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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Go Back To Where You Came From

Today I was inspired. I am fed up with the federal government's position on immigration and asylum seekers. First they wanted to excise Australia from the migration zone and do all processing offshore, with some vague excuse that they wanted to save lives from being lost in the perilous journey on board unsafe boats. Now they want to issue refugees with non-working visas for up to five years and make them live off $200/week, when they could encourage them to learn English and integrate into the working community, where they'd be contributing huge amounts of tax to the economy.

Every time I read an article about these policies, I feel angry and ashamed to be Australian, particularly when I read the comments which are always ignorant, uneducated and narrow minded. People just do not seem to understand the realities of what asylum seekers and refugees are faced with, and I fear that they will pass these views to their children.

So today I was inspired to start mapping out a story for teenagers, about an Australia in the future that is turned on it's head. A story designed to make kids think critically and consider the implications of ignoring the direction our country is heading in.

Here is a taster of what has started to form in my head:

2042 was the year from hell. I’d often just sit and wistfully remember the Australia I once knew; the Australia we all remembered, the one we grew up in, was but a memory. We were the lucky country; our lands were supposed to be abounding in nature’s gifts of beauty, rich and rare. Despite the same old political debates about health, education and immigration policy, the swings between left and right were quite rhythmic and predictable. We felt secure. My future then, was without a flicker of doubt.

I was 14 years old when the New Progressives Party burst on the Australian political stage. Most people I knew, including my parents laughed at the irony of their name and never believed they’d come into power. They couldn’t have been less progressive if they tried: they made the old One Nation party seem tame. Their policies were so close to the White Australia Policy that it was alarming and it really seemed inconceivable to us all that we could possibly regress to that way of thinking - especially me, an awkward teenage boy with skin the colour of iced coffee milk.

My parents came to Australia in 2023 from Afghanistan. They fled in terror as their war torn country fell apart again. The Taliban had instated a new leader and their surge to power left many families either destitute or dead. My Hazara parents did the only thing they could to survive and sold everything they had to board a rickety boat in Java, Indonesia. They believed with every last drop of hope they had, that Australia would offer them a safe and secure future. They were amongst the last to be taken in by this so called lucky country. I was born in 2025 and my parents did everything they could to give me the childhood and the opportunities they had missed out on.

While racism was a problem in Australia, I had a great childhood and felt I had everything to hope for. I wanted to be Veterinarian and hoped to get into Sydney University when I graduated high school. In 2039, everything changed and I was no longer the boisterous young man I once was. That year, the Prime Minister was assassinated and a by-election was held. Voting was no longer compulsory, and as a result many Australians, despondent with the political climate, failed to vote. Our worst nightmare was realised when on August 28th 2039, the New Progressives won 74 per cent of the seats in the House of Representatives. It was the biggest landslide victory this country has ever seen.

After the election victory, there was a sudden spate of violent riots and shootings, and people began protesting the racist government policy that was flooding the media. Soon people began disappearing. Anyone who didn’t fit the government’s ideal of Australian was facing real danger and many went underground to protect themselves. Within months, we had become the war torn country my family had given up everything to escape all those years ago. Our family, together with two other Afghan families eventually had to follow suit and go underground as well. There were refugee camps in PNG to the west of Port Moresby, but most knew that these would lead to certain death. Some sold their belongings to try to penetrate the borders of New Zealand, but were soon deported to PNG for offshore processing. New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs minister, Willis Leary had given a statement that they felt that the rise in Australian asylum seekers was a cause for concern and that he did not want to compromise New Zealand’s national security by processing onshore. Australia had become a volatile nation and nobody wanted to show hospitality to the country who had excised itself from the migration zone to keep “boat people” out. Some said Australia was facing the ultimate karma. Where did that leave me? I was facing a future as certain as the one my parents had back in Afghanistan, and I knew I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing. 2042 was set to be the worst year yet, and I just couldn't watch. I had to fight to save what was once a beacon of hope for the people I loved most.

Would you read this story? What do you think of the federal government's latest policy proposal?


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