talking #refugees

Yesterday I gave a talk at the Zonta Club of Perth‘s Cultural Awareness Day. The day was aimed to ‘foster empathy, friendship and an enhanced understanding of the lives of women that come to Australia as refugees’ but I was there to talk about stories from CASE for Refugees. The stories from the other ladies, though: WOW.

I gasped and bawled.

Catrina Hoang showed us photos from her amazing book Boat People: Personal Stories From the Vietnamese Exodus 1975-1996

She made a pretty important point which is rather relevant to the current issues we’re having here, and that was that asylum seekers do not get into rickety boats and risk death on the high seas for a better life. They are doing it for life. Just life. They risk it all for life. Full stop.

Pretty powerful stuff.

One of things I think is really important in the whole debate about refugees is the fact that so few people really understand why asylum seekers leave their countries. This problem is only magnified but the offshore-processing system where asylum seekers are ‘out of sight & out of mind’ in remote locales around Australia, most often behind razor wire.

All these programs and policies that keep these incredibly vulnerable people isolated from our community (and away from services that they often desperately need) are aimed at appeasing sections of the electorate who are (allegedly) anxious about boat arrivals.

The thing is: people who understand the issues and the stories and the reasons why they have left their homeland are not anxious about the small percentage of asylum seekers that arrive here by boat. Just as no-one (at all!) fears the majority of applicants for protection visas that come here on tourist visas or as students or workers.

That’s why the event today sharing stories and discussing the issues was so heartening.

Speaking of debates and discussions – the Law Society of WA’s Young Lawyers Committee are holding a panel on the asylum seeker debate during Law Week featuring:

  • Senator Michaelia Cash, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration;
  • Robert Lindsay, Barrister-at-Law, Sir Lawrence Jackson Chambers;
  • Paul Murray, Radio Host, 6PR and former Editor, The West Australian; and
  • me!

O_o

The Young Lawyers Committee asked CASE, who were like “Oh. Well Sunili’s a Young Lawyer. Done.”

The deets are:

Date: Thursday, 19 May 2011
Time: 6pm to 7.30pm
Venue: The Law Society of Western Australia
Level 4, 89 St Georges Terrace, Perth
Cost: Free (bookings essential)
RSVP: Email younglawyers@lawsocietywa.asn.au by Wednesday, 18 May 2011

[PDF flyer]

I promise I will try not to get too shouty / ranty at Sentatorer Cash and P-Muz.

This event will foster empathy, friendship and an enhanced understanding of the lives of women that come to Australia as refugees

3 thoughts on “talking #refugees

  1. There needs to be a change in our language. Words such as Refugees, Boat People, Pensioners, The Disabled, Teenagers, Women and The Military all hide one very important fact. These groups are made up of individuals. The whole human race is made up of individuals. We are born as individuals and we die as individuals yet, if I may be permitted two “group words”, the media and politicians survive by lumping people into amorphous masses. When we talk of “Boat People” or “Refugees” we are really talking about terrified individuals.

    As JB Priestley said, “I can’t help feeling wary when I hear anything said about the masses. First you take their faces from ‘em by calling ‘em the masses and then you accuse ‘em of not having any faces.”

  2. Great point about coming here just for life. I spent 2 months volunteering in CI IDC’s and 1 in Curtin IDC, and didn’t meet a single person who came here for the good climate.

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