Senate debates

Monday, 30 August 2021



1:51 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

Almost 20 years ago, Australia was one of the first countries to join the United States-led intervention in Afghanistan, and our personnel stayed on to support the community's efforts to establish a stable regime and to secure human rights for women and girls and for minority communities. Tragically, these ambitions have not been realised and not all of those who served in Afghanistan returned. I join with other senators in honouring their service. I offer my sympathy to their grieving relatives and to their friends. Many of us have watched the horrible events unfold at the Hamid Karzai International Airport. We saw heartbreaking scenes of a man handing over his baby to US soldiers—themselves subject to unspeakable risks—and I cannot imagine how frightened this family must be, how desperate they are for this baby to grow up safe and free. As parents, that is all we want for our children. The harrowing scenes of Afghans attempting to flee their homeland should serve as a reminder that a humanitarian crisis requires a humane response.

In my home state of New South Wales, a group of Afghan Australian women living in Western Sydney cannot sleep, worrying about their friends and their loved ones, and they say they feel like they're in a time machine—that we have travelled back to 20 years ago and that all the rights and liberties gained for women have been lost. The bitter truth is that, dating back many years, there are thousands of outstanding applications from Australian citizens and permanent residents to bring husbands, wives, partners and children to safety from Afghanistan. I would like the Australian Afghan community to know that we feel your distress and your anguish. We should not walk away from the sacrifices that you and your families have made.