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  • Writer's pictureHRKemp

Writing, Uncomfortable Questions

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

The current situation requires social-distancing and self-isolation which has been challenging. Keeping socially distant from my family and friends feels unnatural and hard, but at least I live in relative comfort. We moved to this home 6 years ago and I can go for walks along the beach, get takeaway coffee from our regular coffee shop and even call for takeaway meals to be delivered from our favourite dine-in cafes. The loss of social connection is the hardest thing, not being able to hug my grandchildren or enjoy a meal with my grown-up children. Technology fills the breach, but it doesn’t replace the close contact I yearn for.

We are lucky though. Our supermarkets are still well-stocked (except maybe toilet paper), and my fridge, freezer and cupboards have enough good food to keep us going for some time. We might not have everything we want, but we definitely have everything we need.

While on one of my early morning walks, I started to think about the plight of those in poorer countries, families confined to one room, with no fridge and no income. It's difficult to imagine what that would be like and how frightening this pandemic is to those with limited access to healthcare.

Then my thoughts turned to another family, who are currently in imposed isolation. I don’t know them but I know of them. The mother, father and two children have lived in Australia for a number of years. The Tamil mother and father, each, individually, fled their homes in Sri Lanka, escaping a life-threatening political situation. While striving for a safe haven, they met, fell in love and married. They established a small family unit, gaining stability and safety for themselves and eventually for their two daughters (both born in Australia).

This family moved to Biloela, a small country town in Queensland, where the community welcomed them. The parents found work at the local Abattoirs (which has difficulty attracting workers) and the family became part of the fabric of the small town community.

In 2018, in the early hours one morning, border force officers burst into their Queensland home, awaking the family with a start. Officers held the terrified, crying children back as the parents scrambled to gather whatever possessions they could in the 10 minutes they were given. The family was transported to a Melbourne detention centre. In 2019 a court injunction stopped their deportation mid-air, and they were transferred to Christmas Island far from advocates, lawyers, healthcare, friends and supporters. They are still there.

This is of Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their daughters Kopika (4) and Tharunicaa (2) from the Guardian 26/1 /20

The local community protests have fallen on deaf ears and the Australia-wide protests and lobbying of the government has failed to bring this family back. (Unlike the phone calls that allowed foreign au-pairs to stay despite having the wrong paperwork, this family is paying dearly for being late with theirs). They are law-abiding, hard-working people and are supported by their community. The image of armed border-force officers (in black uniforms, weapons and protective gear) terrorising the children and further terrorising already traumatised adults, makes me shiver. I can’t believe the images are from this country, this democracy.

Recently I watched the TV series Stateless, which is based on true events, and I feel despair. Those on temporary protection visas are assessed to be legitimate refugees yet we are determined to not allow them to settle and make their home here. For those who argue the cost of taking in refugees is too great, the facts are sobering. The Government spent $26.8m in reopening this Christmas Island centre (Feb 2019) and it houses 4 people with 109 guards to oversee their detention. In October 2019 the government granted a 3 year $20m contract to a mining company to maintain this detention centre. These dollar amounts shock and dismay me.

If you are struggling with social distancing or self-isolation, then spare a thought for this family, and for those trapped on Nauru indefinitely. They have no time frame for their freedom, despite not being guilty of any crime, tried by any court, or sentenced by any judge. Seeking asylum is not illegal.

My writing is often draws on wider issues and dilemmas. My Short stories focus on personal and human situations. Deadly Secrets builds on that by examining uncomfortable questions about politics and government policies through fiction.

This Easter, when people are thinking about church services they will miss, Easter egg hunts that won’t happen and family gatherings that are being postponed, perhaps we could also think about how we can restore a sense of compassion and care for those more vulnerable and in need of our help.

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Apr 13, 2020

Yes, I'm not even sure why Home Affairs took them in the first place. We desperately need to practice some compassion.


Jennifer MacKenzie
Jennifer MacKenzie
Apr 13, 2020

As Australians are demonstrating our ability to be sensible and compassionate surely it is now the time to bring this family home.

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