By Jane Salmon
To every right-wing xenophobic reflexive hack reacting to the immigration announcement on the internet today:
I have experienced homelessness.
I have experienced joblessness.
I have experienced shitty wages.
There are many times when I feel too ordinary, fat, dull and white.
I do not blame people fleeing war for any of those things. I blame people who were already here, avoiding tax while feathering their own nests. Or I blame myself.
Refugees I know can’t wait to become taxpayers. They want their kids to be free to study.
They’ll cope with crowded housing to get started.
They produce the fresh veggies we don’t seem to know how to grow ourselves.
They want memories of filth, medical neglect and outright brutality in immigration detention to fade.
My Dad fought for Australia in 5 theatres of war, but I am not afraid of boats starting again. Regional processing and fair refugee intakes stop boats. Navies can prevent launch. Foreign aid can protect the region with less colonial arrogance than penal islands.
It’s too simple. Boat people came from Makassar. They came from France, Holland and Britain. They were on the hunt for better lives. (No dial-a-boat from Sri Lanka for Morrison and Dutton back then!)
We are a global community and sustainability is a global issue. We cannot cut Australia off from what happens elsewhere or simply pick out the richest and most talented. Life is a mix.
I see that new Australians work hard to leave past traumas behind them. That drive has kept us from inertia.
Homeless people in Australia struggle terribly and still have access to services in their own language. They have rights that refugees do not have.
When I hear that 19,000 people whose lives have been stalled for almost a decade can start inching towards basic rights, I rejoice. This is at least part of the more humane Australia, the fair go that Labor promised.
And I am angry that some 12,000 more great people remain off the Permanent Residency list. Some are still offshore. Each is brave and resilient. Each runs rings around the average lazy bogan like me.
I am angry for the lawyers who will have to submit each separate case to another arduous bureaucratic process.
But perhaps almost more 20,000 men, women and kids will enjoy Valentines Day 2024 in Australia with a greater degree of comfort. That is, they may enjoy the ordinary experience of seeing their husbands, wives and children again. And of working and studying like the rest of us. Or harder.
If rusted-on rally-round-the-flag-flogs make this about them, they should be ashamed. Your bogeymen are a lot less real than those that refugees have had to leave behind.
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