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Tennis Star Finds Hotel Detention is not a Game: Mike Griffin

 The detention of tennis star Novak Djokovic in the Park Hotel in Carlton attracted worldwide headlines, including a degree of disbelief that this is what can happen to people whose application to enter Australia is not approved by the government. What the government did not anticipate was that Djokovic’s detention would also draw attention to the fact that there are more than thirty refugees locked up in the Park Hotel, where they have been held for more than a year under the watchful eye of SERCO guards and the ABF. They have committed no crime. They were brought to Australia from Nauru or PNG for medical treatment, which, for the most part, they have not received. Demonstrators outside the hotel, who gathered in support of Djokovic, were shocked to learn that these men have been in detention for more than eight years, with no end in sight. For more than two decades, successive governments, particularly at election time, have used asylum seekers as a political weapon to attract voters’ support. The emphasis has been on “protecting our borders” and safeguarding our security. The real stories of refugees have been deliberately excluded from the national narrative.


A recently published book: “Seeking Asylum: Our Stories”, put together by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, seeks to redress the balance through the voices and stories of refugees who have arrived in Australia during the past twenty years. The twenty-three people who tell their stories in this beautifully illustrated book have one thing in common, in that all of them had been forced to flee their homeland. Thereafter, each of their stories is unique and deeply personal. Members of our local refugee advocacy group have recently presented copies of the book to the local libraries in Macksville, Nambucca Heads, Urunga and Bellingen.


We do hope that members of our communities will enjoy reading the refugees’ stories, which will hopefully contribute to a better and more empathetic understanding of the issues, and help us to respond with greater compassion and humanity to these people. They are seeking a hand up, not a handout, and with support, they have so much to offer to Australian society. Who knows, it’s just possible that, having been made aware of the plight of these refugees as a result of the temporary detention of a tennis star, people might wake up to the reality of our government’s cruel and inhumane treatment of refugees. They might then demand that the refugees are released from this prison, and given the support that they need to rebuild their shattered lives.

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