Inspiring people: true Aussies both

Two from last night’s Australian of the Year Award – with an eye to the future.

Young Australian of the Year 2013: Akram Azimi

"This bloke is a legend already," says one commenter.

Akram Azimi is a dedicated mentor to young Indigenous people.  Arriving in Australia 13 years ago from Afghanistan he went from being ‘an ostracised refugee kid with no prospects’ to becoming his school’s head boy. An outstanding student, he topped the tertiary entrance exam scores among his classmates. He’s now studying a triple major – law, science and arts – at the University of Western Australia. Intent on giving back to his adopted country, Akram uses his leadership and pastoral skills to help young people in remote and rural Western Australia.  In 2011 he co-founded a student-run initiative I am the other set up to raise awareness about Indigenous issues in universities. His philanthropic roles have included working with True Blue Dreaming, which helps disadvantaged remote Indigenous communities. For three years, Akram mentored young Indigenous people in the Looma community in the Kimberley region, and he has mentored primary school students in the small farming community of Wyalkatchem, in WA’s wheat belt. Akram is also mentoring a Special Olympics athlete to help raise community awareness of disability issues.

See also The Big Interview with Akram Azimi.


Local Hero: Shane Phillips

REDFERN: According to the Sydney Morning Herald’s (Sydney) magazine, Shane Phillips of the Tribal Warrior Association is one of Sydney’s 100 most influential people writes Liesa Clague in the February 2012 edition of the South Sydney Herald.

It was an immense pleasure speaking to Shane about growing up in Redfern – what has inspired him with regards to his work now, and recalling, when he was young, the key events and people who have made him the leader he is today.

Shane (a Bundjalung, Wonnarua and Eora man) was born in Redfern, and grew up surrounded by role models such as Mum Shirl, Charlie Perkins, Joyce Clague, and other Aboriginal men and women who have contributed to the fight for equal opportunity, the right to be counted as part of the wider community and to help support Aboriginal people. Shane talked about the environment of Redfern in the ’70s and ’80s, which were “good times”.

Much has changed since then. Shane looks forward to new life for “working families” on The Block, better relationships with the police and among all people of good will in the community.

What inspires Shane is supporting his family and being true to them as well as doing the best he can for his community.

He believes that you need good work ethics and to follow through by doing the best job you can.

Shane started work at the age of 14, after being told by his Dad he had to work. The work experience for Shane was “tough but fair”, and he learnt a lot from the people he worked with and for. He learned there was value and pride in contributing to the greater good.

Shane recalls, when he was 14 years old, assisting another lad to break into a car. The other lad ran away but Shane was caught by police. He recalls that the police officer “kicked me up the bum” and “told me he didn’t want me being involved in any stealing again”. This event shaped Shane to realise that he did not want to do anything to get himself into trouble. “I respected that he gave me that chance – that he showed me that respect,” Shane said.

Being there for his family, maintaining humility and integrity, and developing programs that support young people in the community to achieve their goals are very important to Shane – more important than any accolades or awards.

Source: South Sydney Herald February 2012

See more from redwatch.


See SBS video The Block for a profile of Shane.

Promises, promises!

Yesterday Wayne Swan was hijacked by facts and therefore had to “break a promise!”  The majority of economists, business leaders and commentators are saying it was about time – for example, see Swan eats crow – and not a day too soon.  The Opposition, particularly Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, have been handed a great Christmas gift and are acting as one would expect – but, as Lenore Taylor notes:

The Coalition has promised always to deliver surpluses but on Thursday Abbott hedged that promise saying, ”based on current figures”. If forecasts change, so might the Coalition’s promise. If it sticks with its pledge, when it comes time to tally the cost of election promises in the new year…

All this set me to thinking about political promises.


Thanks to RacingB*tch

Gillard, Swan, Wong and all thoroughly painted themselves into a corner over the “budget surplus” promise – very foolish of them in retrospect, especially as so many quite supportive voices pointed out their folly. Had they promised merely to roll back the deficit they would not have had a problem, as they have indeed made very substantial inroads on that front. But they would set a too specific target, wouldn’t they. The splendid Penny Wong tried to look fetching with egg on her face on 7.30 last night, but it didn’t quite work.

Trouble is promises are so often oversimplified and changing circumstances can lead to much biting on the bum. Sometimes the promise is so far over the top as to be impossible from the word go, as was the case with Bob Hawke and “no child in poverty” by 1990 – now Hawke’s greatest regret apparently.

Twenty years after pledging no Australian child would live in poverty, former prime minister Bob Hawke says his comment is one of his biggest regrets.

"It was a silly shorthand thing," Mr Hawke has told News Limited newspapers. "I should have just said what was in the distributed speech."

I venture to say that in the sad race to the bottom we have seen on asylum seekers in recent years, Tony Abbott and the Coalition will rue the day they ever started barking “I will stop the boats!”  It seems to me that they will not, that their reasoning based on the effectiveness of policies of the past decade may well be very flawed.  Paris Aristotle was very likely correct the other day at the Senate hearing.

"At the current rate of arrivals, we could see upwards of 25,000 to 30,000 people coming (in 2013)," Mr Aristotle told a parliamentary committee in Canberra on Monday.

"There is simply no way our navy has the capacity to get to every boat that will get into distress in those circumstances."…

"If we think this is going to be fixed in three months we are delusional," he said.

Some idea of what has changed may be deduced from this graphic from the GetUp blog. Go there for the full graphic and commentary.


See also There’s no evidence that asylum seeker deterrence policy works and other posts in that Conversation series.


So good luck, Tony Abbott. I suspect your time for eating crow will come. Another shredded promise just waiting to happen, partly because it has been framed hyperbolically for full drama queen effect in the first place. A shame, too, that it is also a pretty disgraceful policy as well, but that is another matter I have pursued before. See also The People Smuggler.

The People Smuggler pieces together the events and terror that force people to take their chances on rickety boats. It fleshes out and humanises the people the politicians would rather we didn’t identify with and that the 30-second sound bites cannot ever capture.

It forces us to re-think the government’s ‘children overboard’ scapegoating version of events, the actual ways to ‘stop the boats’ that significantly differ from politicians’ postured but ultimately empty promises. It highlights the farcical and inhumane systems we have in place for processing—or not processing, as the case often seems to be—refugees we turn into detainees.

Ali sums up the situation well:

This is the first time I have heard of queue-jumping. I try to imagine this queue. What do they think? That when the secret police are shooting at you, you run down the street yelling, ‘Where’s the queue? Where’s the queue?’

He also writes:

It is unclear why Australians are so strangely concerned about asylum seeks arriving by airplane; maybe because there’re no pictures in the paper or on TV. But they are so afraid of the two percent who come by boat that they lock them up like criminals. As with the Jews in World War II, the refugees’ pitiful plight inspires irrational fear. If Australian people only knew the strength it takes to get on one of these boats, to keep holding onto life after the horrors these people have been through, they would be filled with awe and admiration.

That’s exactly what I’m filled with after reading The People Smuggler. I have a good mind to post copies to our not-so-esteemed ‘leaders’, especially the blustering, ‘I’ll stop the boats’ one who has a penchant for wearing budgie smugglers.

On lying pollies from another perspective see Promises promises: When politicians don’t deliver.


Just a couple of other thoughts on the Wayne Swan/deficit news.

Nicholas Gruen, economist:

As a temporary member of the press gallery I had my ‘gotcha’ question ready for Wayne Swan, but alas didn’t join the shouting match to get my question in. But I can share it with you gentle reader – a little esprit de l’escalier a few hours later.

Treasurer, do you support the Budget’s Paper’s call for the Budget to retain “the necessary flexibility for the budget position to vary in line with economic conditions to support macroeconomic stability” or your Prime Minister’s commitment to return the budget to surplus in 2012-13 come what may.

That promise is the best of promises – and the worst of promises….

— Crikey, May 10th, 2011. A more recent column making similar points here.

Jim Belshaw:

The statement by Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan that the Commonwealth was unlikely to achieve a budget surplus this financial year came as no surprise.  Apart from some rather strange reporting in the Australian (Labor exposed as Treasurer Wayne Swan breaks surplus promise), I think that the major reaction among many was one of relief. I said strange reporting because of the inconsistency between the main take-home message provided by the "story" and the detail contained within it; this is political commentary masquerading as reporting.

Why relief? Well, the numbers have been suggesting for some time that a surplus was almost certainly unachievable. The fear was that in its desire to protect a political promise, the Commonwealth Government would be forced into silly spending cuts. The latest national account figures showed that the Government sector in general is now detracting from growth as a consequence of spending cuts. Further cuts would have added to this at a time when the economy is clearly off the boil. Forget the social policy arguments about the adverse effects of cuts. When the business sector as a whole starts arguing for the abandonment of the surplus target, you can be reasonably sure that there is a problem…

So, finally, Treasurer Swan was forced to face reality, not the atmospherics of politics. A bloody good thing too.

Mad pollies: cut, cut and cut again, and hang the consequences…

Let’s hope they have more brains than that, but I am not holding my breath.

From The Illawarra Mercury.

Illawarra’s multicultural services will be forced to take up the slack if multicultural program staff are lost in a Department of Education and Communities restructure.

NSW Teachers Federation regional organiser Nicole Calnan said the multicultural support positions were not included in a draft proposal of the restructure sent to department offices this month.

Under the restructure – part of the NSW government’s plan to save $1.7 billion in education spending – Illawarra schools will be absorbed into a super region and support jobs will be cut.

"There is no provision for ensuring that the current level of multicultural program support for schools will continue," Ms Calnan said.

"Under this realignment, the positions of multicultural/ESL [English as a second language] consultant, community information officer, regional multicultural support officer and ESL/refugee- teacher mentors won’t even exist."

Ms Calnan said the multicultural program staff performed several roles, from providing professional learning and support for ESL teachers to running multicultural and anti-racism programs in schools.

Earlier this week, the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI) convened a meeting of all CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities) representatives from the region.

MCCI general manager Terrie Leoleos said the loss of these valuable school roles would adversely affect the region’s already disadvantaged communities.

"The Education Department’s multicultural support program has played an intricate and important role across the state in supporting migrants, refugees and humanitarian entrants and settlements into this country, particularly in regional areas," Ms Leoleos said.

"Cutting positions like these … will be detrimental not only to those communities but it will put a lot of pressure on multicultural services, which are already stretched and will have to take up the shortfall."

The MCCI this week sent a letter to the Education Department asking that they do a comprehensive review and engage multicultural services and communities in the process.

A department spokesman said a revised model of the restructure would be available on Monday, with a final model to be released on December 21.

Having been an ESL teacher in the not too distant past, I know just how much I valued, indeed needed, the services that it appears may be about to become victims of small government ideology/bean counting. They operated on a shoestring even back in the late 90s and early 2000s, but I can’t begin to tell you how good they are! Consider, for example:

Refugee support programs

A refugee is a person who has fled his or her country and cannot return because of a well-founded fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group.

In recent years, increasing numbers of young refugees, in particular refugees from Africa and the Middle East, have enrolled in government schools in both metropolitan and country areas of NSW. About 1,600 enrol each year. At any time approximately 12,000 refugee students are enrolled in NSW government schools.

These students come from a number of countries in Africa, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kenya, Congo, Uganda, Nigeria, Eritrea, Ivory Coast and Burundi, as well as countries in Asia and the Middle East, in particular Afghanistan and Iraq.

Many refugee families have lived in protracted refugee situations before coming to Australia. Some students were born and have lived all their lives in refugee camps. All have experienced disrupted schooling. Some may have had very limited schooling and, as a result, have few or no first language literacy skills.

Many of the recently arrived refugees have high resettlement and educational needs and may need high levels of support. However, it is important to avoid over-generalisation as this is not the case with all refugees. Conclusions about a refugee student’s capabilities and needs should be reached through careful assessment over a period of time.

Traumatic experiences that refugee students encounter before they start school in Australia may impact considerably on their learning and behaviour at school. In some cases, post traumatic stress and poor health due to refugee experiences can lead to absences from school, or manifest in poor behaviour in the classroom.

The safety, security and support provided by schools are critical factors in ensuring the adjustment of refugee children and adolescents to life and schooling in Australia. Officers at Multicultural Programs Unit can assist regions in planning and delivering successful refugee support programs.

I am not directly familiar with what is happening in schools down here in the Illawarra, where I now live, but one may get an idea from school sites such as Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts.



Images from a Wollongong High Powerpoint presentation.

Recent developments in our asylum seeker policy continue to depress me. Some consolation may be found in seeing fellow feeling among the Herald cartoonists lately.



About immigration and Redfern Now last night

Pretty much in agreement with Jim Belshaw and too depressed to post about it myself.

I haven’t commented on the latest race to the bottom on Australian refugee policy. Back in May 2011, I supported the proposed "Malaysian solution" (When perfection’s not possible: Gillard & refugees) as a possible path. Now Opposition, Greens and Government between them have delivered the worst possible outcome.

I know from conversations just how polarising this issue has become. My friend and fellow New Englander Paul Barratt has been blogging on the broader issue. The insanity of Australia excluding itself from its own migration zone makes me wish for Monty Python.

Words like bankrupt, gutless and stupid do come to mind. See my earlier posts, most recently Chicanery then, and still chicanery–and a national shame. Thanks, ALP! Absurd and morally repugnant!

As for Redfern Now last night, I became so impatient with it I stopped watching, despite the praise in the Herald preview.

Teen actor Aaron McGrath is the linchpin of this terrific instalment from the consistently impressive suite of short dramas set around Sydney’s indigenous heartland. His guarded, watchful performance as Joel, a shy Aboriginal boy who’s won a scholarship to a private school, is a revelation for its restraint and subtlety.

This week’s script has an intriguing premise: should Aboriginal students be obliged to sing the national anthem at school? The parents and teachers tease out the issue. What’s wrong with the song? Can a student embrace the education at a school yet reject its traditions? Does honour trump opportunity?

Buried is a sly critique of indigenous scholarships. Do they really close the gap, as the iron-faced principal argues, or just offer a sop to elite schools’ billboards of values?

Indeed I even tweeted: Turned off Redfern Now. Performances good, but ep agitprop. No principal would be as stupid as her tonight! Good issue, treatment sucked.

Too harsh? Maybe. But I do recall even in the late 1950s school assemblies at SBHS where students would not say the Lord’s Prayer – understandable for, say, Jews or atheists – and I vividly remember Peter Deli and perhaps others turning his back deliberately on the Queen Mother – or was it Princess Alexandra of Kent?  Did anything happen? Was anyone expelled? No. So I could believe the kid not standing, but I simply could not believe the dragon running the school and got so sick of the melodramatic villain she was being that I just lost it with the whole episode.

I gather there was a happy ending, or was that a fappy ending? Sorry…

What was the palace masquerading as a school, by the way? Riverview? St Joseph’s? St Aloysius?  Ah – Riverview!


Modest little dump, isn’t it? Should have recognised it from the debates I attended there when a debating coach at SBHS… I rather doubt they sing Advance Australia Fair every morning – does any school? – but you never know.

On thing the show last night proved is how pathetic an anthem – words at any rate – we have. The lyrics of God Save the Queen (which was our anthem) are better, and that is saying not much at all really. In both I do rather savour the bits no-one sings any more.

When gallant Cook from Albion sailed,
To trace wide oceans o’er,
True British courage bore him on,
Til he landed on our shore.
Then here he raised Old England’s flag,
The standard of the brave;
"With all her faults we love her still"
"Britannia rules the wave."
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair.
Should foreign foe e’er sight our coast,
Or dare a foot to land,
We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore,
To guard our native strand;
Britannia then shall surely know,
Though oceans roll between,
Her sons in fair Australia’s land
Still keep their courage green.
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair.


Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
May by thy mighty aid,
Victory bring.
May he sedition hush,
and like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the King.

Now there is a worthy sentiment!

But seriously, if we must have Advance Australia Fair let’s get some more meaningful lyrics!

Australians all, let us rejoice

Comparatively free!

We’ve coal and gas and iron ore

But when they’re sent by sea

We have no ships to put them in

So ships with flags quite queer

Take all these goodies Chinawards

To Advance Australia Fair!


Coffee this afternoon at Diggers and misnamed “newspaper” celebrates latest step in our “leaders’” (who???? what????) race to the bottom. Bogan power!


Slightly hung over this morning…

…which is unusual for me, but I did consume more red wine than I should have at my Iranian neighbour’s place last night. The evening was meant to honour a compatriot of his who has just had a paper accepted by one of the most prestigious science journals in the world.


Iranian students at Wollongong University, June 2009

My neighbour and his friend are both in cutting edge scientific and engineering endeavours at the very impressive Innovation Campus of the University of Wollongong. My neighbour is of Christian background. His friend, whose family is currently in Tehran but originally from the Kurdish west by the Iraq border – not a good place to have been a few years back, is an atheist. They both see the current multiheaded regime in Iran as having been terribly destructive. Multiheaded? Yes, that there is a religious authority of the Ayatollahs etc as well as the government of Ahmadinejad is just part of what seems a very complex situation.

I probably know more about Iran that the average citizen does, but last night I really felt that I knew very little indeed.


Iranian peoples/languages

See the information linked to that map. Also: Iranian Australians; History of the Kurdish people; Iran: A Vast Diaspora Abroad and Millions of Refugees at Home (2006).

Catch-ups and inspirations

To the Library yesterday as my card needed renewing. All the biographies and autobiographies have been gathered in one place since I was last there, regardless of place of origin or subject. I picked up three:


1. Raymond Gaita, Romulus My Father (1999). Despite this having been on the HSC, I hadn’t actually read it.

2. Joan Didion, Blue Nights (2011).

…an account of the death, in 2005, of her and Dunne’s adopted daughter, Quintana Roo, and more specifically, of Didion’s struggle, as a mother and a writer, to cope with this second assault upon her emotional and, indeed, physical resources. The new book, no less than its predecessor, is honest, unflinching, necessarily solipsistic and, in the way of these things, self-lacerating: Did she do her duty by her daughter, did she nurture her, protect her, care for her, as a mother should? Did she, in a word, love her enough? These are the kinds of questions a survivor — the relict, as the old word has it — will put to herself, cannot avoid putting to herself; questions all the more terrible in that there is no possibility of finding an answer to them. As Didion says, “What is lost is already behind the locked doors.”

3. Robert Hughes, Things I Didn’t Know (2006).  Now that one I sat down with at Diggers over lunch and am now well into.


More on them later.

It does seem appropriate, however, to be reading the Robert Hughes at last beginning on the day of the memorial service in Sydney. See also Malcolm Turnbull’s brilliant eulogy in Parliament: Occasionally a speech rises above all around it…. The first couple of chapters certainly encourage me to go on.

Tonight either the Rabbitohs or the Bulldogs will be rejoicing. Actually, whatever the outcome the Rabbitohs can well rejoice.  I also hope that the energies of many of those in Sydney who seem to desire a repeat of last Saturday in the non-sporting arena will focus on something far more sensible – that is, the decision of which team fronts Melbourne for the Grand Final. I am sure Allah knows, but let’s see how it pans out. Some things are far more important than stirring the pot on behalf of haters or the excessively righteous…*

So in that context a story that matters even more, in my scale of values.


Saad and Faisal Habib have faced many difficulties in their young lives but just weeks after arriving in Australia they are well on their way to mastering four languages.

The brothers, aged 16 and 14, were born profoundly deaf and have faced many communication and language barriers in their home country of Pakistan.

For the next five months they will live in Wollongong while their father, Ullah, studies at the University of Wollongong.

Just four weeks after starting at Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts’ deaf support unit, the boys can now speak basic English and Australian sign language (Auslan), as well as their local Urdu and Pakistani sign languages.

Support unit English teacher Fiona Sampson said Saad and Faisal had learned two new languages in an impressively short time.

"In just two short weeks they improved their grasp of written English and grasped the basic level of Auslan," she said.

"This is an amazing feat for boys whose start in life has been hampered with communication and language difficulties."…

Good on you, boys, and all honour too to those brilliant NSW state school teachers, all of them but especially those supporting students with disabilities and teachers of English as a Second Language. Neither the Australian nor the NSW governments really seem to appreciate what gold they are working with and squandering on ill-informed or pusillanimous policy decisions.

* Sunday

The Rabbitohs lost, the city won! All was quiet. Smile

Go Back to Where You Came From 2012–revisited–Part 3

It may be that Jonathan Green was too pessimistic – see my previous entry. To judge from last night’s QandA Angry Anderson really did have something of a Damascus Road experience as a result of being in GBTWYCF. One Tweeter commented that all he needed now was a world tour of climate change — maybe starting right now with a flight over Greenland.

VIDEO CLIP OF ANGRY ANDERSON INTERRVIEW PLAYED: “ I don’t accept the boat people at all. Don’t tell me about what a hard time you had. The first thing you’ve shown me is no sense of respect. End of story. Don’t bother. Because as soon as you get here, we’re chucking you on a cattle train or a plane or a ship and you’re going home.”

TONY JONES: Now, with respect, that probably does pretty much reflect the Government’s position except for the cattle train bit. But, you know, you’ve changed your position. Why? Why did you say that then and this now?

ANGRY ANDERSON: Because experience is – well, education is enlightenment and the one thing that – the one simple dynamic that I didn’t understand, which, you know, you can’t blame the press for everything – most things – but the one thing that wasn’t explained to me, as a citizen of this country, is the simple dynamics of the situation and the Hazara people are persecuted. There Islamic people or Muslims persecuted by other, you know, extremists, thugs hired and paid by the Taliban and other extremist groups, in their own country. They actually are declared non-people in their own country. Now, that simple thing, when you actually go there and you start to just to understand just a little about the way, the cultural structure of the country is, which we don’t here…

Also last night I think only a total blockhead would have doubted the sincerity of Tony Burke’s concern over people in his electorate whose relatives have, it would appear, drowned in pursuit of their Australian Dream, somewhere between Indonesia and Christmas Island. I accept totally that as far as he is concerned his support of what the government is doing is not driven by electoral considerations purely or by fear of “The Other”.

TONY BURKE: There’s an extra dimension and I don’t accept your comment earlier, Tony, about the way the Government’s argued this. I just don’t accept that. I do not believe for a minute that it’s been a queue jumpers’ argument from the government. It has been, for a very real part and it was a cabinet debate, it was a Caucus debate, it was a debate in the Parliament, about how do you stop the drownings? Now, my electorate, my local area where I live, is where a very large number of people who, if they’re successful in getting refugee status, settle as, you know, the people I share my local shopping centre with. Last week, I think it was Thursday, I would have had a dozen people in my office, all of them with the date they received phone calls from relatives who they haven’t heard from for six weeks and they had those phone calls when their relatives were already on a boat of a bit over 60 people. Now, the government has no record of what happened to this boat. We don’t know. The humanity of those people and the relatives were there in my office and were still clinging to hope, but their story is part of the humanity of this debate too and, you know, if we say we’ve got to stop the boats because we’re fearful of people, I’m not in that debate. But if we’re trying to stop people putting their lives at risk on the high seas and we’re trying to stop the faces of the relatives who I had in my office last week, that is a genuine and decent public policy debate to have and to try to get on the right side of.

That does not mean such fear, or xenophobia, is not part of the noise on the asylum seeker issue, and it remains to the disgrace of the Howard Government in the years around 2001-3 that such fears suited them very well, especially in the post September 2001 context, and they did very little to counter such fears but rather accepted the votes gratefully. Nor does concern for the welfare of asylum seekers seem to have motivated them at that time. Demonisation of asylum seekers, of which “children overboard” is (we now know) an absurd but powerful instance, was the dominant note and our traditional fears of invaders were marshalled to the Howard cause. Hence the counteractive burden of the admirable Rural Australians for Refugees that came into being at that time. What follows is from their site and  is framed by the way the government and the tabloid media were presenting the issues in the early 2000s. Much that is said is still as relevant today:

Know the Facts

The Facts
  • Australia receives very few asylum seekers compared to other countries. The number of unauthorised arrivals has never been much more than 4000 in any one year. Sweden, with about half Their population, receives a similar number. Iran and Pakistan, two of the world’s poorest countries, each host over a million Afghan refugees.
  • No other country has non-reviewable mandatory detention of asylum seekers. In Australia they are placed indefinitely in detention camps with limited access to services; in most other Western countries they live in the community while their applications are being processed. For example, in Sweden they are allowed out of detention as soon as they have gone through identification and criminal screening.
  • Australia’s annual quota of refugees is only 12,000. And most years they don’t even manage to fill that. This is minuscule compared with the numbers other countries take.
  • they treat children like criminals. Children are not exempt from mandatory detention in Australia. Some have been imprisoned for years. In Sweden the maximum time a child is kept in custody is six days.
  • 60% of refugees are victims of torture or severe trauma. But in Australia they are treated like criminals rather than ordinary people fleeing persecution.
  • Anyone can be a refugee. Boat people are ordinary men and women, many of them urban professionals, who are fleeing their countries because of war or persecution.
  • Most asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Iraq are legitimate. 93% of Afghans and 97% of Iraqis are found to be genuine refugees.
  • Boat people are not illegal. Under the UN Refugee Convention, which has applied for fifty years, Australia has an obligation to take in asylum seekers and assess their claims. They are in a totally different category from immigrants. The real ‘illegals’ are the 14,000 Britons or Americans caught each year for overstaying their visas.
  • There is no queue to jump. Australia has no embassy in Iraq or Afghanistan for people to apply to for a visa. In overseas refugee camps there is frequently no resettlement process available. Where one exists it is often ad hoc, agonisingly slow and corrupt.
  • Number of Refugees and Asylum Seekers Worldwide in 2000. 14,500,000 people (World Refugee Survey 2001, U.S. Committee for Refugees)
  • In the three year period from July 1999 to June 2002 some 9,160 unauthorised boat arrivals, mainly from Afghanistan and Iraq, applied for Protection visas within Australia’s migration zone. of these over 90% were found to be genuine refugees (source Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) 2002 -2003 Annual Report)
  • Number of Children and Adults in Australian Detention Centres as at 11 Feb 2004. At least 174 children in detention and approximately 977 Adults A further 277 asylum seekers are detained on Nauru. (These figures are based on DIMIA statistics as at Februaru 11, 2004 and the Senate Estimates report, February 2004).
  • Numbers of People Estimated as Illegally Overstaying Visa’s as Compared to Unauthorised Arrivals. (These figures are based on DIMIA statistics as at30 June 2003)
    • Illegal Overstayers: 59,800 (as of July 2003, 20% of all overstayers came from either the UK or the US)
    • Unauthorised Arrivals: 1,277 people arrived on seven boats for the year ending June 2002 (ie., approx 2% of Illegal Overstayers !!!)
  • Many of the ‘boatpeople’ from Afghanistan and Iraq have fled the very regimes Their Government has condemned and been prepared to go to war over.Asylum seekers see Australia as a safe and democratic country in which they hope to have a far better future.

But I get annoyed by the purists and hardheads on the other side just as much. Just how this mob are doing more than indulging their inner city fantasies of uplifting the world’s poor and oppressed I do not know. I am sure they make great posters and art works and put on fantastic performances, but I fail to see exactly how that impinges on either the fact of 43+ million refugees/displaced people in the world or what realistically Australia can do about it. As long as it makes them feel good, I suppose.

Yes, I rather despise anarchists.

So I am not impressed with the self-righteous rant that appeared this morning on New Matilda. This is in my view representative of a position that is about as useful to the asylum seeker issue as the views of Michael Smith or pre-enlightened Angry Anderson. God spare us from all puritans or self-appointed guardians of the moral high ground or revolutionaries whose revolutions have ALWAYS failed in the past and will fail yet again whenever someone is mad enough to try them again…

If that makes me a reactionary old grump, so be it.

However, if you really do want some sensible thoughts on the issues raised in GBTWYCF visit Countering the spin with facts on the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre blog.

And here is a copy of the ASRC publication Myths/Facts/Solutions (PDF), an up-to-date and expanded variant on what RAR was offering eight years ago.