No more lifesaving treatment for people seeking asylum?

Posted in News

Last week, Rev Dr Paul Goh (Justice & CALD Multicultural & Cross Cultural CMC Officer in the South Australian Synod) sent out an urgent appeal to members of the Uniting Church to help prevent a terrible tragedy. 

"Dear friends, My name is Paul, and I’m worried about people seeking asylum not being able to receive medical treatment," his email stated. He went on to explain the urgency of a situation that could have grave concequences for the people currently waiting for the Australian government to process their asylum-seeking status.

Paul's plea centers around what is generally known as the medevac bill, and government's current push to have this bill repealed.

The medevac legislation has helped people in detention on Manus and Nauru with serious medical issues get access to lifesaving treatments in Australia since 1 March 2019. The House of Representatives voted in favour of repealing the medevac bill in July and the government is trying to move quickly to have the repeal bill passed in the Senate - possibly even as soon as this week.

In August, the Uniting Church in Australia made an official submission to the Senate's legal and constitutional legislatitive committee that urged "that the Committee recommend that the Bill be rejected by the Parliament, as the current arrangements are more appropriate to deal with serious health issues being experienced by refugees and people seeking humanitarian protection who are currently located in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru." 

This submission is aligned with the UCA Assembly's "Our vision for a Just Australia", which reads: "We are a compassionate nation, where every person who seeks refuge here is treated fairly and made to feel welcome and safe – regardless of their country of origin or mode of arrival.

What will the medevac repeal bill change?

The medevac bill allows for the critically ill to be transferred to Australia temporarily on the advice of two independent Australian doctors. In its six months existence, it has already saved the lives of more than 90 people. Before this bill was passed in March, extremely sick asylum seekers on Manus Island or Nauru had to appeal to a court of law to gain the appropriate, life-saving treatment. Their fate was decided by politicians, not medical doctors. Should the repeal bill be passed, the situation would go back to what it was before March.

But what can we do to stop the medevac repeal bill from being passed in Senate?

"We know that the Senate cross-bench is likely to hold the pivotal vote when the repeal legislation reaches the Senate and we need to compel them to stop this bill from going through. But we need to act quickly," says Paul. "The Centre Alliance has already publicly declared they will oppose repeal of the Medevac Act. So for them, this action is to show them they have community support."

Paul suggests that we as individuals can do two things. Firstly, call your senator as soon as possible and follow it up with an email. Second, register your interest for a phone banking event on 10 or 11 October (should the Senate not vote on the bill this week). Paul even has a suggested script for the phone call and email sample everyone can use.

Script for the phone call:

“Hi my name is _________ and I live in your state. The senate will vote on the Medevac Repeal Bill soon. I would appreciate it if senator (Rex Patrick/Stirling Griff) would vote against the repeal of the bill. All people should have access to appropriate medical care.”

  • Senator Stirling Griff:  Electorate Office (08) 8212 1409  Parliament Office (02) 6277 3128; Email:
  • Senator Rex Patrick: Electorate Office (08) 8232 1144 Parliament Office (02) 6277 3785; Email:

Email sample:

“Dear Hon. Senator Patrick, / Dear Hon. Senator Stirling,

The Senate may be voting on the Medevac Repeal Bill fairly soon. I live in your state and would like you to vote ‘no’ to this bill as it puts people’s lives in danger. Everyone has the right to adequate medical care, no matter who they are.”


Phone Banking Event (A gathering where people make phone calls with regards to the issue)

In the event that the Senate does not vote on the bill this week, then please register your interest for a phone banking event on 10 or 11 October by sending Paul an email (

Want to know more about the medevac bill and Government's efforts to have it repealed? Here are two handy news items that may help:

Want to read the UCA's submission on this issue to the Senate inquiry? Read it here.

"Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured." (Hebrews 13:1-3)



More from News

Subscribe to receive News articles by email >


Comments (3)

  1. Dean Davidson 12 september 2019, 09:21(Comment was edited) Link
    Hi Folks,

    I support your call to contact the relevant Senators about this sad piece of legislation. Just a quick comment about the suggested emails: the second should be to «The Hon Senator Griff» (not «Stirling»).

    Can I also suggest a change in wording to add something like:

    «Adequate medical care should be a basic human right, and I believe that Australia has a responsibility to treat all asylum seekers/refugees with respect, dignity and with all possible care for their ongoing health and well being, irrespective of any final decisions about their future.»

    All the best,