Gladstone women tell Senator to 'get real' on immigration
SENATOR Fraser Anning's first speech to the Senate has been met with some carefully considered criticism from his own backyard.
As political figures lined up yesterday to voice their condemnation of the Senator's call for a "final solution" to immigration, two Gladstone women spoke to The Observer about their disappointment in the comments, and their concerns for Gladstone's reputation.
Carmelita Van Deventer spent 18 years teaching in Papua New Guinea before taking on the same job in Gladstone.
She now volunteers at St Saviour's Anglican Church.
Mrs Van Deventer said Senator Anning's desire for immigrants to reflect a "European Christian" composition of Australian society was at odds with her own religious beliefs.
"As a Christian, I believe that everyone is made in the image of God," she said.
"We're feeding people here tonight (at Ray's Soup Kitchen). We don't say you can't come here because you're white, or black, or a different religion. Get real.
"Look beyond the skin colour, see the human being. See a happy person? Be happy with them. See a sad person? Try and give them a hand up."
Mrs Van Deventer said she knew Senator Anning from his time living in Gladstone, and while he had always been "perfectly polite" to her, his views were well known.
"And he knew my views that everybody is a person to be cared for," she said.
"I think the speech was offensive to most people, because we do not spend our time thinking about ethnicity."
Welcoming Intercultural Neighbours director Natalia Muszkat helps newly arrived people with their settlement and integration into Gladstone's community.
Ms Muszkat said she was concerned about what the rest of Australia might think about Gladstone, given Senator Anning's time here and his mention of the town in his speech.
"Everyone's entitled to their own opinions, and we live in a democracy so everyone has a voice, which is great," she said.
"But we don't agree with his comments... I think they were racist comments, 100 per cent.
"Hopefully other people within the Senate can work with him to make him understand that it's not the best way for the country going forward.
"I believe it's based on the fear that's being spread around some of these communities... but dividing people for the sake of picking up votes is not going to solve anything."