Bothering politicians about Abyan and Nauru

What are lunch breaks for if not to ring the Prime Minister’s office and mumble in a somewhat tongue-tied fashion about the need to bring Abyan back to Australia for treatment?

Well, one thing they are for is letter-writing!  As is my usual habit, a copy of the email I just sent to the PM is below the cut.  It is not perfect, and yours doesn’t have to be perfect, either.

The important thing, if this is something you care about, is to write *something*.  Keep it polite, and probably try to be briefer than me because I always write way too much, which may not be the best way to get read.  But the more people who write, or who ring, or who tweet, however incoherently, the louder the message. And feel free to borrow any phrasing that appeals to you from what I’ve written.  That’s the other purpose of putting this letter here.

I’ll write to Peter Dutton, Bill Shorten and Richard Marles (Shadow Minister for Immigration) after work, and if their letters are significantly different, I’ll post them below.

Edited to add: My friend P wrote a really excellent letter to both Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton, very different to mine, and considerably better worded, in my opinion!.  She has given me permission to post it below as another handy example.  I am also adding a link to a very thoughtful article by Julian Burnside on how to write to MPs.  He mentions several things that would never have occurred to me, and is collecting replies – and non-replies – from MPs.  Definitely a strategy to consider.

Handy contact details:

Malcolm Turnbull – (02) 6277 7700; ; @TurnbullMalcolm
Peter Dutton – (02) 6277 7860 or (07) 3205 9977; ; @PeterDutton_MP
Bill Shorten – (02) 6277 4022 or (03) 9326 1300;; @billshortenmp
Richard Marles – (03) 5221 3033; @RichardMarlesMP

My letter:

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to urge you to return Abyan to Australia for counselling and proper medical care.

I would also urge you and your government to work with all parties to end processing and resettlement of refugees on Nauru.  It is increasingly clear that asylum seekers – even those found to be legitimate refugees – are not safe in the community on Nauru.  Our own aid workers have been advised not to travel alone on Nauru, and New Zealand recently ceased giving aid to Nauru on the basis that the rule of law there has collapsed.  Moreover, a Senate Committee report recently noted that of 50 reported incidents of sexual assault, only five had led to prosecutions, and only two to convictions.  This suggests that women are being forced to live in the same communities as the men who have assaulted them, with no protection against further abuse (and, indeed, with the threat of being further prosecuted for making ‘false’ accusations).

A a survivor of sexual assault, I’d also like to add that I was deeply offended by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s statement claiming that refugees seeking medical care in Australia after being raped are part of a ‘racket’.  The implication that women are lying about rape in order to gain an advantage in the immigration process is absolutely out of place in a government that claims to respect women.

Please provide Abyan, and women like her, with the help they need.  You recently said that violence against women was one of the great shames of Australia, and I believe you were sincere in this.  Yet this respect and concern for women cannot stop at the beaches of Australia.  Successive governments have chosen to settle refugees – men, women and children – on Nauru.  It is irresponsible, and I believe hypocritical, to then wash our hands of responsibility for their welfare once settled.

All women deserve to be safe, not just those lucky enough to be born in Australia.  Please stop turning away those who most need our help.

Yours sincerely,


Another letter:

Dear Prime Minister,

I am deeply shocked and saddened to see the situation of Somali refugee “Abyan” and other refugees, especially females, on Nauru.

There appears to be a complete lack of any basic human compassion or a comprehensive medical approach recognising the effects of trauma, anxiety, uncertainty and emotional complexity of her situation.  Surely it cannot be so difficult to understand that the victim of such a serious crime needs access to properly trained counsellors. Even more so since she has to negotiate everything in a foreign language and without the support of her family and friends.

The Royal Commission into institutional child abuse and investigations into the Catholic Church have clearly shown how environments without proper scrutiny and accountability inevitably lead to serious harm to the most vulnerable people. It is a tragic irony that the Australian government seems unable to apply any of these lessons to prevent such situations (and worse) from happening right now and into the future.

I hope the Australian government will find the courage to treat Abyan and others like her with the same respect and compassion we would want for ourselves and our family members.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine’s Brilliant Friend P, Who Wishes to Remain Anonymous on this Occasion

Letter to Peter Dutton

Dear Mr Dutton,

I am writing to urge you to bring Abyan back to Australia, and to allow her to access counselling and an interpreter as well as to the abortion she has requested.

I can’t imagine that there is any argument that I can make that you have not already heard, so I will not waste your time.

But I ask you to look again at Abyan, and consider her not as an embarrassment, or an example, or a problem that is taking up far too much time and media attention this week, but as a person in need, and a person who you are empowered to help in one of the most painful times of her life.

Please help her.

Yours sincerely,


2 thoughts on “Bothering politicians about Abyan and Nauru

  1. Hi Cate,

    Thanks for this post, sample letters and contact details.

    I’d like to write to Julia Gillard also. Do you have current contact details for her? Her government actively pursued policies that led to Nauru and she is now on the board of Beyond Blue so i hope has an interest and appreciation for the mental health ramifications of rape and refugee processing such as occurs in Nauru. I think sometimes ex-politicians who don’t need to worry about winning the next election can speak more freely ands from the heart.

    I am one of the many who is deeply dismayed that people within an Australian government can turn away from a crime like this and disregard Abyan as a person like themselves or like their mother, sister, cousin, friend or other female they know. Would they turn away from them also?

    Thank you again for your post and for trying to make a difference.


    • Hi Tash,

      I think that’s a very good idea, and you make some excellent points. While I have been unable to find an email address for Ms Gillard, she has a website,, with a contact form on it. You can also contact her in short form via Twitter (@JuliaGillard) or Facebook. It might also be worth sending her an email or letter care of Beyond Blue, as they would certainly have her details.

      Good luck, and thank you for caring enough to write.


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