Saturday, February 15, 2014

Refugees in Australia - Policy and Detention Centres

There's been a lot of discussion of refugees and detention centres in Australia in the last week initially sparked by Melbourne cartoonist Sam Wallman's comic At Work Inside Our Detention Centres: A Guard's Story.

Sam's comic brought awareness of an Australian Government commisioned comic launched last November as a disincentive for refugees to attempt entry to Australia via people smugglers. Mostly wordless this comic contains warnings in dominant Afghan languages Dari and Pashto and has been distributed overseas as part of an effort to discourage asylum seekers from coming to Australia through people smugglers. story on the federal Government comic.

  Excerpt from Statt Consultancy produced comic.

This Goverment commissioned comic was largely vilified for many reasons from it's message through to it's execution and revealed by the Guardian writers, Oliver Laughland and Asher Wolf to have been part of a two million dollar contact held by a Hong Kong based Global agency STATT Consultancy with Australian Customs and Border Protection to provide "education and training services".

Guardian Article on Consultancy behind graphic campaign.
Elizabeth Mcfarlane article on Government graphic campaign with commentary from cartoonists. 

Refugees immigration policy and asylum seekers in Australia have been a hot topic for a quite a while. A year ago I walked into a 'Boat People' conversation between an irate woman, another man, and the owner of the bookshop we were in. I was 'on my day job' at the time and she asked me how I'd feel if Polish people moved here and took my job from me. I mentioned that was a ridiculous scenario and that I was an immigrant myself from New Zealand. I then told her the bookshop owner had migrated from New Zealand and it turned out the other man was from Britain. Australia's made up of people from other places, some folk come here from peaceful countries, some from war zones, can't we show a little compassion for the people that need it? Sadly her response to my suggestion that she had 'come from elsewhere' and the original people of Australia were here long before 'her people' was, "That was a long time ago, they should get over it."

Many creatives in Australia are protesting the Governments handling of Asylum seekers with a one reaction this week being the launch of a crowdfunding campaign to produce a comic to encourage people seeking asylum in Australia. As of this writing the campaign has achieved almost 30% of it's target in two days.

From the You Are Welcome In Australia Pozible campaign,

We would like to publish a comic in direct opposition to what the government has published. We have no plans to directly encourage people to seek asylum within Australia; instead we are aiming to create a comic explaining that seeking asylum in any country that has signed the UN Refugee Convention (as Australia has) is not illegal, that there are many Australians who disagree with the government's treatment of asylum seekers and who are fighting for their fair treatment; and that there are a large amount of resources available for asylum seekers who are already settled in Australia, such as the ASRC and RISE.

This Sunday Sam Wallman is having a silent auction of the artwork from his Detention Centre comic at H.O.P, a new community centre, at 659 Plenty Rd, Reservoir. They'll be Sun, DJs and juicing as well.

From the facebook event page,

Sam Wallman and the global mail last week launched a piece of comics journalism about the experience of refugees living in detention in australia, from the perspective of an ex-employee of serco. a large selection of these drawings are being shown on the walls of H.O.P. on sunday, and people are invited to take part in a silent auction throughout the day. money raised will go directly to R.I.S.E. (Refugee Survivors and Ex-Detainees), an organisation run and governed entirely by ex-detainees, for the benefit of those recently released from detention. 10% of the artwork's sales will go to H.O.P. to help pay the rent of the space.

If you're unable to make it to H.O.P. on Sunday, email bids are welcome - email with a price and a description of the drawing you're interested in.

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