I haven’t written a political blog for a long time but I am reading the inspirational story of Kon Karapanagiotidis, CEO of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre here in Melbourne, Australia. The ASRC, as it is known is a refugee centre which receives no government funding who assists refugees who have nowhere else to go as there are people placed on our streets with minimal or no funding at all due to the harsh immigration policies of our federal government towards asylum seekers. Today, they are the largest independent human rights organisation for refugees and people seeking asylum, delivering more services on the ground than any other independent asylum seeker organisation in the country. Our work on the frontline with people seeking asylum informs our practice and enables us to effectively advocate for, and alongside people with lived experience.
The Official title of the book is The Power of Hope or: How Community, Love and Compassion can change our World: Link to buy it. It is the amazing tale of how Kon, himself from a refugee family in Australia came to set up this amazing organisation that has helped thousands of refugees survive in a country that has made the words asylum seeker dirty words.
So what is the official definition of the term Asylum Seeker, here it is: a person who, from fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, social group, or political opinion, has crossed an international frontier into a country in which he or she hopes to be granted refugee status.
How does the world speak about these two words, let’s have a look:
1. There are those rare people who have existed on earth who can hold values as high as these, Martin Luther King was one of them.
2. Labels are used to make people forget this, especially by mainstream media and governments: Human.
3. There is not a choice between staying behind and taking a bullet and getting on a rickety boat to seek asylum.
4. Often a family has to decide which member of a family to send to seek asylum as they cannot afford the exorbitant rates that money grabbing people such as boat smugglers demand people to seek safety, how would you feel if you had to leave your daughter behind.: The Best Day.
5. There are people running our country who have this fear and shame in their policy decisions.
6. There is a particular minister, Peter Dutton, who is digging a very deep grave for the reputation of our country worldwide: Set Fire to The Rain.
7. The two largest words say it all really, Human Rights.
8. This statement from ancient Greece sums up how mainstream media reports asylum seeking in our country these days: Believe Me.
9. Especially if your destination was Australia by boat, it means 5 years in a detention centre, including your children.
10. Especially if they are a fascist right-wing government as holds sway in Australia regarding asylum seekers: Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay.
11. Considered the founder of modern nursing, Florence has captured truly where our government has taken the boat arrival discussion in our country.
12. Kon has transformed a lot of ordinary Australian into non-spectators regarding the human rights of the people who are besmirched as boat people by our mainstream media courtesy of the evil media magnate Rupert Murdoch: Get Up, Stand Up.
13. Had to sneak in the worst long-term refugee cruelty, seeing Israeli snipers deliberately shoot children brought tears to my eyes, and I do not cry.
14. And what can we do about it, this group of school children spent a night in this cage to show their solidarity and disgust for the situations on the islands where children are held on a long-term basis: Who I Am.
15. Warsan Shire is a 30-year-old British writer, poet, editor and teacher, who was born to Somali parents in Kenya, East Africa. In 2013 she was awarded the inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize, chosen from a shortlist of six candidates out of a total 655 entries. Her words “No one leaves home unless/home is the mouth of a shark”, from the poem “Conversations about Home (at a deportation centre)”, have been called “a rallying call for refugees and their advocates”.
So I will finish with Kon’s words on the back cover of his book: “I hope you take from this book the message that we all matter. That there is a place for all of us. That once we know our own voice, live the values close to our hearts and follow our dreams, we can be unstoppable. Hope is only exhausted if we forsake ourselves, otherwise, no one can take our hope from us. It is both our sanctuary and our destiny to live a life with love, belonging, connection and community.” Thank you Kon Karapanagiotidis, you rock!!
Two classics amongst the songs today, we begin with the fine voice of Rag N’ Bone Man, two pop divas follow, Taylor Swift and Adele. Then a rapper new to me, Fort Minor. The superb Otis Redding and Bob Marley finishing with the Disney interpretation of Natasha Bedingfield. Here’s the playlist: The Power of Hope.
Namaste until next time, my dear friends.