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459 Fitzgerald Street
North Perth, WA, 6006
Australia

Helping

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Helping

Andrew Ryan

Today I moved house, after around about a month of being put up in the space of a beautiful man who is the recipient of my complete adoration. My ever-loving thanks go out to him, because he helped me, a lot, while I was in need of shelter while I sorted my own out, and sometimes money and food, while I waited for bureaucracy to do that thing that means I receive enough income to pay for rent and food while I study a degree which will help me contribute meaningfully to the society in which I live.

The house I moved in to has a big backyard. It is big backyard, and it is green because rain, and I am thrilled at the prospect of planting things which will grow in to food eventually, because I have never done that before, and I have known deep down for some time now that the act of growing my own food would be a really, really good thing for my financial situation, for my emotional wellbeing, and a good starting point for the fruition (pun not quiet intended) of my desire to become involved in localisation of production to-make-benefit people because most people suffer at the hands of such an epically globalised economy…

Anyway, I am thankful for being given help when I needed it. I am very, very lucky.

So now I am sitting in my new, very bare bedroom, the sounds of my typing kinda echoing off the walls because of how empty it is, feeling emotional after meeting with a dear friend earlier in the evening. She recently completed her law degree, is working for a women’s legal service and has for a while now regularly volunteered doing work for asylum seekers wanting to get the fuck out of detention centres and in to a home where they can make something of this life they were given, instead of rotting away behind bars. Children and adults alike hurt themselves in these places out of desperation and hopelessness. But you probably knew that already.

It was a casual, social conversation over wine between my friend and I, so I did not take notes about the things she was describing to me, thought one day I will. She knows what’s going on. From what I can gather, the asylum seeker situation in Australia is whacko. Just. Mind-blowingly ignorant and cruel. I can say this because tonight I am no journalist- I am opinion columnist, stating the opinion which is based on the facts given to me by someone who works in this field, and probably knows it better than the majority who write articles for the Herald Sun or the Australian or even the Age ever could.

And what a field to work in. It is so, so, so soul crushingly hard to connect with this issue if you don’t have real contact with it. It hurts to even think about, and it hurts more to connect. It is hard to think about fellow humans existing in a bureaucratic nightmare in which they are humiliated, ignored and sometimes loathed by the citizens of the country in which they have come to escape circumstances most of us could never dream of. Not to mention treated fucking dismally. They are viewed/treated in this manner because of reactionary, popularist, and occasionally dog-whistle politics, commercial media bias (which is not incapable of resulting in heightened bigotry amongst certain groups); and an ignorance-is-bliss attitude by many who are otherwise mentally capable of engaging with such an issue and thus having an impact on the way it is dealt with, if they choose to.

Australia’s government has created a situation in which people who come here looking for help- those who have been deemed by the UN as legitimate refugees so cannot legally be sent back to their homelands, literally because of fear of death- can be very, very easily- and apparently not completely accurately- given a bad ASIO rap, and so can never ever ever get a visa in to Australia. My friend was speaking kind-of-specifically of Tamil men who have been dealt shitty, shitty blows by this new rule (which was brought in when the new budget was announced by the way), who’s situation she likened to that of North Ireland back in the day: if you were a young man and not in the IRA, you were seen to be against them, even if you were totally non-political. Your only options were to join, or to leave the country and never return, otherwise risk getting harmed, or killed. Or risk your family getting harmed, or killed.

Trouble, man. Trouble really, really bad, and when you’re a Tamil man who wasn’t involved in the militant group associated with your ethnicity, you just lived in that area and had to get the fuck out of there because you didn’t want a bar of that civil war, you just wanted a good life for you and your family somewhere safe, and you get to a safe place and you’re denied proper entry to it because the government would rather assume you’re guilty of militarist involvement than not and after you’ve been in resulting detention for a few years that same “safe place” government passes a law that makes it impossible to appeal that initial ruling of how likely you are to be a security threat based on your ethnicity and place of origin…. Well. Fuck.

Fuck.

What the fuck are they supposed to do? This is why some (too many) refugees in detention hurt themselves (my friend has seen suicide attempts). This is why they protest. This is why some Australians protest. This is further proof that Australia needs a fucking overhaul of its social values; because what kind of society allows for other humans to be treated, to live not by choice, in such a way. It is sickening. It is terrifying.

My friend said that refugees are subject to a process that governments have tried in the past to impose on the Australian people; a process that involves giving a person the once over and deciding to imprison them because they might do something wrong in the future. The way she said it was something like: you’ve got shifty eyes, you’ve got a weird hair cut, you’ll probably steal stuff and take drugs, off to jail with you. That kind of deal. Luckily, the citizens of Australia do not have to live under such a law, as it has never been passed. But refugees who come to this country do. As of a couple of months ago no less. And they cannot appeal.

I started this week’s column with an expression of gratitude for the help I have received when I needed it- from friend and government alike. I end it with a lamentation that the same government who will help me will not offer the same to a fellow human. They are the only ones who can help these people, and I want them to. I want them to more than I want them to help me because these people need it more- they are locked behind bars for no reason other than being a foreigner from a politically unstable part of the world. I am locked only behind bars that exist in my own mind; with help, I can knock those bars down and contribute properly to society. With help, so too can the refugees who come to Australia. The only thing we have to fear in this situation is the callousness that humanity is very, very capable of, especially when career politicians are involved.