Official Opening of the QPASTT Symposium
President of the Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma, Professor Keithia Wilson; Vice-Chancellor of the Queensland University of Technology, Professor Margaret Sheil AO; Ladies and Gentlemen,
I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land, and thank Ms Deb Duthrie for her Welcome to Country, while expressing my respect to elders, past and present.
I am pleased to be here, both as Governor of Queensland and as Patron of this wonderful program which has now been providing humanitarian support in our State for 23 years.
The Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma is an unusually long title for a program, but I have deliberately chosen to use that full title this morning, rather than the acronym “QPASTT”, in order to fully recognise the terrible reality of the final three words of the title – survivors, torture, and trauma.
Using ‘QPASTT’ might make communication more efficient, but at the opening of today’s Symposium, I use the longer form to acknowledge, with compassion and empathy, the enormity of what survivors have endured.
I commend you on the title chosen for today’s Conference – Healing in Exile – The Challenges in Context.
We can hear the stories of the tragic pathway by which a refugee comes to be among us, but unless we, too, have had that experience, it is difficult to fully understand what it means to be exiled, and the concomitant sense of abandonment, and permanent separation from culture, land and language.
But while most of us cannot fully appreciate the negative impact of the exile experience, we can all embrace the healing and strength that can grow through initiatives such as this program and this symposium.
The South American human rights activist and writer, Ariel Dorfman, says we are now living in “the age of the refugee – the age of the exile”.
Dorfman himself was exiled from Chile during the tyrannical Pinochet regime and has since become a powerful voice for exiles everywhere. “I think to be in exile is a curse”, he says, “and you need to turn it into a blessing. You've been thrown into exile to die, really, to silence you so that your voice cannot come home. And so my whole life has been dedicated to saying, 'I will not be silenced’.”
With those extraordinarily powerful sentiments, and with hope for “Healing in Exile” for all survivors of torture and trauma living in Queensland, it now gives me great pleasure to officially open this symposium and to wish you all well for a fruitful day of discussion, positive outcomes, and continued success with the marvellous work you do.