Tag Archives: Australia

Happy Refugee Week

Vietnamese refugees 1979[4]
Vietnamese ‘Boat People’ who arrived to Australia by plane
Both of my parents are considered boat people. They escaped the war in Vietnam and sought refuge in Australia. Thanks to them, I can now say that I’m an Australian-born artist contributing to society. Still I want to challenge something: why is it that we fear the arrival of immigrants? Oops, let me rephrase: why are people so blardy scared of boat people?

Remember, my parents are boat people, does that make them illegal? Technically, they are labeled as refugees. Due to the Vietnam War during the 1980s, an overwhelming humanitarian effort helped the displaced Vietnamese refugees resettle around the world.

boat-trimmed

My mother’s boat story

Under the cover of the night, she made contact with the boat captain. She told me that she was slightly acquainted with him, so she was able to receive passage. The tiny boat was overcrowded, what was meant for 5-10 was filled with closer to 50 frightened people. It wasn’t long before the engine broke down. Did I mention pirates came and took what little they had? They floated for just under two weeks before a Malaysian ship saved them. She stayed in a refugee camp for almost two months before she was given permission to fly to Australia. Long story short: she escaped by boat to Malaysia and flew to Australia.

CHRISTMAS ISLAND ASYLUM SEEKERS

Asylum Seekers are not ‘illegal’ boat people
Today the word refugee has negative connotations. There’s a misconception that asylum seekers are seen to be illegal arrivals to Australia. Just because they are missing certain papers doesn’t mean they are not trying to escape from persecution from their homeland. Again, lets emphasise that refugee are not illegal under international law. Article 14  of The Universal Declaration states “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” 9 out of every 10 ‘boat people’ are eventually found to be genuine refugees. So what’s the difference between the experiences my parents went through and the ones today? The answer is: there is no difference.

Refugee (noun)
They are people fleeing from persecution, usually running away from being persecuted by their own government

Xenophobia and the boat factor
Largely our xenophobic attitude has allowed us to quickly join the ‘stop the boat’ wagon and contribute to our ‘we’re  full’ attitude. The propaganda ‘stop the boats’ campaign doesn’t help, it only adds to the fuel of belief that they are a threat to society. I believe that the seed of doubt was planted long before the anti-boat campaign and pre-SIEV X incidents. Or the way we dealt with ‘Yellow Peril’, where the arrivals of Chinese immigrants during the Gold Rush days were seen as an economic threat. We only have to look at the White Australian Policy to realise that we haven’t quite gotten over the the perils of newly arrive immigrants.

Asylum seekers are not ‘queue jumpers’
There is no such thing as a queue for asylum seeker to patiently line up and escape from persecution. In Iraq and Afghanistan, there are no queues for people to flee or ‘jump’ from. Without any diplomatic representation in these countries, standards for refugee request and process don’t exist. Few countries between the Middle East and Australia are signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, so many of are forced to continue their travels to another country to find protection.

Positive contribution by immigration 
Immigration is very much a focal point of life in Australia, it is worth look at some of the benefits of immigration for Australia:

– Economic benefit: We still are relatively small population and readily available skills are in short supply. With the example of the mining sector, we would be near as powerful today if it was not for the every growing influx of skilled workers from overseas.

– Cultural diversity: By celebrating cultural diversity, we have open up a whole range of new opportunities, including trade, education and investments. Also, we only have to walk on the streets to find a range of awesome and amazing diverse range of cuisines.

Happy Refugee Week
I digress from the main topic; originally I wanted to highlight Refugee Week. I wanted to write a story about my parents’ refugee story and I realised that there are more issues that are in place. I feel a slight pain to hear of the plight of asylum seekers in detention centres. There are many times that I wonder and thought to myself, that could have easily been my parents’ story too.

I know I’m lucky to be where I am now, to write and share this is something that only happened because my parents escaped and found refuge in Australia.

So yeah, happy refugee week.

 


Suzanne Nguyen is an artist and story collector. She is currently building a collection that explores race and racism in Australia as part of @TheTwoChairs.

 

Live Tweets: Hotham Community Forum

Yesterday night,  Azlan Petra (@azlanpetra) sat on @TheTwoChairs and live tweeted at Hotham Community Forum for the proposed repeal to Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

The live tweets showcase the voice of many concerned communities who are affected by the proposed changes. The federal government focuses their sight on the ideals of free speech but are blind to the realities  of the people who experience racism and racial vilification in their lives. Continue reading Live Tweets: Hotham Community Forum

March in March

[Warning: Dear reader, the following article contains profanity. ed]

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“Fuck off Abbott, throw away the key, we won’t stop until we free the refugees” chant the Socialist Alliance. They are a couple of meters in front of me. I wonder how people can chant like that, it feels kind of mind numbing to me. Of course, it’s in the spirit of March in March.

There’s something special about events like this; where people actually come together in solidarity. Where they chose not to believe that other people don’t give a fuck. Where people come together to acknowledge what actually matters.  Where a full half of George Street gets shut down by a column of dissent that stretches as far as the eye can see.

Continue reading March in March

Omar Musa ‘Slam Poetry of The Street’

“This is the Australia I saw” ~ Omar Musa

What an amazing storyteller. I had the privilege of being there at TedxSydney 2013 and I saw Oma Musa perform. This is a performance that continues to leave a deep impression. I like to say more but I think you should just watch it.

What did you think? Did you learn something new about Australia? What did you learn?

Everyday Racism – App review

Everyday Racism is an iPhone app released by All Together Now designed to literally put you in someone else’s skin and experience casual racism. You choose between three different characters, and over the course of a week multiple scenarios are presented to you and you then choose your reaction. We here at The Two Chairs chose a character each and tried it out.

Continue reading Everyday Racism – App review

The Two Chairs sits w. Zayaan


Suzanne (founder of TheTwoChairs) sits with Zayaan Jappie (@EvefromWestside) and talks about (lack of) diversity in Australian film industry.

Topic of discussion: It’s Women International day. Lets celebrate by discussing diversity and women in the filming industry 🙂

Join us and find out on Sunday.

Zaayan Jappie studied film at UTS (NSW, Australia) and ITESM (Mexico). Her first film Rima; about a young Muslim who wears the veil and works in the modified car industry in Western Sydney was selected for various local and international film festivals, including the Dubai International Film Festival, Dungog and Arab Film Festival. She also worked in LA assisting Luke Doolan, an oscar nominated director/editor. Eve is my next special project, the script was guided by producer Daniella Ortega. Eve was also a finalist for a Script Pitching Contest for Colourfest Film Festival 2013. Zayaan is currently raising funds to make the film, check it out at: www.pozible.com/evethefilm

If you like to tweet us a question, tweet it with a hashtag #t2c
or email us thetwochairs (at) gmail (dot) com

The Two Chairs with Kate Iselin ( You are welcome in Australia comic )

Dan (Editor of TheTwoChairs) sits with Kate Iselin to chat about her new comic book Pozible campaign.

First off, please introduce yourself and your current project.

My name is Kate Iselin and my project is a Pozible campaign for a comic called “You are welcome in Australia

Continue reading The Two Chairs with Kate Iselin ( You are welcome in Australia comic )

The Two Chairs with Luke Pearson


Suzanne (founder of TheTwoChairs) sits with Luke Pearson (@LukeLPearson) and chat about racism in Australia and ask him the big question:

What does he mean by “White Australian?”
Join us and find out on Sunday.

https://plus.google.com/u/1/b/103334731681551946358/events/c8nrf6vhh39massmppcvvnm0mrsAbout Luke Pearson: Many in the social media and cultural advocacy scene regard Luke Pearson as a leading authority and much-sought speaker on Aboriginal rights and education. He is the creator of @IndigenousX. For over 10 years, he has contributed to the discussions and policies for Indigenous education and excellence. He is also an experience educator, writer, facilitator, mentor, public speaker and advocator.

Sunday 2nd March 2014
Time: 6.00PM (Sydney time)

If you like to tweet us a question, tweet it with a hashtag #t2c
or email us thetwochairs (at) gmail (dot) com

Utopia gives a voice to the oppressed

Utopia, what an eye opener!

The first time I heard about Utopia was on Twitter, interestingly, the documentary was first released in the UK. Twitter gave the impression that it was an eye opener.

Thinking about it now, John Pilger wanted to send a clear message that the Australian government was treating its first people inhumanely and that change needed to happen. To release it overseas was a smart tactic as it help focus attention and build momentum.

From the first tweet and reviews that I had read online, I look forward to seeing the documentary. Still I wasn’t fully prepared to learn the dark truth about Australia. I wrote a piece about my experience at being at Redfern to see this doco. Have a read here.

Have you watched Utopia yet? What did you think of it?

Share your experience and thoughts at the comments below.

– post written by Suzanne Nguyen