Tara's Thoughts

Restoring Territory rights: why it matters

August 13, 2018

It was 11 weeks from the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer—already spread throughout his body—until his death.

His last few weeks were marked by significant pain. And the last moments I shared with my Dad while he was conscious—my very last memories of him—were him swearing at me in frustration because of the utter indignity he was experiencing. He would hate to be remembered like that, but those memories are seared in my mind.

My story is not an uncommon one. Too many of our loved ones suffer, seemingly unnecessarily, in the final days of their terminal illnesses.

These shared experiences are one of the reasons why so many Australians and their parliaments are having the important conversation about voluntary assisted dying. We’re approaching a year since the Victorian parliament legislated for it.

However, not all parliaments in Australia are able to have the same debate on this important issue. Thanks to federal legislation, the Northern Territory and the ACT are restricted from legislating for voluntary assisted dying.

That’s right. Federal parliament made up of a vast majority of members who don’t represent us, or our interests, have decided for us that they know what’s right for us. Simply because of where we live—because we’re in a Territory, not a State—we don’t get to decide for ourselves whether voluntary assisted dying is right for us or not. We’re trusted to make health policy in every other area, but nope, not this one.

But there is some hope. Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm has done a deal with the Prime Minister to allow a bill to repeal this federal legislation to be debated in the Senate next week. This is the best chance we’ve had in 20 years for our rights as Territory citizens to be restored.

The thing is, there are 76 senators but only four are from the Territories. The rest of the Senators are from the States. We need to convince those Senators to give us back our rights.

As Canberrans, it’s almost guaranteed that we all have friends and even family who are living in a State. This week I’ve been asking my interstate family and friends a big favour – to write to their Senators and make it clear that all Australians deserve equal rights on this issue, that each State and Territory should be able to decide for itself whether this is a policy that’s right for them.

We shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens simply because we live in a Territory – but we need the help of our family and friends to change that.

If you’d like to encourage your loved ones to give us a hand, they can write to their Senators easily here.

This appeared on HerCanberra.com.au on 13 August 2018.