One day in 2009 a work colleague asked me who my hero was and I replied with ‘Nicholas Toonen’. My colleague proceeded to tell me that my choice was very odd as my hero doesn’t hold typical celebrity status many choose in their heroes. My hero to me is famous as he won a ground breaking human rights complaint brought against Australia before the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The complaint lead to decriminalisation of ‘sodomy’ in Australia, or in my mind the decriminalisation of simply being gay. You would think that my home country of Australia would learn something from my hero’s work in 1994, yet in recent years Australia has been forwarding asylum seekers who land in Australia to Papua New Guinea (PNG) where being homosexuality remains a crime. My government knowingly transfers asylum seekers into risky environments, where death is possible, and somehow believe this is okay. The subject of this email is from an Iranian who sought asylum in Australia, and the Australian government forwarded him to PNG where his existence would yet again be criminalised. When he found out he would face similar persecution in PNG as what he faced in Iran, he no longer felt like he was being given any type of asylum. I write this not to shame Australia, but to remind people that seemingly forward thinking countries continue to persecute minorities and asylum seekers. The Australian government’s third-country processing of asylum seekers greatly saddens me, and I wish I knew what it takes to be someone else’s hero in this situation.
São Paulo, Brazil