“My door is always open”.
It is something we often say to a person in their time of need.
More often than not, we really mean it. Offering up the spare bedroom, sharing a home-cooked meal, or even just pouring someone a cuppa is what humanity is all about. It’s extending your hand, your home, your safe place, to someone who needs it.
Australia, why is our door not open?
I have asked far and wide for personal opinion on the matter.
From the ethnically diverse streets of Melbourne to the sun-baked suburbs of Brisbane, the crowded beaches of Bondi to the leafy streets of Sydney’s North Shore; I am still yet to meet an Australian who has said their door would not be open to refugees. Common sentiment following the death of Omid Masoumali this week was, ‘If only I could have helped.’
So today, as our nation’s heart collectively breaks into a thousand pieces with another – another – person on Nauru setting themselves on fire, I cannot understand why our government keeps our door so firmly shut.
Hodan Yasin is 21 years old. At an age that most of us were sitting through university lectures or happily swigging beers; Hodan had escaped deadly conditions in her home of Somalia, to risk her life trying to reach Australia. Instead of freedom, she ended up alone and frightened in a refugee camp on Nauru.
Hodan tasted her freedom, briefly. She spent time in Brisbane being treated after a serious motorcycle accident on Nauru late last year. According to reports, Hodan was so distressed at the thought of returning to the camp, she had to be carried out by her arms and legs as she squirmed and struggled, screaming to please, please, please be allowed to stay.
When she returned to Nauru, she tried to kill herself. She was unsuccessful.
So yesterday, she set herself on fire.
Despite the horrific details, we remain numb to the horrors of what we’re hearing – drowned newborns, orphans arriving in the hundreds, suicides, swallowed razorblades, sexual abuse, children spending their whole lives in camps – the life of the refugee has become abstract to us.
They are ‘the other’.
Well, it is time to make their problem, our problem. Is your door open?
What if, on your doorstep one morning, stood Hodan? A beautiful young 21 year old Somalian woman; who was frightened, alone, and without any hope for her future. Would you open your door to her? Would you offer her your spare room, a home cooked meal, a cuppa tea, a hug? Would you tell her that it’s a big world out there, and that nothing stays terrible forever?