I found it moving that the late and popular Hungro-Oz SBS sports presenter, Les Murray, wanted to be remembered first and foremost not for his crowning achievement in turning Australia into a soccer loving nation but for having been a refugee.
In recent times when the word ‘refugee’ has started to be viewed with fear, suspicion and outright hostility by so many Australians, Murray remained defiantly proud of seeing himself as a refugee. He even went back to Hungary shortly before his death to find and thank his ‘people smuggler’ who risked his own life to save many others when getting them through the Iron Curtain to freedom.
Murray saw the ‘Fair go mate!’ attitude as the essence of Australians. He loved that we prided ourselves for our splendid unity as a well integrated multicultural nation. He became such a fair dinkum Aussie that most of his viewers, including me, never suspected that he was not born here until he outed himself as a refugee.
I hope I shall never forget either that I AM a refugee too, even though Australia has been my beloved adopted home for more than 50 years!
I felt compelled to state the above as part of a response to a recent article on Australia’s refugee policy. Having read the comments, I admit I reacted with a kind of unease that suggested “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”, or rather, here in our much beloved Australia too.
What happened to us? Where is our ‘fair go’? Will we realise that we are all in the same boat on our one planet, before it is too late? Where has our pride gone in owning that we, including our dear Aboriginal brothers and sisters, are all either first generation migrants or the descendants of earlier generations of migrants, who took refuge in Australia to obtain the freedom and fair go here that they could not attain in their countries of origin?
It seems to me we have become frightened, suspicious and aggressively defensive of ‘our country’ and assume that we can best protect what we have by turning our back on most of the 65 million-plus people who are forcibly displaced from their homes all over the world. We assume that our win-lose divisive mentality towards them will provide security for us. We do not seem to realise that it is in our sheer self-interest to work together to find a win-win solution of re-integrating them into the world community that is currently making them outsiders.
If we fail in this reintegration it is not only going to diminish us all as human beings but also, arguably, it will be the largest, the most dangerous, and the most toxic state of affairs that has ever been in our history as humans on this planet Earth!
Most of the commentators on my original article seem to entertain the idea that we can be safe and happy by turning our backs on these outcast brothers and sisters, with the exception of 1 per cent of the 22.5 million refugees whom the world community is currently willing to accept into their countries as refugees.
Here is a representative sample (all italics are mine for highlight).
“I think all immigration should be banned…”
“Leave them in their own s***holes that they allowed to be created.”
“… sneaking in on a boat… is not the way. You are obviously not a refugee.”
“… why should Pensioners have money taken off them to help support these germs. Go home we dont want you.”
“Invaders not refugees.”
“Like all open borders people they contribute nothing.”
The avalanche of indignant comments rages on. However, there is a minority of comments which are very different, such as: “How many times does it have to be said that seeking refuge is not illegal. What is illegal is the huge numbers of people from European countries overstaying or rorting visas often in the cash economy.”
Unless we can work together as Australians and as a part of the one globe to find a win-win solution for us all, God save us from ourselves, because alas we won’t!