Fit to board: the book blog gets political (again!)

I’m always wary of a blog that starts with ‘As a mother,’ because what normally follows is a diatribe about the amount of refined sugar in children’s cereals, the violence in video games, the importance of keeping a family routine, or the amount of screen time a two-year old should actually have.

But at the risk of sounding slightly hysterical, I’ve got to say it.  As a mother, it’s been a really tough week to watch the news.

But more-over, it’s been a tough week for anyone who has a shred of compassion and sense of moral responsibility. So, as a human, it’s been frustrating, and embarrassing and saddening and enraging to watch the news this week.

My first ‘as a mother’ inspired outburst was when I learned of the 31 year old asylum seeker, who was transported from Nauru to give birth to her baby at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital.  Delivery was by c-section and the baby boy, Farus, was born with respiratory problems and had to be cared for in the neonatal special unit at the hospital.

However just four days after giving birth, the mother Latifa, was discharged and then confined to the Brisbane Immigration Transit accommodation, 20 minutes away.   She was only allowed to visit her baby boy between 10am and 4pm, as per the hospitals visiting hours.  It is claimed that her husband, who is also detained, was not given access to visit his son.

It’s important to note here that the hospital has rebuked the Government’s claims that they were responsible for enforcing the visiting time rules.  The hospital said in a statement:

“Once a Mum is clinically well enough to go home, she is discharged from hospital, but is encouraged to be involved in the baby’s care wherever possible to help establish her bond with her baby.  Mater places no restrictions on women and they can visit their baby anytime where possible.”

But I suppose that Mum, (after having major surgery) is a threat to national security right?

So I swallowed down that news with difficulty, and swore and ranted for a bit about the Government and our apathy and at the fuckedness of it all.

And then I read this and cried…

“A profoundly disabled four-year old Tamil asylum seeker in a Brisbane detention facility will be transferred offshore along with her father, probably to Nauru.” (The Global Mail)

Cared for by her father, apparently the girl cannot talk or walk, and is confined to a wheelchair.   She was separated from her mother and siblings in Sri Lanka as they boarded the boat for Australia. (Her Mum was arrested and later released.)

What is even more shocking is how she became disabled. A victim of a bomb blast in her homeland Sri Lanka, she was struck by shrapnel while in-utero and was badly injured.  So before this kid was even born, she was in immediate and mortal danger.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has reiterated his hard-line stance on the processing of asylum seekers who arrived by boat after July 19 this year.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a child, it doesn’t matter whether you’re pregnant, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a woman, it doesn’t matter if you’re an unaccompanied minor, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a health condition – if you are fit enough to get on a boat, then you can expect you’re fit enough to end up in offshore processing.”

The girl boarded the boat strapped to her father.

Morrison is satisfied that the Nauru detention facility is suitable for disabled children, and says its equipped to handle medical cases like this with appropriate care.

However, according to The Global Mail, a nurse with over 40 years-experience, likened the Centre to a concentration camp, after she worked there for three weeks.  Oh, and that little human rights organisation Amnesty International, reckon the conditions are deplorable.

I’m finding this really hard to write about, and even harder to accept.  But here is what I know to be true.  The medical facilities on Nauru will not be enough.  Will there be a physiotherapist?  A speech therapist?  A child psychologist on hand to care for her?  Will she be given access to the right medicine, and pain management techniques?  Are there ramps for all the doorways?  Is there a toilet/bathroom with a hoist?

Just because she is physically disabled does not necessarily mean she is intellectually disabled.  She may be just like any other four year old on the inside.  She’ll miss her Mum, and be confused, and will need stimulation, communication and education like any other tot her age.

Three years ago, I said goodbye to a very special person who was also severely disabled.  He was adventurous, funny, and brave.  In his short time, he contributed more to his community, his school and his family than most people do in a lifetime.  He couldn’t talk or walk either.

He had access to the very best doctors and specialists.  Received treatment in world-class hospitals, and took medication that sometimes eased his pains and symptoms.  He had a super cool motorised wheelchair, trained respite carers and basic communication technology.  He had good financial resources, a modified and comfortable home, and he also had his mother, father and extended family loving him for every second of every day.  It was still bloody unfair and tough. He had all these things and deserved so much more.  He had all these things and made it to eleven.

So what hope does this poor tike have?  Locked up in a deplorable facility, in a bankrupt country which doesn’t even have a health system for their own people.

But I suppose, why should our taxes pay to prolong the inevitable anyway?

I feel sick…

Yours, in shame


Postscript:  After writing this piece I sought permission from the Mum of the disabled boy mentioned above.  She endorses this post, and shares in my sadness.


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