent federal election. This meeting was part of a process of advocacy training around the issue of asylum seekers. Previously, Santa students had joined with students from Parade College Bundoora for a workshop on political engagement on justice issues and had met with the Labor candidate for Batman, Mr David Feeney, also on the issue of asylum seeker policy.
In the meeting with Alex Bhathal, Santa students directed proceedings, facilitating and setting the context for discussion, and posing key questions regarding Greens policy on asylum seekers. One of our central concerns was the capacity of Greens candidates to impact government policy on issues of off-shore detention of asylum seekers and refugees and boat turn-backs.
Ms Bhathal shared with us her own story of becoming aware of issues surrounding asylum seekers. She was shocked by the Australian Government’s politicisation of the Tampa incident in 2001 and further disturbed by the so-called ‘Children Overboard’ case later in the same year where desperate parents travelling to Australia by boat were falsely accused of throwing their children into the sea.
From that point she began to work for justice for asylum seekers, visiting them in detention, and offering her home as accommodation to refugees or those on temporary protection or bridging visas who were released into the community without government support.
What was striking about Ms Bhathal’s presentation was her awareness of the many opportunities for change and growth within the Australian community and her energy and passion for all forms of justice, especially justice for the most marginalised and vulnerable within our community.
We thank her for her thoughtful and passionate presentation, given in the midst of a demanding election campaign, and deeply appreciate her encouragement to participate in the political process and to use our youthful energy to increase inclusion and understanding within the Australian community.
Alanah Griffiths Year 11 Santa Maria College
Alanah met her local candidates as part of CAPSA Federal Election 2016 project to build capacity for advocacy amongst Catholic school students. You can read more about this work here: http://capsa.org.au/students-meet-candidates/