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Refugees in Australia

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One rainy day, we shut down the World Economic Forum.

Refugees: those who miraculously arrive on Australian shores, after a long journey, yet without their papers, are systematically persecuted.

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Part of a painting I did about Woomera, 2001

Whilst being at uni, I have witnessed an incredible transformation in attitudes towards refugees. I remember in 2000, when friends printed out all those 'free the refugees' t-shirts, and distributed them around uni, as part of a broader campaign, waking people up and protesting complicit government bodies. At that stage, the 'free the refugees' slogan was very controversial, and people who wore the shirts and spoke in their lectures were often berated or heckled.

Over time, many people have come to see the wisdom of this campaign, and to deeply empathise with refugees locked up or on TPVs in Australia.

This is a very significant part of our contemporary history.

Here is one small part of that history, that I participated in.

The story about our all-night vigil at Port Hedland Detention Centre in July 2002 can be found here.

It was an incredible night, and has become legendary within detention centres, known as 'The Party on the Beach".

We played drums and danced to songs like "We who believe in freedom shall not rest until it comes. We who believe in freedom shall not rest"

and "We will not bow down to...racism. We will not bow down to ... injustice. We will not bow down to...exploitation. We're gonna stand... We're gonna stand. We will not be moved by... (repeat above with new words)

I also played a bit of violin (which was fine until the milk missiles came over the fence). The people in detention warmed up throughout the night to the party atmosphere. We started throwing a soccer ball to and fro over the razor wire fences, then later on, they cooked food for us: hard-boiled eggs, rice and curries, and many other surprises. These were thrown over the fences wrapped in towels.

Then later, they threw over long-life milk, and flasks of milky, sugary coffee, with plastic cups. We were overwhelmed with their generosity.

Finally, several men began dancing: traditional dances, to traditional Iranian (I think) music. Many people had all-night conversations across the razor-wire, and swapped details.

Here is a letter I wrote to NI about the fact that refugees among the most pro-active people in the world (rather than passive).

download media release by Iraqi TPV holders

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The Freedom Bus at Port Hedland, 2002

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Singing and dancing all night. Port Hedland (photographer unknown)

Environmental Refugees


A discussion of mine on Environmental Refugees in the context of Hurricane Katrina is posted on my blog here.


If you would like to visit a detention centre, to come to understand and value the human courage that our government wants to vilify, you can get in contact with many local groups that do this regularly.

My friend Chantelle visits Villawood (in Sydney) regularly on Saturdays with her local Vinnies branch. If you want to contact her, her email is cavepainter82 at yahoo dot com dot au

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http://www.refugeesaustralia.org

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