Federal Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison. Photo: Peter Rae
I've still got a nostalgic box of tampons in my top drawer. It sits alongside the photo of my diseased uterus, which I also insisted on keeping. The photo, that is, not the uterus. And I never thought either would come in handy again.
Turns out that the tampons - at least - are going to be very useful. I'm going to send one a month to the federal Minister for Inhumanity, Scott Morrison, as a little gift. Perhaps he would be as horrified by the photo of my uterus as I am by his government's continued treatment of asylum seekers.
Last week refugee advocacy groups including RISE (which represents refugees, survivors and former detainees) reminded Australians that women in detention do not have easy access to products like tampons and pads. They are forced to queue to get handouts - and when they get to the head of the queue, they get one or two doled out like special precious gifts.
If that had happened to me at the time my uterus began to clap out, I would have been in the queue every hour. In the meantime, I would have had to pad around with a wad of a towel stuck between my legs, my bleeding was so terrible.
Now this kind of ritual humiliation doesn't happen in every single detention centre. And it doesn't happen all the time.
But the fact that it happens at all is a symbol of the way in which successive governments have treated those who come to our shores seeking protection.
Kon Karapanagiotidis, who was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2010 for his human rights work with refugee support, says this practice has gone on for years. Kon says those who say it doesn't happen are lying - the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, which he founded 12 years ago, has received these reports for some time.
So a bunch of us at feminist action group Destroy the Joint decided there was only one way to get Scott Morrison's attention. And that was to give him a monthly reminder. We've asked women around Australia to write to Mr Morrison asking him to change the procedures for access to what are described as feminine hygiene products. But not just those little form letters - but ones with an appropriate message: either a pad or a tampon. Also totally ok to send mooncups and sponges.
Don't send used ones. That would be revolting. Unsafe and unhygienic. Those of you who think that would be amusing must know it's not Morrison opening his own mail. It will be a poorly paid administrative assistant who will be instructed to stop the flow as soon as possible. So feel free to write on clean, unused sanitary products with red nail polish or waterproof markers. But send the message.
It's pretty hard to communicate with Morrison to see what he says about these claims. I've given up calling his office because the media team doesn't return calls. Morrison has been on leave from his regular Friday briefings for at least the last two. Reporters have had to wait to get a royal proclamation to hear whether the briefings are going ahead.
As well, when the briefings existed, they were never in Canberra where he would have had to face an inquiring press gallery filled with experts. Instead, they were held in Sydney. At what cost to the community does flying the entourage of Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, Commander Operation Sovereign Borders, to Sydney for these briefings? Anyone know? So, we've got a Minister for Inhumanity and Immigration refusing to speak to the people who elected him or the reporters employed to report routinely on this portfolio.
He may be able to hide the boats but he won't be able to stop the flow of tampons and pads to his office (although I will bet he will deny any have arrived). Maybe we will all need to send them registered post and share photos of the forms we filled out when we did that.
I spoke to Graeme McGregor, the refugee campaign co-ordinator at Amnesty Australia, who was one of the researchers who visited Manus last year and whose report was published just three weeks ago. He said he met Morrison briefly. The Minister blamed the former government on the Third World conditions which house refugees in this centre. McGregor said: "The conditions we found are designed to humiliate and degrade the men who are detained on Manus - it's ritual humiliation, to encourage these men to return to their countries of origin."
That's precisely what Kon thinks too. It's a way of forcing people to return to the countries they are trying to escape.
Both Kon and Graeme say it is becoming a lot tougher to observe what's going on in detention centres. The government says it's a way of protecting the detainees but the refugee experts say it's just new ways of avoiding scrutiny.
Don't let Morrison escape from scrutiny. Send him a pad. Or a tampon. With love.