“We are disappointed with this law. That is a big problem but still I think this law has potential to transfer many people from Manus to Australia. Hopefully after the election we’ll be able to work faster.”
Boochani said in the lead up to the law, he had worked with others and refugee organisations to compile a list of sick refugees who were on Manus and required urgent medical care.
“After three months, nothing happened,” he said. “We have the information, we have documents … according to this law, something should happen. But unfortunately nothing happened.
“Everything on Manus comes back to torture. This medivac bill; people were happy. They thought it was a big achievement.
“But now they can see the organisations are putting us through another bureaucratic process … if they continue like this, after 128 years they will retransfer people.”
Boochani said in recent weeks alone, four people had been transferred to Port Morseby due to a reported typhoid outbreak and in his recent visit to the Pacific International Hospital, he witnessed up to 20 sick refugees who were hopeful they would be transferred to an Australian hospital.
He also addressed his recent criticism of refugee organisations and their ability to help those on Manus and Nauru, and said their processes were delayed while also turning the “systematic torture” of refugees into a business.
“They are supposed to help us and help us to and get out of this country but unfortunately right now they’ve become a part of the problem because their process is very slow … we are frustrated,” he said.
“I don’t want to mention the individual organisations, but any organisation, any artist, any writer, anyone who is making business [out of this] … we can see that some people are looking at this plight as a business. I think we should criticise this.”
“I don’t know what will happen but we are tired of this system. We are tired of organisations. I know by writing that about people I created enemies for myself but for me as an independent person … what is important is that I tell the truth and tell this story independently, and that is what I will continue.”
When asked whether he believed his interview with US officials in Port Moresby would likely put an end to his six years in detention, Boochani said he believed the process was just another form of torture.
“It is one of the main concepts that I always use in my writing and works – systematic torture. So what does systematic torture mean? We had a court case in Papua New Guinea where the court ordered that Manus prison can’t be legal, and keeping people in prison was illegal,” he said.
“But the government used that order to keep us in Manus. They opened the gates and they relocated us to new camp … at that time, people were very optimistic. The media talked about this a lot, the government used it as a big achievement.
“At that time I did a tweet and said ‘it is not even happening’. So after about three years, still we are here and still this country – America – is telling people they are doing this process.
“They put this through a system and they are torturing us by this. Many people have attempted suicide because they are ejected by America and they don’t explain why.”
Boochani also spoke about modern Australian immigration policy, a point which was echoed by Curtin Elder in Residence Simon Forrest.
«They told the local people that these people they are bringing to this island are dangerous people, they are criminals, they are terrorists,» he said.
«And then on the other side they told us Manusian people were cannibals, they are uncivilised and they are not modern people so it’s better that you don’t communicate with them and make a relationship with them.
«They have created this fear of years and they have used it over the past six years.
«It is the word Peter Dutton used. He said that Australia is a civilised country, and he used ‘uncivilised’ word for others.«
Boochani finished by citing the opportunities refugees on Manus and Nauru were missing out on during detention – their families, an education and a better life – and became emotional when he said if he could go back to six years before attempting to come to Australia, he would not have attempted it.
“I always say this and I think it’s good I say it again – everyone on Manus and Nauru has a story and each story is a tragedy,” he said. “Everyone finds a way to survive.
“For me, I think, that we don’t have a choice but fighting. There is no other way. We can’t go back to our countries.
“Many people here are like this. Many people are separated with their families for years, and of course they cannot go back, so they should survive. They should resist, because they don’t have a choice.”
Boochani’s lecture was attended by over 300 people, including Elder in Residence Professor Simon Forrest, Dr Caroline Fleay from Curtin University’s Centre for Human Rights Education and Vice Chancellor Deborah Terry.
Ms Terry thanked Boochani for his time, and commended him on his award-winning book No Friend But The Mountain.
“You might like to buy a copy for each of the federal government candidates,” she said.
Hannah Barry covers breaking news with a focus on social justice and animal welfare for WAtoday.