An Effort Spent in Vain

David Bell – Public Health Physician

As an Australian, I want to write something on the significance of what happened in Melbourne this week, and the destruction of societal values. About the scenes of black-clad police firing rubber bullets at protestors at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.

The Shrine of Remembrance is as close as non-Aboriginal Australia comes to a sacred place. It’s an unusually moving place of quiet and reflection. Evokes the memory of many who chose to risk death, and died, so that others would be free, not live under totalitarian regimes.

This was not empty garbage. As a child I knew people who had suffered greatly and survived, an uncle died well before I was born. A family member still had the nightmares 30 years on. As many have, in many countries, in the sufferings of war.

Australia, despite many faults and suffering internally, particularly for indigenous people, has been an unusually inclusive society. Police have never, to my knowledge, fired rubber bullets. They don’t use armoured vehicles. They only recently started dressing in black.

To see these black-clad police, replete with weapons and body armour, firing on civilians at the Shrine, forcing the type of regime that the Shrine’s solemn defiance is set against, with the excuse of ‘public health’, brings a profound sense of something gone terribly wrong.

We have to realize the enormity of what is being done, through promotion of fear, and through incitement of hatred against others for thinking differently. Not just in Australia, but wherever people hold that all are born equal, and oppression is wrong.

If we don’t work together to stop this, stop the people doing this, and tell them this is unacceptable, the Shrine will signify effort spent in vain. The effort of those who have fought to keep truth, openness and respect as a basis for society will have been betrayed.

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