Monday, 18 October 2010
Malu Sara Tragedy
Friday just passed—15 October—marked the fifth anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Malu Sara in the Torres Strait, where five Torres Strait Islanders lost their lives: Wilfred Baira, Ted Harry, Flora Enosa and her younger daughter Ethena, and Valorie Saub. Sadly, the tragic circumstances in which they lost their lives were absolutely and totally avoidable. The coroner was quite scathing about the actions of both the Department of Immigration and, in particular, the manager in the Torres Strait at the time, and also the actions of the police. Sadly, of course, that does not bring back these lives that were so tragically lost. The families are still struggling to come to terms with that loss.
I will focus tonight on one family. I am referring to John Saub and his wife, Henrietta, who have become responsible for the four children who were orphaned by the tragedy. At the time, they were aged between three and 11 years. I am referring to E-Dow, who is now aged 16; Henrietta, who is 13; Boston, who is 11; and Do-Fa, who is aged eight. As you can appreciate, it has been a big struggle for the past five years for this family—for John and Henrietta—to take care of these children, particularly given Henrietta’s own health problems. She has only one leg. She has struggled with diabetes. Her health is not the best, and so there are demands in that area. They really had very, very little. Members of the community—and I make reference particularly to Mark Bousen; he and his family own the Torres Newshave been incredibly generous in supporting the family, as has Jason Briggs, a young lawyer who has also been very supportive in assisting the family to try to get justice. A number of members of the business community in Cairns have provided various items of furniture to help the family as they have been going through their court battles. Only last week, John reached a settlement in relation to a legal claim. The amount he received was fairly small, but nevertheless it will start to help him supply for the educational and general needs of the family. Of the four children, the youngest one has learning difficulties, which is an added burden to the family.
What we are endeavouring to do now that the legal side of it has been addressed is to look at a solution that will offer full closure for the families. I have been working with Scott Morrison, opposition spokesman for immigration, in an effort to try to find a solution here. We are looking at setting up a Badu or Malu Sara trust that will support the children of the families on an ongoing basis until they reach independence.
We are also very keen to get some sort of closure for the families by providing a monument on Badu Island and another one on Thursday Island. At this stage the department’s response has been to name two buildings here in Canberra after two of the victims. Unfortunately, none of the families are ever going to travel to Canberra to appreciate that. It is important that we get this closure in the community on Badu Island. At least they would have somewhere to grieve, because only one of the five bodies was ever found. We also have to make sure that those responsible for this are held accountable, and I hope we can eventually get them brought into a court of law to be judged on their actions and also to make sure that there are changes made to ensure that this type of thing never, ever happens again.
I would like to salute John Saub for the outstanding effort that he has made and continues to make in campaigning to make sure that his family is given recognition for what has occurred. He should get some level of justice not only for his daughter but for those other victims. Those families should get closure so that they can move on with their lives.