Boat People Arrive in Australia Illegally
Many Boat People Arrive at Christmas Island
Recently I received an email poem about people who arrive in Australia illegally by boat. It was breezy, amusing, and brightly illustrated. However, it was really a complaint about the Australian Federal Government spending tax-payers' money on these people. There was also an underlying fear that, once established, the newcomers would breed like rabbits and take over the country.
I wonder if that is what the original inhabitants of our country thought when, after using it as a dumping-ground for their overfull prisons, our ancestors first began to pour in and take over, destroying the land as they sought their fortune after the discovery of gold?
How can we deal with this problem?
There has been much written and spoken by the media, and debated in Parliament, as to what should be done, firstly, to prevent illegal boatloads of people from coming to our shores, and secondly, what to do with them once they arrive. This part of the problem is political and I don't know much about politics, only about what I hear, and that could be quite skewed.
- Legal Immigrants
There are legal ways to apply to emmigrate to Australia, but I understand this can be lengthy and frustrating. One friend, her husband, and baby (drugged to keep him quiet), escaped some years ago from Communist Europe. They saved their lives by fleeing, as that same night soldiers came for them. Eventually they arrived in England and applied to come to Australia. A question on one form was: 'Do you have a criminal record?' Quite seriously, she asked, "Do I still need one of those?"
- Illegal Immigrants
In some countries people are desperate to escape, save their own lives and their family. They do not know the proper procedure and will pay their last cent to escape. Unscrupulous boat operators offer a way, but charge exorbitant prices, and often provide unseaworthy vessels. We have seen some horrific results on TV and it is a problem for our government to find ways to prevent such loss of life.
- Refugee Camps
Some Asian people who arrived legally, told me that some people wait for years in refugee camps. To get there, they had to dodge through forests at night, trying to avoid soldiers seeking to kill them, and arrived in the Camp with nothing except the clothes they wore - if they made it. They scrounged bush materials to make shelters and soldiers over the border came and destroyed them.
Adjusting To a New Culture
When people eventually arrive in Australia, life can be very different and and it must be very difficult for many of them to adjust.
Some years ago I taught in inner-city Melbourne and the school was beside a high-rise that housed immigrants and boat people. Some of those kids had experienced so much, witnessing their mother raped before both parents were killed. Now they lived with relatives who had their own problems.
All these kids wanted was to forget, learn well in school and become good Aussies. Practically every lunchtime some would be in the school Library when it opened, offering to help me, needing an ear to help the nightmares to go away, something to do, something to laugh about so they could forget.
What Can We Do?
Sure, some people who come will be bad eggs - and yes, our taxes will have been wasted. Every community has folk like that, and they were born here.
Most newcomers want to find work and live peaceful, productive lives, making good homes for their children. They are embarrassed about having to rely on welfare when they first arrive. One woman who worked in the library covering books, told me, when she had acquired enough English for me to understand, that she had been a pharmacist back home. Here, her husband had found a job as a Melbourne tram-driver. Back in their own country he had been a surgeon.
How Can We Help?
How can we help newcomers to settle in, learn to trust us and become good citizens?
- By welcoming them
- By being friendly - even a smile helps.
- Think how we would feel in the same situation. It must be quite frightening.
Last year I met a couple who had completed the basic Government English course, but wanted to improve their language skills to obtain better paid jobs. The next level course was too expensive as they had teenagers in high school, so I invited them home for conversational English once a week. It was fun. Mostly we talked and they often took notes of the vocabulary for different situations. Occasionally I cooked a simple Aussie meal, or they introduced me to their food. Then they found better jobs and moved away.
Later I invited a lady from another culture to stay for a week when she was on holiday from work, to help her English. She came from a Camp and is still saving to sponsor her husband to come. In their fifteen years of married life they have only lived together for three years.
This year our church is offering Conversational English for newcomers. They need tutors, so I'm volunteering for that.
Be creative and I'm sure you will have lots of ideas.