Letters to
the editor

Nasim’s death must be investigated

Thank you for your story about Nasim’s life and death (Abdul Karim Hekmat, “How this man died in detention”, August 8-14). I am one of the Yongah Hill visitors. We didn’t meet Nasim, but we regularly visit several Hazara men who knew him and are desperately sad. Each time we visit, there is a palpable decline in the mood of the men who have been detained too long. Few know why. We have no doubt the reduction in healthcare services had an adverse impact on their health and wellbeing. Besides a clinically depressed population, men with chronic diseases receive minimal attention. Senate questioning confirmed healthcare spending at Yongah Hill was about $1 million a month last year but is now about $300,000. Responsibility for deaths of detainees lies with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. An independent coronial investigation should determine whether Nasim’s death was due to murder, suicide, negligence or natural causes. Australians need to know. The inquiry should also examine the suspected deaths by suicide in Perth of three young Hazara men on bridging visas. Recommendations to prevent further needless deaths should be made. Years from now we will hang our heads in shame when a royal commission into Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers reveals the depths to which our country sank.

– Judyth Watson, Palmyra, WA

Experts guiding behaviour change

Martin McKenzie-Murray (“Hidden politics of family violence”, August 8-14) unfortunately hasn’t done his homework in critiquing men’s behaviour change programs and the approach to preventing and responding to family violence that is by and large globally consistent and supported by the biggest and most qualified bodies. Cross-referencing family violence reporting rates with income is like observing snow and claiming climate change isn’t happening. Gut feelings and instincts are not the basis of research and evidence. Expertise is.

– Danny Blay, St Kilda, Vic

Gender focus indicated by evidence

In Martin McKenzie-Murray’s “Hidden politics of family violence”, he implies the gendered nature of family violence is exaggerated in current prevention efforts. The evidence begs to differ. On Monday, the Royal Commission into Family Violence heard global evidence that the most significant correlations with higher levels of violence against women – across thousands of studies worldwide – lay in factors such as men’s adherence to sexist or sexually hostile attitudes, community norms that promote rigid gender stereotypes, and unequal power relationships between men and women in economic, political and social spheres. Factors such as socioeconomic disadvantage, individual psychological issues and alcohol abuse – which McKenzie-Murray suggests are being ignored – show much weaker and less consistent correlation. Put simply, we know that poverty doesn’t cause a man to hit his partner or that being drunk doesn’t cause a man to violate a family violence protection order. These factors are triggers only when they come into play with gender inequality. To suggest – as McKenzie-Murray does – that the royal commission is being too “polite” in hearing such evidence does it a disservice. To be critical of both the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria and No to Violence for a “narrow” focus on gender inequality is similarly ill-informed. Our work is guided by evidence that necessitates this focus. Addressing the gendered nature of violence can be confronting. However, allowing space for the discomfort that comes from addressing the status quo – which has resulted in 57 deaths so far this year – is the only way we’ll create a world where no woman has to live with violence.

– Our Watch, Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, No To Violence, Domestic Violence Victoria, Women with Disabilities Victoria, Federation of Community Legal Centres Victoria, Centres Against Sexual Assault

Poverty affects all areas of life

Martin McKenzie-Murray’s excellent article describes the reluctance to discuss socioeconomic factors in our approaches to family violence. This applies across a whole range of issues. In my own field of health, socioeconomic factors are a powerful cause of ill-health, both physical and mental, as well as what are misleadingly called “lifestyle choices”. We see the same social gradients in disability, in access to transport, to food and in education funding, for example. Policy in all these areas has become devoid of any language about inequality, either being derided as “class warfare”, “the politics of envy”, or ignored completely. Unless we discuss poverty and inequality as a root cause of many of the problems we see around us, we will not find effective solutions.

– Dr Tim Senior, Picton, NSW

Nowhere to hide on climate

The short answer to Hamish McDonald’s question: “Will US power plan put wind up Abbott?” (World, August 8-14) is “no”. Since global warming arrived on the international agenda, Australia has mostly hidden its recalcitrance in the skirts of its great and powerful friend. US foot-dragging was a convenient justification for ours. But times have changed. Obama is determined to lead on this issue. The conservatives in Australia and the US are fighting a rearguard action to neutralise climate change as a political issue. The aim of the Paris target announced this week is to avoid too much heat from environmentalists and climate deniers alike. Meanwhile, News Corp continues the carbon scare campaign and the global ambassador for coal ignores the markets.

– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW

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 August 15, 2015.

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