Last Saturday I went along to March in March 2017. I took some photos and videos for the organisers to share. It was three years after I went to the 2014 March in March. I was actually one of the main organisers for the Central Coast. I had never been an activist before, although I have always had an interest in social justice and human rights. I completed certificate IV in Welfare (community services) in 2002 and have worked in the disability industry ever since. I have also supported various humanitarian organisations over the years. I liked the idea that March in March was grass-roots and some of the issues they focused on were close to my heart.
When the founders of March in March 2014 (now March Australia) were looking for organisers around Australia. I felt compelled to put my hand up to organise the Central Coast, however another part of me didn’t want to. Firstly I don’t like putting myself out there and I wasn’t sure if the movement completely reasonated with me. I like to hide behind the scenes because I’m an introvert. Secondly I was busy 3 kids aged four and under. Indigo was just five months old. At the time I was also experiencing post natal depression and anxiety. I spent about eight to nine months as a March Australia Central Coast organiser before handing it
Some of the things mentioned in the speeches on Saturday at March in March 2017 really stood out to me. Daniel Turners spoke about suicide. Daniel said “In 2015, 3,027 people took their own life. That is 8 people a day, and 1 person every 3 hours. It was the highest in 10 years. The issue of suicide and mental illness is not getting better, it is getting worse. I want to do a quick test of awareness about this issue. Who here today has heard that statistic of 3,027 people committing suicide in 2015 before I mentioned it a moment ago? We need more awareness about this issue, and it starts with the media. Recently we heard about Dan Vickerman committing suicide, yet in news reports the media said his death was not suspicious and flashed up all the numbers for support services such as Lifeline (which I will say now is 13 11 14), yet refused to mention the word suicide. This contributes to the idea that mental illness is something to be ashamed of and shouldn’t be talked about. Well not talking about it is not making the problem better, it’s making it worse.” said speaker Daniel Turner. I was absolutely astounded that one person every three hours commits suicide. I knew mental health and suicide were important issues that need urgently need addressing but it is much worse than I thought and is an absolute national crisis. It was only last year I watched a documentary on the ABC about post-partum suicide. I was very saddened to find out that the main cause of death in new Mums is suicide.
The other thing that stood out to me was Danielle Habib’s speech. Danielle works in violence prevention at Uniting, is a White Ribbon Advocate, refugee advocate and is Wyong Woman of the year 2017. During her speech Danielle said “Can I ask that you please take a look around at the people here today. Can I ask that you take particular notice of the women. One in four women are victims of domestic and family violence. We also know that 66% of cases for domestic and family violence are unreported. So we can actually bring that figure down to one in three. Seventy three women were killed in Australia by the partner or former partner and already since January this year, 10 women have been killed. This should be seen as a national emergency. Let have a look at the facts. Terrorists have killed the lives of three people in the last two decades. Domestic violence has seen 318 women killed in the two years of 2014 and 2015. We have a national emergency on our hands and we need to be doing so much more to be helping to stop the deaths of more than one woman a week.” I already knew the domestic and family violence statistics but listening to Danielle reinforced to me how important it is for me to be part of the Central Coast white Ribbon and the Central Coast Domestic Violence Committees.
The other issue that Danielle spoke about that greatly saddens me is about asylum seekers on Nauru. I know it is a very contentious issue and that people think they are illegal, want to send them back to where they came from and focus on our own. They don’t want to just let any one in, especially because there is a lot of fear about Islam and terrorists. I agree with not letting just any one in but I think if most Australian’s knew what as actually happening with asylum seekers, then they too would be saddened. Yes I agree we need to not just let any one in, but I also think they are human beings and should be given basic human rights and reasonable processing time instead of indefinite detention. “We know that many women and children have been raped whilst in immigration detention and under Australia’s watch. However a gag order has been placed on social workers and case workers. They risk up to two years jail if they report the atrocities and attempt to seek help for them. This is the same Australia who hold me accountable as a mandatory report if I do not report child abuse. I need to be clear when I say that Australia is the only country that detains children indefinitely. The European Union has a policy that no child should spend more than seven days in detention. The average stay for European children in detention is five days. The average stay in Australia for children in detention is five years. Australia has the least amount of asylum seekers however we have the highest number of post traumatic stress disorder in children and adults. We are seeing children attempting suicide at six years of age. Take a look at the Nauru filed and I guarantee you will not have a dry eye.”
I don’t have all the answers but I am certain more can be done. I know many of us are dedicated to our political parties but it doesn’t matter what political party we align with. Everyone is still able to dig a little deeper than the surface, beyond the media, beyond ideologies to find out the facts and what is actually happening. I encourage every one to do their own research and make up their own minds. Personally I believe education, sharing information and discussion is the first step to change. I think a lot of the falsehood in the media is perpetuated by the masses not questioning it and getting caught up in taking political sides. For me I think research, education and awareness campaigns are important in getting people to see the bigger picture and have a better understanding. Not only a better understanding of certain issues but also understanding of each other. As I have said before, I don’t like to push my views on people but I do encourage everyone to question everything, research and if the opportunity arises to share information and have discussions. Being part of local action groups are another to become involved. I know life is busy we all do what we can.