‘The Day Australians Became Refugees’: Exposing the faultlines 8f - Dispossessed


‘At the moment … dispossessed, homeless and displaced’

Two silhouetted boats filled with people drift in the ocean. One bears a flag with the word 'Refugees' and the other bears an Aboriginal flag. The passengers on each boat look toward each other and the question 'Which way?' hovers above them.

[imagecaption] Which Way? 2015. Artwork: Mahmoud Salameh. [/imagecaption]


Refugees and asylum seekers themselves were instantly attuned to the plight of the bushfire evacuees. At a fundraiser held by the Hazara community Ahmad Rezaei noted that his community had responded with immediate empathy to the plight of those displaced from Mallacoota :  ‘Regardless of our visa status, this money has been raised by the Australian Hazara citizens, refugees and asylum seekers.’ He invoked Warsan Shire’s impassioned poem, Home, inspired by conversations with refugees at a detention centre, that has since become something of an anthem and a manifesto for refugees everywhere: ‘Let’s remember that we are the people who put their children in boats because the water was safer than the land.’

Acknowledging the gift on behalf of the Victorian government, Minister Adem Somyurek emphasized that the community had ‘put aside your own personal pain and tragedy … to ease the pain of fellow Victorians who are at the moment being dispossessed, homeless and displaced.’

Yet any implicit reversal of geographic and racial expectations about those ‘being dispossessed, homeless and displaced’ were, as the Minister marked, no more than temporary.

They also have their limits. Indigenous people displaced by the bushfires often experienced very different treatment from their white counterparts, and the ‘culture-neutral’ (that is, white) media reportage of the crisis was oblivious to the specific forms of suffering and trauma experienced by Indigenous people impacted by the fires.



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