Dad and I circa 1983
I understand I'll most likely lose readers over this, I'm willing to carry that. For me, the issue of asylum seeking is akin to say sexual assault. It may sound dramatic to compare the two but really at the end of the day you either think it's acceptable or you don't. Asylum seeking is a basic human right, a right to live free of persecution without the fear of being tortured, harmed, killed. Being racist, discrimination against someone for their colour, race, religion is punishable by law much the same as sexual assault.
Since Friday I've gone through a lot of emotions, our gallant Prime Minster's announcement shocked me at first. Then it made me so sad, upset to the point of tears. Of course this turned into anger, frustration and shock at the reactions of people I know. The vast difference of opinion on social media was apparent in my feeds. On FB there was praise at the decision, on Twitter people were destroyed, broken and angered. One person I follow was speechless after having their parents come from Vietnam on a boat. They couldn't believe the blatant racism and complete lack of empathy for people seeking a brighter future. In The Age over the weekend the general shocked consensus prevailed. Prolific Australians that come from asylum seeking backgrounds expressed their disgust at the decision, Les Murry, Dr Karl Kruszlnicki, Henry Szeps among them. Dr Kruszlnicki was my favourite quote "I came by a boat and my father was a refugee smuggler. He smuggled jews out of Poland to get them away from the Nazis. Refugees are not coming here because we have really good TV shows - they're coming here because people are shooting at them." - The Age 21/7/13
There is talk that this will stop the drownings, it won't. People will still drown this isn't going to stop people needing to escape turmoil, this isn't going to hinder people from getting on a boat. I've heard people say "but what about those who apply legally aren't these people stuffing it up for them?!" No, no they aren't. Julian Burnside said "As for “queue-jumping”, leave aside that there is no queue where boat people come from, the etiquette of the checkout at Coles is not how it works when you are running for your life." - The Age 18/713 Then there are the sweeping, misinformed, non factual, uneducated, ridiculous arguments "they are taking our jobs, Australia for Australians, don't speak English, etc, etc".
I started to write a rebuttal for all of these ridiculous statements but to be honest I don't have the time to go into it. Basically people need to pull their heads out of the clouds.
I have seen people say they are "sick of THEM in this country". I'd love to know where these people have come across asylum seekers in their day to day life and how they are so threatened by them. I'd also like to know if it's in fact the migrant they are threatened by? Those pesky people that aren't white and "take our jobs" ahahahahaa it's just so ridiculous.
It breaks my heart that we can say no to women and children and place them in a country that carries travel warnings from the Australian Government. If a country can't fix itself on it's own how can it be expected to fix itself and look after vulnerable displaced people? PNG is a third world country with massive psycho social issues. It is not a safe haven for people escaping death, war, torture and political conflict.
When my father came here, in the late 70's the White Australia policy had just been abolished. I'm half expecting PM Rudd to reinstate the policy, it wouldn't surprise me. I know for a fact that my dad tried very hard to assimilate as soon as he arrived here, he picked a footy team, he spoke broken english, he ate meat pies. I also know that he found it impossible to get work in country Victoria because of the colour of his skin, I know I was teased at school and had my jumper slashed up because of my background. When I had people over I was embarrassed if we weren't having "normal" food. People teased me because of my button nose and the colour of my skin (I was blessed with beautiful olive skin when I was kid, not so much now unfortunately!). It all kind of panned out after the early years of junior school. It wasn't until last Friday that I felt "different" again, defensive even. Defensive of my background, my dad our second language, different food.
So, sorry if we've taken your jobs, spoken in a language you don't understand, spent time in groups with people from a country other than Australia. Sorry if we've come on a boat or a plane, I'm not really sure which one is "acceptable" now. Sorry. Sorry if we've been on any welfare or had medical attention. Sorry if we've been packing things in a factory, cleaning a toilet or cooking you your takeaway. We should have known our place was back where we came from.
It's wonderful to have an inflated sense of entitlement now, isn't it?
*Julian Burnside has written a much more succinct article on this issue, you can find it here.