–Missy Higgins on Syria, refugees and asylum–Missy Higgins on Syria, refugees and asylum


MISSY Higgins stole the show on Q&A Monday night with an impassioned plea for change of policy in Australia.

In answer to a question about whether the Government should take more refugees, the musician said she had written a song after feeling “devastated” by a now infamous photo of a three-year-old Syrian boy lying dead on a beach.

Aylan Kurdi was fleeing the war-torn country with his family to find a safe place to live when the vessel they were on sank. “Most of us know the story,” said Ms Higgins. “The boat capsized and the only person surviving from that family was his father Abdullah Kurdi.

“Like most people that saw that photo of this three-year-old boy washed up on a beach in Turkey, I was absolutely devastated. Because it put a human face to the crisis, and I think a lot of the time so many of us are so removed from it, especially with this rhetoric that comes out of the Government, calling these people criminals, calling them — even the word asylum seekers has a stigma now.

“So they come to our shores or they try to reach our shores and if they get anywhere close we lock them up in these detention centres that are like prisons, in fact probably worse than prisons because these people are indefinitely kept in a place where they’re suffering, they’ve had hugely traumatic experiences and have PTSD beyond belief.”

Ms Higgins said her father volunteers at an asylum seekers’ resource in Melbourne and had seen terrible things — people with scars all over their bodies from torture, and recently, a man from Sudan who had scars around his ankles from being hung by ankles and tortured.

“To think we can allow these people — who are only seeking a safe place to live, that’s all they want, that’s all anybody wants … to think we treat them like criminals, that’s appalling,” she said.

Many Twitter users were touched by her speech, with one calling the singer “on fire with compassion” and “kicking goals”. Others praised her for being “incredibly informed and articulate” on the crisis.

But some had a very different take on the issue, with one viewer commenting “we have enough of our own problems here” and another adding, “we can’t even house & feed our citizens. So why bring in refugees that cannot be employed & contribute to society immediately.”

Ms Higgins, who has been touring Australia with Ed Sheeran, rounded off the night with a performance of the politically charged 49 Candles from her latest album Solastalgia, which she wrote when she was in Florida during the Orlando shooting.

The outspoken artist also slammed the NBN as a “big, fat disappointment”, adding that the internet regularly cuts out at her house, particularly when she is uploading large files.

But she said the situation was far more pressing for people in regional Australia, where the internet could be a “lifeline”, providing education and medical assistance.

Ms Higgins — who was joined on the panel by Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth, Shadow Minister for Veterans Affairs Amanda Rishworth and political strategist Grahame Morris — said she believed celebrities should be able to speak their minds on social and political issues.

“If you have a public platform, you’ve been given a gift,” she said. “And I think I don’t think it’s necessarily our responsibility to be vocal on certain issues, but I think it is an incredible opportunity and, if we feel passionately about something, I think it is just as much our right and it is anybody’s right to speak our mind and for our opinions to be heard.”

She said it could be hard sometimes “in this climate” because 100,000 people could berate you online for speaking out, and being vocal could make you more vulnerable. But the signer said she would not self-censor and art should be about expression.

Ms Higgins was challenged by the questioner and host Virginia Trioli on whether this applied to someone like rugby player Israel Folau, who recently attacked gay people in controversial comments posted online, but she batted away the question, saying she could not comment on the sporting world. – #1 – All News First!

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