Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday Walk For Refugees

#justice4refugees

Thrilled that my tweet made it into the Guardian article about the Palm Sunday Walk For Refugees. (For the record, after I took that photo I checked with the young girl and her parents – at least I assume they were her parents – that it was ok.)

Numbers? Mainstream media seems to have a tendency to downplay the figures for these things. I'd estimate 10,000 at the Melbourne rally at least.





  


























Monday, March 3, 2014

Seeking Asylum in the Lucky Country

Flipboard Magazine

I've created a Flipboard magazine collating news stories, blogs and other material relating to the Australian government's policies and processes regarding asylum seekers.

If you want to stay up to date with the latest news and information on this issue, feel free to subscribe to the magazine, or just check back in here on a regular basis. I'll be flipping new articles into the magazine as I come across them.

If you know of a relevant news article or piece that's not currently in the magazine, do let me know in the comments section of this blog and I'll get on it.

View my Flipboard Magazine.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The wrong question

#lightthedark
The Government and the Opposition keep talking about boats, and borders, and people smugglers. They're deliberately and continually missing the point.

The problem has never been the boats. The problem has never been porous borders.

There is a global humanitarian crisis of asylum seekers and refugees. Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Syria...

Men, women and children are fleeing for their lives, and a tiny proportion of them are coming to us and asking for our help – this is the problem.

A humanitarian response to a humanitarian crisis is our challenge.

Orange lifeboats may not sink, but nor do they offer protection from persecution, grant work rights, give access to education. Orange lifeboats do not bring freedom.

By turning people away, pushing people back, locking people up, and denying family reunions, we are adding to the humanitarian crisis, not alleviating it. We are saying die somewhere else, fuck off we're full, you are not welcome here.

Safe pathways to Australia. Not imprisonment, not lifeboats bound for Indonesia. Safe pathways. Safe passage. Safe harbour. This is the only answer.

If you think the answer is Stop the Boats, you're asking the wrong fucking question.






Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Life of a Bike

Making merit

The 30-quid special

There I was, sitting outside a pub in Tooting, South London, drinking pints of lager with my new English husband and a couple of friends, when a decidedly dodgy gentleman rides up to us, eyes furtively glancing left and right. 

"Anyone want to buy a bike? I'll take 30 quid for it." 

The husband says to me, "Well, you don't have a bike – we could go cycling together." He gives it a little test spin and decides it's not too bad a bike – a 10-speed for £30 is pretty good going. 

"I really want £50."

"Yeah, but you'll take £30, right?" 

He may have been good at procurement, but sales was not his forte. 

---------

The final ride up Bell St

Today, 10 years later, I took my ill-gotten but well-loved bike for one final ride. 

I pimped it a little since its 'purchase' – new saddle, tyres, lock (don't want anyone stealing it!), the odd service here and there. When I dragged my English husband back to Melbourne, Australia, the bike came too. Hubby and I enjoyed the occasional cycle together on the weekends, riding the beach trails around St Kilda when we rented in Windsor, and the Merri Creek trail after settling in Preston. Later, when my beloved Toyota Celica died its death, I began riding my bike to and from work, a hefty trek from Preston to Footscray (and back). Took me over an hour each way. I still remember the first time I arrived at Lonely Planet HQ – face red, legs killing me, all of me sweaty – and two others dismounting from their steeds at the same time (one of them the head of my department). 
"First time?"
"Yes." 
"It gets easier."
"It had better." 

A year after having my first child, a child seat was added. Admittedly it carried my bag more often than my son, but he did enjoy a few bike rides with Mummy until my progressing pregnancy with #2 put an end to that.  

Then as a freelancer working from home, I still used the bike when I could, cycling to and from the gym and various places around town on days the kids were in childcare. This 30-quid special really didn't owe me anything.

----------

Three weeks ago I bought a new bike. It's an e-bike, a pedal-assist electric bike. It's awesome, I love it, but that's for another post…

As I whizzed around from A to B on my new wheels, my 30-quid special was left out in the cold, or rather, in the back shed gathering dust. Until I remembered reading an article in the local Leader some time ago: 

Asylum seekers living on bridging visas in our community have no work rights; they receive less than Newstart, about $440 a fortnight. After rent and bills, they're left with maybe $3 to $5 a day to live off. When your budget is this tight, even a Metcard for using public transport becomes out of reach, an occasional luxury. A bike becomes a lifeline, free transport to attend immigration appointments, to get to the doctors, to get out into the community.

I contacted Geoff of the Bicycles For Asylum Seekers project, who told me that they could certainly take another bike donation. 
  
------------

I say goodbye, but it's not this bike's final destination

My final ride on the 30-quid special today, from Preston to Geoff's place in Coburg where the donated bikes are repaired, serviced and distributed to asylum seekers, was a chance to reflect on the life of my bike, and to wonder if this donation helps me to 'make merit'; to absolve myself. (What a sick joke the insistence of our government to refer to asylum seekers as 'illegals' – I'm the one who committed a crime a decade ago, fleeing the Tooting pub with what was obviously a stolen bike. Meanwhile these people fled for their lives and now just want the opportunity to live them.) 

Geoff assures me the 30-quid special will go to a good home. I wish the original owner could know that their lost bike made it halfway round the world and is soon to embark on its third life with someone who will really benefit from it. And I hope another small child gets to sit in that toddler seat. 

------------

One last look back – Bicycles for Asylum Seekers HQ

To date, Bicycles for Asylum Seekers have collected 238 239 bikes, repaired 79 and distributed 54 bikes and helmets to asylum seekers. Like the Facebook page, Bicycles For Asylum Seekers, to keep up with their progress.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Boathouse


Salad Days

7 The Boulevard, Moonee Ponds, Vic 3038

The Boathouse on Urbanspoon

Views of the Maribyrnong
The Boathouse rests on the banks of the Maribyrnong in Moonee Ponds. It is a collaboration between Gary Mehigan – judge and co-host of MasterChef Australia – and Steve Bogdani, their vision being "to share life’s simple pleasures done really well". 

Dining on the deck

Some of life's simple pleasures that I enjoy:  

– Long, leisurely lunches with dear friends
– Gossiping over good coffee
– Summertime
– River views
– Friendly service
– Scrumptious food

The Boathouse: tick, tick, tick, tick, tick and tick.



Waiting for the oar d'oeuvres
Mmmm, meatballs
You'd be excused for thinking three ladies at lunch would be all, "Ooh, I'm on a diet, I'll just have a salad." Well, yes, we did order three salads as it happens, but we're not on diets, and thank goodness for that because the portion sizes were more cruise ship than canoe. (In hindsight, the nibbles of olives and chorizo and spicy meatballs were not necessary, though that didn't stop us from polishing those off, too.)

Beets an' egg salad 
Vietnamese chicken coleslaw
If I had to pick a winner, it was the slow-roasted lamb salad with freekah, pomegranate and tahini; goddamn, that lamb was melt-in-the-mouth good. But the Vietnamese coleslaw with chicken, nuts and a wedge of lime was fresh, tasty and crisp, and the beetroot salad – with red quinoa, soft-boiled egg, walnuts and crème fraiche – was as tasty as it was pretty. 

Get your freekah on! Slow-roast lamb salad


















Other pluses: the space is vast inside and out, so even when it gets busy you're still sure to find a table (though the car park can fill up). The room to manoeuvre, location on the riverbank, and excellent public playground on one side also means that prams and their owners are plentiful, but do not obstruct or overrun the place. And for parents of little ones who just won't sit still, the Boathouse has a takeaway kiosk facing the playground for all your babycino-on-the-go needs. 

My final verdict for Gary's Boathouse? Nautical but nice. 

Every boathouse needs a boat




Monday, January 6, 2014

Letters to Mr Morrison

Date:  8 April 2014 – response from DIBP regarding media access to detention centres. No mention of the fact that a journalist application fee for Nauru is now $8000 – that's a matter for the Government of Nauru, of course. 




__________

Date:  3 March 2014 – letter received in post. Alas, not from Scott Morrison.



------------

Subject: Time to go
Date: 19 February 2014 3:19:09 PM AEDT
To: Minister@immi.gov.au

Dear Mr Morrison,

I am writing today to inform you that you have failed your department, the Australian people and the asylum seekers it is your duty to protect, and it's time for you to resign. 

Fact Sheet 3 – The Department of Immigration and Border Protection

The department today

The purpose of the department is to 'build Australia's future through the well-managed entry and movement of people'.
The department is committed to ensuring it is open and accountable, deals fairly and reasonably with clients and has well developed and supported staff.
The department’s key objectives are to:
  1. Contribute to Australia's future through managed migration.
  2. Protect refugees and contribute to humanitarian policy internationally.
  3. Contribute to Australia's security through border management and traveller facilitation.
  4. Make fair and reasonable decisions for people entering or leaving Australia, ensuring compliance with Australia's immigration laws and integrity in decision-making.
  5. Promote Australian citizenship and a multicultural Australia.
Let's take it from the first line. 

The purpose of the department is to 'build Australia's future through the well-managed entry and movement of people'.
Well-managed entry and movement of people? Oh yes, with the Navy's repeated breaches of Indonesian sovereignty, not to mention the use of lifeboats to facilitate the 'movement of people' away from our shores. Well done.  

The department is committed to ensuring it is open and accountable, deals fairly and reasonably with clients and has well developed and supported staff.

The 'Morrison response' is well known by now: cannot/will not comment because "On-water matter / Operational procedure / Matter for someone else". The transcripts of press conferences with 20 questions from reporters deemed "inaudible", then the cancelling of weekly briefings altogether? Open and accountable my derrière. "Deals fairly and reasonably with clients" – excuse me while I swallow down the bile rising in my throat. "Well developed and supported staff"? Hmm, perhaps they have all gone through puberty and maybe they even get to sit in comfy chairs whilst working for the department – does that make them well developed and supported? Because they certainly don't reply to emails from concerned citizens, nor do they seem capable of taking down phone numbers (http://thehoopla.com.au/im-meshel-want-truth/). Then of course there's today's snafu, "one of the most serious privacy breaches in Australia’s history", allowing personal data of 10,000 asylum seekers to be released online. Forget development and support – the first thing you want to look for regarding your departmental staff is this thing we call competence. 

Finally, I'd like to highlight key objective #2: Protect refugees and contribute to humanitarian policy internationally.

Never mind the grave implications for having released the private, personal details of people seeking asylum, it's time to concede that offshore detention is not only cruel, it does not adequately protect refugees. A man is dead, Mr Morrison, and not by his own hand out of desperation; he was killed. He came to us seeking protection, and he was murdered. Not to mention the other 77 pour souls on Manus who were injured and maimed under your watch. It doesn't matter if it happened within the detention centre grounds or outside of it; you don't get to wash your hands of it because there was a riot, if indeed there was a riot – the mental anguish and protests that the conditions of our offshore detention centres produce are another indictment on your ability to "protect refugees" and "deal fairly and reasonably with clients". Indefinite detention is not fair or reasonable. This extremely serious incident requires a full independent inquiry, nothing less.   

Lastly, "contribute to humanitarian policy internationally"? By being the first and only industrialised nation to subvert the Refugee Convention with regards to asylum seekers who arrive by boat? By locking up unaccompanied minors? By detaining infants? This is the legacy you want to leave, the Australia you wish to promote on the international stage? 

It's time to go, Morrison. 

Yours sincerely,
----------

Subject: is it true?

Date: 28 January 2014 7:33:08 PM AEDT

To: Minister@immi.gov.au


Good evening Mr Morrison,

I've just been alerted via Facebook to this breaking news by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre:

"Scott Morrison to start the mass round up of asylum seekers in the community for detention & possible deportation. In an unprecedented attack on the rule of law, human rights & our legal system all asylum seekers who (1) have come by boat (2) have their legal cases at the Federal Circuit Court or Humanitarian stage are to be given 6 week visas only. If they fail to leave after 6 weeks they will be detained & face the risk of deportation. This despite the fact they are exercising their legal right to appeal & have a legitimate case on foot or their exercising their right to have the Minister consider their humanitarian claims."

I would like to know, and I believe I have the right to know as a citizen of this country, is this true, Mr Morrison? If it is true, by what justification are you doing this? Be clear on this, Mr Morrison: this is not done in my name.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

P.S. I am also sending a copy of this email to the Hon. David Feeney MP, the member for my electorate. 
-----

Subject: The not files

Date: 7 January 2014 2:15:46 PM AEDT

To: Minister@immi.gov.au



Dear Mr Morrison,


Don't worry, there are no women's hygiene products embedded in this email. 



I'm just wondering why I'm yet to receive a reply from you or your staff answering any of my recent emails? Well, the first one received a cursory "Your email has been received" notice. Since then? Nada, zip, zilch. Operation Stop the Replies: status complete, sir! 


Still, I guess you've been super busy not holding press conferences, not providing complete transcripts of the pressers you do hold, not answering media questions you don't like, not providing adequate antenatal and postnatal care to women in detention, not processing asylum seeker claims, not being the sort of legal guardian any child would wish for, and not allowing boats to enter Australian waters. Whew, that's an awful lot of stuff you're not doing, Mr Morrison!

How about not allowing Mr Ali Chaudhry to be deported to Pakistan? Could you not do that, do you think? The non-refoulement principle from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/international-migration/glossary/refoulement/: 

"No Contracting State shall expel or return ('refouler') a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion."

Now, there's no need to come back to me (lol!) telling me that Mr Chaudhry's is not a case of refoulement – I know, I read that paragraph too: "... problems with refoulement frequently arise through the fact that its application requires a recognised refugee status." 

Strictly speaking, deporting Mr Chaudhry to Pakistan, where he faces possible imprisonment for being gay, would simply be foulement. And you would be the fouler, Mr Morrison. 


Regards,
----

Subject: Why no media?
Date: 19 December 2013 3:57:50 PM AEDT
To: Minister@immi.gov.au
 

Afternoon Mr Morrison,

I read Senator Hanson-Young's heartbreaking article,http://www.smh.com.au/comment/agony-of-children-treated-worse-than-animals-20131218-2zl90.html, today and wondered if there will be a similar story on the TV news tonight? Probably not, though, as there won't be any actual footage from inside the detention centre. So my question, Mr Morrison, is why doesn't the government allow media into any of our detention centres, onshore or off?

Is there an excuse for the blackout? I mean, the asylum seekers are not "on water" once they're in a detention centre, so you can't trot out that ol' chestnut.

Please enlighten me.

Yours sincerely,
----

Subject: to reiterate
Date: 5 December 2013 1:28:49 PM AEDT
To: Minister@immi.gov.au




Hi again, Mr Morrison,

I came across this article today, which puts into words how I feel about your treatment of boat

people much better than I can. 


I do hope you'll take the time to read it.

Yours sincerely,
----

From: Minister's Mailbox

Subject: Automatic reply: For the record

Date: 4 December 2013 12:29:04 PM AEDT

Thank you for your correspondence. Your email to the Hon Scott Morrison MP, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has been received


----


Subject: For the record
Date: 4 December 2013 12:28:54 PM AEDT
To: Minister@immi.gov.au


To The Hon Scott Morrison, MP Minister for Immigration and Border Protection

Dear Mr Morrison,

I am writing to tell you that I abhor your treatment of and policies towards asylum seekers who have come to our country by boat, or attempted to come by boat. You can repeat ad nauseam the they arrived illegally – we all know that under the UN Convention, of which we are a signatory, they have committed no crime. Where is your compassion towards people who are desperate to escape war zones and persecution and who come to us for help? This is not about people smugglers; this is about people, Mr Morrison.

I fail to see how non-processing, secretive and open-ended offshore detention, as well as denying due process to the 30,000 asylum seekers currently awaiting determination in our country achieves anything other than inflicting more cruelty and pain on people who have already witnessed and endured who knows what horrors, and – let me say it again – have committed no crime. These policies achieve nothing good. Pandering to the racist and xenophobic in our community is not good for our nation, Mr Morrison.   

And now, saying, 'Ha ha, Labor, because you won't sign off on TPVs it's your fault they're now stuck here without work rights, you're the cruel ones, na na na na na' just doesn't cut it, Mr Morrison. And yes, I was disgusted by the previous government's policies as well. But YOU are in government now. YOU are responsible for continuing the cruel policies and for adding to them. Both major political parties raced to the bottom on this issue but it is YOU who just keeps digging – drilling! – lower and lower and deeper and deeper into the hateful muck.  

Boat people have committed no crime; it's what you are doing, Mr Morrison, that is criminal. 

Yours sincerely,
----

Saturday, December 7, 2013

To Muse

If a girl's phone dies at the start of her big night out, did she really see Muse in concert? 


Was she really in a corporate box, where the seats are really comfy and you get FREE grog and gourmet food and stuff? Can she still get a LIKE for that?!?

With death imminent – "battery critically low! shutting down will commence in 3, 2…" – my actions and thoughts were focused on the practical:  

I'm still a 15-minute walk away, how am I going to meet Jon? / I'll have to phone him from a public pay phone / I don't know my husband's number! / Quick, memorise his number before your phone dies / memorise, memorise (the screen's too dark!), memorise, memorise / I've been walking for 10 minutes now and I haven't seen a pay phone / 04555 4455, 04555 4455, 4545 or 4455? no, 4455, that’s it / OMG WHERE HAVE ALL THE PUBLIC PAY PHONES GONE??!! / Excuse me, kind sir, fellow concert-goer on the walkway from the MCG to the Tennis Centre, may I borrow your phone? / Husband, please – just this once – for god's sake answer an unknown number… 

'"even dusted off some heels' #muse"
– failed to upload
(He did, we found each other; it was an undocumented moment.)

For the rest of the evening I didn't need my phone, but I longed for it. I tried to tell myself that instead of live-tweeting my night out, I was living it; it didn't matter if no one could heart my Insta-photos, retweet my Muse-ings or like my Facebook check-in and updates. I could see, hear and taste my life; I would soak it all in, retro style.

In no particular order, here are the moments when I instinctively reached for my phone:  

#1 Warm-up act Birds of Tokyo sing their "On we march with our lanterns on" song and the arena becomes a sea of torches, waving to and fro in time to the music. It was beautiful and I wanted a photo of it, and to add to the starry canvas with my own light.

I first thought people had been given glosticks or something upon entry, before realising it was actually Flashlight app x 50,000, apparently the way it's done these days. And then I mourned the loss of cigarette lighter waving. Sure, the phone apps were brighter, and it was arguably a more-impressive sight – and a smoke-free environment, which is cool now I've quit the cancer sticks –  but it was kind of sterile, like virtual reality sex (I imagine). Where's the danger? The potential burning of your thumb from keeping the flame held aloft, gas valve lever depressed for a whole song?

#2 Muse – the show was awesome, the lighting and lasers and big screens and smoke machine and the sound all brilliant and you know when you're there and you're hearing it and seeing it and feeling the vibe and buzzing cos you're on your third or fourth glass of bubbles and you just want to share with others all of this STUFF that you're experiencing.

As I pondered that I couldn't share this moment, I realised that that was a good thing. Really. Other people’s concert snaps are shit. Like someone telling you all about the amazing dream they had last night. The best band on earth will still be just tiny ants on a stage in the distance. The most awesome lights/lasers/screens/smoke/jets of fire will not see justice done, not even through a Hefe filter with border. 

Filming a concert on your phone? It’ll sound tinny and shit if you can hear the band at all; more likely it’ll be the girl next to you who won't stop screaming and whooping, and let's face it – you're no cameraman. Hello band, ceiling, floor.  

#3 The food – thank you, Jesus! – the corporate box food

Yes, I do foodie snaps in the cafes I frequent, I am that wanker… But it's because I then blog about the food, so I'm really not that much of a wanker… Or does that make me even more of a wanker? … Anyway, there was a moment last night where I had a gorgeous plate of food in front of me and a glass of red and if I'd angled the phone just so I could have photographed the food and the glass with the stage and the crowd in the background. If I somehow could’ve gotten my face down next to the plate it would have been a selfie/foodie/drinkie/concertie! I could have hashtagged the shit out of that muthafuka!!  

While I lamented this lost "wish-you-were-here-not-really-just-wish-you-could-see-what-I'm-doing-right-now-oh-wait-you-can-see-cos-here's-a-photo-check-me-out-my-life-is-awesome-please-like" moment, a fella from the cheap seats – a real proper Muse fan who'd paid for his ticket – approaches our box:

“Excuse me, guys, but it’s a really long way down to the bar and the lines are huge – can I possibly somehow buy four beers from you guys in there?”

'"Waiting for the tram" #muse' – my one and only
Muse-ing before blackout
No, no you can’t. A sad shake of the head from the girl next to me was enough to move him on, which was lucky, as I was about to say, helpfully, my knife and fork poised mid-air, “No, you can’t buy alcohol from here, sorry. You see, everything in here – it’s all free!” New level of wanker-dom narrowly avoided...

So, that's what happened to me last night. I was forced to confront my social media dependence, and I just wanted to let you know that I am now selfie-aware. I went. I saw. I ate. I drank. I heard. All without my phone.

And today, well, I'm feeling really good about the whole thing. Because now you all know. 

I blog, therefore I am. #muse