The split state

Australia’s binary myth about people seeking asylum
by
June 2021, no. 432

The split state

Australia’s binary myth about people seeking asylum
by
June 2021, no. 432
3 May 2015 at the single female's area in Nauru Regional Processing Centre 3: A beautiful late evening sky with security fence, lighting and tent in the foreground. (photograph by Elahe Zivardar, reproduced with permission)
3 May 2015 at the single female's area in Nauru Regional Processing Centre 3: A beautiful late evening sky with security fence, lighting and tent in the foreground (photograph by Elahe Zivardar, reproduced with permission)

People seeking asylum are off trend. As the black and brown people on boats have stopped arriving on Australia’s shores, so has our interest in them waned. In commemoration, a boat-shaped trophy sits in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office, inscribed with the words ‘I Stopped These’. Today, Australians seem preoccupied by the vaccine roll-out and allegations of rape in parliament. With a federal election on the horizon, people seeking asylum and refugees seem passé, a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

My ten-month-old daughter knows better than this. ‘Object permanence’ is her developmental recognition that people exist, even if she can’t see them. Celebrating the ‘end’ of the boats, thereby, is analogous to an infantile regression. The passengers have simply been pushed elsewhere; an estimated 14,000 now languish in Indonesian camps, even though many have long been recognised as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). ‘There’s a growing number of suicides in the shelters,’ journalist Nicole Curby1 told me. ‘What leads them there is a sense of desperation and hopelessness.’ Far from solving the problem, Australia has shoved it upstream. ‘Suffer or die there, not here,’ we seem to have said to people seeking asylum.

From the New Issue

Comments (6)

  • Posted by Hessom Razavi
    04 June 2021
  • Posted by Hessom Razavi
    04 June 2021
  • Posted by Dr Liana Joy Christensen
    02 June 2021
  • Posted by Patrick Hockey
    02 June 2021
  • Posted by Hessom Razavi
    01 June 2021
  • Posted by Michael Gronow
    31 May 2021

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