Refugee Action Collective Rally
outside Department of Immigration, Brisbane.

7 September, 2005 - Speech by Dee Dicen Hunt.

Good afternoon. My name is Dee Dicen Hunt. I am a Filipina; one of the coordinators of the Brisbane Branch of the Centre for Philippine Concerns and I am the editor of “Kasama” the newsletter of the Solidarity Philippines Australia Network. CPCA and SPAN are part the Justice Alliance for Vivian - a coalition of groups and individuals organised to support Vivian Alvarez-Solon’s resettlement in Australia. My purpose today is to update you about Vivian’s case.

But first I wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and express my gratitude for the hospitality and compassion they have extended to people seeking refuge here.

And I want to thank you and acknowledge the work of the refugee support networks who have sustained with determination and dignity an impressive campaign to defend human rights.

The Australian government has been internationally shamed for its cruel treatment of detainees; the inferior management of detention centres; the imprisonment of children; and campaign pressure has forced a review of the Migration Act’s sanction of mandatory detention.

The current Senate inquiry into the 1958 Migration Act has received 225 separate submissions as of September 1 and the majority of the submissions are not only critical of the legislation itself but also censure the inhuman and degrading manner in which it is applied.

There are two other important inquiries underway. The Palmer report into the detention of Cornelia Rau was extended to include Vivian Alvarez-Solon and 200 others wrongfully detained and the conclusion of that inquiry, now being conducted by the Federal Ombudsman, is due possibly sometime in October.

The Senate has also initiated an inquiry into Vivian’s deportation to the Philippines in 2001. And just yesterday, Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone announced she would not direct members of DIMIA staff to give evidence to the Senate inquiry because the Federal Ombudsman has advised her that an open inquiry such as the one the Senate Committee is conducting could compromise the right of DIMIA staff to ‘natural justice’. What he is referring to is the right of three senior DIMIA employees to protect their jobs - the Ombudsman is not referring here to Vivian’s or Cornelia’s or the right to ‘natural justice’ of any of the 200-odd people whose detention cases are being investigated.

And Vivian is still in Manila awaiting an acceptable resettlement agreement from the government. The unveiling of the details of Vivian’s detention and deportation have certainly exposed the incompetence and lack of care with which the Department of Immigration carries out its work and the Prime Minister’s apology has been shown to be nothing but hollow words.

Vivian needs to return to Australia and her children with the certainty that in future she will be able to have medical attention with care assistance and a roof over her head in accommodation appropriate for her disabilities and state of health.

Vivian’s lawyer said last week he feels that the negotiations with the government solicitors are progressing and he hopefully detects a softening of attitude.

We can help that process by lobbying the government. There is a clipboard here with a sheet to write your contact information - an email address is preferable if you have one - and we will send you information about Vivian’s case so you can write letters.

Thank you for supporting today’s rally and thank you for all your hard work for Vivian and the right of refugees and asylum seekers to be treated with dignity, compassion and respect for human rights.