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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Boat People - An Australian Experiment

My all time, biggest, most read post is,

In recent weeks, SBS television has aired their series called,
and you can read more or watch the episodes here
The show takes six ordinary Australians and documents their journey as they trek in reverse the journey of a refugee coming to Australia.
They have no phones, passports or money and they start in an Australian refugee camp.
They see life as it is for a refugee waiting for status.
They are later placed on a leaking, rudimentary small boat to make a crossing over the seas.
They are placed in refugee camps in Kenya and Jordan.
Here they are obvious aliens and have to line up for a daily food ration like the other refugees and are subjected to stares of suspicion and confrontation.
The journey is challenging and frightening and an eye opener even for those of us safely watching from home.
The participants make a very moving visit to the family members of refugees already in Australia and exchange messages of hope and love. 
We forget....these people do not have mobiles, they can't simply ring sisters or brothers and communicate. Their days are spent wondering and not knowing. Not knowing if someone is safe, alive or dead. They simply must wait and hope.
This is a very definite turning point for the participants. Hearing the stories of torture and rape they are brought face to face with the reality of why refugees flee their country.
From our safety in Australia, it is hard to comprehend that a people, let alone their government would do harm to their own.
They are starting to understand the desperation that drives someone to send their children on alone in a leaky boat in the hope that they may reach safety.
The participants travel further still going to Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo from where people flee. They see first hand the physical disfigurements of war and the child victims.
This program is heart wrenching and emotional. It is must see viewing and it is a turning point.
I'm not saying that acceptance and understanding is going to be the automatic solution, but what this series does do is level the perspectives, bare some truths and enable people to finally have a meaningful discussion about the wider problem that is;
"people fleeing from their own countries"
If you watched this program, I would really like to know if it changed your perspectives. Did you learn something? Has it dispelled some of the popular myths that the media like to portray?
For me it re-humanised the debate.
4 Corners also had an excellent story this week. They re-visited the survivors from Pol Pot's regime and who have since settled in Australia. I remember that time but a lot of the horror had faded from memory. It was good to see these people again 20years on and they really taught me some valuable lessons.


  1. Am with you Tanya. I also watched the program and reviewed it on my other blog - it was a bit of a judgemental review, but I was pissed off at the levels of ignorance.

  2. Hi Tanya,

    I watched the show and seeing even more of the reality makes my heart hurt even more. My views have not changed as I was bought up in the Philippines and saw and heard and knew about this stuff. I meet many great people who did escape and then were working where my father was who shared their stories...

    I STILL dont know what the solution is. I am a deal with the problem than put a bandaid on type of person... but this issues goes so much deeper and harder than solving the problem first...

    I certainly would like to welcome them into my community and offer then what I possibly can offer to help them heal and move forward...

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