Thursday, 5 September 2013

Why my daughter is playing "boat people."

Yesterday my daughter Isabella, who is almost four, collected the mail from our letter box and raced towards me with the most horrified look on her face.

"Mummy, who is this?" she asked, with a worried look etched across her face.

"That's Tony Abbott," I replied. "Remember how he wants to have a turn at being prime minister?"

"He looks like a mean man," she said, her face screwing up at the sight of him.

Lately, there has been a lot of political discussion in our house and my daughter has been picking up on it. I think she also has a little bit of election fever as she squeals every time she sees Kevin Rudd on TV. Issy met Kevin a couple of months ago and he obviously won her over. She told me a few days ago that she is on 'team Kevin'. Not sure if I will be joining her or not!

Also, this morning I found her playing "boat people."

She told me, "Mum, I am playing the game where people are trying to run away from the war to get into another country but they won't let them in. They put a wall up."

Our children pick up on everything!!

The treatment of asylum seekers is certainly one thing that has got both my husband and I fired up during this election campaign. It's like the Liberal and Labor Party are playing a game of 'who can create the cruelest border protection policy?' just so they can score votes. It's playing with people's lives. It's not about what's effective or what's going to work but what's marketable during this cut-throat election campaign.  The fear mongering tactics used to convince the Australian public that 'boat people' are dangerous is sickening. Where is the compassion?  They are people, just like you and me.

It is not illegal to seek asylum. People who are fleeing from their countries to escape war, torture, genocide or persecution are doing nothing wrong. They often don't have a choice. They are not jumping the queue, simply because there isn't one. Previously when people arrived by boat in Australia, we locked them up like criminals in jail until their claim for asylum is proven. Now, the Labor Party under Kevin Rudd has decided to beat the Liberal Party at their own game of 'stopping the boats' by sending all asylum seekers that arrive by boat to PNG - a third world country with a decrepit health, education and political system.  Out of sight, out of mind. Well, out of mind for some. Not mine. It saddens me that Kevin Rudd changed his position on this. Tony Abbott is no better with his solution to buy back boats from people smugglers and rip away funding asylum seekers need to for legal assistance in Australia. Both policies are crap. Both policies are inhuman and disgust me.

Remember our history?

We are often afraid of the unknown and of those who are different. They might not look like 'us'. They might have a different religion, language, dress style and culture so because of this we feel threatened. I think many Australians have a deep and primal fear that by somehow inviting people in from other countries we may somehow lose our Australian identity. I wonder if that's because we don't have much of an identity or culture in the first place. What is it? Beer bellies, booze, surfing, barbeques and mateship?

Give me diversity any day! I think that by sharing our country with others we will only become a better nation. Diversity brings about beauty and a richness to our lives. We can engage with others and experience a part of their culture that we might never have experienced otherwise. Stereotypes are challenged and our eyes are opened to see that the 'other' is really quite a lot like you & I.  They too share common values and where there are differences respect has a chance to grow.

I've written this blog post quickly so I don't expect it to be completely coherent. I have certainly not addressed all the complex issues that surround asylum seekers. However, I just needed to write this because I need to get it out of my a head and onto paper.

If you want to read more about what it's like to be a refugee I encourage you to read and watch the  following from Amnesty International. It might not help your decision in terms of voting tomorrow (I still don't know who I will vote for) but at least you'll be informed.


  1. Wow, I havent heard this perspective before. it has really made me think.

    1. Good to hear :) Thanks for your comment.

  2. I can't keep up with the policies but one thing I always question is who are those pushing these radical approaches to refugees? The politicians are carrying out the whims of an electorate which appears to want this - that's the scary part, who are these people - we live with them ...

    1. Yes I think you're right Kim. If it weren't for people pushing for these policies then I think we wouldn't have them.

  3. Oh my goodness! They really do pick up on everything don't they. It never ceases to amaze me how clever they can be at a young age and so aware. They really are sponges.

    1. They sure are sponges Renee. I need to watch what I say these days!

  4. Wow. Kids are always listening, always paying attention, always absorbing, aren't they? Wow.

    Thanks for the considered post and the link.