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Is this really 2012?

Many of us delude ourselves that we are supposed to live in a caring, contemporary society. We have supposedly given women equality, given indigenous people equality, now the gay community clamours for equality – yet when people are obviously in need we often ignore them.
There are so many Australians who are homeless and destitute, and fortunately there are several caring NGOs motivated to help them, but there is a whole body of people literally dying to be in Australia whom the majority of our society ignore, and hope the problem will just go away.
The title of this post is a paraphrase of a quote from the excellent recent SBS program ”Go Back To Where You Came From’. If you have a caring bone in your body this is a must see.

Earlier this week I had the privilege of visiting the House of Welcome (HoW) at Carramar in Sydney’s west. Did you know that this is the only NGO helping the approximately one hundred of people a month being released from immigration detention in all of Sydney’s west? The only four other organisations are in the CBD. A friend and I got a glimpse of the often difficult, under-funded work they do, and talk to the people on the ground actually putting up their hands to assist this struggling group of our population. Truly inspiring.

Here are some snippets of stories of those who have come through HoW:
Person A – “Coming to Australia was the most challenging decision I have ever made. I had no choice but to leave to save my life and perhaps my family’s life in the future. Arriving in Australia was scary for me; I knew no one, had no money, nowhere to sleep. I was stranded, anxious, desperate and eventually depressed.”
Person B – “I like this country very much. I love human rights given by the government. Yet despite these good things I have been homeless and discriminated by people around me. This frightens me in this country.”
Person C -“That period was very hard to tolerate in our life, we don’t have any proper accommodation, no job, no proper visa, no career development activity and the situation in our country was very bad. We didn’t sleep due to stress and trauma.”
Person D- “I was so happy to meet with the people form HoW. They are the first Australians whom treated me as a human being with respect and honour.”

Through my art and advocacy I seek to do two things in my own small way: a) let the people in this dire situation know that there are Australians who care, & b) awaken our middle class suburban eyes to this dreadful plight in our midst.

Some figures from the UN recently came to my attention which can be seen on the graphic below – despite us having only a small number of asylum claims, we take way too long to treat these people seriously – more than 10 times longer than the leading 5 nations!!! For more than an average of 18 months they are held in limbo – how dehumanising. And now they are going to be shipped ‘out of sight/out of mind’ to remote locations!!! Makes a bad situation even worse.

Average Detention Time (with thanks to Asylum Seeker Resource Centre)

Like it or not, our big island is part of the global community, and we do have responsibilities to our fellow humans – but more of that another day & post!How are you going to help someone? volunteer your time? spare some $$? actually give a damn about someone else’s life outside of your daily circle? Us Aussies pride ourselves on giving someone a fair go – why don’t we?

www.houseofwelcome.com.au

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