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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, 18 May 2011
I promise I will try not to get too shouty / ranty at Sentatorer Cash and P-Muz.