I reached out recently, though today I reach out on a more grave matter that requires urgent leadership. I recently met with members of the Liberal Party and expressed my interest to volunteer on community-related matters (non-political).
When I served as a Director of Bendigo Community Banks (NSX:CSH) we sat next to each other at our Boroondara Youth Foundation Ceremony where you spoke and I attended the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce event where you delivered a speech (on behalf of SPARK Deakin – the university’s entrepreneurship program I lead which has created 100’s of jobs for Australians).
Although I now lead entrepreneurship programs, my dream was to work in development and help make the world a better place. I started at 19 being awarded a place as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development (AYAD) funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) & FYA in Bangkok.
I was the youngest person in Australia to be sent off abroad to support refugees and asylum seekers through legal aid. Day in and day out I listened to stories of torture by the Taliban & communal violence against Pakistanis, Tamils, and Rohingya. It broke my heart. Disillusioned with the bureaucratic nature of the development sector, I was never able to engage in this space without feeling grief, sadness, and rage at the injustice. Upon my return, I moved towards the newly developing social entrepreneurship sector in Australia with a strong focus on human dignity and innovation that serves people.
Fast forward to 2019, I took part in Australia India Youth Dialogue opening my eyes to this world once again. I was invited to deliver the keynote at the Australia Awards for South West Asia (including Afghanistan). Seeing what is unfolding in Afghanistan right now is heartbreaking.
As a Punjabi Australian, I’m appalled at how quickly the US withdrew from Afghanistan. It makes me think of partition – when the British withdrew abruptly from India after ~500 years, and appointed a man who had never stepped foot in the country to draw boundaries in 5 weeks – to this very day we face the implications of those decisions. 14 million people were displaced, including my grandparents.
I have been reading statements by Marise Payne, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton – these are a good start but we need to do better and we need to do it now.
You are one of my local members so I write to respectfully ask to use your political capital for the greater good. Today I spoke to a young man in Australia whose sister is in Kabul in a room with her documents in fear of her life. They persecuted her for teaching English. A language the colonial forces brought to the region and upheld as the gold standard of “literate” – she will be persecuted for nurturing a language the British brought to the region.
Here are my requests that you may have received from others
– Speak up, the silence and inaction is causing younger Australians to lose trust in our government.
– Granting of permanent protection to refugees from Afghanistan already in Australia on temporary visas. These people now face a heightened state of insecurity and cannot continue to live in limbo.
– An immediate increase in the refugee intake from Afghanistan in light of the deteriorating situation in the country. Australia should follow Canada’s announcement of 14th August 2021 of accepting 20,000 vulnerable Afghan refugees. A similar precedent has been set by Australia in response to the Syrian conflict when 12,000 refugees were urgently accepted in 2015.
– Expediting the resettlement of Afghan translators, guides and other personnel who assisted Australian and allied forces in the past.
– Prioritise the evacuation and resettlement of women leaders and rights activists, former Afghan international students, LGBTIQ and other vulnerable population groups in light of the imminent risk to their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
– The provision of urgent humanitarian aid for the more than 250,000 internally displaced Afghans (United Nations, 2021) by way of working with grassroots organisations such as Mahboba’s Promise.
– The protection of valuable infrastructures which, in part, was financed ($450 million) and built by Australian tax-payers’ dollars via the World Bank, including but not limited to hospitals, schools, dams, roads, hydro and telecommunications.
I look forward to your response.
Australian South Asian Centre