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Unions stand with Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital staff for baby Asha

Almost everyone in the crowd held a banner showing support for baby Asha. Photo: Amy Mitchell-Whittington Hundreds signed a banner for baby Asha, which would be taken to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s office later in the week. Photo: Amy Mitchell-Whittington

Support for baby Asha has not wavered on day four of the round-the-clock vigil outside Lady Cilento hospital as unions from across Queensland gathered to stand in solidarity.

Over 15 varied unions representing the tens of thousands of workers across the state rallied together on Monday night outside to pledge their support for the medical staff at the children’s hospital who refused to release 12-month-old baby Asha until a “suitable home environment” was identified.

The child was brought into the children’s hospital last month after suffering accidental burns from boiling water at a detention centre at Nauru.

“Let them stay” was chanted by some who had been rallying outside the hospital since late Friday night.

Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle addressed a crowd checkered with ‘Let Asha Stay’ and ‘Seeking Asylum is Legal’ banners and said she had spoken with members who were “really grateful” for the support they were getting but “didn’t know what all the fuss is about”.

“They are saying,’This is what we do as health professionals, we care for people without fear or favour and we make sure they are not released unless it is safe to do so’,” Ms Mohle said.

“They use their clinical and professional judgements and ethical frameworks to make these decisions and that is what is happening in this instance,” Ms Mohle said.

Ms Mohle said the stand-off brought into sharp relief further complaints nurses had made over the controversial Border Force Act and its effect on how they worked at other hospitals.

“Their professional judgement and their ethical judgement is being compromised because of what is required upon them due to federal legislation,” Ms Mohle said.

“Health professionals feel very much at risk because of the federal government’s policy framework. They don’t want to play politics, they just want to take care of sick people as best they can.

“They want to focus on a humane society, one that has a big enough heart to take in babies like baby Asha when they need the care.”

Queensland Teachers Union organiser Brendan Crotty called on the federal government to “show some compassion” for children in detention.

“We have lots of kids who are currently in community detention or actual detention that we want to see released and given a fair go to reach their full potential as individuals,” he said.

GetUp! campaigner Ellen Roberts said she had been involved with refugee politics for the last decade and had “never seen anything like this”.

“It really feels like the tide is turning on this issue, the momentum is building in a way that I don’t think anyone would have anticipated,” she said while cars driving past honked in support.

“We have seen Premiers across the country come out, we have seen church leaders, we have seen councils, we have seen schools and we’ve seen hospitals and there is no doubt that this ground swell we have seen at Lady Cilento hospital over the last couple of days is crucial to maintaining pressure on the government.”

Baby Asha’s mother, *Abhaya, was still in constant fear of being removed from the hospital and sent back to Nauru, her former caseworker Natasha Blucher said.

“I would say distressed and sort of right on the edge of extreme distress,” she said.

“She’s been taken away from them at times during transfers, so they have like a trauma response to it.”

It’s believed Asha was the first baby born in detention to be transferred to Nauru.

Ms Blucher said the family had a number of traumatic incidents in detention and were relieved to feel like they weren’t alone for the first time.

She said Abhaya was “overwhelmed” and “bewildered” by the support and could only say thank you to the hundreds who’d gathered outside on Monday night.

On Monday afternoon, Children’s Health Queensland executive director medical services Dr Andrew Hallahan said the hospital was speaking with “relevant agencies” to find the most appropriate option for the child’s care.

He rejected claims the hospital was full and the space afforded to baby Asha should have been made available to Queensland children.

“As in all cases, decisions relating to a patient’s treatment and discharge are made by a multidisciplinary team of qualified clinical staff, based on a thorough assessment of the individual patient’s clinical condition and circumstances, with the goal of delivering the best outcomes within the boundaries of the law,” he said, in a statement.

Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation Queensland president Stephen Morrison said the union had not received any complaints from doctors about being pressured into changing their minds.

Earlier on Monday, former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the government would hold its line “absolutely” adding any policy exceptions for baby Asha would be seen as an invitation for people smugglers to recommence.

A Refugee Action Collective Queensland Facebook event has been scheduled for the following four nights.

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