The June 2002 Woomera hungerstrike
200 detainees on hungerstrike - and 800 people support them
Almost 200 asylum seekers locked up in Woomera started a hungerstrike in June 2002, and issued a statement. We asked for public endorsements of their statement and cause, and within days more than 660 organisations, alliances and individuals sent their names and comments.
This page lists a wide selection of comments made by those who sent us their endorsements.
Image above: A child's impression of Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) guards, armed with batons, beating up asylum seekers at Woomera - the tiny figure also carries a stick, but bleeds from the leg. A watercannon, outside the picture, blasts water across the area. (click the image for large version).
Media Statement 25 June 2002 - for immediate release
Detainees at Woomera Detention Centre on hunger strike
The list of your comments
A country that does not listen to the opinion of various Human Right Groups and UN specialists can not be respected. A Disgrace. Give the refuges a humane treatment.
Tobias Andreasson, Gothenburg, Sweden
Current Government policy on refugees makes me ashamed to be Australian. This country has been built on refugees and we are now shunning our roots, as though they are not worthy. How hypocritical!
Dale Piercey, Perth WA
I demand to be represented by a compassionate, fair and humane government who should show a respect for human rights and the humanity of refugees.
E.M. Warne, Melbourne VIC
Howard is a Racist Bigot who is breaking international laws that we as a nation are signatories to. He must be stopped!
Robert MacGregor, Sydney NSW
Human rights are not something added on to democracy when convenient and discarded when not. There is no mandate for human rights abuse and thus no government can justify such abuse.
Dr Matthew Holt, Sydney NSW
I am moved by the brave and determined actions of the Woomera asylum seekers. I hope that Australians who are appalled at our government's treatment of fellow human beings can rise to the challenge and build the sort of protest movement that can bring this government to its knees. It's time to take action!
Sarah Stephen, Sydney NSW
What crime have the refugees committed trying to escape persecution. Mary, Joseph and Christ tried to escape persecution.
Tanvir Kazmi, Sydney NSW
This government is committed to sending people from minority groups to their deaths because they are not "officially" recognised as persecuted by their country of origin's government. This government will use any excuse to turn desperate people away from a safe haven.
Ross Parry, Woomera SA
I am ashamed of my citizenship. The Australian torture of the refugees' bodies, minds and spirits must stop.
Lynne Murphy, Sydney NSW
There must be a better way than the way we are dealing with the problem of refugees. Locking them up is inhuman and unworthy of the Australian principle of 'a fair go'.
Mariel Tisdell, Brisbane QLD
As a unified mixed race nation with such a vast country we should be greeting those less fortunate with a positive attitude.
Jessie Petagna, Drummoyne
All humans are entitled to freedom and protection. The Australian government has no right to detain innocent people or to deceive the Australian public about it's uncaring and inhmane actions. Free the refugees.
Ben Gleeson, Newcastle NSW
Indefinite and non reviewable detention of asylum seekers or any human being is inhumane and totally against the principles of all the human rights documents that Australia is a signatory to, it is also totally against any Christian morality and social justice criteria.
Dr. Rohan Vora, Brisbane QLD
Thugs and criminals don't always look like the Taliban or like the thieves that would rob us of our possessions and dignity, sometimes they dress in suits and hold the highest office in the land. I apologise for the treatment metered out by our so-called leaders. They do not represent us all!
Rhonda McMaster, Kaleen
We have got to put a stop to this Nazi government's treatment of the poor wretched souls who have come to Australia seeking asylum from the most oppressive regimes on earth. We all know that what this Government is doing is wrong. However some of us will use any excuse to justify our behaviour.
Jan Holmes, Dalmeny
WE won't turn our backs, we won't sit back & do nothing, This is one world & we are one being! We are the human race - send love to humanity & it will return to us!
Leisa Robinson, Hornsby
I just can't believe that this is happening in Australia in 2002. It is inhumane, unjust and immoral. It saddens me to think that these abominable government policies are supported by so many Australians. What has happened to our humanity and our compassion for fellow human beings?
Anne Beinke, Port Pirie
Its getting to the stage where I can't hang my head any lower in shame.
Mark Hely, Hobart TAS
Human Rights only for Australians?
Michael Morgan, Hobart TAS
I hope that compassion and common sense will prevail so that politicians will act according to their conscience on this issue.
Laura Russo, Melbourne VIC
Today, I am ashamed of being an Australian
Judy McLallen, Sydney NSW
Our policies are morally wrong. We are disgracing ourselves as a nation.
Melissa Philp, Hobart TAS
We are convinced that the majority of Australians would respond gladly to positive leadership on the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. Given the number of people who came to Australia to escape trauma and persecution in their country of origin most people can identify with the responsibility to treat such seekers for a better life for themselves and their families, humanely, even generously. I call upon the leaders of our community to show the government that it is both morally right, and politically viable to change their current policy.
Monique Bond, Hobart TAS
We cannot keep ignoring the devastating effects that mandatory detention is having on those who have already fled appalling conditions. Come on Johnny, lead the way and make us a nation that is proud of the compassion we show to all humanity.
Janine Quine, Brisbane QLD
"As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others"- Nelson Mandela (imprisoned 27 years)
Anna Spinaze, Frankland TAS
Our treatment of asylum seekers is appalling and against any standard of compassion to fellow human beings. I call on the government to end mandatory detention.
Kathryn James, Newcastle
The inhuman treatment of asylum seekers by the Australian government - whether or not they are found to meet the strict definition of a 'refugee' - must be condemned. I call on my government to place asylum seekers within the community while their claims are being assessed and to keep them closely informed of the progress of their claims.
Tim Tabart, Lenah Valley
These men, women and especially the children should be released from these concentration camps. Let us call them what they really are - places where people who have committed no crime are given a number and kept against their will behind razor wire. To incarcerate children is appalling. Our government should be ashamed. I am. These people have nothing to lose. We should be helping them not adding to their trauma.
Susan Friend, Kettering
We have no right to treat detainees in the current manner. They are not convicted criminals. Indefinite detention is cruel.
Pam Dash, Bowral
If our current government will not listen to the requests of the UN, Amnesty International or the Red Cross - then who will they listen to? Australia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 17 December 1990, which states: "No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time".
Is this government so arrogant that they think they are above International Laws and Conventions?
Anna Edmundson, Perth WA
If I were to escape terror I would not wait to go on a waiting list. I would expect hospitality from those with peace. To do otherwise to people is criminal. I am ashamed to be Australian. We are considering migrating if the government does not change or reform.
Muriel Brown, Grindelwald
We must stop practising terrorism upon innocent victims of our war activities and our sanctions. We are poisoning our collective soul.
Winnie Lim, Launceston TAS
Every day I am more appalled by the Australian government and every day I make an effort to share my views with others everywhere I go. I am ashamed to be Australian and many others I speak to feel similarly. End mandatory detention now! Give full visas to EVERYONE now held in detention.
Julie Smith, Sydney NSW
I worked for 6 weeks at Woomera early 2002. I witnessed appalling psychological abuse and conditions that created a culture of harm.
Lyn E Bender, St Kilda VIC
My family is from refugee stock. I am deeply ashamed of the country I call my home. Many of us who escaped from oppressive regimes have worked hard in this country and many of this countries positive achievements can be directly attributed to the efforts of refugees who have been permitted to stay here.
Michael Bloch, Adelaide SA
This treatment of people is despicable. I'm embarrassed to be from Australia
Shannon Brannock, Sapporo - Hokkaido Japan
I am appalled at the actions of a so-called democratic government. Where is our sense of justice and humanity? While we help the USA bomb these people's homes, we refuse them respite and refuge from brutality and religious persecution. Why do we refuse to allow the women to keep their family name? When we know that the main victims of persecution are the women, why do we use the men as the family member to be considered for eligibility for asylum? What happened to gender equity and humanity. Close the camps now. Treat these unfortunate people as human beings with the same respect as you would want for a member of your family.
Chris Waugh, Adelaide SA
These people have sought refuge in Australia in a desperate seeking of freedom in a peaceful country. They have risked much. Please show them compassion.
Sue Jarvis-Alexander, Aldgate SA
I am ashamed of the handling of refugees by the Australian Government. I refuse to be associated with its inherent unchristian and racist policy.
Paul Schell, Sydney NSW
As a member of the electorate my support of detainees and my condemnation of the Government's harsh policies deserves to be heard. John Howard says he listens to the Australian people so why is he deaf to those who care.
M. Davies, Woy Woy NSW
Lest we Forget, Mr Howard and Ruddock, I thought our ancestors fought against this sort of inhumanity in WW11. You undermine the basic precepts of humane thinking and Christian beliefs. Did they die for nothing? Are we to repeat this behaviour of victimisation and demonisation of a group of people, scapegoating them for society's ills? This fear is so easily generated by the government's propaganda machine?
Nicole Mckimmie, Perth WA
Asylum seekers are human beings. Many of them have suffered trauma and have feared for their lives. Why do we, the Australian people, allow our government to subject these people to further suffering and psychological abuse?
Sean McLoughlin, Sydney NSW
It is disgraceful that Australians, who as a nation prides themselves on tolerance and mateship, should allow such treatment of fellow-human beings. The government's policies and actions regarding refugees are inhumane and so politically cynical they beggar belief. It is not only what they are doing to refugees that is wrong, the longer term effect on Australian society as a whole is morally corrupting. When racism, cruelty, injustice and intolerance become acceptable then we, the Australian people, become little different to the Germans of the 1930s. What comes next? Do detention centres become extermination camps? For our own sake as well as for those who suffer there - these centres must be closed and these appalling policies must cease.
Gill Burke, RAR Braidwood NSW
Imagine if it was your family, your children in the cages behind the razor wire. We don't need these detention centres; we don't want them. We do want humane, decent treatment of asylum seekers and we expect our government to deliver it. It's the least we can do for people fleeing oppression and danger.
Dave Brown, Wollombi NSW
It proves the Australian government's racism and violence when it supports war and the war industry; then imprisons the refugeees they create. Welcome refugees, abolish TPVs and mandatory detention, and make this a humane society.
Sarah Cunningham, Brisbane QLD
Howard and Ruddock will be remembered for their inhumanity. People of good conscience cannot sit by and do nothing.
Stuart Solman, Kingston TAS
Why is this happening in the year 2002 ?! Have we, or the people we elect to govern, become so hard, so shameless, so inhuman, so deaf, so blind ? Or maybe Howard and Ruddock and cronies are just delusional if they think what they are doing is right.
Claire Richardson, Sydney NSW
The whole situation is horrendous and we are ashamed to be Australians.
Roger & Judy Fitzgerald, Carlton River TAS
I am horrified the way the Immigration Minister always argues in terms of "our" needs and fears. what about those fears and needs of the refugees?
Ron Smith, Boreen Point QLD
I do not agree that we should abandon our vigilance of terrorism in Asia but should maintain it as well as looking at our own "terrorism" to the refugees.
Sue Smith, Boreen Point QLD