Parade Students meet candidates for Batman
Winston Churchill once said that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” As we approach the last couple of weeks of a very long federal election campaign, it is timely for us to remember how lucky we are to live in a reasonably well-functioning democracy.
Recently senior students from Parade College had the opportunity to engage with two people running for the federal seat of Batman: Greens candidate Alex Bhathal and current ALP member for Batman, David Feeney. Parade Preston is in this electorate, one which is going to be a close contest between Labor and the Greens.
When Alex Bhathal visited “The Cage” she spoke about how she was so outraged by the Tampa event in 2001 that she decided to run for Parliament. She has run in five elections since and continues to believe that Australia can do more for those seeking safety, including increased humanitarian intake, faster processing and a more compassionate and less demonising political response. Alex engaged with students around their personal stories of immigration and emphasised the importance of multiculturalism in the Batman electorate and in Australia generally.
Following on from this meeting, a politically-passionate group attended a meeting with David Feeney at Santa Maria College, Northcote. The day was organised by the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) and the aim of the day was to dialogue with Mr Feeney around his personal position, and that of his political party, on the issue of Australia’s response to asylum seekers.
Parade students were proud and confident as they represented the College, some telling personal stories of their families seeking refuge, others challenging Mr Feeney around ALP policy, particularly around off-shore detention, indefinite detention and the detention of children. Parade and Santa Maria students acknowledged that this is a complex issue but expressed their hope that whoever wins the seat of Batman will advocate for people seeking safety.
The students lobbied for the Australian government to work more closely with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and strongly stated that they hoped for changes that would maintain hope and uphold the human dignity of asylum seekers, particularly children.
Advocacy in Action: Meeting with David Feeney MP
Parade College was invited, alongside Santa Maria, to speak to the ALP candidate for Batman, David Feeney, in the hope of bringing about awareness and possible change to the detention of asylum seekers. After a preparation session with the Santa Maria students, many of us were eager to speak to David Feeney. With the formalities over, Mr. Feeney faced a barrage of questions which forced his political side to make a stand on the day. With no Dorothy Dixers in play, the questioning brought about an intense political discussion with both sides of the spectrum bringing about good points.
Personally I enjoyed this session, as not only was it a valiant strike at solving a problem, but it was clear to all of the Parade students that we were more than capable of holding our own in a political discussion. The experience is something I would highly recommend, even if you aren’t a politically informed individual. I would definitely put my hand up if an opportunity like this arises again.
Reflection from Joseph Lanciana Yr 11.