Posted by barbara on September 14, 2012
Following the British colonisation of Australia, a remote and hard to reach island continent, our country has taken pride over the years in being able to control 'who comes to our shores'.
Explicitly excluding non whites was especially top of mind following the federation of disparate colonies into the nation of Australian in 1901, a notion that returned to the fore during the Howard Government's term in response to the increase in arrivals of so-called boat people.
How easy it is for those who have never experienced existential fear to disparage the motives of asylum seekers. Thus it is that the majority of Australians of Anglo-Celtic background have no experience whatsoever of warfare, threats to their lives, being under siege or forced out of their homeland at risk of their lives.
I will never forget a woman of Serbian background who had emigrated to Australia after the Serbo-Croation conflict of early 1991. She was utterly scathing about Australians, likening us to kangaroos caught in the headlights and mowed down by oncoming vehicles by night.
We were naive she reiterated, ignorant and unaware of what people the world over put up with on a day by day basis when it comes to fear, stress, cruelty, hardship and deprivation.
Though I was a annoyed at the time by her vitriole, in hindsight I have to admit that her summation was spot on.
Our inability as a nation to empathise with people seeking genuine refuge or a second chance in life is surely an artefact of a widespread complacency born of ignorance about how the rest of the world lives.
What if we were caught in the same predicament? Would we be seeking sanctuary in some far off land on the other side of the world or would we gladly succumb to tortue, daily threat, intimidation, lack of opportunity and the ever present prospect that one's life would come to naught and had been lived in vain? The nature of the human animal is to survive at all costs, with those who prevail over unbelievable hardships, reinvigorating the species and driving mankind on.
Last updated 4 April 2017.