Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Responsibility For Srebrenica Genocide Determined

In July 1995, 8000 Muslim boys and men were killed in a genocide in a tiny town in Bosnia, close to the Serbian border, as part of the Bosnian war. This past week, the Bosnian Serb leader at the time has been found responsible for this crime, and sentenced to 40 year jail.

Driving through this tiny town, and stopping to pay my respects, was a powerful end to my time in Bosnia, as the memory of these tragedies of the war hovered over much of the country, and stories shared about the nation.

Now perhaps, people can start to heal.

There were also many messages pleading to "Never Forget: and "Never Again". But then, the world does not learn. These horrors continue today, in Sudan. In Myanmar. In Syria. In Yemen. In so many places.

Friday, November 13, 2015

How To Live Like An Asylum Seeker In The Australian Community

I see so many people cry that people seeking asylum in Australia get all the benefits! They get free housing! They get everything!

Well, that's utter bullshit.

Try this.

You have to flee your country, because there has been a threat to your life. Maybe your brother went missing last week, and there is no news about where he is, or if he is still alive.

There are phone calls to your family; there are scary, anxious moments when you go out to the market. This has been going on for months and months, but is escalating. You haven't been able to go out of the house for work for months.

You are scared. Really scared. Your life is in serious danger. So you decide to flee.

Maybe just you, and your family scrape together all the money they can, and what they can borrow, to send you. In the hope that you will be safe, and you may one day help them get to safety too.

So you find a way to pay for a passage to Australia - the "Lucky Country". A country where you will be safe, and free, and you can start a new life, get a job and start helping your family back home.

You need to go through so many steps to get to Indonesia, so many scary moments, before you are actually placed on that rickety boat in the middle of the night, with a heap of other people who have done very much the same as you to get there.

Since July 19 2013, it has been a randomised lotto about whether you were quickly sent to Nauru or Manus Island, or whether you remained on Christmas Island. And if indeed you were allocated to stay back, even when people from the boat you came on went sent offshore, you would now be living in the Australian community.

Our Minister of Immigration, and his Opposition, try to pretend this did not happen. But you will find anyone here in our community who arrived on the very same boats as those held without hope. So goes the many lies of this political football in our country.

Once you get out of detention, which could be months after you arrive, could be years - no rhyme or reason again about why there is a difference, you will either live with someone you already know here in Australia (a community link), or you will first be placed in a hotel for up to 6 weeks. Now, you must figure out how to live in Australia.

A totally foreign place, with more rules and regulations and paperwork than you can imagine. You need to open a bank account, with minimal acceptable ID and no history of living in Australia. Then you need to find somewhere to live. How do you find a rental property in Australia, with no rental history?

Once you have a bank account, and you have worked you way through the lines and processes at Centrelink, you now receive around 85% of the Newstart allowance, so about $429 per fortnight. You need rent and bond to get started. You will also need to find a place that fits within your allowance, so you can eat, travel around to appointments and hope to find work. You have no option but to find something very cheap, in outer areas, and with many other people. You certainly have no bargaining power to increase a bid for a rental property, as is the trend here in the cities of Australia!

But you are starting with nothing. So imagine you need to figure out how to furnish your new place with the bare necessities, usually with the help of charities in the community.

Once you have settled, you've found somewhere to live, and you are setting yourself up with further English classes to help with living in Australia, and you are starting to figure out how to find a job. How do you find a job in Australia with no work history in Australia? Maybe your schooling back in your home country was not recognised formally, because you were stateless, or simply because you need to go through many impossible steps to have it acknowledged in Australia. Maybe you didn't get to go to school, due to your family circumstances, or because you needed to work to help your family. Finding work is a very big challenge.

Depending on your visa, you should get an Interim Medicare card for medical assistance. But this doesn't cover everything, and many providers in the community have no idea what this means, You will need to pay full price for any medication, unless you have a support service set up an arrangement for you. For an emergency, of course, you can go to a hospital to be treated - but just hope you are not taken via ambulance, cos we all know how expensive that is!

And then you wait. Wait for your chance to be determined to be a refugee.

Oh! But because you have arrived by boat, even if you are deemed to be a genuine refugee, you still are not given permanent protection to stay in Australia. You will have to go through your refugee determination every couple of years, for the next visa temporary option. Under constant uncertainty about your future; never quite settled, really.

All the while, you have the shadow of Border Force and Immigration hanging over you. You know people back in detention that have been re-detained for the smallest things - for driving without a licence, for a drink driving charge, for being in a fight, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or for no good reason given at all. This fear hangs over your head, reminding you of the very fears you held for your life back home.

Not so easy now, is it?

Australia needs an amnesty on it's treatment towards people seeking asylum, who are here, and stuck in our offshore island set-ups. Before we can return to being a country we can be proud of.

Treating people like this is not saving anyone.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sunset Over Sarajevo

Setting over the old city, the sun put on a show for me each evening, from the hill where I was staying.

Monday, November 09, 2015

The Age Of Entitlement: The Basics

The Basics have released one of my favourite albums of the year, The Age Of Entitlement, which is a mixture of rock political anthems mixed with their tunes of heart pains and pop fun.

I saw the first full live run of it at their first Melbourne Festival show, at the Hub on the banks of the Yarra.

The tented bandroom was set up with the stage in the middle of the room, with the crowd standing all around, wondering how the boys were going to feel with people so close.

This was similar to a show they had had earlier in the year, that I have heard great things about, with the in-the-round set up mixing up the gig going experience.

First up was Benny Walker, who gave us an impressive guitar and voice set, and certainly ensured we remembered him from his strong song delivery.

Opening as the album opened, The Basics started with What Ever Happened To The Working Class, and then Coward's Prayer. Other album tracks such as Every Part Of Me, To Think Of You, Feels Like Love and the amazingly powerful Tunaomba Saidia was also there, and were highlights.

Hey Rain was included, which is also on this album, plus the fun Roundabout broke up the set.

A request from the audience saw Wally do a solo Maybe I'm Amazed cover of Paul McCartney's track, which was incredible.

My Old Mate finished this night off, as the album does.

In the middle of this show, however, they hinted at a final show before a long hiatus, or maybe the end of the road. Of course, we have heard this several times before, but the tone of the discussions

So to the Gasometer we went last week, to again see the boys play on a stage in the middle of the bandroom - this time on the smallest piece of staging possible, making any back step by someone on stage a moment of anxiety for all who could see!

Benny Walker returned as support, and also William Crighton first up, who had the bonus of having the three Basics join him to harmonise for two songs of his set.

The roof of the bandroom was opened once The Basics took the stage, and with the people hanging over the balcony above, this made for a pretty unique gig experience.

A punchy start to the night, with So Hard For You, and then political anthem Lucky Country.

Many of the new songs featured from The Age Of Entitlement, with surprise inclusions from previous releases such as You're Already Gone, and Second Best.

The sprinkling of covers was the real treat - Comfortably Numb, Songbird and Roxanne, impressive standouts.

A two hour set, with all the boys on song, if this was their farewell, what a way to go out! An epic show!

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Top 5: Finds In Darwin

I have spent a bit of time visiting Darwin this year, and have discovered some gems in the city for escape, relaxation and beauty.

Now the tourist guides will mention a war museum, a couple of crocodile parks, and the new waterfront as places to visit. Although then they run out of suggestion, I found.

One of them is the view from the Darwin Trailer Boat Club. Family friendly, you can sit inside and out, and there is a pool for the kids, while the adult take in the ocean view and the plethora of drinks available at very reasonable prices. The food is not amazing, and I watched the footy there once, so it's not high end - go for the views!

The best view in Darwin has to be the sun dipping into the ocean at sunset, from the Nightcliff Jetty - or just off the jetty so that the jetty features in your view. Spectacular colours, such a show.

This area is packed with locals and visitors alike for the daily setting of the sun, and has rustic old-fashioned food vans, well worth the visit. You'll need to eat if you didn't come prepared with a picnic, because families and groups set up here with the most amazing smelling food!

Once the sun is down, and when it's in season, the Darwin Deckchair Cinema is the next find - below the Esplanade, it is tucked between the town and the sea. The movies are a good selection, the chairs are comfy enough, and there is also a rotation of food options through the week.

My favourite find, however, has to be Eva's cafe in the Darwin Botanical Gardens. A converted old homestead, the verandas and the back decking are the perfect place for an escape, among the trees of the Gardens. The food and coffee is very good, and the service was tops each time I went there.

The last Darwin recommendation is an extension of the Botanical Gardens, down to Mindil Beach. I managed to get the strip of sand mostly all to myself, for a total get away.

A walk along the path and up the hill, towards the Darwin High School, gave me a view across the water and beach, which was well worth the climb.

This area has sunset markets on most days, and I would imagine gets swarms of beachgoers on weekends.

Lots more to explore in this part of the world, but these have been my delighted finds so far!

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Ashes Test: Cardiff

The First Ashes test between England and Australia in the middle of this year was in Wales - at Sophia Gardens, in Cardiff.

The much anticipated tour after the last encounter in Australia, which saw the Aussies dominate, but then also the Aussies even performances against South Africa and then dismal showing against Pakistan in the UAE, and England's gaining as a top test nation again.

The English summer did not disappoint expectations, delivering a dull, cloudy and chilly couple of days. Light sent us to the pubs in Cardiff a little early on a few occasions. But the civilised start times in the morning allowed for a walk to the ground through town.

Past Cardiff castle each time, and through the gardens along the river, getting to the ground was a pleasure each time.

The English side won the toss and went in to bat on Day 1, following a bizarre play-delaying opening ceremony on-field. The Aussie bowlers get into the action pretty early, and quick wickets made for entertaining viewing to warm the Aussie section of the crowd a little.

The Poms finished on 7/343 at the end of the days play, which included Root's impressive 134, and we went on to find a few watering holes in the streets between the ground and our hotel.

The next day saw the handful of Sheilas in the traveling Waving The Flag group display our pink, adding some much needed variety to the grey, green and gold sea of our allocated section. And captured in a rare moment of sun!

England's Ali added a further 50 to his overnight total, to eventually fall at 77, and Starc then finished them off, grabbing a 5 wicket haul for the innings. England has 430.

The Aussies were soon in trouble, and the struggles of newly crowned best batsman Smith began with the English summer - they just seemed to have him worked out!

Rogers went on to score 95, creating anticipation and just missing out, and then the Aussies finished the day on 5/264.

Australia ticked past 300 in the morning of Day 3, but then were all out just 8 runs later. For the most interesting day of the test, the Aussies then took a few quick opening wickets, before England dug in until Root and Bell were both dismissed for 60 a piece.

England were all out for 289, setting Australia the unlikely target of 412 for victory, with talk of rain on the final day.

The Aussies were ticking along initially on Day 4, with Warner and Smith putting together a 78 run partnership. We celebrated Luke's birthday in the stand with cake and hats, and the Australia's were then 2/92 at lunch.

What followed was a session of capitulation, with England taking six wickets for 65 runs. The tea break saw the scoreboard says 7/162 - a blessing that we couldn't read it properly with the angle of our seats!

The great Mitchell Johnson was the only joy for the rest for the day, with 77 runs next to his name, but soon after Australia was all out for 242, 196 runs short of the target.

This led to us having an unexpected day off in Cardiff the following day - which I totally wasted with a hangover. Usual story on tour!

Friday, November 06, 2015

Know More About The Refugee Issue: Wrap Of Reads And Links

There are so many terms thrown around in the debate here in Australia, and indeed across the world at the moment, amid the numerous current refugee crises and movement of people seeking safety - but do you know what they all mean? Do you know who is talking about whom, and why? Be Informed, with this wrap up of links and lessons.


Do you know the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee? And a refugee or person seeking asylum, and an economic migrant?

The UNHCR discusses the difference here.

Here is another explanation from the UK, which is interesting in it's discussion about people seeking asylum, and the need for them to have entered a country where they then lodge an application for asylum, to be classified as asylum seekers.

What about the term 'illegal' - do you know that seeking asylum is not illegal, but a human right? Even the present government of Australia, who use the term "illegal" every chance they get, admits that this is use is not correct on their website - here.


Amnesty International are putting on a free worldwide course for all on Human Rights, starting November 16, running for 3 weeks.

It's the first global course of it's kind, and will cover The Right To Freedom Of Expression, which supports the right to express, assemble and associate - all areas of persecution in many parts of the world, and a reason many people flee for safety.


Without coming across stories of why people leave their homes, everything they know, the culture and familiar places of home, it's hard to get a grasp on the issue. The Refugee Council of Australia have a great collection of personal stories here, on their website, from refugees now living in Australia. This is a list of links from many different experiences, and place, and many different paths to safety. Some pretty incredible, and inspiring stories of resilience and strength.


There are still 88 children held in detention on Nauru, as at June 2015 according to government figures. There is a group here in Australia collecting letters, and indeed books and toys, to send to these kids, to give them hope that they are not forgotten about in all this political mess and rhetoric. Befriend A Child can be found here, with all the details including instructions on where to send letters, and gifts.

You can hear and read some of the words and responses shared between kids here in Australia and the children in Nauru, which is pretty awesome.


You can meet, and support the vocational development, of some people seeking asylum and refugees, while dining at the Empress in Melbourne on a Tuesday night from now until December 1st. The Scarf community social enterprise, provides training and support to young people who need a leg up into the hospitality industry, is currently delivering it's Spring season, and is one of my favourite social good things. It has such incredibly positive, and life changing outcomes, like these.

Know of anything else? Share it in a comment below.
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