We’re Better Than This

The Refugee people sent me a young mother today with her four-year-old child who had a cough.
She said: “Interrupter, please.”
I looked at her, not understanding.
“Needing interrupter. Not English.”
I preferred to have a go without an interpreter.
“You tell me, I listen” – I said.
“My child much coughing.”
I listened to the chest of the vivacious child whose smile would melt an official from Immigration and Border Protection. I looked at her throat, I felt her glands. She was well, simply suffering from a snot attack. I ordered an anti-snotic.
I addressed Mum: “From what country.”
A look of surprise. A brilliant smile.
I hadn’t picked her nationality. Her peasant blouse, embroidered with edging of magenta and primrose, somehow made me expect she’d be Hazara. That and her creamy skin. Wrong.

“Are you a Permanent Resident?”
A shake of the head. “Commentary Detention.”
“Are you on a Bridging Visa?”
“No. Commentary. Not visa. Commentary Detention.”

“Ahh… community detention?”
Nodding, a smile, we two are doing well despite the lack of an interrupter. But the smile empty of joy.

“My husband, the police, make shee – you know, shee?” The young woman waves her hand in a whipping movement. “Shee. Sixty times, they make shee.”
The woman pulls out her phone, shows me a photo: an adult lies face down on a narrow bed. The creamy skin of a broad back, fine scarlet streaks, the skin must have been lashed with wires.

“They do this before five years. We are not marry, he is boyfriend. I have baby” – she points to her belly – “They tell, ‘You wait, you come after baby, you also sixty shee.’”

The young woman’s pregnancy approached its end, she was summoned to the police station, but fled here, arriving four years ago – pre-Rudd solution.
“My mother, police tell her ‘where is your daughter?’ Mother tell, ‘daughter in Australia.’
They say, ‘No is hiding. Is in Iran. Must come to police station, have shee.’ They call mother many times. She very scare.”

The daughter appears to believe full well the police intend to keep their promise.
So, the boat. Detention at Curtin, then in South Australia. ‘My baby, not Iran.” The smile, this one half-charged: “Born Darwin.”
Her visa is not permanent resident.
Her visa is not bridging.
Her visa is not.
She is community detention.
What are we that we might send her back?
Whom are we bombing in Syria and Iraq?
I believe it likely the tide of opinion will swing in Australia because we – not our leaders – are better than that.



5 thoughts on “We’re Better Than This

    • Good on you bmp

      Please put it anywhere that can help

      Two summers ago I returned to my home littletown of leeton in the riverina where I worked as a locum

      Three brawny Muslims came for pre-employment medical examination

      They were slaughtermen, had been detained on Christmas Island about the time I worked there
      Now leeton, former stronghold of One Nation, was taking them in

      Likewise Somalis in Alice

      Likewise The Karen in Nhil

      Everywhere I wander in my remote work Aussies are embracing “new Australians”, “Reffos”, as we used to call them

      All of , all excepting indigenous Aussies are new Australians

      And somehow, at some time we will recall that truth

      Meanwhile I look at my Iranian lady, I see the what the cat I’ sixty tails did to her husband’s back, Iook at their child and I wonder if, I wonder when we Aussies will rebel In numbers, taking these people on , hiding them as some did for my people in Europe

      If enough Aussies reject our labourliberal cowardly ‘leaders’ they will follow as the spineless always follow




  1. From your lips to g-d’s ear Mr Goldmountain. But I think ‘we’ really are as bad as that. Not consciously. Not with hate. Not quite with ignorance, either. With sloth. With distance. With un-caring. Without real anger, just meh! What we used to call “I’m alright jack”, except contrary to the way we look to the rest of the world, we don’t really feel alright. We feel threatened, under the pump, stressed, and ‘we’ don’t need the hassle of other people’s pain. We prefer to think they are lying, cheating, venal, ready to pinch our livelihood from us. That’s why we keep them offshore and out of sight. Our of mind. Out of our eyes and heart. Hoping that I am wrong.


Let me know what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s