Three things give Christmas Island its reputation: phosphate mining (now in its last decade), the natural environment (who could forget those amazing red crabs), and the four detention centres where asylum seekers are housed while they await processing.
The issue of desperate people trying to get to Australia in leaky boats deeply divides the community, and features prominently in election campaigns and in the media. The issue will be with us for a long time to come, and there are no easy solutions.
Is detention justifiable? Well, yes, but for how long, and for how many? Is there a queue that can be jumped? Yes and no. Can the government stop the boats by turning them around, or by dealing with people smugglers at the source? Probably not.
Whatever rules we adopt, people will keep coming, entertaining hopes of a better life. Our challenge is to meet that demand with justice and compassion.
Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, 8 July 2012.
Theologian, researcher, teacher, writer, foodie, husband, dad. Works at Moore Theological College.