Letters to
the editor

Humanitarian response

The Salvation Army takes serious exception to the inaccurate and deceptive headline and story “Nauru Salvos neglect PTSD staff” (Chris Shearer, February 14-20). This article also contained many misleading and frankly offensive claims. It must be stressed, the Salvation Army paid for all counselling and medical support provided to staff. Employees were proactively approached and reminded they had free 24-hour access to an independent, on-island, medical health provider (PsyCare). This service was available to all staff whilst they were on deployment and was extended to staff and their families upon their return to Australia. Further, the Salvation Army had a range of initiatives in place to support staff on- and off-island. These included extensive pre-employment screening and psychological testing, pre-deployment briefings, and further screenings and psychological follow-ups on-island and post-deployment. In addition, PsyCare provided a follow-up service to all employees at the conclusion of our contract.

– Sharon Callister, CEO humanitarian mission services, Salvation Army

Another voice from Nauru

The courage of the young Salvo staff continues to be outstanding; it was my privilege to work with these amazing people. I, too, was on Nauru in the Salvos team and at one stage was part of its “middle management” (the threat and intimidation of legal action has kept me silent). I commend Nicole, Chris, Mark and the others who created opportunities for imprisoned asylum seekers. The staff worked 12-plus-hour shifts, six days a week in the heat, horror and trauma of refugee “detention” and remained enthusiastic about “life” with the detainees. Staff wearing the “Salvo” badge went the extra mile to play soccer, volleyball and cricket, to argue and fight for the chance to take the men to the harbour for a swim, to hold concerts and make sure cultural events were recognised. Thank you, Chris Shearer, for giving our heroes a voice. 

– Maggie Ko, Brisbane, Qld

Religious organisations in the marketplace

It is not surprising that the Salvation Army’s $74 million contract to service the psychological and social needs of refugees on Nauru and Manus centred mostly on an unqualified workforce who were not members of their religious organisation. That these mostly unqualified workers were intimidated into not using psychological services that were available represents the worst aspects of profiteering. When there exists only a very small community membership wishing to support your belief systems, what do you do? Apparently if you are registered as a legal religious organisation you morph into a retailer, a land developer, an employment agency, an aged-care provider and a tenderer to take care of the social and psychological needs of refugees, but not those of your unqualified workforce. Isn’t it sad what Christian religious organisation such as the Salvos have done to some children and workers in their care. No wonder I am an atheist! 

– Dr Ellak I. von Nagy-Felsobuki, Arcadia Vale, NSW

We cannot forget the children

When the boats were stopped, asylum seekers went off the agenda. But for those already in Australian immigration detention, the misery continued. The Forgotten Children report tells the story of the children in detention, the most powerless and the most likely to suffer lifelong effects from their cruel and inhuman treatment by our government. The timing of the report has been criticised. Its message, that the policy of detaining asylum seekers has harmed the health and wellbeing of hundreds of children, is unlikely to be well received at any time. In fact, that message has been given many times to this government, to the previous government and to the one before that, by the Human Rights Commission, by the UN human rights treaty bodies and by many others. There could have been few surprises. The report tells, in graphic terms, of young children who have had their childhood stolen and replaced with depression and anxiety, of children forced to live in fear among strangers, of children who are denied a stable family life and instead must confront violence and abuse. It tells of the teenagers in detention who have threatened or carried out self-harm. The number of children detained has decreased recently, for reasons that are debatable. But the policies continue and the conditions of detention have not improved. One child in detention is one too many. We are shamed as a country. I could argue, as the report does, that our human rights obligations should be properly reflected in our laws. But the more urgent message of this report is a simpler one: put the best interests of these children at the top of your priorities, get them out of detention as quickly as possible, and give them the healthcare, education and the care and living conditions for proper development.

– Elizabeth Evatt, Darlinghurst, NSW

Biting back

I nearly choked on my brunch as I read Helen Razer’s heretical go at the very types who consume her wares, who lap up this paper (“Sketching the truth”, February 14-20). She can laugh if she wants but this particular tosser isn’t amused. I’ll take the dolorously slashed and paper-shrouded fish called Colin or whatever any time, but hold the double knowingness thanks. It’s a bit much. 

– Matt Gately, Rivett, ACT

Snowboarder’s success

I enjoyed reading about young achiever Ben Tudhope and his involvement at Sochi (Richard Cooke, “Small wonder”, February 7-13). A delightful story that makes you realise there are other more important things going on in the world than the shenanigans in Canberra.

– Lesley Raper, Bentleigh East, Vic

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 21, 2015.

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