asylum seekers

everyone has an opinion

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I woke up with a word in my head: lucky, and a post I thought, about choices. What the day came to was a post about opinions. Everyone has choices & opnions: they’re the privilege of an affluent, democratic society. What if you’re not part of an affluent, democratic society? You get to make immediate, critical choices, and everyone gets to have an opinion about it. 

It all started later in the afternoon at a birthday party, when someone asked the G.O. where he was working. He does civil earthworks and has been for a year or so at a site for an “immigration detention facility”. Suddenly opinions were being ventured on the consequences of being too indulgent of “them”.

For a minute, I sat mute and muttered shhhh to my sister beside me, thinking the discussion would peter out. However, the G.O.  sensed an entertainment opportunity, oh dear, and said he thought a lot of money was being spent unnecessarily [from a construction point of view]. Sensing accord, the discussion amplified.

we can’t afford them

they’re making it easy for them

they’re inviting them

there’s too many of them

they’re giving them too much

Risking unpopularity, oh well who gives a f#^k, and with a muttered apology to my sister, I invited for consideration “them” are people with individual lives and stories who can’t be judged generically.

I suggested we need to figure out who and what we have a problem with & an opinion about because it’s not all one big problem or the same issue. There are lots to choose from.

asylum seekers, ie individual people

“boat people” collectively

anyone who wasn’t born in Australia

anyone who wasn’t born in Australia who isn’t of the same ethnicity as you

Australian government policies

overseas governments’ policies

individual politics of originating nations

people smugglers



Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott…

I wasn’t feeling kind so threw in meaningless trivia about Canada’s average 8 day asylum seeker processing turnaround vs Australia’s 223 day. Numbers sound authoritative, and they didn’t contest it. If you Google search the trivia you’ll get heaps of hits… and somewhere amongst them the quotation about damned lies & statistics 😉

We were in a regular, safe neighbourhood at a birthday party, family around us, and those absent weren’t in another country, imprisoned, tortured or executed. There were all the trappings of the life of the great Australian dream.

After silence reigned, I observed to my kin they didn’t appear personally to be disadvantaged as a result of the indulgence of “them” they were worried about.

In hindsight I might have been a bit harsh. I shouldn’t have been surprised but was. The G.O. said I shouldn’t be, they are who and of the generation they are. The people expressing these opinions are run-of-the-mill people. More, I am disappointed & saddened. Happily, there was one recounted conversation with, and compassion for a man encountered who didn’t have [identity] papers from his own country or Australia… Imagine that.

Courtesy of democracy, in Australia we have the freedom of differing opinions and just as some denizens fear impact on their accustomed way of life due to imprudence, I equally fear over-discretion. For me, it’s I’ve met and conversed with asylum seekers & their children via volunteering at a community asylum seekers centre and inside a detention centre. That’s where I got the notion of “them” as individuals. Otherwise I too could perceive burden in the masses.

Looking for perspective via an opinion from the G.O. ever the devil’s advocate, I got: are we only the lucky country for those already lucky, some descended from those sent by the English government on big ships, below-decks in balls & chains? Although the crimes of many were petty in today’s terms, how do they compare with those who now come on leaky boats?*

I know there’s more to the politics and the rights & wrongs than I’m aware, but I also know if I had to escape my country it would be nice to have somewhere to flee to, and the kindness of strangers.

I don’t believe me and mine will ever have the choices people who flee their country have. Thank God.

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My sister also posted this link on Facebook today. Interesting.–Palmer *