I do understand that the Refugee issue is very controversial and there are many very strong opinions regarding this topic.
My intention is not to get into an argument about this but to share something truly amazing and inspiring that has been going on.
I have a little bit of a history with the refugee issue going back over 12 years. When I was 20 years old back in 2003 I use to write to a lovely girl Bahareh who was being held in Woomera housing detention.
She was 19 years old. She had been there for 4 years. She was from Iran. She had been separated from her father and brother who were being held in a separate detention centre. Every time I received a letter from her my heart felt sad. She would say things like …
“I came to Australia 3 years ago with my family. My mother’s name is Roya. She is 40 years old and great hairdresser. My father’s name is Hamid and he used to be business man in our country and my brother in Benjamin who is a year younger than me.”
” I am not allowed to study because people say you are over 18 and don’t have any visa so you are not allowed to have any education. It has been 10 months since my mum and I came to Woomera Housing and my father and brother are in Baxter. There are guards and cameras to watch us and we don’t have any freedom.
“I like to be a lawyer but I know it’s not easy”
One year later …
“Nothing much has happened here. 2 weeks ago we found out that my grandmother past away 3 months ago and our family did not tell us because they knew we stuck in this terrible situation and already got lots of problems and they did not want to make us sad and add to our problems”
“We have been in this situation which is terrible for nearly 4 years. I can not understand what is going on. I don’t know for how long more we have to stay in detention, my future is dark and I don’t know what happens.”
“It is worse thing that could happen to someone that you don’t know what is your future and you can’t have any plans for that”
“This Christmas will be our 4th Christmas in detention I was hope to celebrate this one, this time in freedom but I was wrong”
These letters were written between me and Barareh 12 years ago … 12 YEARS!! I can’t even begin to imagine what the letters would say these days with what little we know of the detention centres we are hearing about in the media.
In recent years I have tried to locate Bahareh but as yet have not been successful.
Two years ago I was asked by one of the most amazing men I know if I would be on the board of an advisory group for Scattered People.
On the 9th of June 2011 a team of Scattered People musicians took guitars, percussion and mandolin to a Detention Centre for asylum seekers who had been transferred from Christmas Island. The Centre is located in Sugarmill Road, Pinkenba. Escapees from oppressive regimes, seekers of asylum with a collective thirst for a safe and liberating future gathered and listened, bewildered at first. They came from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Music off-set the initial awkwardness. People began to move, to sway a little. There was hand clapping. Some of the less-inhibited Iranian males began to dance. More songs were requested. They sang some of their own. There was laughter. They said this was the first time they’d heard such laugher in what they recognised was generally an environment of sadness and recovery from trauma.
Since that day over 4 years ago each week musicians and community development workers have been loading up their cars with instruments and making the trip along Sugarmill Road. Detainees would offer their poems written in their mother tongue asking that they be made into songs. Their writings were translated and the music followed.
The results of those collaborations have just been launched in a truly amazing Album called Sugarmill Road.
This Christmas if you want to buy one gift that will truly change your life and the life of those around you then get yourself a copy of Sugarmill Road.
It will make a perfect gift for a loved on or friend who you know truly cares about the plight of refugees in Australia and it is one small thing that we can do to support some of these people.
You can listen to some of the music here …
And purchase it from Itunes here …
You can ask your local record shop to order it in for you.