Seeking Asylum

Australia looks pretty reprehensible in the eyes of the international community these days, and we’re certainly not doing ourselves any favours the way we’re behaving toward our nearest neighbours. I think, sometimes, that we forget we’re a country in Asia, not a state of America or one of the British Isles.

GetUp Australia has instigated and/or spear-headed some amazing campaigns through the years, many of which I’ve watched with great interest. Their marriage equality video “It’s Time” deserved its viral status, and I still can’t watch it without a runny nose and a tear or two.

Right now they’re launching something more subtle, restrained, I suspect, but the current government’s stance on grassroots campaigning and boycotts – Letters to Asylum Seekers.

The problem with campaigning for asylum seekers these days is that the only people who are listening are the people already very concerned for refugees. The people who really need to hear the message aren’t listening, or have gone deaf.

The wonderful thing about this campaign is that the messages are being sent where they probably do more good anyway – straight to an asylum seeker, who’s probably lost all faith in humanity in the face of Australian government bullshit. I’m safe at home and I’m losing faith in humanity just thinking about what my government is doing to people who have every right to seek asylum.

It is not illegal to seek asylum! Refugees are fleeing persecution, torture, and certain death on the grounds of race, religion, sexuality or sexual orientation… They’re getting on leaky boats to face the possibility of death and the hope of a fresh start somewhere else. That opportunistic vultures prey on these people, rob them of all their assets to put them on these leaky boats, uncaring if they reach safety alive or not, is a whole other topic well worth a rant of its own.

GetUp Australia is looking for people to write letters to asylum seekers, to let them know we’re thinking of them, and that we haven’t forgotten. I just wrote mine, and I’m going to mail it tomorrow (or Monday if I can’t find a place selling stamps on Anzac Day).

I don’t know who you are, but I worry for you, and for any of your family and friends there with you. I hear such awful stories of where you are, and I think of what you went through to get there – and it’s not fair.

You haven’t been forgotten by us here in Australia, we know you’re there, and we know what our government is doing to you is wrong. Until we can make a change, please have hope, and don’t lose heart in the face of adversity. We know you’re there, and we will continue to do all we can to help you.

My name is Amelia, and I live in Tasmania – the little island state at the bottom of Australia. I study and teach at university, and my family is two cats and a dog. I don’t know who you are, but I would welcome you to my home as a friend. We haven’t forgotten you.

Please write back – let me know how you are, and who you are. We hear of ‘asylum seekers’ without seeing that you are people with names and faces and histories – but I know you have a name, and a face, and a story.

Your friend in Australia,

The irony of this picture is perfect and poignant. For those who don’t know, it’s from the Australian National Anthem.

(CC BY-SA 2.0) John Englart (

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