DIMIA = Defensive Inward – Minded Ideologue Assessors

May 14th, 2005

A former Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (DIEA), John Menadue, has added his voice to calls for a broader, public inquiry into the workings of the Department now known as DIMIA.

John Menadue says that Amanda Vanstone’s department is badly led, inward looking, has a culture of suspicion and contains racist elements.

Speaking to ABC Radio National John Menadue says,

"Those [racist and suspicious] sorts of attitudes are everywhere in the Australian community. Unfortunately I don’t think we’ve had good leadership on those issues in recent years where, under the name of border protection, outsiders have been subject to appalling treatment. So I think in many senses, the Department reflects the community generally, but they’ve been very badly served by the leadership that they’ve had."

[…]"the Department and the community gets the nod at the senior level of Government, from the Prime Minister in particular, that they can behave this way towards some of the most vulnerable people in the world – asylum seekers – it is not surprising that some people in the Department pick up that sort of view and believe that they’ve got to translate it into toughness in their own administration of the Migration Act."

"But when there are so many people to choose from, it is not surprising that if an Australian migration officer has to choose between and English-speaking engineer who’s a refugee and a refugee who’s a single woman who’s been raped and she’s illiterate, the latter will scarcely ever get a look in."

I first heard ‘Fuck me less’ when my sister came back from Papua New Guinea. Over there it is used by a powerless person towards a powerful person.

Fuck us less DIMIA!

Accented English

May 10th, 2005

Absolutely every one of my relatives speaks English with a noticeable accent.
My father jokes that after 50+ years here he still sounds "fresh-off-the-boat."

With the recent revelations of DIMIA policy and process, I tell my family that this is no laughing matter.

The mindset of DIMIA, and by extension Australian society, is clearly to begin from a starting point that anyone ‘other’ = ‘illegal immigrant.’
There seems very little capacity in this government, or in the wider community to accept that accented English or non-anglo features, could begin from a point of Australian and then widen into diversity.

At my work, when anyone with an accent phones, I will be called because I am the only ‘foreigner’ who has family who speak English as a second, third, fourth or fifth language. Therefore, it will be clearly for me or understood by me.
It wouldn’t occur to anyone that my grandmother is in fact an accomplished linguist who speaks two languages fluently and three others conversationally.
No, accented English in my little workplace corner of Australia is a deficit and
a difficulty to be quickly moved onto Suki the foreigner.

In DIMIA, with these new revelations we can see that similar thinking occurs. Foreign is difficult, send it away…

I am so sad and angry that after all this time my beautiful family, and many like us, are still made to feel other, inferior and unwelcome.

Image from here

Placing a woman central to her right not to be abused

May 7th, 2005

Late one night in the NSW parliament women gained protection from violence without losing their right to reproductive choice.

The Government refused to consider an amendment by Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile, and backed by most Coalition MPs, that would have redefined the fetus as "a child in utero".

The Government alleged that MPs with an anti-abortion agenda were trying to hijack the debate.

Thank you Carr and Co., you saw the agenda coming and gave it no life.

Image from here

Placing a woman central to her reproductive health choices.

May 3rd, 2005

Most people want to reduce the number of abortions, but don’t want to limit existing access to abortion on demand, according to a national survey conducted for the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, published in The Australian yesterday.

"Significantly, an overwhelming 87 per cent of Australians endorse an approach that works to reduce the number of abortions without restricting access to the procedure."

This measure (if implemented) places women central to the issue whilst adding extra services. It builds on already existing services that are increasingly overstretched. Whilst I understand that the person is political, worker neutrality is possible. Currently such counseling exists where three options are discussed,

  1. abortion
  2. continuing with the pregnancy
  3. adoption

With careful screening of additional service providers which assures worker and organisational neutrality, providing counseling, information and referral, then more resources would be welcome.