Living in Australia has been a struggle for me, especially when understanding politics. I have never been a part of a cultural minority. In Thailand, I did not really consider myself as a resident so I did not really care much about politics there. In the Philippines, I had the power as I am Malay, Catholic, middle class and born in Manila. In Australia, I am a brown man living in a sea of dominantly white people.
The refugee issue is a learning curve for me as my only knowledge of refugees were the boat people who came from Vietnam and settled in Palawan. And suddenly in Australia, I am surrounded by people who bear psychological and physical scars. I just do not see them but I work with them so I had to suddenly research about them.
It is not easy to get real information on refugee issues as both the ruling party and the opposition party in Australia are far from hesitant in using racist and fallacious remarks just to please what they think the whims are of the voters. They have coined words like "queue jumpers" to paint asylum seekers as criminals. They use slogans like "stop the boats" as if illegal immigrants arrive that way (they usually arrive by plane carrying UK passports).
Unfortunately, these two major parties are successful in disseminating false information as well as hatred towards refugees and asylum seekers. So many words have been tossed back and forth but none of which come from the refugees themselves. But then how can this government host a venue for these people when they are only a minority--their numbers are so small that they will not have an effect on elections.
Until SBS produced a show that Australians should be proud of. "Go Back to Where You Came From" selected six white Aussies who have very strong views on the refugee debate. Though the refugee stories were told from the point of view of non-refugees, some screen time was given to asylum seekers and refugees themselves. At last, mass media gave them a chance to tell their stories using their words.
The stories presented are horrible and dehumanizing. Their experiences may have broken their bodies but not their will to gain freedom and contribute to this world. Finally, we get to see that they are people, too, and not just elements that will make politicians get their seats in the parliament.
Many people are denying the veracity of these stories though and that is to be expected because their beliefs are being challenged. It is not easy to admit that one is wrong. They will eventually change and learn to empathize and learn how to become human.
This is only the start. More refugee stories will come...
(watch the program here)