Australian Government’s response to the Venezuelan Crisis

Open letter to Senator Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs.

Dear Mr. Seselja,

It is with a heavy heart that I am moved to write to you again, three years after my initial contact.

Unlike then the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis is now well known around the world. In a country with the highest oil reserves in the world people are dying of starvation, from the lack of basic medicines and supplies or simply shot dead by government-sponsored paramilitary groups. The situation is unsustainable. People on the streets demand early transparent elections and the liberation of political prisoners. After 50 days of protests the death toll sits at 59.

As the son of immigrants I am sure you understand how hard it is to see those left behind go through hard times. My mother is 69. She has a heart condition and can’t find the medicines she needs. Her pension as a retired University professor is not enough to buy food. She gets by with supplies sent by relatives overseas. She showed me photos of people scavenging for food in the uncollected bins outside her block of flats. “It used to be the dogs” – she said. The National Guard threw tear gas directly at her building, blaming residents of sheltering protesters. She hid in the bathroom for hours. A relative was arrested in 2014 for helping students in another wave of unrest that year. She spent 3 months in jail until she was granted the privilege of house arrest to this day.

The international community is now united in condemning the regime’s actions. We have seen strong, unequivocal statements from the Organisation of American States, the European Parliament, the US Government and other governments around the world.

In contrast Australia remains silent. I urge you and Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. Julie Bishop MP to listen to the Venezuelan community in this country. We are concerned. We are sad. We are angry. We expect a clear position by your Government against the dictatorship in no ambiguous terms. We expect the Australian Parliament to show solidarity with their Venezuelan counterparts who have been persecuted and arrested in their fight for democracy.

Mr Seselja, after 15 years in Australia I consider myself a good immigrant. My oldest daughter (10) plays AFL every Sunday. The second one (7) eats vegemite on toast for breakfast. The youngest (4), well she’s too little to even spell Oz. They are all fair dinkum Canberra girls. But my wife and I can’t take our minds off our families and friends in Venezuela.

We are a small group but the Venezuelan community in Australia deserves to be heard.

Warm regards,

Lionel Orellana


Please sign this petition: The Aus-Venezuelan community appeal to the Aus Parliament to discuss the Venezuelan crisis