Deathscapes

‘The Day Australians Became Refugees’: Exposing the faultlines 8b - ‘The people who put their children in boats’

Deathscapes

‘The people who put their children in boats’: Exposing the Faultlines

A crowd gathers and looks over a balustrade. A large banner is hung over the balustrade which reads 'Climate Change=Climate Refugees. Freo Refugee Rights Action Network'. Other placards are also held around it, including one that reads 'No money on a dead planet' and 'Sco Mo likes it hot' with a caricature of the Prime Minister in a bikini.

[imagecaption] School Climate Strike, Boorloo (Perth), 2019. Photo: Marziya Mohammedali. [/imagecaption]

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During Australia’s catastrophic bushfires of 2019-2020, thousands of residents from the Victorian town of Mallacoota and surrounds found themselves trapped on a beach by the encroaching flames. About a thousand of these had to be evacuated by the navy in scenes strangely reminiscent of the transport of asylum seekers on naval boats over the last two decades.

The associations of this rescue by sea strikingly invert the Australian insular imaginary in which the sea functions as a place of threat and invasion against the stability and security of the land. On the day of the navy rescue, a number of tweets emerged with photos of the evacuees on the navy ships HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore. For some, the images brought back the painful memories of the Tampa and the asylum seekers seen languishing on its deck as the Australian government refused permission to the captain to land the asylum seekers on Australian soil.


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