THE FORMER MEMBER for Indi, Cathy McGowan is currently in a cage outside Carlton’s Park Hotel in Melbourne protesting against the indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers, many have been detained for almost a decade.
McGowan entered the cage at 11am and will remain inside until midday.
I am going to sit in the cage – for only an hour – as a token of my support for those asylum seekers and refugees who have been locked up for over 9 years; It is an act of solidarity and also protection.
McGowan told No Fibs her strongest criticisms are around the indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers.
The indefinite nature of the situation is very poor policy and its expensive. It is also wrong and unjust.
Mehdi Ali sought protection from Australia when he was 15 years old, he was placed in immigration detention and is still in detention at 24 years of age.
In 2021 The Guardian reported it’s costing $4.3m per year for every refugee detained on Nauru. In 2017 Liberal Party donor, Canstruct was awarded an $8m contract in a limited tender process which has since ballooned by almost 20,000 percent.
McGowan won the federal seat of Indi in 2013 at the height of then Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott’s ‘stop the boats’ campaign.
The [soon to be] government’s fear ‘attack’ failed to resonate in my electorate. It lacked relevance and substance.
The coalition posted “Stop the Boats” signs around the electorate – on farm fences, beside the highway and in the oddest of places. Now Indi is an inland seat, with no sea access and while we do have boats they are mostly ‘tinnies’ for use on Lakes Hume and Eildon, or fishing in the rivers. The signs created great humour and a sense of disappointment in the electorate for their lack of relevance for the real issues facing the people of NE Victoria including mobile phone coverage, internet access, public transport;
The reality is that people in NE Victoria have a direct and positive experience of the impact of Australia’s post war and more recent immigration programs. Communities and individuals have in the past and continue today to offer a warm welcome to immigrants, and particularly refugees – we know they enrich our lives with a diversity of food, music, art, employment, culture; we know they create and enhance our communities economic and social wealth.
We also have a sense of country hospitality and there is a general sense of ‘Australian values’ that we should look after those ‘less fortunate’ than ourselves – and when people are in hard times, country people look out for each other – that’s still the sense – and given we have been sending our soldiers to fight for democracy in these countries, offering ‘hospitality’ was the very least we could do for those who became refugees as a result of the conflict.
In late 2018 McGowan was heavily criticised on social media for refusing to indicate how she intended to vote, prior to the vote, on former Wentworth MP, Kerryn Phelps’ Medivac Bill.
When I was an MP, during the debate about the Medivac legislation – I consulted widely with the Indi community about my potential vote. The response was overwhelming positive and that I should support the legislation. Over 1000 people made direct contact with my office – and as I recall less than 10 were against this legislation.
McGowan ultimately supported the Bill and the legislation was passed. The former Member for Indi has a long history of advocacy for refugees and asylum seekers.
The Freedom Cage is a grassroots campaign inviting members of the public and prominent figures to spend time in a cage outside the Park Hotel, as a show of solidarity with detained refugees and asylum seekers.