Go back to where you came from

I tell you, Australian current affairs TV is pulling out the big guns of late. First a 4Corners report brings live cattle trade to a screeching halt and now we have SBS galvanising viewers with the confronting, enlightening, horrifying and bold documentary Go back from where you came from.

I started doing a convoluted post about the six Australians in the doco being put through what a refugee goes through and their reactions in light of their initial attitudes.

Some of the attitudes expressed are alarming in their complete lack of compassion or empathy. The only thing just as alarming is the vitriol being directed at them via Twitter. I think I’ve been guilty of a bit of that. But my main issue with people being so devoid of understanding, empathy, compassion is exactly that. That it is coming from young Australians is even more alarming.

I will say here and now I have always been firmly of the opinion that it is NOT human nature to be nice to each other. To be thoughtful or understanding. That these are learnt traits. I read a study somewhere which discussed how if a child has not been taught right from wrong and the concepts of sharing and ‘being nice’ by the age of four then well, good luck to you. I think we can see that in the cold hard light of day in some of the protagonists.

I know there are some people who come here under false pretences. Who are not ‘good’ people as in genuine refugees. But how many? How many of them to the THOUSANDS desperately seeking a life free of persecution. Where their children will not die because they have no money for medications. Where family members will not be dragged off in the middle of the night?

Why are we not developing better systems to find the bad apple instead of instigating even more inhumane, draconian policies which punish the good?

How can the leader of the opposition run an election platform of “we will stop the boats” have any credibility whatsoever when only 2,500 refugees of the paltry 13,000 Australia takes every year?

I did a story once on refugees and the way the NSW education system was handling them. I met with a woman whose name now eludes me but was regarded as one of the eminent experts on refugee policies and issues in Australia. She was saying that it cost $5-6,000 more per person to ensure a refugee was adequately assisted in settling in Australia over someone else immigrating here. She stated very simply, if the goverment was not willing to spend this money on each person then we should not be accepting refugees at all. The fall-out from not supporting these new citizens are many and devastating – for them and for society.

But I digress. I think.

This is what this issue does to me.

I worry about it on a daily basis.

I worry that our system of accepting refugees is deeply flawed from the outset.

I worry that our system of supporting these people once they are here is seriously wanting.

I worry that the dumbing down of how our politicians communicate with us – that they’re driven by polls rather than policy – has given way too much acceptance to the dark whispering in our hearts about people and cultures we know little about – that they are to be feared, that they are here to ‘take over’, that they are barbaric.

That they have pandered to our base fears and we have let them.

That by letting them get away with saying things like, ‘we will decide who comes here and how they get here’ the real argument has been totally overlooked. The real argument being where are these people coming from, what are we doing to help those countries. What is going on in the countries these refugees get to before getting to us and how are we working with them to ensure THESE HUMAN BEINGS are looked after, cared for and most importantly SAFE.

Being part of a society where we are safe, where we can believe what we want to believe, wear what we want to wear, go where we want to go and not be killed, raped, tortured, maimed or murdered has to come at a price.

That price is ensuring no one gets left behind.

Many – if not most – of the refugees who get to Australia are deeply traumatised and have experienced more horror than any of us can even fathom let alone ever experience.

How are we embracing them? How are we enabling them to become active participants in our society? Or are we going to be driven by our base fears about difference and push them to the periphery of our society, leaving them with hardship and isolation which may not have the physical threats of their homeland but can be just as emotionally debilitating?

The issue is complex. The issue is fraught. The issue is expensive. It is hard.

But these are people. Human beings. Mothers, fathers, CHILDREN.

Imagine, for one moment, sharing a toilet with 50 people while raising your child. And not being allowed outside. Of either working illegally on a building site and risking getting caught or working FOR NOTHING tilling fields? Indefinitely. After you’ve witnessed family members killed or raped or taken away in front of you. Or lived in a war zone all your life.

Just imagine it. I can’t really. Can not even get my head around it.

It has to stop.





UPDATED: Things that need to change immediately:

– reasons people who are here are not allowed to stay – not political spin, a proper explanation of why they were desperate enough to get here but we do not see them as desperate enough to stay

– access to detention centres by the media.

– education campaigns and series about where refugees are coming from, what they have experienced, their own cultural backgrounds and religious beliefs. I will be the first to put my hand up and say I know/understand very very little about the muslim faith.

– trialling and exploring alternate ways of settling refugees into Australia – home stays, school community projects


UPDATED 2: When the live cattle trade debate was at its peak (isn’t it still?) Lyn White from Animals Australia wrote an article for The Sydney Morning Herald about it mentioning the words of the British politician William Wilberforce when fighting to bring an end to the slave trade:

You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.


UPDATED 3: Third and final episode tonight. I basically started crying from when it began until it ended. I watched it with Felix. He’s 11. I think he nailed it when he said to me, ‘When you see how these people live, we really are rich aren’t we.’

What followed was a discussion about how when we meet people who look different from us, talk in a different language to us, have a different religion to us, our base human reaction is to fear them. That we have to acknowledge that fear and see beyond it. That to do so is what it means to be a part of an educated, civilised society. That despite our differences we are all human beings with our own experiences and families and fears and loves.

And to never take our freedom for granted.

Man. What an emotional ride.


Some places to get more information and/or donate:

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre: http://www.asrc.org.au/

Department of Immigration and Citizenship: http://www.newsroom.immi.gov.au/

Services for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS): http://www.friendsofstartts.org/index.html

Not helping

so the Herald Sun ran this piece today:

Kevin Rudd averts Jacki Weaver Oscars Kerfuffle

AND the Oscar for Best Entertainment Diplomat goes to . . . Kevin Rudd.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has emerged as an unlikely saviour for Australia’s Oscar hopeful Jacki Weaver.

Nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Animal Kingdom, she was facing Oscars night without her husband by her side due to a visa snafu.

Hubby Sean Taylor, a South African national but an Australian citizen, could not obtain a visa in time and seemed destined to watch next week’s Hollywood ceremony from their Sydney home.

Enter another actor, Rhys Muldoon, who with Mr Rudd wrote a children’s book, Jasper and Abby and the Great Australia Day Kerfuffle.

“I got an email from Jacki saying it looked as if Sean would be sitting in his tuxedo and watching the Oscars from their home in Redfern because of visa problems – which, obviously, she was really disappointed by,” Muldoon said yesterday.

“It looked as if he wouldn’t get his visa until two days after the Oscars . . . so I put in the call to Kevin,” he said.

It is believed Mr Rudd called contacts at the US embassy, and Mr Taylor’s visa was issued immediately.

“It all got sorted out very quickly,” Muldoon said.

“But that’s what friends are for, I suppose.”

Mr Rudd’s media adviser confirmed the former prime minister had used some of his diplomatic sway.

and yet a child, a NINE year old boy, Seena, ORPHANED after the horrendous Christmas Island Boat Tragedy is still in a detention centre?

Shameful. Absolutely shameful.

Dear Universe

I’m not one for doing the whole ‘why me’ malarky because quite frankly it gets you nowhere further than deeper into your pity party hole. But when you throw a morning like this morning at someone who is already trying to get her shit together, well, you just plain suck.

Today’s plan*:
Drop boys at school
Drop little boys at daycare
Drop car at Chef’s work, pick up other car (so he could pick little boys up from daycare on his way home)
Go to movies
Come home, read blogs, relax, maybe make dinner
Pick boys up from school

Today’s reality:
4.18am – Jasper comes into our bed.
4.19 – 4.35am – Lie in bed freaking out about the world and trying to breath, medidate and all that other crazy shit rather than take a pill.
4.36am – Put Oscar back to bed and sit with him as I try to convince him that no, 4.35am is not a good time to start his day.
4.49am – Back into bed. Skin feels hot on my limbs, just under the top layer of skin. Has felt like this for over a week. Breath through latest panic attack.
4.50 – 5.44am – Lie in bed concentrating on not freaking out at the world. Can feel my body just starting to relax.
5.45am – Chef’s alarm goes off, he showers, Oscar is up, Grover is crying.
6am – Get up. Take Zoloft. No difference in mindset. Pissed off no instant state of zen achieved.
6.15am – Jitters return. All children up. We’re watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I want to live in that house on the hill.
6.16am – 8.29am – breakfast, children dressed, notes signed, cheques written, lunches made, bags packed. All done in a calm, orderly manner.
8.30am – everyone is in the car and we are on the school run. I thank everyone for such a lovely morning.
8.31am – as I back out of driveway think, ‘the car feel funny’ – put it down to my general state of mind-fuckedness.
8.32am – drive a block down the road and think, ‘no, something is really wrong’ and pull over.
8.32.15am – front passenger tyre completely flat.
8.33am – call roadside assist. Speak to very lovely man who says someone will be there in 25 minutes.
8.35am-9.10 – Wait. Boys play footy on the footpath. It starts to rain.
9.20 – Oscar goes running for ball, trips over own feet, is propelled through the air, over the gutter, hits the road with his nose, then forehead, then stomach. Jasper screaming runs onto road because the ball is on the road. Felix says, ‘that must have hurt’. Oscar panics. Jumps up, starts randomly running and hyperventilating and crying and can’t get a breath due to being winded from landing on his stomach.
9.20.30am – Parents dropping children at local kindy on opposite corner to where we have stopped, stare aghast, help with getting Jasper off the road.
9.21 – examine Oscar. End of his nose completely grazed. Forehead all grazed. Nose swollen and already blackening.
9.22 – man calls to say he is on approach.
9.25 – man arrives, changes tyre while I tend to Oscar. Am fairly convinced his nose is broken.
9.45 – we are back on the road. Drop Felix at school, take him to office, sign late slip, back in car to whimpering Oscar, Jasper and Grover.
9.50 – arrive at emergency department of hospital.
9.50 – 12.40pm – at hospital. Nose is fractured.


*I’m taking some time off work to get my shit together and cut me some slack.