I’m just about to start up fourth week at my Dream Job: I’m in the Civil branch at Legal Aid WA and I’m working on a whole range of things from Legal Advice Bureaus and Criminal Injuries Compensation claims to assisting asylum seekers in detention centres get through the hoops DIAC makes them jump through to ‘prove’ that they are genuine refugees.
Because, you know, people who come here on boats are sneakily trying to slip in through the ‘back door’ and jump those sensible and orderly ‘queues’ that exist in war-torn countries MIGHT ACTUALLY BE NASTY FOLK WHO ENJOY EXTREME ADVENTURE HOLIDAYS RIGHT ZOMFG INTERROBANG
The thing that pisses me off the most about the whole dog-whistle ‘debate’ we’re having is that asylum seekers and refugees are talked about, trollumnised on, statistified. They are made into unhumans.
DIAC’s motto is “People: our business”. But it hardly feels like that. My clients each have SEVERAL reference numbers that we need to note on all our correspondence – a client ID, a file number, an application ID, boat ID… Their name (sadly) isn’t enough. The government refers to asylum seekers who arrive by boat as ‘Irregular Maritime Arrivals”. A friend of mine pointed out that it makes these people sound like packages that have been lost in the post.
Rarely do we talk to them or listen to their stories and see them as real men, women and (sadly) children – with hopes and (sadly) many fears and dreams and families.
In my volunteering work at CASE for Refugees and now with LAWA all I do is listening to real stories from real people who have had experiences our subconsciousness couldn’t even process to turn into nightmares.
When Ruddock said recently that unaccompanied minors are coming here as part of a dodgy immigration racket, I just wanted to jump up and down and point to my high-school-aged client whose father and older brother were murdered before they had to flee their homeland. My client’s mother didn’t come with them on the trip here because she stayed with my client’s younger siblings, who couldn’t make such a journey.
If helping that kid to avoid growing up in a war-zone and letting him have a chance to go to school and is a racket, I am damn proud to call myself a gangster.
As Omar Little wisely said on The Wire:
“I’ll do what I can to help y’all. But, the game’s out there, and it’s play or get played. That simple.”
Now. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they’re totally wishing that they could help, but bemoaning that they can’t because they are not human rights lawyers like me. (OMFG. I really am a human rights lawyer now, aren’t I? SQUEE-EFFING-SQUEE, MUTHAZ!!! I MADE IT!!!)
OK: NEWSFLASH! Human rights lawyers only do a teeny-tiny part of this game. We’re just like, the little hoppers on them corners, yo.
The best thing about this here game, is that it’s really easy to play and all’a y’all can be soldiers, aight?
Everyone, every single one of us, all of you peeps at the other end of the internets, no matter what your job, your income, your age, WHAT THE EFF EVER, can take part in supporting asylum-seekers and helping to change a conversation that has been trolling our “lucky” country for far too long.
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP:
◊ Talk to your friends about asylum seekers. Request your own “Change the conversation” booklet from Amnesty by emailing your name and postal address to firstname.lastname@example.org or check out ASRC’s factsheets (summary; big booklet).
◊ Check out ASCI for info on how you can be involved in the Christmas Island Letter Writing Project.
◊ Donate to Dictionaries for Detainees – Refugee Rights Action Network‘s TOTES ORSM project getting bilingual dictionaries into detention centres to help asylum-seekers and refugees learn English while they’re waiting for their applications to get processed.
◊ Get involved with ChilOut – a not-for-profit community group of Australians who are concerned with the plight of children held in immigration detention.
◊ Perth Peeps can:
- volunteer with Perth CARAD – Coalition for Asylum-seekers Refugees and Detainees to provide homework help, go on detention centre visits and assist with other services;
- support ASETTS, which provides services to people who are humanitarian entrants or are from a refugee type background and who have experienced torture or trauma in their country of origin, during their flight to Australia, or while in detention (happens a lot nowadays – #sadsigh); or
- join RRAN and do a whole bunch of things (check out their Facebooks for more info), including take an EPIC trip over the Easter/ANZAC long weekend out to Curtin Detention Centre – in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts Derby (Easterners can do this one too – it’s not much closer from here!!)
◊ In Melbourne and Victoria, the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre does a PHENOMENAL amount of amazing things. Also, their CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM has got a show on at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival called ‘The Hateful Humanitarian’ and all proceeds are going to ASRC. Check them out on the Twitters, too, they tweet good and stuff.
◊ And lastly — for the wanna-be hoppers out there: lawyers and law-student types can volunteer with…
- CASE for Refugees in Perth
- Refugee Advice and Casework Service in Sydney
- Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre in Melbourne
- Australian Refugee Association Inc (ARA) In RADelaide
- Refugee and Immigration Legal Service in Bris-vegas
- Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission in the NT
- Migrant Resource Centre in Hobart
NB: If there are more you know of that I don’t (I DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING YOU KNOW!) please leave a note in the comments and I will update this list.
Awesome tweep Tony Thorpe reminded us the other night:
“None of us can do everything. All of us can do something. Together we can do a lot.”
And a quick message to all them haters out there: GAME ON, MOLES – we’re coming to talk to you politely and sensibly about Teh Boats and stuff over a cuppa. If you’re nice, we might even give you an ANZAC biccie.