Tracey Benson on Fri, 1 Feb 2002 12:51:02 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Public meeting in Canberra - 29 Jan

Tonight, over 400 people attended a public meeting called by the Refugee 
Action Committee in Canberra.

The speakers included ZACHARY STEEL (Clinical Psychologist, School of 
Psychiatry, UNSW) and JACQUIE EVERITT (Lawyer for Shayan Badraie and his 

Zachary Steel was featured on the ABCTV Four Corners Report on Villawood, 
"The Inside Story",

Jacquie was also featured on Four Corners and is currently working on a 
legal case aiming to have children released from Immigration Detention Centres.

Zachary spoke on "The Mental Health implications of detaining asylum 
seekers" and discussed the research being published on the Psychological 
Impact of Detention and what effect this has had on public debate about 
Govt policies. He has been researching into this area since the policy of 
mandatory detention was brought into action in 1989.

Jacquie spoke about the children's case which went to court on the 7th of 
January and the legal efforts people have been making throughout the 
country to ease the suffering of asylum seekers in detention.

Both speakers attested to the fact that these people are in desperate need 
of medical and community support and are suffering needless trauma from 
their detention in addition to the trauma they have already suffered prior 
to their arrival in Australia. It was stated by Dr Steel that 75% of 
detainees had endured torture in their countries of origin and needed 
treatment and support for the deep psychological problems they suffer.The 
treatment detainees experience in Australia's detention centres is often 
very similar to the conditions these people have been subjected to in the 
countries they are escaping.

The meeting room was filled to capacity with a broad cross-section of the 
Canberra community, most of whom had not attended recent protests but had 
become politicised by news of conditions in the detention centres.Both 
speakers were well received and applauded loudly by the audience. Much 
discussion took place after the speeches where many voiced their anger and 
disgust with the governments inhumane treatment of asylum seekers.

The size, enthusiasm and involvement of everybody at the meeting was very 
encouraging and a boost for refugee activists and the campaign to end 
mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Nearly everybody who came to the 
meeting left with leaflets, posters and petitions to support the movement 
to free the refugees.

The next step in the campaign is the protest on the 12th of February at 
Parliament House to coincide with the first sitting of parliament this 
year. Activists from around the country will converge to tell this racist 
government to shut down the concentration camps.

John and Tracey

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