Friday, May 17, 2013


I am a support worker for kids in detention. They come from many countries, including but not limited to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Iran, Vietnam. They are mostly boys, under the age of 18, who have travelled here, by boat, without parents.
Some have no parents. Some have one parent. Many have 2 parents. Just not in Australia.
Some have nothing but a plastic bag with a change of clothes.
Some have designer sunglasses and expensive shoes.
Some have stories of war, missing fathers, uncles, brothers.
Some have never been given a chance. By their community, their government, their society.
Some just want a good education.
Some didn't want to come here at all. Presumably desperate parents put their children onto boats because it was all they could do.

Some are illiterate. Some speak several languages.
They range in age from 12 - 17.
Here are the positives.
They made it here alive.
They are safe. They have a bed to sleep in, 3 meals a day plus snacks.
They have facilities that include televisions, computer games, pool tables, pingpong, computers.
They are taught English. Some go to school.
They have support from many areas. Support Workers. Welfare Officers. Medical Staff. Case Managers. Teachers.
This is wonderful. I am proud that I live in a country where this is what we do, what we believe in. Compassion. Education. Diversity.

Yet one thing is lacking. Freedom.
They are housed behind 2 wire fences. There is always 2 officers on duty.
They can roam freely around the compound, roughly about 1000m2.
They cannot leave.

They are housed with anywhere from 10-30 other young men. Some have been in detention for over 6 months. Nobody can tell them what comes next.
It is a pleasure to work with these boys. Most call me Mummy, a term I used to abhor but now find sentimental. They are generous, fun, strong individuals, who often have nothing in common but a dream of freedom in Australia. Once the boat trip here would have been the hardest part of the journey. Now it is this. Detention. Jail time without an end date.
It is not compassionate, it is cruel.
It is the most amazing experience of my working life to know these boys. I am humbled everyday and feel richer and wiser for knowing them. I only wish there were more Australian citizens who could experience it, particularly those ignorant enough to hate a group of people they know nothing about.
I am ashamed of our current government for letting this happen. I am terrified of a new government fucking things up even further. And I am very worried about what this initiation into Australia will do to these young men who want nothing more than their freedom.

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