It’s been a while since Australia’s detention policy received this much media attention, but recently the New York Times, Fairfax, the ABC, SBS, The Project and of course The Australian, have all carried stories about the extraordinary treatment of Abyan and Australia’s incredibly harsh detention regime. Amnesty International has also made the plight of Abyan and the fact that the media and civil society have been kept out of Nauru, a focus of their international work.
Hopefully all this means that the Turnbull Government will be getting the message loud and clear that the Australian detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island at the very least need basic oversight from civil society and the media.
Ironically, the lack of external oversight was underscored when the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff, now News Limited journalist, Chris Kenny, was given exclusive access to the island, to Abyan and the police discussions about her situation.
So where to for us?
Both Wendy and Carmen have begun the process of obtaining visas to visit Nauru. They may now be joined by one of Australia’s most renowned jurists, Claire O’Connor S.C.
We don’t know how long this process will take but we are hopeful that it will be organised as quickly as Chris Kenny’s visit appears to have been organised.
One thing we do know is that there has never been a greater need for the voices of women and children on Nauru to be heard.
We have seen those women brave enough to make a complaint of rape both victimised and pursued. We have seen Abyan’s allegation of rape bought into question and dismissed. This isn’t only a shattering state of affairs for the women involved, it also sends a clear and menacing message to every woman on the island, refugee or local: complain about rape and you will be punished.
As one woman on Nauru told us, the lesson conveyed by the treatment of Abyan was clear, saying: "Oh dear we all shock. This is lesson to all women".
Australians are waking up to the scourge of violence against women and children thanks to the leadership of groups like Destroy the Joint's 'Counting Dead Women', women’s refuge workers, SOS Women's Services, Rape Crisis Centres and women like Rosie Batty.
We cannot seriously hope to deal with violence here while sitting back and accepting violence committed against women detained under our names.
Thank you to every single person who has supported this work in all the different ways that you have. We shall push on from here and together we shall change this terrible situation together.