Facing up to new faces

Ironic juxtaposition? 'What Makes a Real Aussie?" poster showing 1916 ID photo of Monga Khan from Afghanistan situated next to "NO ENTRY" sign. Image: Su Leslie, 2016.

Ironic juxtaposition? ‘What Makes a Real Aussie?” poster showing 1916 ID photo of Monga Khan from Afghanistan. Image: Su Leslie, 2016.

I saw this poster a few times around Melbourne, and learned that it is part of a campaign called What Makes a Real Aussie?

The aim is not only to highlight modern Australia’s ethnic diversity, but to remind people of a previous immigration policy (finally ended in the 1970s) which sought to exclude non-white Europeans from migrating to Australia.

It follows on from an earlier campaign around the issue of refugees, called Real Australians Say Welcome. Both were created by artist Peter Drew.

It seemed an appropriate image for the Daily Post Photo Challenge this week. Not only does it ask us to consider the faces that make up our nation(s), but is also a reminder that those of us secure in our homes, countries and citizenship need to face up to the terrible worldwide crisis brought about by others being denied these things.

According to UNHCR figures, nearly 60 million people world-wide are currently displaced from their homes, including almost 20 million refugees. Just over half of refugees are under 18. Instead of living as children — playing, learning, growing within the bonds of home and family — these young people are passing their formative years in conditions of extreme uncertainty, dislocation, poverty and danger.

Many countries are grappling with the enormous and complex issues created by displaced populations. Government policies are often divisive. In New Zealand, our government continues to accept a pitifully small number of refugees — all the while talking about the “cost”of resettlement and ignoring the economic and social good brought by accepting skilled, motivated and grateful refugees. This is also the same government that earlier this year spent at least $26 million on a referendum about changing our national flag (in which the majority voted for no change); and $36 million supporting our America’s Cup Challenge. Here’s an interesting piece about this from The Timaru Herald.

NZMM2016_jpg

Meanwhile, many ordinary New Zealanders — like our cousins across the ditch — want to say “Welcome.”

Today’s NZ Music Month choice is Welcome Home, by Kiwi music legend Dave Dobbyn. Although it was written in 2005, before the current refugee crisis, the lyrics speak even more clearly now.

Tonight I am feeling for you
Under the state of a strange land
You have sacrificed much to be here
‘there but for grace…’ as I offer my hand
Welcome home, I bid you welcome, I bid you welcome
Welcome home from the bottom of my heart

 

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29 thoughts on “Facing up to new faces

  1. This is a very welcome post. Across the pond, this is one Aussie who is very dismayed with the anti-refugee stance of the federal government as well as the many Aussies who seem to be so scared of what a refugee might bring. I love Dave Dobbyn’s song, and am going to post it to my Facebook. The only other song of his I know is that one from Footrot Flats. ๐Ÿ™‚
    This is perfect for the theme. Cheers from Brisbane.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I hear you. Thank you for providing food for thought.

    Singapore is a country where we’ve worked hard to integrate all our different peoples and we are encouraged to live in harmony. Yet, there are reservations towards our newer immigrant groups (from China, Philippines) and while we may not always openly express it, there is grumbling. Racial & cultural harmony is challenging.

    But we press on, because we must – it is the cost of living in the world today. My challenge is whether I can greet each one, especially those who have fled here for a better life, new or old in our country, with open arms.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think NZ is doing better than Australia. At least you offered to take people from the camps on Manus Is and Nauru. Even if our pitiful excuse for a government declined the offer because they are in a race with the Opposition to the bottom of the cruelty barrel. The comments from our Immigration minister this week made me feel sick.
    Thank you for the song. Just wonderful, Su.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Hi Sue, thank you for highlighting this project in this forum. Peter Drew is doing terrific work – I think he has headed up to the Northern territory in the Ghan (train) and sticking up the posters where and whenever. We don’t have a great history with respect to welcoming otherness. What a pity our politicians use it to divided and perpetuate the misinformation. Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Andy. I was fascinated by the poster and am so glad it’s led me to find out more about Peter Drew and the work he’s doing.

      I find it horribly ironic and disgusting that as immigrants and the descendants of immigrants (as all but First Nation peoples are) we are so quick to pull up the drawbridge and deny others the privilege we had of settling in a new country.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I love this. My church has been encouraging it’s members to do as much as we can to help refugees in our local communities. There have been some cool things happening as a result of this push. As a teacher I had several students who were refugees. I was so grateful when they were given opportunities to live in safety in our community. I will never forget the moment in late Spring when a Ukrainian refugee Mother tearfully expressed her gratitude for a safe place to live, a wonderful job in a tortilla factory where she was able to work every night for 12 hours, a job for her husband during the day, and a wonderful school where her daughter had learned English and was making friends. The most amazing part of this conversation was her complete gratitude for everything she now had in her life – things I would consider hard. I was humbled by her joy. I remembered meeting her and her husband and daughter in the fall. They had just arrived and none of them spoke a lick of English. By the Spring she was fluent. I wish that her experience were more common. That there were places of safety and opportunity for the millions of refugees world wide. Sorry for the ramble, you struck a chord with this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is always so heartening to hear of refugee families becoming settled. Here our government frames all discussion of refugees in terms of cost, and completely ignores how much new families with skills and determination and gratitude for a new start actually contribute to society. Not just financially, but in terms of social good and cultural enrichment. Everyone in NZ is an immigrant; even our First Nation people arrived only around 1000 years ago. It makes me so angry that we who have much deny others basic human rights. I read a really cool quote recently. I can’t remember who said it, but it was something like “for people of privilege, equality feels like loss.” It is so true and I try to remember it whenever I feel a bit selfish. So please don’t apologise; I feel the same way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So do I. The sheer scale seems overwhelming, but it is probably similar to the situation in Europe after WWII. However, I think the political will to make things better was so much stronger then. But we must keep hoping, and working to be part of the change we want to see.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree. I may be idealizing the past too much, but it seems to me that even with normal amounts of political agendas back then, we as a society were striving to make the world better. It really doesn’t feel like that right now to me. I hope I’m just jaded…

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know what you mean. I sometimes wonder if perhaps I’m being nostalgic for an imagined past, but I really do think we are currently living in a less kind, more brutal world. The “big picture” nastiness doesn’t fit with the everyday kindness I experience, so I am hopeful for the future.

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  6. This is a really great article! I love how you included the song ‘Welcome Home’- I’d never heard of this song before and it is extremely relevant to the ethos of my campaign. I’d love to share it on my wordpress, and might even write a whole post about it! ๐Ÿ™‚ How do you feel more exposure to public artwork campaigns such as Peter Drew’s street art campaign can help change attitudes towards asylum seekers in Australia? I feel with such growing support towards anti-refugee rhetoric (Peter Dutton, Pauline Hanson, Trump and the growing swing towards populism), things like this are critically important. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you feel would be a positive way to change people’s attitudes towards refugees? ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you so much for such a great read!- R.G.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ruby. Thanks so much for your comments. I wish I had answers to your questions. Raising awareness is good; a very worthwhile thing to do, but unless people actually come into contact with refugees (and even immigrants) in a positive, one-to-one setting, the tendency to allow stereotypes rather than facts to influence judgement will remain. But how can we meet refugees if our governments won’t allow them into the country and our only “exposure” to the issue is what we see in the news — constructed by the mainstream media with all the ideological baggage that comes with that. As long as the debate is framed in terms of the “cost” of refugees, people who are already struggling in an increasingly unequal society will fear newcomers as a source of cheap labour and a drain on services. Meanwhile, the very rich get richer and sustain their position with fear: divide and conquer. Cheers, Su.

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      • That’s very true, sadly. And most people- if they hold those negative beliefs about refugees and asylum seekers- won’t go out of their way to have their minds changed, even if the resources are available to them. We can only hope for a massive global swing towards kindness and compassion, but I’m not holding my breath! Anyway, thank you very much for the kind words and amazing article. -R.G.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: 2016: a personal retrospective | Zimmerbitch

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