by IMOGEN BAILEY
When I was asked to be a part of the SBS documentary series Go Back to Where You Came From, I jumped at the chance to be involved.
Let’s face it, it is one thing to be sympathetic but if you don’t have the knowledge to back up your passion (not to mention the fact that to many you may be remembered from your days as a ‘bikini model’) well, you best sit down because your input could do more harm than good.
I plead guilty – guilty to always wanting to take the next step, but not doing it. I also plead guilty to switching off.
The political nightmare that surrounds this issue is dark and murky and for me a disgusting reflection of what politics is all about today. It is political opportunism of the worst kind.
So I signed on the dotted line to be a part of this documentary and felt good about the fact that I was about to embark on not only a journey of education, but also one of the best kinds – firsthand experience.
In retrospect, did I really know what I was getting myself into? No, absolutely not. I knew this trip would be confronting and I knew it would be scary. What I couldn’t prepare for was the emotional rollercoaster I was to experience (during and after the trip).
From men with guns, to tiny helpless babies who could be held in the palm of a man’s hand, I was confronted and shocked at all points of my refugee journey. I couldn’t help but wonder if Tony Abbott would feel differently about these issues if he was on the ground in Somalia and held a starving child in the palm of his hand? Figuratively speaking, he already does, as does Julia Gillard.
So, it makes you wonder how they would feel holding that baby, looking into the eyes of his mother while a translator explained that this tiny helpless child, smaller than what we would call premature, is actually 18 months old, his size due to severe malnutrition.
How would Julia feel when told that if that baby doesn’t improve by a certain point his nutrition supplements will have to be cut off, simply because there isn’t enough aid to go around?
And what about the rest of us?
I believe Australians are compassionate human beings. I believe that if they knew more about the true plight of people like those I met in Somalia, Ethiopia and Indonesia, more would stand up and say ‘hey, Julia, you are doing us a disservice.
We don’t want to be the racist country on the parody map that circulates on Facebook anymore. We want to be humanitarian leaders. It’s time we did more’.
And while we have your attention Julia ‘why do we never hear you say asylum seekers are not criminals, or that it is not illegal to seek asylum in Australia? And what about the fact that we only take 2 per cent of the refugees in the world?’
We don’t hear these points because they don’t make us mad. They don’t fire us up and give the Gillards and the Abbotts the playing field to provide us with ‘policies’ that appease false concern, which in-turn win them votes. Bloody-ballot papers are what this is about.
Even I could make that supposition standing on the beach in my old bikini. I’m also qualified in marketing so I could also have come up with the ‘boat people’ campaign – it’s a slogan and unfortunately this is what politics has been dumbed down to.
This is what they think of us as ‘intelligent Australians’. They feed us these political bogan slogans and stir up the storm.
The price of this political mess is not only the lives of the asylum seekers, it is the price of our reputation as a nation, and it’s not something I am afraid to say anymore.
This experience for me was like being hit with a gigantic hammer right in the guts. I’ve had my Ally McBeal dancing baby moment and although the baby has a different agenda to Ally’s, the baby just wont shut up. It shows up in the corner of my room at night and it points its finger at me and says ‘now you know’.
I feel like a completely different person to the woman who got on the plane and arrived in Mogadishu. When I arrived I was scared to my bones – I was scared for my bones.
I never ever want to be that close to guns. I never want to drive down a street with the fear in my belly that a bomb could go off any second. Thankfully, I probably won’t have to.
The reality of this debate is there are children and families living in horrific circumstances. They are desperate. It is real. They are not illegals. They do not all come by boat. Life out there and off our shores is riddled with terror and corruption beyond our comprehension.
So, before you make up your mind I beg you to look at the closest child to you, perhaps yours or a relative and ask yourself ‘what would I do for you?’ I can guarantee you the answer is anything, because we are human.
There will always be bad seeds; there will always be people who do the wrong thing. We cannot allow important decisions to be based on a minority and propaganda. For those of us that are already sympathetic I urge you to do your part too – get educated and be a voice.
Imogen Bailey is an actor, former model, and animal rights activist. Imogen was one of six participants to take part in the SBS documentary series Go Back to Where You Came From, airing Tuesday 28, Wednesday 29 and Thursday 30 August 2012 at 8.30pm on SBS ONE.
Were you watching Go Back to Where You Came From last night? What did you think?