The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”
As for my endeavour in reaching my professional goal,I’ve had to close the books on my acting independently.Trying to pick up where I had left off,I was left with no alternative but to enlist the co-operation of interested parties.The things I’ve planned need a helping hand.My resources need maintenance and based on public commentary merit development. To see my brainchild, my best laid scheme,my labour of love, lying idle or gone astray, has been a source of concern for me. But I’m determined to see it through.
In my darkest hours I never lost the plot but now looked like losing my whole library. I still get the feeling in the shank of the night that in my work of two decades I had been chasing my own tail, that it was all for nothing.
I felt like Narcissus without his shadow.Orpheus without his lyre.
Like actor Theodore Bikel, refugee from the Nazis, describing his loss when they disposed of his books: ‘Those were our friends. They were not just books. They were our friends. They were dear to us. They were our relatives. We grew up with them. These were our songs. These were—this was our background.’
Of course objectively it doesn’t cancel it out.This work was only half of it. I enjoyed the hunt and when it all comes down to it I have a fine family . Surely any sensible guy can see that?
Forced to redefine my dream, I ultimately realize I am not not a washout, that my legacy as an good father is just as important as official recognition and backing for my education service.At least I still had my integrity.I could sleep at night
If I had been living in the shadow of greatness,then isn’t it also true that without shadow there’s no sun.
However we can never underestimate how profoundly men put their careers at the centre of their identity.It’s almost our entire sense of self,the thing that most gives us meaning. Although the sun will continue to rise whether we work or not,as soon we are forced to stop it our whole sense of ego and identity can began to dissemble.
If you are what you do,especially if it’s something good, what are you if you’re no longer doing it? Dash it all, knowing I didn’t get the guernsey I sought has been to feel my hopes done for,down the drain, and me consigned to oblivion. I wanted above all to stay operational,to keep the materiel in my house but my family argued the unprocessed material in particular weighed them down.
Did they smell a pack rat,unable to let go of his white elephant? Fair enough.They needed lebensraum and after all I had had my chance. Accordingly I spent many hours on the phone approaching any takers, schools and community organisations who might value the importance of a collective and collaborative effort on this educational undertaking and who could help me get back on my feet again in the process. It would have been ideal to hit it off with some local body for reasons of accessibility.
The head at my son’s high school visited to inspect it,but like her primary school colleagues, couldn’t see how it fitted into in the curriculum.It couldn’t of course because being global in approach, it doesn’t fit neatly into any officially sanctioned academic pigeonhole. It’s one size fits all the family.
One of the managers of nearby Tranby Aboriginal College came but couldn’t see how his College could accommodate such resources emphasising our aboriginal heritage.Like in all schools and institutions, the waves emanating from the digital revolution had seen it emptying it’s shelves of books, indisposed to retaining collections.Even one with a unique coverage of indigenous life.
I addressed a meeting of the Lions Club in Burwood but my offer wasn’t taken up.
The show had to go on-but how?
‘Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children.’
San Quentin Tarantino.
Ultimately I was directed to the Canterbury Bankstown Migrant Resource Centre in the urban fringe area where many overseas arrivals,fresh ‘off the boat’, make their first home. It was here in the suburb of Campsie where Korean migrants a generation back met the challenge of re-establishing their livelihoods in Australia. As Associate Professor Gil Soo Han has determined in his research, most of these professionally trained ‘container’ migrants would disappointingly find themselves in manual labour for want of English language proficiency.
The Centre responded full steam ahead.Custom made for this purpose my resources could now hopefully be directed at helping ease one of today’s most pressing problems: immigration and its effects on our prosperous but divided country, there being no absence of conflict where newcomers are concerned. Prime Minister Abbptt declared a national emergency involving refugees. It has been made one. We must heed this and act.
Our task should be to smooth the harrowing experience of many newcomers – searching high and low for a better life in a country that’s often anything but welcoming, of finding new and unfamiliar facets of life. Being born in Australia is not a virtue, being born in Sudan is not a crime.
Sydney is one of the cities that has absorbed most of the latest wave of immigrants. The few remaining industries are concentrated around the city’s west. Whether in giant or small factories with a few dozen workers, the work force is now almost entirely composed of immigrants. The new inhabitants of the city are more often than not asians,arabs
This can be seen from the number of their children in the schools, which picks up exponentially every year.
The Centre brought me and samples of my materials to new arrivals and old hands to whom I talked about my life and times.I appear in public libraries,gathering places, and certain government primary schools where such children are helped with their homework.I showed them the contents of my sample bags and explained my approach to learning.Now there’s a turn-up for the books.
‘Much more interesting than the Easter Show bags,’commented one high school girl.
‘If only we had these at our school.
I never cease to be amazed by the intelligence of children.One little Ashfield Public School girl,Ayeesha,came up to us after one homework session and asked me why I had put together such an assemblage .I could only reply that it had to be done, because as she and her fellow pupils noted,this format doesn’t exist in schools.
I appeared with the Centre at The Peppertree Café.[See the portal with this title]
A Living Book
As a living saga- I appear both online and onshelf- I became a living book myself at Campsie Library,in the thick of this new homeland for many newcomers.The library adjoins the Migrant Resource Centre.In the Canterbury Human Library scheme I was available to be borrowed by readers for half an hour to read my mind. ‘No overnight loans!’I pointed out insistently.Readers listened to my experiences,asked questions about them and discussed them.
These are great opportunities for people to meet safely and understand those they think might be different,to challenge stereotypes and prejudices.
When libraries launched a national campaign in 2012 to promote a culture of reading in the home,I hoped to take part.The State Librarian of N.S.W.stated the aim is for everyone ‘to have a real focus on reading [S.M.H.April 23,2012]. ”We’re saying to the community, whatever you want to read, be it a cookbook or a work of Dickens, let’s read for an hour’,” Dr Byrne said.
Programs and events promoting reading and literature were held at public libraries throughout the state.As a fully fledged Living Book in the scheme ,I proposed that I hold workshops at Campsie library to further this aim. As a volunteer at the adjoining migrant resource centre,renamed MetroAssist I wanted to carry out this work in conjunction with it. It’s premises are where the education material was stored and is ideally located close to the library. It urgently needed attention,to be rescued from being mothballed or oblivion.Being able to meet people with reading difficulties at the library would have been invaluable in this regard.
Unfortunately the Library already had ‘a long list of events’ to organise and promote, so it had ‘no space for this type of program’.This was deeply disappointing as people coming into the libraries bring with them the reading skills they learned at school.Many Australians enter school unable to read and write satisfactorily and they leave that way. They would be more likely to visit the library if they could be helped to learn how. Universal literacy has to be just that-nothing less.
The Premier of N.S.W., Gladys Berejiklian learned the rewards of reading in our libraries. ‘Your future is an open book,’she likes to tell our children, ‘a love of reading when young lasts a lifetime.’ Like the librarian in my hometown,hers at primary school earned her money. The daughter of Armenian immigrants, young Gladys arrived at age five without a word of English but after catching up with her classmates she started devouring books by the shelf-load.
Biographies were her favourites, particularly those about world leaders. So ravenous was her appetite that the library soon needed replenishing.
“I read all the biographies in our school and the librarian used to swap books with other schools so I could read more books.
But the one book that made a lasting impression was not a classic biography.Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is the story of a Japanese girl who contracts leukaemia after the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
“I read and re-read that book can’t tell you how many times,” said Ms Berejiklian who still has a treasured copy of it at home.
She has a message for schoolchildren taking part: ‘Read for pleasure’.
She wants them to read more often and more widely.It’s important for children to discover what books have to offer because we know a passion for learning will set them up for the future.
“Pick an author or a storyline or a subject that you love. Reading is about enjoying, it’s not about something you have to do,” she said.
‘Books connect us to the magic of our own imaginations.’
‘They allow us to explore faraway places, see the world through other people’s eyes and discover a wonderful array of characters and their stories.’
“Books expose you to things you’ve never heard or thought of before or visit places you’ve never seen or can’t imagine going to.
She encourages students ‘to take the challenge, read more and discover where your own curiosity and creativity can take you.’
“There’s so many great books to choose from. It’s a joy that I’ve kept up through my life and it’s one of my best pleasures, I have to say.’
So how is it that any one in any position of authority can deny the importance of books in promoting literacy?
Certainly teachers in TAFE don’t.They use books and any available resources to teach the five hundred hours of English required of those from the Syrian influx.
Regrettably in this state it is as difficult to attack the problem of difficulty in reading as a volunteer as it is as a professional in the education sector.Teaching the reading of vocational subjects and civics is one on one or directed to groups -it does this excellently-but not to the whole population.Despite being surrounded by such a large number of teachers,many poorly literate remain unable to benefit. ‘Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.’
The literacy problem is shamefully systemic and can only begin to be resolved from a global approach,not piecemeal.
The encyclopaedic limited edition was arranged and shelved in an office at the Centre.There was a large amount of printed material waiting to be processed. If steps were not taken,the material would become degraded.
I’d like to think that my life is not only mine but also belongs to the events I’ve set in motion.
I asked the language teaching college,Navitas, sharing the building with the Centre if they were interested in co-operation.They weren’t but referred me to Mission Australia in Parramatta whose CEO told me they have difficulty coping resourcewise to do so.They have no ways and means to offer essential resources-even if they are free.
A friend of a friend,a former TAFE teacher,reports all that jazz with the Jesuits. They have so many volunteers at their award winning Parramatta complex. that they don’t want her in. They have a centre in Newtown which filters volunteers. This lady comments, ‘God knows what has happened that they are filtering so thoroughly.’ They haven’t replied to my e-mail to them.
I was grateful to the Metro Assist Centre for responding to housing the materials and for the friendly,co-operative manner of the staff.
My offer to the Centre of a vital service catering to the needs of the community started off well as I said with visits to after school study activity groups and my arranging the processed material with work experience students.Our next step was to use the material as it’s designed to be.With a gathering of divers tongues engaged in a mutual exchange of ideas about their country and world in English, enhancing their understanding enjoyably, with minimal teacher intervention.
Towards this end I took part in the conversation support group Metro Assist ran at the Strathfield Community Centre once a month, using my material to prompt discussion,reading and writing. My aim was-and remains- to create a nucleus of volunteer assisted students who make their way through material of interest to them,at their own pace, developing their reading,writing and spoken skills,then helping those less able, radiating their skills and enthusiasm in a ripple effect. This allows all participants to interact as citizens three dimensionally.
Of the nucleus,I need just a few participants to start with. They are invited to help collect and classify quality images of all manner of things in a marriage of onshelf and online resources.
I suggested to the CEO of Metro we distribute the following message:
‘Fellow Citizen of New South Wales,
As things get tighter and tougher, it’s ever more urgent that all living here in Australia are able to communicate with each other in English and understand our way of life.
Official figures show that many , including both native born and new arrivals, cannot.
To address this issue, an exciting educational project is underway in the heart of Sydney. It offers everyone the chance to become totally immersed in our culture and language. Operating out of Metro Assist headquarters in Campsie, it is organised in conjunction with ‘The ‘Between the Lines’ Education Consultancy. ’
Location: Level 2, 59-63 Evaline St, Campsie.
Contact:Allan Davis 98183052. allanwdavis@hotmail. com
Visit: inletterandinspirit. com See: Safe Haven
Participants make their way through educational material of interest to them at their own pace, developing their reading, writing and spoken skills. Even if they only like the images, they might get in deeper and find out more. They can then pass this on to others. We welcome any new migrants and old hands to take part. Check with us beforehand to arrange a suitable meeting time.
You who are now reading this , as an individual or member of a group, have a role to play and can make a difference. You get to choose: Do you want to live in a country more secure because all people can get through to each other without difficulty and know the layout of the land? Or otherwise?
It’s all up to you and me.
You could assist this project as outlined on the back page.
You could assist by passing this message on to interested individuals, organisations and businesses.
If you read about our approach outlined in the blog, you’ll see that our educational material is compiled according to a simple formula . Quality images of all manner of things are collected, classified and imposed with putty-like pressure sensitive adhesive on A4 sheets. A text is then written whose content is drawn as far as possible only from the information given in the image . This becomes a encyclopediac unit in which the text coincides with the images, each unit enclosed in a plastic sheet protector and stored alphabetically in jumbo binders. Each unit is cross referenced to others. This allows shuffling text and images around, inserting new material and continuous editing. Each unit forms part of an emerging jigsaw puzzle, producing an increasingly more complete picture of the state in which we live and the world beyond.
You can assist this project by writing, compiling and assembling the material. You can do this both onshelf and online, with or without photoshop. You may wish to write about something you’re interested in or to supply printed matter of a good visual quality. Photographs, drawings, cartoons, paintings, illustrations and so on. Our country is rich in it’s abundance , much of which get’s wasted. Much is in the hands of booklovers many of whom would wish their matter help others read and write. Much ends up in recycling bins. Much may be broken and only good for our purposes. Much ends up in charity shops where most of our’s came from. You are welcome to drop in our operations and see what needs to be done.
As writing my saga has taken over the place of my educational project,my eyesight and physical strength on the wane,I wanted to- and still want to- get this operation up and running as planned then take a back seat, assisting it’s direction from home before I shuffle off into the sunset .
Things started encouragingly at the most centrally and pleasantly located building in Strathfield. I worked alongside Tony Tonous,client service officer with Metro Assist helping newly arriveds. With a changing turnout of numbers, giving any comers all our attention,we were able to work on and improve the education material.By drawing upon both both hard copy and internet,we were starting to assemble a more refined compilation.We started filling in the gaps in our material designed to fill the gaps in the education system.
We invited The Edmund Rice Foundation to work in co-operation with us.The Foundation is a non-government organization which supports programs for socially and financially disadvantaged children, youth and families, indigenous Australians, refugees and asylum seekers.It’s representative,John, took note of our details.
I made contacts with the Tamil community.The general problem turned out to be how to get their young members to come and learn about their new language and culture rather than something directly vocational.Like a lot of young people they spend much time alone or with others talking only in their own language.
As we are reminded every day on the news this is a recipe for disaster.
One young Tamil man in his late 20s began our project but never made it back.
Janarthanan set himself on fire because his application for a protection visa was rejected by the Immigration Department.After finishing a three-hour cleaning shift at Balmain’s shipping yards , he swallowed petrol went outside and doused himself with it and set himself alight. A number of workers from a nearby shipyard came to his aid, pouring water on him and trying to put out the flames.Janarthan ended up with burns to most of his body.
Janarthanan had left a suicide note saying he would rather die in Australia than die in Sri Lanka.
This followed hard on the heels of another Tamil refugee who died in the attempt,leaving a note describing Australians as a “very kind people” and his body parts to five Australians.
I helped our Italian student Paolo give a humorous account of his experiences on the road: The Truckie, the Tamil and the Teacher
Tony and I had positive overtures from the principal of Homebush West Primary to involve parents after school.Then Tony exited and Maissa Swellam took over.We were just picking up the pieces when Maissa exited.Metro Assist pulled the plug.So our co-operation was both promising but a little disappointing in that it didn’t go further. We had some difficulty getting a critical mass which didn’t reflect any lack of enthusiasm or ability on our part.It’s a challenge attracting people in educational activities that are more socially rather than vocationalIy oriented .
I must say I’m impressed and a little envious of operations at the Hannaford Centre which assists me with my computer skills.The Centre is run by the Inner West Council.Their team of assistants work on a voluntary basis.They are doing what they want to do when they are back at the office.
Here they are using their skills to help people wanting to develop their talents, of whom there is no shortage.And they are adding to their own skills and experience at the same time.
One of my volunteer computer instructors at the Hannaford Centre was given approval to assist soon after she arrived in the country.
Regrettably my hopes of operating in similar fashion with my project at Metro Assist were dealt a blow.This at a time when the need for such services are needed more than ever what with the exodus from the war zones.
I was told in 2014 that I would be informed by June 2015 as to my future participation in Metro Assist’s program.After not hearing further,I enquired and was informed that due to funding cutbacks,my services couldn’t be used.This was very disappointing.It was driven home hard then that nothing of this project would ever eventuate unless I argued ever more strongly and relentlessly.The material at Campsie would remain just a pile of paper,cardboard and plastic in the eyes of some and would deteriorate further.
What particularly pained me is that a volume of encyclopaedic material on New South Wales,crucial for demonstrating my methodology, could not be accounted for.I left it with Metro to assist Goma,a withdrawn war damaged Nepalese refugee.
I tried to comprehend the thinking behind this.One wouldn’t expect any resources based organisation subject to such funding measures to cut back on what resources are available to it at little cost if any.I operate on a voluntary basis and offered Metro Assist the opportunity to provide unique educational resources for it’s clients. They are well and widely attested to.
A resource based organisation can best adapt to these cutbacks by using it’s resources as they are supposed to be best.That way it can build a stronger user base from which to justify it’s operations.
All I required was transport to it’s activities.Where this was outside the Campsie Centre and I was provided taxi transport I offered my taxi vouchers for half the fare.When it was to Campsie itself I was given a lift by staff members.
I recommended to Metro Assist that it utilise both my services and the resources stored at Campsie in a more optimal way.The way I had been suggesting from the start of my association with it,one which I was yet to be taken up on seriously.
I repeated over a long period my concern for the material.It requires safe storage and maintenance.
I reiterated to Metro management that my schedule was very flexible.My main obstacle was transport.As I live just a small deviation from the route from city to Campsie,surely there must be staff members travelling this route who could pick me up and take me there at their convenience.Then I could work with those requiring assistance with their English and local knowledge at the Centre.They in turn would help with moving materials which I cannot.Apart from some occasional printouts and advice, this involved practically no cost and could only bolster Metro Assist’s prestige as a provider of resources for migrants.
The objection raised to this has been that there were no staff available to work on this.None were needed. Where Metro Assist couldn’t,I could continue to attract learners as I did at Strathfield Community Centre before this reach out operation was abruptly terminated.I acknowledged to the Management this project requires a collective community effort but it’s well worth it.
I can’t believe at a migrant resource centre in the hub of Sydney’s newcomer centre,there would be any shortage of people requiring such educational assistance. There’s certainly no shortage among the native born population.
There’s a sea of migrants lapping up against the Metro Assist. Centre but after years of me in waiting Metro Assist proved unable to connect any significant numbers up with me.My involvement with Metro Assist proved tantalisingly frustrating.As the only organisation I found willing to co-operate with me in promoting popular education about our country,I’m appreciative of their initial response and don’t want to sound critical. I’m very self critical and in the light of my physical breakdown attribute this in part to my former unrealistic expectations.I also bear in mind that Metro Assist’s ambit is not as a primary deliverer of educational services.I got along well with Metro staff and didn’t threaten to edge any one out of their advancement or one up them.
I wasn’t asking anyone there for a pint of blood.
For over five years Metro Assist proved unable to link me up with any members of the large migrant community near it’s Campsie centre.
The last I saw the processed material was several years ago.The unprocessed material was stored in an untidy pile in the Centre’s parking area.I was assured many times that it was being protected although I would have liked to have seen this with my own eyes
.I have a smaller store of material in my home which needs urgently to be united with the mother lode.It was to have been taken to Campsie but this never happened. It can be removed in one car bootful.All this material is reducible to a fraction of it’s volume when processed.
I asked Metro Assist to look on our joint involvement not as a business burden but as a project in which fellow human beings can work together to create a more harmonious country.A great pity not to give it a go, for all our sakes.
Eventually the new CEO of Metro Assist reported the sad news that an amount of Metro Assist’s materials and some of the unprocessed education material which had been stored in the basement were stolen a year previously. The theft was brought to Metro’s attention by the landlord. It appeared that entry was gained via the carpark shutter by propping objects in front of the sensor and keeping it in the open position.
Regarding whatever resources remain,and how much can be salvaged remains to be seen, Metro Assist said it was currently experiencing an extreme shortage of space in it’s offices and was seeking additional space to accommodate staff.
It acknowledged the support I have given it’s clients through my volunteering and offered it’s humblest apology for not having noticed the loss and notified me earlier.It acknowledged that the news was a shock for me and said it understood how I felt.
It didn’t make it for me.What I really want is to contribute to solving a challenging social problem.
It was a great shock but I wasn’t surprised. As I warned a number of times,it was only a matter of time before this happened.
Not that I’m giving any ‘I told you so’s.’ I could say the same thing about what happened to my life.As I write,it was a shock but no surprise.We live and learn,fortunately.I said to Metro ‘Let’s move on right away.’
While appreciating the difficult situation facing organisations such as Metro Assist, I underlined the fact that if nothing is done to use the remaining resources,they’ll become nobody’s.
I had long guarded them like a mother hen. I was very possessive of them before they came to Campsie but I now had to co-operate more closely with others.I was happy that they found a home in a secular minded organisation carrying out an essential public service.
I outlined how my future service could be best used. With regard to me getting to and from the Campsie Centre or elsewhere, the Metro office only needed to know the movements of the staff and to stay in touch with me.
I don’t need much space.I operated very productively with Tony and Maissa in a very tight office at Strathfield Community Centre,the size of a prison cell.
At the Centre I explained to two students on work experience,two refugees from Africa, how the system was ordered.The room we worked in had been decked out invitingly with books selected willy nilly from the unprocessed material.If the material had been processed as had been agreed upon,it would have fitted in a fraction of the space in that room.We could have made light work of it.
I required minimal support from Metro staff.
I told Metro management that presuming it still didn’t have any parties interested in participation,I could step up contacting any interested parties in the area including and extending from Campsie.These would be of the same character as Metro involved me with in the past.Participants would become involved helping me organising and processing the material.In light of future work being undertaken on the building,this should start soon.
I chose the material primarily to build an image bank.I saved every pictorial encyclopedia printed.Some are collectors items which may be irreplacable, unlike the ubiquitous Encyclopedia Brittanicas which are mainly used these days for land fill.There were two copies of each National Geographic which is custom made for our purposes.Each picture has an accompanying text which roughly corresponds to the image.
There was also a store of plastic sheet protectors.
When the books were on my shelves I had them divided into subject areas.They were meticulously ordered and maintained,the straight spine,nothing crammed or stuck horizontally in the available space. There was an amount of dross but most books were of high quality.When Tony and I worked together at Strathfield I believe he could see that the quality of images in the books is streets ahead of what can be photocopied or downloaded and also may not be available online. But copies are invaluable in filling in gaps.
As someone who has lived and breathed online for the past decade researching my story,I would argue that the format of hard copy I compiled remains ideal for group educational purposes.One could observe the appeal of the encyclopedic material stored at Metro’s Centre.I have the assignment material at home in two bags.It which was used at Strathfield Community Centre.Many people relate better to each other and more directly without the intervention of machines.
The format of the educational tool I’ve shaped is not one used in our schools.For starters, images are strictly rationed in our schools.Sure,all children have devices to download anything in the known world.But that is another world.They are not taught taking that one into consideration.The one they’re taught is academically based.Children are not encouraged to connect the two.The formal academic approach is to teach principally with words.That’s how the system works.That’s how teachers learn.
The other world,the cyber world,is exciting and alluring for the less literate..You can see and hear anything imaginable.For writers it’s a dream come true.The end of writers block.
But for the less literate it can be a dangerous and stupefying world,especially for children.
Children in our schools are told what to look for and what to look out for in the real world.
They need also to see for themselves under the guidance of teachers what to look for,and what to look out for.
I have been well assured the vast visual material I’ve compiled complies with widely approved community standards.
My approach assists members of the family to engage in general studies of their choice informally, at their own pace.
Now that we face being forced into greater depths of austerity,I recommended to Metro Assist that we react positively to losses and blows. In the way most Greeks have been doing over recent years and like all Cubans have been doing for over half a century.While the Greeks survive co-operatively now, the Cubans have done so by lifting literacy levels of the total population,not just of most. Without the wealth of educational resources available in our country they have little but human resources and a strong will.They lost much material wealth during the long standoff but preserved their dignity.
I told Metro Assist we would have lost some valuable resources which took a lot of effort to accumulate.If we could build a successful project out of what remained, we could build up our stocks in the future if so desired.The key lies in getting enough people involved.
I assured it my aim is not to nail my colours to any service provider’s mast but to add an extra sail.
We all have a responsibility to counter the growing divisions being sowed around our global village.Agencies not directly subject to to the stultifying mental restrictions imposed by political and bureaucratic directives have a crucial role to play in this respect.I remind them of the imperative, ‘Free your mind and the rest will follow.
The future is unwritten.
I asked if Metro would be prepared to to supply me with names and numbers,preferably landline,of any people in the community who might be interested in becoming involved in this project.
I included the message I outlined above that I envisage could be circulated to the public so as to garner support. I welcomed Metro’s thoughts on this.We could have work on it to come up with something mutually satisfactory.
Put on Ice
Everyone counts.Every single person has something to contribute and sometimes being a leader is about ensuring that everyone gets the chance to show their talent.
Mike Baird,Premier of N.S.W.
If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together.
An African proverb
Metro’s CEO was delayed in his response to my proposal regarding refugee re-settlement’. He had attended ‘meeting after meeting all week long’. He told me he would discuss the possibility of a project,re-emphasising the lack of space as a constraint,that construction work would soon commence on the building .
I thought the loss of material would have been followed by an attempt to redress the mistakes,to make good the loss. The CEO’s reply was to once again remind me the material has to be urgently removed.
If he had time and interest to look at what I’d written, he’d have known this is impossible. He’d have known of the difficulty I had in getting it to Campsie in the first place due to my circumstances.
Adding a tin ear to the equation, he suggested libraries might be interested.Like Campsie library,they are not.
The educational material is partly derived from books they,like schools, throw out.
Leichhardt Library only stores education material of historical value.
I spoke with the manager of the building. I got a reply from him promptly.I told him of the material’s value.He knew of the break-in and understood what a blow it was for the project.
He gave me an outline of the building schedule and assured me the material would be cared for and there was no urgent rush.
I told him I had the interests of both his business and of Metro Assist at heart.
The activities I envisaged at Metro Assist would have only contributed to a greater public respect for the property’s security.
People generally go out of their way to protect property where good things are seen to be going on.
Such activities could bring his company nothing but a boost in prestige.
The degradation of the material at Metro Assist,the loss of it’s integrity and it’s ultimate rejection by Metro Assist made it even more difficult to offer.
In terms of the project proposal,he spoke of new funding arrangements in which Metro would be sub-contracted by the NSW Settlement Partnership,a consortium which also determines the scope of the work it does and the activities it takes on.
Due to these ‘funding cuts’,my services as a volunteer were no longer affordable.
That’s priceless.What was he playing at?
Was this tap dancing the best he could come up with?
I don’t need to point out the black joke here.
I am not a cynic.I’d like to believe Metro Assist helps a good number of people in practical terms.
But in terms of offering a comprehensive and imaginative range of services to newcomers to Australia,it is sadly lacking.It’s scope is very narrow.Such wasted opportunities.
I carried out the handover of the material originally in a gentlemens’ agreement. It was to be used for the public benefit under my guidance. It was agreed it was a compilation of resources to be shared and used as designed.
The processed material was to be maintained, gradually upgraded and developed.I was assured the binders would be housed in specially provided and secure shelving.The last I saw them they were in an office,seemingly secure, but certainly not accessible in the manner proposed.
The project was to be advanced by drawing upon the voluntary talents of the sea of migrants surrounding the Centre.It would have incurred very little cost in office supplies.The ones used in presenting the processed material cost me little except thousands of man hours. God only knows where all the unprocessed material and the office supplies accompanying them have ended up.
Taking it’s reps at their word, I had placed my total trust in what I had considered to be a secular public agency,working in the interest of the community.
I had envisaged the attraction of working with professionals not overly blinkered by mind controllers, in a challenging social environment. I had hopes of taking part in a vibrant,exciting social experiment,where my dream of putting to use the resources I had built up over a period of twenty years could finally be realised.
I know now part of them have been degraded,pilfered, stolen or lost.
The CEO now declares them to be mine alone and to be removed.
His attitude appeared to be: ‘Lets get rid of them before any serious good can be done.’
Where was the code of honour here?
His predecessor complimented me as ‘a person of great talent and a professional who knows his work’, remembered for my ‘great contribution’ through my educational resources, my teaching and my ‘role as one of our living books at Campsie library.’
Where was ‘the Australian value’ of respect the Federal Government expects the agencies to inculcate in prospective citizens ?
Giving me the feeling I , my efforts have been otiose.
The feeling I was being palmed off.
I’d been offered a very bitter pill.
Was the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Immigration looking over his shoulder or was he just being self censorious for fear of his job?
Is it that what I teach is so strictly prescribed or because I’m so strictly proscribed? Or both? Or am I missing something here?
Because of the CEO’s unwillingness to discuss or negotiate the matter,for reasons best known to himself,these must be considered possibilities.
The reason given for the resources I compiled being rejected were put down to obsolescence :
‘ Unfortunately it’s the way of the world now that the preference is for digital storage of knowledge and resources.’ Because of funding requirements, ideas for activities have to be kept ‘under a tight rein’.The strategy and tools used by resettlement agencies have ‘very prescriptive outputs’.
A very low level of imagination here was in force here.
As a nation in which social work should enhance and smooth social functioning and overall well-being ,I thought we had moved on from this.
Somehow the activity already in operation became reduced to that of a mere idea and maybe one considered a bit risky at that.
I accept that digital storage of knowledge and resources is the preference. I knew that over a decade ago.But it’s not the only one nor necessarily the most effective one for community educational purposes. I began assembling this educational tool in hard copy before the digital revolution took off in a big way. It demands continual working on.
The new technology can’t be dismissed.It’s part of the political armoury.At the same time there are drawbacks to it.Because of it’s pervasiveness ,people’s attention span seems to diminish.They no longer seem to need the thread of an argument.You just make a point.
To put it in perspective this transformation is no greater than that of the 19th century mass circulation newspapers.
One of Metro’s staff had helped me begin to store the material digitally at Strathfield Community Centre.The cost of this would have been less than a cup of coffee.That’s when Metro put a stop to this.
The fact that I had spent the last decade digitising my story was not picked up although I referred to my website.I am not an information storage luddite.I find the world wide web revolutionary and as exciting as books.They are complementary.
The computer allows precise indicators of performance to be calculated, itemised and displayed.
At the same time attention should be paid to the following aphorism: ‘Not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that is measured matters’.
Funding sources for resettlement agencies use the terms KPI’s for the indicators they see important.
The indicators I see as important are the ones I outline above in my methodology .
They are a measure of what each student learns about their homeland and it’s culture.
Listed are the educational outputs prescribed by it’s people.
They are displayed in the inventory of items of knowledge about the state of New South Wales and it’s culture.
They are a measure of what each student learns about their homeland.
They are the educational outputs prescribed by it’s people.
What’s not to like about these?
Could these not be in consonance with those of the public funding sources?
Could not those who monitor or oversee the actions of professional staff approve of these ?
It’s not that the knowledge required for citizenship has been that daunting.Even the Minister for Immigration found it to be a simple checklist of dictated ‘trivia’ to be tested by multiple choice.’ .All the applicant had to do was to answer questions like these:
‘WHAT do we remember on Anzac Day? The arrival of the first free settlers from Great Britain?
What are the colours of the Australian Aboriginal Flag?
Which official symbol of Australia identifies Commonwealth property?
What happened in Australia on 1 January 1901?
If one were to be cynical one could add questions on throwing a prawn on the barbie, sizzling snags and lining up lamingtons-skills promoted by organisations on Australia Day.
So this kind of intellectual test that could have been bashed out in no time was considered superior to what I had put together over many years.
It’s important public funds are directed wisely here. A national audit office report found the Immigration Department wasted taxpayer money by breaking the rules on how contracts are awarded.
In overhauling the citizenship test it is proposed applicants will henceforth be required to pass an English language test equivalent to IELTS level 6 equivalent, or a “competent” English language proficiency level.
Caution must be exercised in measuring their test outcomes. The insistence on indicators that can be easily measured rather than those leading to a better educated society comes at the same time that it was revealed to be failing the education system. The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results released in August 2016 show Australian students are making few gains in literacy and numeracy despite record expenditure and greater access to digitally based knowledge. National average performance scores in grades 3, 5, 7, and 9 have barely shifted since the standardised tests began almost ten years ago.
The obsession with a narrow definition of success maintains an unacceptable link between low levels of achievement and education disadvantage, particularly among students from low socioeconomic,indigenous and migrant backgrounds.
This obsession must be kept in mind with respect to the proposed revamped citizenship test. Migrants are to be quizzed on their commitment to Australian values so as to weed out terrorists and criminals.As the Minister for Immigration concedes, the matter of lying is a consideration.
According to the Daily Telegraph,some of the new questions include: “Can [sic] you strike your spouse in the privacy of your home?” and “Under what circumstances is it appropriate to prohibit girls from education?” .
Sensitive questions like these are best discussed in groups rather than just read about on an electronic device.We have to break ourselves out of this habit of techno-fundamentalism—trying to come up with a technological solution to make up for the shortcomings of our education system. It’s a very bad habit. It doesn’t get us anywhere. Technopoly is not just a state of culture.It ‘s also a state of mind. It consists of the deification of technology, which means that the culture seeks its authorization in technology, finds its satisfactions in technology, and takes its orders from technology.
We need to put our energy into face-to-face contacts, so we can look each other in the eye and recognize others as humans, and perhaps achieve some sort of rapprochement or mutual understanding and respect. Without that, we have no hope. If we’re engaging with people only through the smallest of screens, we have no ability to recognize the humanity in each other and no ability to think clearly. We cannot think collectively. We cannot think truthfully. We can’t think. We need to rebuild our ability to think.
In June 2018 the Federal Government changed tack on it’s plans for the new tests.The Senate Coalition-dominated Senate Committee warned it would “disqualify from citizenship many Australians who, in the past, and with a more basic competency in the English language, have proven valuable members of the Australian community”.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged concerns with the Government’s previous attempt at toughening language requirements for migrants and said any new test would be assessing “conversational” or “primary-school” level English.
The outputs one would expect from this are hardly what one would class as ‘prescriptive’.
The government might also care to reconsider the vital part books can play in this educational arena.
You’d have to believe in leprechauns not to see that their rejection by the re-settlement consortium was brought on not by any technical reasons but by the wastage of the books stored at Metro Assist.
Migrant groups such as those of refugees in particular can benefit from the greater personal approach books allow.
’Today,’says Premier Berejiklian, ‘ with the temptation for students to stay glued to a screen all day being so strong, the challenge (to read books) has become more important than ever.’
Newcomers can bond better with others through physical human contact than just through the medium of electronics. A refugee from Syria won’t be fussy whether he or she reads from a book or an electronic screen.The quality of printed images is still superior and less deleterious to one’s eyesight. The knowledge contained in books and digitally is obviously interchangeable.What’s pumped into a computer gets spat out again.
It doesn’t matter to the brain how people read,according to Professor George Paxinos from the University of New South Wales.Widely known as the man who maps the brain,this top neuroscientist says the more information, whatever form it comes in.,the more the brain will absorb.If you’re reading,you’re reading.It doesn’t matter how,when or why.
Those who can read books can also read the web .
They can also read the writing on the wall.
The question arises ‘What do the official Gatekeepers really want?’
Surely the expectations of the Australian Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs should be taken into account: “If we are to guarantee the social cohesion of this country, if we are to guarantee a successful multicultural country into the future,
then the broad Australian population needs to have reasonable English,” Mr Tudge has said.
He points out that because the spouses, children and extended family accompanying permanent migrants do not need to prove they can understand English,this had created the “concerning situation” where “close to a million” Australians now do not speak the national language.(Jane Norman, ABC 14-6-2018)
Figures released by the Coalition which spearheaded the attacks on school teachers and students suggest the numbers have been steadily rising.
In 2016, about 820,000 permanent residents in Australia had little or no English, compared with 300,000 in 1981.
It’s hard not to conclude that such a figure, like those for the homegrown population, is intentional nor the result of policy choices.
Surely such personages as Mr.Tudge would expect new arrivals to be guided carefully through the complex maze of information about Australia and it’s language by those who are trained to do this.
The following points should be considered.
Too much information can cloud our judgement.How much does information overload restrict us from making good changes? The tsunami of information,of supposed facts,data or claims that pour out of the internet makes a demand on how educators get people thinking about how to deal with that information,how they manage it ,how they organise it into the sorts of patterns that constitute knowledge.Data by itself is not knowledge.Then educators have to take the further step of getting people to understand it.Understanding how to put it to work.Understanding which parts are important and which aren’t. Understanding which other things are necessary .We educators need to get people to evaluate this barrage of information,to become good gatekeepers and filterers themselves.
So where does the schism between hardline would be biblioclasts in the resettlent consortium and bibliophiles figure in satisfying these requirements?
It’s not that consortium members like Metro Assist have a thing about hard copy.It’s premises,like those of any hardpushed organisation or my own remaining office space are choc a bloc with paper.My whole point of processing the printed material was to demonstrate that one can cut down on the amount of paper that is so profligately wasted in this effluent society.
The spokesperson for the consortium couldn’t comment on the unpleasant situation with the new CEO of Metro Assist. Only to point out it is a separate organisation and cannot be influenced.
I include here a sampling of definitions of ‘consortium’ by the best known online dictionaries. As far as I can see the notions of ‘influence’ and ‘co-operation’ run through them all.
The internet definition: ‘Short-term arrangement in which several firms (from the same or different industry sectors or countries) pool their financial and human resources to undertake a large project that benefits all members of the group.’
I emphasised the importance of this sense of mutual benefit to the spokesperson as well as the successor at Metro Assist: ‘Humanitarian settlement and migrant service providers must stop to consider their resources carefully. They must liase with each other in terms of resources and priorities.This is a time of great national uncertainty.
Merriam Webster : ‘ an agreement, combination, or group (as of companies) formed to undertake an enterprise beyond the resources of any one member.’
If Metro Assist found it difficult to continue storing educational resources,couldn’t the others in the consortium share this ‘load?’
The Free Dictionary : ‘A cooperative arrangement among groups or institutions’
How can Metro Assist be co-operative with others but cannot with me? A person whom they have thanked for my services. I appreciate their praise about results I aimed at but I don’t need it.I’m not adding to my C.V.I want to get results in an area of social importance.
To the extent it couldn’t discuss with me what I wrote to it.I couldn’t move forward without it’s co-operation.Without mine,I believe it cannot move forward as it could.
It knows that the assurance of effective educational outcomes for refugees has been thrown into question.
One last definition of ‘consortium’: ‘An association of financiers, companies, etc, esp one formed for a particular purpose.A partnership.’
Surely the agreed purpose of the one Metro Assist is in partnership with is to provide resources to ease the entry and resettlement of newcomers.Why couldn’t a comprehensive education program embracing the perfect marriage of onshelf and online resources be considered of value to it? Does measuring the proportion of onshelf versus online resources matter when the urgency of achieving harmonious resettlement is so great ?
Cambridge English dictionary: ‘an organization of several businesses or banks joining together as a group for a shared purpose’.
What purpose could be more important to share than promoting knowledge of one’s homeland to shattered newcomers?
As for having to keep ideas ‘under tight rein’ ,my response is ‘Free your mind and the rest will follow!’
I told the management I wanted this matter to be resolved in an amicable matter. I wanted to continue working with Metro at least ’til the material was in shape to be passed onto some other agency seriously interested in furthering the interests of the people of N.S.W. I couldn’t do anything without the help of other volunteers.I needed someone to begin with to help me organise the material,assess the loss, start the salvage operation and kickstart the educational process .My next thought which I passed on to Metro management for discussion was to circulate the following appeal to the public:
“The crimson thread of kinship runs through us all”
Fellow citizens and residents of New South Wales:
A cloud has gathered over the arrival of refugees in our land. We did not always welcome refugees in this fear-ridden way. In 1947 the Commonwealth of Australia began to bring thousands of Displaced Persons from Europe to Australia.This policy dramatically changed the face of Australian immigration because the tuition of these refugee newcomers in English was seen as a key factor in immigration policy.
Why did we abandon this program of teaching English to refugees? Instead today our politicians give dire warnings to Australians today about those who are fleeing the war zones of the world. And the restlessness and despair among the alienated refugee youth and young among these newcomers are a matter of concern to us all.
The smooth and harmonious passage of those escaping the bombs into our peace-loving country requires a forward looking vision and approach. No Australian can any longer ignore these young people. Addressing this situation requires the vision of Sir Henry Parkes,our long term respected state premier and father of Australian Federation.
He spoke of forming “a new society based on equality, fairness and justice for ordinary people”.“If life’s chances are seen as fair and open, there is hope. Without hope, anger and violence breed from despair”.
More than this Parkes believed that all children, regardless of religion or social status “sit side by side” in free, compulsory and secular schools. Newcomers to Australia of all ages and backgrounds deserve an approach like this today. Their needs are not to be ignored. We can do something about it.
That is why I am offering my services in a voluntary way to the Metro Assist Community Hub at Campsie, a migrant resources provider. I am making a proposal to it and the consortium it partners regarding education of refugees in English and in knowledge of their new homeland. I am urging Metro Assist to bring to bear all the educational resources at it’s disposal towards resettlement.
If you or anyone you know would like to hear more about this and take part in this project, please contact me, Allan Davis, former teacher of English and general studies.
Phone 98183052 during business hours. email: email@example.com
Or contact the Metro Assist Community Hubs: Ashfield: (02) 9798 1701 Address: Ashfield Civic Centre, Suite 1, 260
Liverpool Rd, Ashfield,
Or Strathfield: (02) 9746 8217 – 1b Bates Street, Homebush
Thanks for your interest.
Pass it on!
. Getting the Word out.
Holding my nose,I toned down this message, wording it as briefly and diplomatically as possible,trying not to alienate Metro management but win them over.I emphasised honesty and a common sense of urgency rather than alarm in order to get people’s attention.
As it turned out I was only expressing the same ĉoncern as would be expressed by Citizenship Minister,Alan Tudge: ‘Australia’s successful multicultural society is at risk with many migrants failing to integrate and develop proficient English skills—- “Integration of migrants has been the secret to our multicultural success but there are a few emerging, early warning signs we are not doing it as well as we used to.”
Government figures show close to 25 per cent of migrants who arrived between January and August in 2017 did not speak English, or had very limited language skills.
Mr Tudge said that was an increase on the 18 and 19 per cent figures reported in the 2006 and 2011 censuses, and proof the Federal Government must intervene to safeguard successful multiculturalism.
Where and how did I propose distributing my message addressing this problem you might ask?
Plan ‘A’ involved conveying it via phone contacts, virtual communities and networks sounded the way to go.I don’t have any experience in social media but hopefully should have gotten help along the way.
Plan ‘B’ involved handing it out outside the offices of Metro Assist in Campsie.The flyer would have taken up a third or quarter of an A4 sheet.
This approach would have involved logistical considerations that in my circumstances I’d rather have avoided.
Obviously with Plan ‘A’,I could have used more words and images,although brevity was still an important imperative.
I was currently passing on a lighthearted illustrated message online as it would be costly to hand out by hand.I feel this serious situation, one that must be defused, demands a degree of cheek.I guess it depends who I’m sending it to.Some religious groups might be less impressed than others.Would it pass our Foreign Minister’s requirement as to what should be tested?
For the Sake of Argument.
The revamped citizenship test proposed by The Minister for Immigration in April 2017 includes “new and more meaningful questions” about an applicant’s understanding of and commitment to Australia’s shared values and responsibilities.
Some of the new questions include: “Can [sic] you strike your spouse in the privacy of your home?” and “Under what circumstances is it appropriate to prohibit girls from education?”
“I don’t think anyone could seriously defend an attitude that says women are not equal to men, or that violence against women is acceptable, so we’re looking to test attitudes… that [would-be citizens] are prepared to embrace the values, laws and attitudes of our society,” said Foreign Minister Ms .Bishop.
She said that the changes to citizenship requirements will not alienate those at risk of radicalisation. Ms Bishop said there was “very wide” consultation with community groups despite the move being likely to unsettle some migrant communities.
If no one at risk of ‘radicalisation’ would feel alienated by the changes,surely the chances of significant numbers in any migrant community being unsettled would be unlikely.
In order to consider that possibility,let’s say for the sake of argument that this is true.
It may not be true but it will help us have a discussion.To look beneath the superficial aspects of culture to find what is common .
Let’s consider the possibility that not all newcomers to Australia may be overwhelmingly prepared to embrace our societal values, laws and attitudes .
Let’s test the Government’s requirement that they respect each other’s differences with the following questions:
Firstly, ‘Should women be free to dress as they please?’
Secondly, ‘Should women and men adapt to the Australian way of life?
Thirdly, ‘Are men able to talk to each other about women respectfully without undue difficulty?’
A Decisive Moment.
‘You must realize that today in Germany anything can happen,even the improbable.and its just the beginning,Friedrich. Personal morals are dead.We are an elite society where everything is permissible.These are Hitler’s words. Even you should give them some thoughts.’
SS officer Aschenbach in ‘The Damned.’
As indicated in the flyer,this clampdown on imagination occurred during a rapidly changing global situation.One in which both our Premier and Prime Minister talked of greater numbers of Syrian arrivals.Yet while the human flood spreads and washes on ‘safer’ shores, our educational authorities acknowledge they have not yet been able to further the educational possibilities of children at Walgett High School.
This is where our national security lies.In these,our children.In people who live and somehow survive in very harsh Australian conditions.In our refugees who if taught our language and culture and can communicate it well to others will want to protect it.
It doesn’t lie in any mad monastic damascene conversion. In that coterie of human props in uniform, a plethora of Australian flags and references ad nauseam to the “death cult” coming after us. That reworking of the old Yellow Peril line.
The one that brought us boats from Vietnam.
It doesn’t lie in any “Team Australia”, our saviours in this ‘ new Dark Age” upon us .
Our urbane former Prime Minister Turnbull understands this but had difficulty resisting further the rump appeal of these latter- day ‘Crusaders’.
This long war grows worse more and more.
Shock and awe spreads hate and scatters the poor.
So many lining up to die and spread it o’er.
How will we cope with the influx? How will we cope teaching the newest arrivals English and our culture if we cannot further the youth skills of one community who have been in this land the longest?
Professor Peter Shergold the NSW Coordinator-General for Refugee Resettlement says that education is crucial to this. Professor Shergold says the NSW Department already has very effective programs to help and integrate the children of refugees and migrants who come from non English speaking backgrounds.
Michael Keenan, a key member of the Federal Government’s National Security Committee, declared ‘we can have confidence in our education system.It is very robust.’ [Wed oct 7.]
Granted our education system is robust,but as we have seen, in doing what?
Just days earlier a fifteen year old Kurdish Australian truanting schoolboy gunned down a NSW police civilian before being killed himself.
A national summit to co-ordinate security, policing and education programs across the country was called to counter the threat posed by so called radicalised children .
The Foreign Minister said it was time for the whole Australian nation to take stock .
As Federal Minister of Education she had suggested that there was a prevailing Maoist agenda amongst education bureaucrats. An advance media kit for a 2006 speech claimed parts of the contemporary curriculum came ‘straight from Chairman Mao ’ [FN 76A]
The leader of her party,Prime Minister Howard,famously declared that left wing ideologists had led to curriculums that were ‘incomprehensible sludge’.
His party had carried out a purge of so called left wing teachers.This raises certain important questions:
Is there really a Maoist agenda at work amongst teachers?
Have they targeted both the Four Olds-Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits and Old Ideas- and the Three R’s?
Is the maoist dictum really being taught in our schools?
Is Australian history taught as a litany of Marxism, feminism and so on?
Just how incomprehensible is the curriculum delivered ?
Is the maoist dictum really being taught in our schools?
If so what happened to the hundred flowers ethos ?
Neither ‘Team Australia’ nor the ‘Death Cult’ can claim real power.It doesn’t grow from the barrel of a gun.
Any system that fears knowledge and education, any system that closes the mind to moral and intellectual truth, will prove in the end to be impotent.
Mr.Keenan was interviewed by the ABC reporter Brendan Trembath.
Brendan Trembath: ‘As the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on counter terrorism, how concerned are you – not just a radicalised teenager shooting killing a police employee outside a major building, but supporters praising the boys actions on social media?’
Michael Keenan: ‘Well it’s very concerning to me, but we know what has been going on in Australia, particularly over the past year, and that is that there is a diabolical terrorist outfit that’s taken over parts of the Syria and Iraq. Whilst they exist they will continue to export terror into Australia.
Me:‘Gee golly jeepers,Mr.Keenan.I never knew that.You must be the caped crusader, fighting for Truth, Justice and the Australian way! How long has this been going on? Does it happen in other countries?’’
Keenan: ‘This is not a phenomena that is unique to us, it’s a global phenomena.’
Me: ‘What about the Latin American states? They didn’t take part in invading the Baathist states. They’re not directly involved in the ‘ war on the ‘death cult’. Of course they have enough of their own organised criminals to deal with,haven’t they.What has our response been like?’
Michael Keenan : ‘Our response here has been very robust, in fact world leading, in making sure that our law enforcement agencies, our security apparatus have the power and resources that they need to address this.
Me: ‘Please,pretty please Mr.Keenan.Save us from ‘The Death Cult’.Scout’s honour?’ Keenan: ‘We’re working very closely with affected communities, who are going to be, who are really on the front line of this, to do all that we can to help them identify radicalisation.We need to make sure that our teachers, our families, other community service providers, can get a sense about what it looks like in terms of the changes in people’s behaviour and can then help us to divert people away from this very dark path.’
Me: ‘We don’t want it to spread,do we? We have to watch for all the danger signs.What happens when we spot them?’
Keenan: ‘We are working to try and divert people if we think that they are falling under the spell of ISIL and the Middle East.’
Me: ‘Dear me,am I in that category? Am I considered a ‘sleeper’ due to my naptaking?’
Like many young Australians I fell under the spell of the Middle East as a young person.As I fell under that of the Wild West.
I read ‘The 1001 Nights’ and loved ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.
I write about my passage through part of it.
I discovered Led Zeppelin, bringing the soul of the West and Islam together. It told us we can produce a musical force powerful enough to break through the barricade dividing the two civilizations.
And what about my culinary tastes.If the political police were to go through my rubbish bin, what would they deduce from my empty containers of Yalla brand yoghurt?’
Would these clues suggest I’m susceptible?’
And what about Barsad?Born in that vast expanse to a desperate people.
How would anyone in the community identify someone in the group seen below as suspect?
Jabar is pictured on the bottom left.
Keenan: ‘Now when people radicalise, it’s not a one size fits all, people do it in different ways.’
Me: ‘Gee whiz,Mr.Keenan,thanks for those words of wisdom. They take me back to the sixties.Back to those of the Director.The former head of the ‘Enemy Alien Control Program.
Watching ‘radicals’ do it in different ways.And making notes.
Acting in the belief that ‘justice is merely incidental to law and order.’
Now according to ‘The Daily Telegraph’ [Oct 6,2015],the police believe Farhad Barsad was no ‘lone wolf’ but part of ‘an extremist pack’.
Anyone who has worked in a western Sydney school knows the boys photographed don’t belong in this category.From Arthur Phillip to Boxhill Boys,there are others who look much more menacing,hardboiled and curried .
The newspaper doesn’t quote any particular source.It is essential for the police not to be identified with such simpleminded and mischievous bull’s wool.
Could I too be considered a Deadhead? What if my letter from a certain Faisal was to be scrutinized by the ‘ experts’ ? Faisal was eulogized by lyricist Robert Hunter in the title track of the Grateful Dead’s 1975 album Blues for Allah.
Let’s look at who Farhad Barsard Jabar really was.We’ve got to read the wider media.We have to listen to those who had contact with him.
These facts are not disputed:
Jabar was a quiet, cheerful student who vigilantly attended the mosque but was not considered extremist and was not on any police radar before the tragic conclusion.
A week after the death of the police accountant, students at Arthur Phillip High School remembered Jabar as quietly devout, a talented basketballer and a friendly but private classmate.
What drove the teenager, a timid, withdrawn 15-year-old with no history of violence to commit such a reckless,fatal offence?
Let’s consider the witness of an adult fellow worshipper.
‘Jabar, in his school uniform, “stuck out” in Parramatta mosque the first morning he met the friendly man. “He was just hanging out there, reading books, praying,” said Isaac.
“It was 9 am, he should have been in school … It’s not normal behaviour to isolate yourself.”
Their first encounters were frosty, but gradually the 15-year-old opened up. “He told me things weren’t going well at school, he wasn’t interested in school any more, that he was being bullied. He said he didn’t like it any more. He wasn’t interested because he wasn’t feeling good.
“He spoke about it with a sense of sorrow,” he says.
The man became concerned about the boy’s mental health. “Sometimes he would be quite bubbly. Sometimes he would be quite withdrawn. And those are typical signs of all sorts of mental health conditions, especially young people,” he said.
“I presented my concerns to psychologists and other professionals and got some feedback. And the feedback was, these were depressive symptoms, these were symptoms of trauma, of anxiety.”
“It was a shock to the core,” “[Jabar] was soft-spoken, really gentle, you got a really innocent boy-like feeling about him.
He had seen Jabar as a young man looking to be guided. “He was so vulnerable and so mentally confused or unwell that he was so easily susceptible to any figure of acceptance or group acceptance,” he says.
“As a young person growing up in Australia, especially if you’re of an ethnic background, what are you looking for? Acceptance, identity.”
Mental illness is still poorly understood within some Muslim communities, as it is in many other parts of society.
“[We] need to understand the religious and cultural implications that mental health has. A young Muslim person battling depression isn’t going to go out and talk about it.
“It’s seen as something, within the context of the community, it doesn’t feed into the notion of being a man, of being resilient.”
So he was in fact open game.A not atypical Australian teenager.
How in heaven could he have ended up serving such a terrible purpose?
The speculation is that Jabar was groomed by others to carry out the attack because they were under such heavy surveillance they could not do it themselves, and that the gun used was obtained through a “Middle Eastern crime gang”.
Only after the tragedy did police learn from other worshippers at the mosque that Jabar had recently begun keeping bad company, sitting with a group of men known allegedly for their rudeness and considered to hold dangerous views.
Of course, the questions of how it happened are important, as it is important to bring to justice those who planned it. But the bigger question is why it happened. And how to stop it happening again.
In intelligence gathering parlance,there are many unprotected pieces in the field.
This much is clear: all the punitive and draconian legislation introduced by the Federal government could not have stopped it, and the billion-odd extra dollars committed to law enforcement in the past year produced no intelligence relevant to the case.
How could it have? The signs are in the classroom right under the teacher’s nose. They have ways to counter the disquieting symptoms exhibited by Jabar.They are the ones who can attract children to school. They are the ones who can fill the intellectual vacuum left by a political policy of making school unpleasant for a certain category of student.They are the ones who can fill their students’ brains with mathematics, science and humanism,areas the Arabs have left their mark on .Under the sweeping powers brought in by the state government and it’s mind controls they are constrained.
As are the police.
While Jabar was on the periphery of the Operation Appleby group, Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn denied police had dropped the ball, saying it was impossible to monitor everyone.
“(Jabar) has not been a target of ours and is not somebody we would have assessed as a threat,” she said.
“We did not know of him and having either that intent or capability on Friday.
“It is just a sad unfortunate reality of the environment that we are now in that we are not necessarily able to be everywhere at all times.”
Me: ‘The good news is that the police don’t have to be.They could concentrate on the need to capture criminals,not getting on wild goose chases involving children.Children who could and should be in class learning.Children subject to the same governmental constraints but without the ability to express it appropriately. To articulate it through the English language,not through that of the gangsta from the hood but Standard Australian .To express it through acceptable civilized behaviour.
Fellow students told Fairfax Media Jabar never spoke openly about religion and was more concerned with playing basketball and joking around. It was only a few weeks before his end that he was drawn into the extremist circle by the 16-year-old Wentworthville boy, one of Jabar’s year 10 classmates at Arthur Phillip High School.
The pair regularly attended the same sessions at Parramatta Mosque and school lunchtime prayer groups.
The 16-year-old, who cannot be named, was charged last year for driving past a Christian school in Harris Park, yelling death threats and waving an IS flag.
His Facebook page reveals odd connections with extremist preachers in Canada, Sydney and Lebanon. His older brother spoke to Fairfax Media online just hours before Wednesday’s raid, saying the killing of Muslims overseas was more important than Mr Cheng’s death.
“Why don’t you do something useful,” he wrote. “And talk about real events occurring in Palestine. The killing of Muslims all ova [sic] the world.”
Sadly he is partly right and partly mistaken.The killers include other Muslims.If he were taught to read such intrepid journalists as Paul McGeough,he would learn Fairfax Media have excellent coverage of these events as well as of the Islamic State,that company front operating under various franchises, cashing in on it’s so called connection to a god and getting all the attention it can get.
“Some of them might have been wanting to do an attack but were concerned. They’ve managed to radicalise a poor vulnerable person to do it instead,” a police source said. “It’s almost like they’ve groomed him like paedophiles to do something for them.”
Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn did not rule out further arrests and said it was an “unfortunate reality” that undetected lone wolves will continue to launch attacks on home soil.
Australian Federal Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan said authorities were in “an unprecedented time of operational tempo”.
“The threat level remains high and that means a terrorist attack is likely. That’s not going to change in the foreseeable future,” he said.
As is the governmental policy of neglecting the basic skills of our young people.In June 2016 A 17-year-old Sydney teenager was charged by counter-terrorism police for allegedly posting on social media about killing police.However just to confound any of the neat simplistic theories about terrorism being spread, the police acknowledged he has a serious mental illness and was not believed to be motivated by religious extremism or Islamic State ideology.As a matter of fact he’s not religious and is from a Greek Australian background. The police allege the boy was planning a random public stabbing in Sydney.
The teenager’s father said his son had “anxiety, depression and Aspergers”.
“He hasn’t been to school, he’s not educated,” he said.
“They’ve kicked him out of school. He hasn’t done Year 7, he hasn’t been to high school.”
The father said the teen “now he looks like an idiot, like he is”.
The boy had gone missing from his home on at least two occasions and is described as having special needs. On one occasion , he had to be rescued from the bush by PolAir. He then posted a message online thanking the police.
Military strategist David Kilcullen predicts that terrorists would successfully strike a target on Australian soil. Dr Kilcullen, former special advisor to the US secretary of state and chief strategist for the US state department’s counter-terrorism bureau says that the chances on an attack in Australia was “one hundred per cent”. He points out government agencies cannot guarantee the public’s protection.
“The question is: how bad will it be, how will we respond, how will we focus on consequence management and on recovery from that kind of attack?” he says.
One could add another question: ‘Why can’t we focus on prevention management? Why do we still have to put up with the baleful levels of literacy imposed on society?
How do we have to protect ourselves ?
How can the conservatives continue to both constantly impugn the competence of teachers and tackle so called radicalised children successfully?’
Mr. Keenan is keen to remind us: the teachers of today are on the “frontline” of this ever-evolving global battlefield.
“ISIL is targeting people younger and younger,” he warned – while baulking at the notion the government was ‘securitising’ schools.
He assures us: “We are not changing the nature of teaching, but we’re giving them [teachers] an extra skill-set to be able to identify it and say there is something of concern here that we need to look in to.”
Minister Keenan assures us the strategy of monitoring children’s inclination to take up arms against the state is on the right track. ‘It can happen very quickly.’
After Farhad Jabar shot dead police worker Curtis Cheng outside the force’s Parramatta headquarters, police arrested a student on his way to Arthur Phillip High School. In a Facebook post , a little more than an hour after the slaying he wrote: “Serves you right I hope them lil piggies get shot”.
He later posted a video of Police Commissioner’s press conference from the night of the shooting.
“Bahahja f*ck you motherf***er Yallah merryland police station is next hope they all burn in hell,” he wrote blasphemously alongside it.
Yalla, with variants Yallah and Yala, is a common expression denoting “come on”, “let’s get going”, and mostly meaning “hurry up” in the Arabic language. It comes from and is an abbreviation of classical (traditional) Arabic words “Ya Allah” (in Arabic يا ألله) literally meaning “O God”.
The boy describes himself as “A.W. A” or “Arab with attitude” and allegedly has a long history of uploading content taunting and mocking NSW Police.
This language of the American gangsta is not what you’d expect from a fanatical student of The Koran.It’s possibly even a bastardised version because in standard gangsta, “bahaha”, the sound a sheep makes when it’s getting shot with a machine gun, has no ‘j’. Those who talk of cultural clashes or seek answers to Islamic terrorism in Islamic texts or a ‘maoist’ N.S.W school curriculum are barking up the wrong tree. This type of language springs a great deal from long term governmental failure to inculcate adequacy in the English language.There is no excuse for this.
He is typical of many young men both in the Middle East and to a certain degree in Australia.With bleak futures, either unemployed,underemployed or heading that way., from working-class families, and not religious at all. They do not know the Qur’an very well. They are not religious zealots who are willing to die for Islam and are not recruited in mosques. They join because their buddies joined. They saw stuff on social media. They all have mobile phones.Like many young American men who fire drones they have played military games on Play Station. And they have all seen the ISIS videos and believe like many young men with a built-in resentment against the West that it’s better to live large for a couple of years with the power and the so-called glamour that comes of carrying a gun, and then worry about what happens in the future two or three years down the road. These motives are more akin to why somebody might join like an inner-city gang or why in Mexico they might join a narco gang. It’s this kind of despair at seeing any sort of future. But it’s not political, it’s not religious. It’s just this impulse to, it’s awful to say, in terms of ISIS, adventure.
Brendan Trembath: ‘The Federal Government has been spending millions of dollars on this radicalisation problem, combating online propaganda, countering violent extremism. There’s a recently released Radicalisation Awareness Information Kit for schools. This was a school student, is this program not working?’ Michael Keenan: Well it is a very multi-faceted program and as I heard when I was in the US talking to like-minded countries, Australia’s program is world leading and we are doing an enormous amount to make sure we’re equipping communities with the tools that they need to work with the Government to address this.
Me: ‘The police were equipped to cut down the young assailant. Wouldn’t that have been as far as that particular tragic event went?’ Barsad had paid with his life doing the dirty work of others afraid to stain their own hands with blood.
The NSW Premier: ‘I wish to acknowledge “the bravery of some very special men.We strongly believe they saved many lives,” he said,referring to those who cut down the young assassin.
Me: ‘No one doubts the bravery of these men.But let’s not fool ourselves.They didn’t save any lives other than their own. Just as anyone else couldn’t have .
How could they have acted otherwise? Who could anyone have expected any typical looking Australian kid to do such a thing?
And a Kurdish boy of all things.Someone from the same ethnic group as Aylan Kurdi,from a community targeted by the so called ‘Death Cult’.
Someone the sight of whose fate caused the Premier profound shock and sadness.
Police Commissioner Scipione:“There is no way you can describe the hurt inside that building and right across the NSW Police force at the moment,” he said outside Charles St headquarters.
Me: ‘The Commissioner speaks of the loss of a ‘ much loved’ worker.
My family and I have a much loved friend working in that building and would dread such a loss ourselves.’
The Australian government’s focus on national security and ‘the war on terror’ to tackle Islamic extremism, rather than social cohesion and inclusion,
has helped create an environment for radicalized Muslim youth to emerge in disproportionate numbers, experts say. The securitisation of school space will more likely lead to further isolation of Muslim kids, racial profiling and more ‘radicalisation’ which these authorities are supposed to be trying to combat.
Let us not forget that this state’s biggest terrorists were homegrown.
Wade Frankum,a thirty year old taxi driver took out his rage against society by taking out seven victims at Strathfield Mall in 1991.
Brenton Tarrant,the perpetrator of the Christchurch massacre, described himself in his Brevik styled manifesto as an ‘ordinary white man’ from ‘a regular family’ whose parents are from Scottish,Irish and English stock.
What factors if any were common to Frankum,Tarrant and the errant truant Jabar? What was there in their educational and personal experience that may have led to their taking such fateful decisions? What kind of breakdown in communication took place?
If nothing was learned, nothing was taught.
Terrorists do not just fall from the sky. They are human beings who react to society’s changes and make their decisions accordingly.
Could anyone have forecast that such actions as theirs could happen in the future as a result of knowledge about them?
Coroner Kevin Waller and forensic psychiatrist Dr Rod Milton both found that Frankum’s killing spree was impossible to predict.
Dr Milton found that he was ‘without severe mental disorder or previous evidence of severe aggression’.
He proposed anger, guilt, conflict and having no money as motivating forces behind Frankum’s rampage.
He was angry because he was a failure and emasculated by his parents, he felt guilt over his mother’s suicide, he had conflict with his sister over his grandmother’s estate and his money had run out so he could no longer alleviate his loneliness with prostitutes.
Dr Milton said those factors alone were not sufficient to explain his actions and that a society which increasingly glorified violence may have pushed him over the edge.
He had no criminal record, showed no signs of violence, Frankum was raised with a strict upbringing, low on affection and approval.
He went to Newington College and Homebush Boys High School Neighbours at the time described him as a loner who was friendly, quiet, did not stand out and who only left home to drive his cab.
Frankum told a family friend his assault rifle was for protection because “it’s a f***ed up world out there and there’s some weird f***ers out there”.
There’s nothing unreasonable or out there about concluding that.But how in heaven’s name did the logic he inherited from his schooling lead him to think and act like those people he’s referring to?
In surpassing Frankum’s record for the number of innocents he slaughtered, Tarrant had little interest in education, ‘barely achieving a passing grade’.
I mean,think about it.He’s talking about what should be the most exciting time of his life where he’s learning to unlock the mysteries of the universe and find the bluebird of happiness.Where he discovers all things bright and beautiful,all things wise and wonderful.
Instead he dragged many citizens of Christchurch and his own family into a big black hole.
Like the others mentioned above he wasn’t on any watch list.
After the massacres of Muslims in Christchurch, Catholics in Sri Lanka and the expected return of Australian ISIS fighters,our Minister for Home affairs fired another fusillade of fear, warning against Australians being too complacent about the domestic terrorism threat.
‘People think it can’t happen, what took place in Christchurch or Sri Lanka recently, it can’t happen in our country—it can.
What he fails to see is that despite their poor literacy those numbers who can’t read adequately can’t but have heard about our homegrown terrorists such as Martin Bryant and former Australian Army officer cadet,Julian Knight as well as those NSW citizens I’ve mentioned.
‘We’re dealing with that threat every day,the Minister adds.
Those citizens he’s particularly worried about are returning ISIS fighters and their families.
He warns of the risk of returnees donning suicide vests to carry out terror attacks but offers no clues as to how to deal with such a scenario.Presumably it’s still about reporting suspicious behaviour.Are people to inform the police whenever they spot a man with a dark beard and a thick coat? When they see cars parked in the wrong places? When they see people carrying bags.
Of course astute policing and public co-operation are essential here.
But why couldn’t the Minister dispel the complacency in the resettlement sector? That regarding education about Australia amongst the migrants,refugees and citizens he’s responsible for?
The problems posed by returnees are undeniably real.
‘We can’t just take those children back, plonk them into school, expect that everything’s going to be OK,’he says.
Of course we can’t.They’d have the same low chance of gaining adequate literacy as many other Australian children.
Why not offer them special attention in which their chance is high.Where they can learn to love their country and not feel as if they don’t matter.Where they can speak their mind,open their heart and ask questions even if they’re not welcome ones.
This process would facilitate determining which returnees might pose real fears and those who wouldn’t.It would help winkle out any who might be pretending to be who they’re not.
Even if this were to stop just one from harbouring deep resentment of their perceived malefactors, harbouring thoughts of harming them,then that, to paraphrase the Minister,is ‘obviously worth the effort.’
What skills should our children be taught?
Since stimulation and excitement are basic human needs, it behooves us to channel them in beneficial directions. If we expect people to consume leisure intelligently, we had better start teaching them the necessary skills. Consumption skills do not occur naturally and, according to Scitovsky, people who are “devoid of those skills tend to restrict their choice to sources of stimulation and excitement that require no special skills, such as sex, rape, drugs, violence, and crime.”4 That’s not a pretty picture.
Robert J. Stonebraker, Winthrop University.
The Joy of Economics: Making Sense out of Life
Dr.Anthony Bergin from the Federal Government financed Australian Strategic Policy Institute: ‘A key priority should be to provide the critical consumption skills to our kids so they’re able to see through extremist propaganda independently. That requires a greater focus by schools on teaching critical thinking as a measure to prevent radicalisation.
Typically, of course, schools take it as their core mission to teach critical thinking anyway. Learning to think clearly is one of the reasons for educating students in the first place.
But we shouldn’t ignore the benefits of that core mission in the counter-radicalisation field. Extremists see things in black and white; if students are able to think critically, they’ll be more resilient to extremist messages.[ABC The Drum,june 3,2015]
Me: ‘It’s not a given thing that schools in the state of New South Wales take teaching critical thinking as their core mission.
The results in terms of universal literacy indicate otherwise.All children should be learning creative skills,not fobbed off with so called ‘consumption skills’ in the implicit belief they won’t have jobs.
The rewards of universal literacy would validate the risks of critical thinking perceived by those in charge.It would improve their families’security,not lessen it.
In suburbs like Punchbowl and neighbouring Bankstown,the economic and social conditions provide fertile ground for recruitment of marginalised youth by Islamists. Young people from Middle Eastern and other immigrant backgrounds face worsening levels of unemployment and poor educational and social facilities. Youth unemployment in the area officially exceeds 20 percent, and many more young people have been pushed into low-paid casual or “cash-in-hand” jobs, or forced to work in unpaid internships or traineeships.
As for the benefits of that core mission in the ‘counter-radicalisation field’.Who gets them?’
The Baird government announced a $47 million package to pay for so called experts to be deployed across NSW schools to help counter ‘violent extremism’ in them.
Specialist teams and trained counsellors have to identify students at risk of ‘radicalisation’. Five expert teams will be deployed across NSW schools to respond to incidents of violent extremism and help schools that have been ‘identified’ as being ‘at risk’.
The teams include former principals, psychologists and student support workers and will help schools to develop ‘strategies’.
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said school staff would be given “awareness training’’ in ‘radicalisation’ and encouraged to report “concerning student behaviour’’ to authorities.
Why not get the authorities to become aware where school children are when away from school and attract them back?
The Federal Education Department hosted a series of community youth forums across Australia in early 2016. Such events ‘provide young people with the opportunity to explore this complex problem and consider how we can work together to help reduce marginalisation and further support young people,’’ Senator Birmingham said.
The teacher training is based on research by the Global Terrorism Research Centre at Monash University. The centre’s former international director, Greg Barton, who now leads the Australian Intervention Support Hub at Deakin University, said young Islamic youth workers should visit schools to help troubled Muslim teenagers.
“Often the imams are too busy or too old and disconnected from the youth cohort,’’ Professor Barton said. “A lot of the practical expertise in terms of a grassroots response will come in the form of Muslim youth workers.’’
He said principals, counsellors and teachers should be taught to recognise the potential signs of radicalisation.
“The changes they might be concerned about is if a student breaks off old friendships and forms new ones, lock themselves away from friends and family, and begin to express strong convictions,’’ he said. “They might be acting more aggressively in a way that’s out of character. That’s a warning to pay attention.’’
Me: ‘Children should already be encouraged to have strong convictions about the right things.Attention should already be paid to them.’
Professor Barton said schools should be a “safe space’’ for students to question international politics. “Giving a safe space in school for kids to ask angry questions about foreign policy — like ‘why has the war in Syria been going for five years?’ and ‘why did we invade Iraq ?’ — means they’re less likely to go into hidden discussions online where they’re much more vulnerable,’’ he said.
Me: ‘Well put,Professor Barton.And one can add the angry question of why we are bombing the bejesus out of Syria in this poxy proxy war.
Professor Barton:“We’ve had more people radicalised in the last 18 months than in the last two decades.’’
Me: ‘As more people have been butchered and blown up,mainly in the Middle East.’
The Australian revealed last year that a student at Epping Boys High School in Sydney had been preaching extremism.
A subsequent audit of school prayer groups by the NSW government found that barely half had been supervised, as required.
‘Violent extremism is a willingness to use or support unlawful violence to promote a political, ideological or religious goal,’ Premier Mike Baird said.
Me: ‘Many if not most would say the ultra violent attempts to overthrow the Baathist regimes and the barbaric ‘mowing the lawn’ strategy in Gaza fall into this category.
Will the N.S.W. government attempt to stifle discussion of the war as did Howard?
Will students such as the boofhead student hooning the Christian school be free to discuss these matters and hopefully arrive at a less frightening conclusion?
Will those in schools be free to ask why we are bombing the so called ‘Death Cult’ while one of our so called allies is bombing the Kurds, those most actively fighting it?
Will they be encouraged to discuss the so called Cult’s simpleminded and mischievous nonsense, to separate out any valid arguments?
As we know, the Department has the power to suppress information relating to alleged violence in schools.Those said to be involved in it have no right to appeal.Will this power countermand the right of the expert teams to know the facts? Will these latest powers bring about a spiral of violence as the Department claimed with the previous ones?
Will the Islamic youth workers brought in include young Sunnis,the main concern of the Government?
Another counter-terrorism expert, Andrew Zammit from University of Melbourne, also recommends programs that encourage ‘critical thinking’ among students rather than suspicion by teachers.
Mr.Zammit,who has been consulted by the federal government on deradicalisation in schools, said asking teachers to spot the signs of ‘radicalisation’ was likely to be counter-productive.
‘The resulting stigmatisation and atmosphere of fear could feed extremist narratives,’ he wrote .
‘The false leads generated by teacher guesswork could divert attention from the small number of genuine threats. The distrust bred could inhibit cooperation in the cases where it is really needed.’
Me: ’What we need are teams of experts coming to schools at risk,not because they have children from the Muslim faith,but because they are have so called ‘staffing difficulties’.We need teams coming not to gather ‘intelligence’ on children but coming to develop the children’s intelligence. What we need are teams of teachers free to teach all children how to read and write .
An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.It’s easier to bild a strong child than repair a disturbed man.
Which brings us back of course to our black and white image.Highly offensive to many because while employing the acceptable caricature of the enemy representing Death, crudely characterises a formation of mindless Muslim Australians. Bloodthirsty zombie sleepers switched on by the musical [sic] charm of the Pied Piper of Radical Islam.And brought to attention on such a sensitive,sad occasion.
‘Who’s protecting who? And what is this big business about being ‘radicalised’.
As former British Conservative minister Baroness Warsi commented, “There are many proud parents who cannot understand why their children find an affiliation with Isil… So often we have lazily defined those attracted to violent ideologies promulgated in far-off countries as mad, bad misfits and yet the reality is far more complicated.
We need to be vigilant not against young people who have any developed ideology to be radicalised in but against those who are fed violent extremist ideas irrespective of it’s ideological wrapping.
Basard was less ‘radicalised’ than corrupted and yes sent along a dark,dehumanising path,not the shining one promised by any so called maoist teachers or islamic scholars.
The original sense of ‘radicalised’ means going to the root of the matter. We musn’t allow the meaning of this term to be distorted and misappropriated by the simple minded and mischievous. The root of the matter is that this was a crime involving a child. He was perverted rather than ‘radicalised’..He had gotten mixed up for various reasons,gotten behind in his studies and was highly susceptible to indoctrination and manipulation.
In the first instance gun merchants took advantage of him.Whether those who put him it up to it are in league with those transnational criminals who practise cruel and barbaric behaviour in the name of a god is for the police to acertain.
There are always those, whether on their devices or not, dumb enough to praise such senseless actions.They shouldn’t be seen necessarily as ‘supporters’.Some people have a negative thing about police and the law.But it’s not against the law to think that way.Most people don’t act on their primal impulses.That there is any number of those who think this violent way towards any others at all is a sad reflection of our social life but it’s a bit of a stretch to see this as an great menace and distort it’s nature..
We can respond without wasting millions of dollars for police and so called experts to chase children.Children should be off the streets and in their classroom seats free to read,write and discuss openly and without fear the issues of the day.We have nothing to fear from our children.
As for the Syrian refugees coming to Australia Nicole Hasham,environment and immigration correspondent from The Sydney Morning Herald raised the important question : ‘Where will they go?’ [Sept 9,2015]
The next logical question is: ‘How will we fare’?
Nicole: ‘While Australia extends bombing raids deep into Syria, NSW is prepared to welcome at least 4000 Syrians from ‘persecuted minorities’ to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis. Officials confirmed planeloads of refugees would arrive by Christmas, 2015.
Resettlement agencies say they have the capacity to house, feed and care for the influx of 12,000 displaced people, which almost doubles the current annual humanitarian intake.
Syrian refugee Anwar Rostom (right) with his parents, wife and children. The family arrived in Australia last year. Photo: Brendan Esposito
For Syrian refugee Anwar Rostom, who arrived in Australia with his family in November last year after 18 months in a Lebanese camp, Australia is now his country, ‘Syria is gone’.
Although his[Anwar’s] family struggled with poor English skills in the early months, they are all happy to be in a nation that is ‘beautiful and peaceful’.
“I love Australia very much. It’s a great country, great people. Day by day I love it more and more,” he said. “I want to feel peace, I want to see my kids with a smile on their face. We must do our best [here], this is our country.’
I wrote the following message to welcome Anwar hoping Ms.Hasham might forward it to him:
Or as I said to Faisal, ‘ عَلَيْكَ’, Salaam alaykum’.Peace be upon you’.
Faisal is one of the real life characters in the story I blog ‘ ‘inletterandinspirit.com ’ Find: ‘A letter from the Desert Kingdom’
Your children already have a lovely smile,Anwar and can only continue to have such.
I appreciate your feelings towards Australia,Anwar. Indeed Australia is now your country and it’s people your people.
Like most peoples,Australian people like to travel abroad but most like to return home.Syrians must be the same.Some will want to return when the war is over and reconstruction begins.It will happen.Other Australians will want to go there too.Australia should aim to facilitate this possibility.
I wouldn’t like to think of Syria as having ‘gone’.
Sadly it is being cindered just like the land of it’s present German protectors was. War is so terribly sad for humankind.
None feel this more than the Germans.
Syria will awake like the Phoenix.Out of the ashes. Not for the first time.Syria goes back to antiquity,that which is shamelessly being destroyed.
It has been violently transmuted.Having divided, it lives on in other forms.Syrian Australians.Syrian Germans.And so on.
I’m hardly surprised you weren’t provided with that so called ‘very effective educational program’ to allow your smooth entry into our society.Many of our local born aren’t either.
Those in the influx in most danger of missing out that program are not happy families like yours.They will be mostly young single people,particularly men.They will live alone often,working long shifts or hanging around with others,talking their mother tongue.In the words of the Australian Citizenship Minister,Alan Tudge, they are isolated, living in their own “cultural bubbles”, and limiting their interactions with broader society.’
They will fall under the radar of some of those official experts studying them. These ‘experts’are not interested in them from an educational perspective.They’re not interested in their difficulties in speaking Standard Australian. The experts will look for other things, overlook these, leave the young adults to their own isolation and devices. Problems of communication will remain..
Australians should follow the lead of our trans Tasmanian cousins.The French self confessed terrorists who blew up ‘The Rainbow Warrior’ were observed by the local people and quickly detained.The word had spread.Everyone spoke the same language.
You might like to compare your success in picking up English with mine in Arabic. I welcome any assistance of language support from speakers of Arabic.
I’m writing about Faisal, that influential figure, both in English and Arabic.That’s the task he set me.
He himself spoke the Queen’s English.
Sans parler de sa connaissance du français.
Here is a question that arises.What would happen if I sought refuge in an Arabic speaking country?Would I have to struggle with poor language skills or would I proceed in leaps and bounds?
Would I be able to ask, ‘Take me to your leader!’And be taken, as were my thoughts, to Faisal.
NSW Premier Mike Baird, who had urged the federal government to do more for Syrian refugees, applauded it’s ‘bold and generous decision”.
“I am certain that people right across NSW will welcome our new Syrian neighbours with open arms and open hearts,” he said.
How can you be so certain,Mr.Baird? I ask.What about their minds?What will they be holding at the end of those arms?Are the locals of Cronulla, Mackay or Bendigo so different than Buda or Pest? Lesbos or Athens.Heidenau or Bavaria. The list goes on. The many places where people express disquiet. Fears of being forced out of their jobs and homes.Fears of seeing their ‘ lebensraum’ shrink.Fears that have some basis in reality.
Sotto voce at first because so many understandably fear for their jobs.
Full bore if assembled in formation.
A fellow representative from the Coalition has said they are not welcome in his electorate owing to paucity of jobs.He set the pace,opening the climate for the next such comments..Like those who argue that those of particular beliefs be favoured.A discriminatory policy will only sustain here the divisions people are fleeing from. It will create resentment and probable bitterness here.
It would appear many refugees have been forced to leave their country for good.
Syria must be recreated here in spirit,not it’s old divisions maintained.
Then there are comments like that of another representative who has a hypothesis about Aylan Kurdi’s fate.It’s that Aylan’s family risked the travel to Europe in search of affordable dentistry.
That’s hardly the point,is it.The man should have a closer look at what washed ashore.And to think again carefully about what where desperation can lead .
Then again he says that he himself may have done the same thing in search of a better life.
Over the past decade, more than 34 per cent of those coming here in search of a better life under Australia’s refugee and humanitarian visa program have made NSW their home.
A spokesman for Mr Baird said this would translate to about 4000 Syrians from the emergency intake, “but the Premier has made clear NSW is prepared to take more”.
“We will do everything we can to ensure that we have arrangements in place to assist with this,” he said.
“We’re looking at sites to house refugees and are working with the federal government to determine ideal locations.”
The spokesman said NSW already had a variety of programs to help humanitarian entrants in areas such as health, education and transport.
A Victorian government spokeswoman welcomed the decision to accommodate more displaced Syrians. “Victoria will play its part to help resettle these refugees, so they and their families can start new lives in our state,” she said. “We have a long history of welcoming people from all walks of life and we are proud to have them call Victoria home.”
Senior federal government officials said the entire 12,000 refugee intake was expected by mid-2016, mostly from camps in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. The measure was expected to cost $700 million over four years, plus processing costs.
Once refugees arrive in Australia, they are provided cultural orientation, housing, health care, English classes and other assistance.
These are largely provided by existing refugee settlement services, and it is understood the Department of Social Services is prepared for an increased workload.
AMES Australia chief executive Cath Scarf, whose Victoria-based agency helps resettle refugees, said Australia was well placed to accept the increased Syrian intake, and the federal government decision had broad public support.
Chief executive of NSW-based Settlement Services International, Violet Roumeliotis, said humanitarian settlement service providers were “ready and willing to play [their] part, together with the community, to support people given humanitarian entry to NSW”.
‘How ready?’ I ask in light of the difficulties of my involvement in this area. ‘How well placed are we really?’
Townsville MP Scott Stewart,a veteran educator, said there would be room to take refugees in his area.He has suggested wisely:“I think what we need to do is look at the current service providers and see how many we can take and still provide the services.”
Townsville has welcomed a number at a time of great local economic uncertainty.
Could Sydney and NSW with their rich pool of human resources follow suit?
Many Australian people are ready and willing to assist those in this exodus.
inner West Council keeps a register of volunteers to draw upon.I am on it.
Humanitarian settlement and migrant service providers must stop to consider their resources carefully. They must liase with each other in terms of resources and priorities.This is a time of great national uncertainty.
Our federal government has declared a state of emergency.it has declared our children to be on ‘the frontline’ of the so called War of Terror.Asif!
Schools are to be further securitised,less liberalised.The Coalition Minister for Immigration believes that unemployed and illiterate refugees would be “taking Australian jobs’.
Others conflate refugees with terrorists.
We should heed the sad but wise words of the Belgian Ambassador to Australia.
To confuse them is to do so at our peril.
Others are adding migrants to the mix,calling their allegiance also into question.
This then becomes a really volatile mix,difficult to control.
It is the responsibility of all citizens to promote an informed and alert populace.
The question arises ‘Why did Anwar Rostom’s family have to struggle with poor English skills in the early months?’
Why couldn’t the Sydney Morning Herald allow any follow up to this question?
How as a citizen and as a professional worker in this area can I be insouciant and not motivated to participate.
How many more will have to suffer this if the problem is not solved immediately? How will we cope teaching the new arrivals English and our culture if we still cannot achieve it for all our own citizens?
Language shortcomings can lead to some serious misunderstanding between citizens.
We must take steps to ensure outcomes such as Anwar’s early one are not repeated? I invite support to offer all newcomers the best provision for community study of our language and culture. As a deeply satisfying procedure, not a burden.
I believe that any newcomers and their families who have food and shelter should be keen to study actively about Australia and it’s culture.They should be able to enjoy this and be involved in passing it on .
As initially wary Australians encounter them , their wariness would melt away. They would realise they’re just like us.’
Call it self interested humanitarianism if you like but everyone has to benefit.
I wanted to invite ,Anwar and his family to take part.With any others to help me,a volunteer educator in the community,assisting a settlement service provider,to help prepare the way for this influx.To offer the language skills the arrivals will need for negotiating their way.To teach them knowledge of local sites, customs and taboos.
I set out the nature of my mission, my methodology and Sydneywide professional experience. This included coverage of my association and activity with the migrant resource provider. If the reader were to have looked at my website,one that deals with my life so far, they would have noted my lifelong preoccupation with tackling wastage of resources.
I called on all resettlement agencies to support a scheme facilitating rapid achievement of universal literacy and expansive knowledge of our land.A scheme that would ease their workload,not increase it.
Say Yes to migrant resources.No to endless meetings. No to austerity. No to war.
I contacted Nicole Hasham from Sydney’s newspaper of record regarding my quest. I drew attention to estimates of the NSW Coordinator-General for Refugee Resettlement and resettlement service providers as to the official system’s capacity to deal with the influx.I saw them as glaringly over optimistic She suggested this ‘micro’ matter would be better taken up by a local newspaper. My local paper,the Inner West Courier, proved to be uninterested so I had to leave it at that.
I interpreted her response as a fob off. The matter involving the Middle East which Nicole brought to public attention and already has contacts about is a serious national one.When those with authority and responsibility try to put the fear of God into the populace while simultaneously trying to lull them into a false sense of security,the journalist should expose this not evade it.His or her own integrity is on the line.My argument after all is largely substantiated by reading between the lines of scores of Nicole’s colleagues over a long period.Providing a yardstick against which to measure the refugee’s skills advancement is a necessary one.
A Masterful Plan.
‘It’s never too late to be who you might have been.’
“It was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice.”
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
I was excited to hear the daring proposal of of Leichhardt Council for welcoming those fleeing the war zone. Councillor Simon Emsley and Mayor Darcy Byrne proposed the community provide a place of sanctuary to the many thousands of Syrian refugees due to be settled in New South Wales. I jumped at the chance to play a part.
Callan Park,the proposed site of the sanctuary, is a wonderful oasis of peace for those of us living in tiny homes and crowded streets in the local area, providing wonderful walks and areas for sport recreation, dog exercising and picnics.The park,the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Sydney’s Inner West, is a wonderful oasis of peace for those living in tiny houses and crowded local streets and provides wonderful walks and areas for recreation.
It’s calming natural beauty and pleasant parklands, it’s palms and and rainforest trees,sunken garden,bamboo plantation played a big part in my sons’ growth and well being over the years.
It’s an extension of our garden. We share it’s fauna and flora.
It’s where my sons and grandchildren played, learned and continue to do so.
We share it’s tranquillity with people from all corners and all quarters.
We aim to keep it that way.
The Park should provide the latest wave with a much needed taste of a healing,refined place.
Leichhardt Council,which became absorbed into the larger Inner-West Council, resolved to ask state and federal governments to fund a “refugee welcome centre” at the site, large parts of which have been disused for many years.
The Council controls and manages the 40 hectares of Callan Park under a 99-year lease.
Callan Park currently houses residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, a variety of mental health services and two universities.
The proposal has to be in line with the Callan Park Act and the Callan Park Masterplan, which identifies Callan Park as a “future Centre for Excellence in Mental Health”.
Inaction over implementing the Master Plan Council came up with after carrying out extensive community consultation has proved harmful to many of the site’s empty buildings and gardens, which have further deteriorated. Some buildings are boarded up to prevent vandalism, some have been damaged by water and vermin entering through broken windows and damaged roofs, others are infested with cats and have collapsed verandahs or rising damp.
The buildings were previously used for an earlier group of ‘boat people’. The early psychiatric facilities were all waterfront. The reason for this was to ‘protect’ public safety by not transporting patients and prisoners by road. They were moved via barges, hence the waterfront locations at places like Callan Park.
They presently act as a showcase of failed efforts to incorporate art into our school curriculum.They attract children who don’t go to school for one reason or another. They’ve been a magnet for expelled children,lured by the lucre of copper down pipes.
The buildings have been allowed to deteriorate and fall apart ,the reason given that asbestos removal was too difficult and too expensive to fund.been allowed to deteriorate and fall apart due to deliberate neglect under the excuse that asbestos removal was too difficult and expensive to fund.
‘If the inner west of Sydney can’t send a proud and clear message that we can accept some refugees in our own backyard, then what hope are we of overcoming the toxic, low-grade debate that has existed in this country for 15 years?’said Darcy Byrne .
He said a permanent mental health service for the wider community would also be established with the funding.
Refugee Advice and Casework Service executive director Tanya Jackson-Vaughan supported the plan and hoped people would give it consideration despite the terror attacks in Paris.
She said she was reluctant to put terrorist and refugee in the same sentence as she did not want people to conflate the two.
“They are fleeing what happened in Paris everyday…..the Opera House wasn’t turned the colour of the Lebanese flag.”
“Idiots commit crimes wheverever you are and it has nothing to do with refugees who are waiting to be settled,” Ms Jackson-Vaughan said.
“The Syrian refugees who are coming are hand-picked by the government and they will be given accommodation, Centrelink, and access to education which is very different from people who are seeking asylum.”
The plan is supported by Settlement Services International . It leads 22 organisations,including Metro Assist which delivers settlement support to new migrants and refugees across the state, within the first five years of their arrival. They form part of a large consortium, the NSW Settlement Partnership (NSP), which is led by SSI. The NSP is supported by the Department of Social Services under the Families and Communities Programme (Settlement Services).
Some residents have opposed the Centre,claiming mental health patients and homeless people should be a priority for any services in the prime waterfront buildings ahead of refugees.
Police were called to a Council meeting in November 2015 after anti Islam protesters stormed the chamber,brandishing placards and shouting slogans,slamming the refugee proposal.
I passed my support for the proposal to the Deputy Mayor at Christmas 2015 and am now registered for a place in the Council’s support team.
Whether we like it or not the Syrian influx has arrived.It is vital for one and all that the resettlement be harmonious.
One of the ladies celebrating Christmas at a Council luncheon,a migrant herself, expressed the feeling that her childrens’ generation would not get the same ‘preferential treatment’ as the newcomers.We discussed this in a congenial atmosphere and Carmen was very amicable.
Peter,a proud ex-serviceman, assured her how successful and relatively smoothly the Vietnamese influx had been handled.
Darcy’s proposal led to the inevitable outpouring of criticism from some.As well as the offensive and ignorant,some are sincerely concerned about the lack of decent housing prospects for young native born Australians.
My sons are faced with the same dim prospects but know it’s not caused by refugees.They stepped out with Darcy to protest the pre-emptive and obscene attack on the Baathist ruled region.They know their ‘silent’ Nimby supporters are not about campaigning for better housing for all Australians .
Those officially overseeing the resettlement lost no time drawing attention to the deficiencies and weaknesses in their operations.
They say that they are prepared resourcewise which is patently not true.
Once again in history it falls to those who stepped out against the war to come to the fore.
To pick up the pieces.
To secure the home front.
This is the task taken on by the leader of the British Labour Party.
This was task undertaken by Harry Perkins, steel worker. and trade unionist from Sheffield.
Disarmament is where our kismet lies.
Not in any military arsenal.
These support operations must involve those who stepped out, taking to the street against shock and awe, scattering the poor.
They should involve middle class,educated people who have the time and are potential volunteers.They would have refugees they could help on their doorstep without having to drive for an hour .
The proposal for Callan Park could provide a model in which Australians keep up with their Canadian cousins and regain that relative moral ground lost to, must I say it,unsere deutsch freunde.
The Centre should deliver a program that benefits and creates real opportunities for most everyone.
It should be carried out by not just a select group of volunteers but by all of those said to have inundated the Council to offer their time and energy.
The new arrivals could become totally and rapidly immersed in Australian language and culture here before fanning out to their allocated places of resettlement.This would afford them a soft landing.
They could then pass on this knowledge to others, including our many homegrown semi-literates.’
‘They won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English,” the Home Affairs Minister warns of humanitarian refugees.
If that were true, why should that be an objection? They should feel right at home.They might pretend to be semi-literate so as to try and fit in.
And if that were true,how does that justify restricting their knowledge of English and Australian culture?
Wouldn’t that be seen by them as begrudging,as pandering to those who would like their stay to be so difficult they would move on?
Actually it would make them more rooted,less mobile,less able to move on somewhere else without the linguistic passport English offers.
Wouldn’t the wise approach for fending off any potential ‘radicalisation’ be to get them all rapidly literate in English,our mother tongue.For all to be fully able to participate in society.
For the re-settlement agencies to draw upon the large number of generous potential voluntary human resources they boast of.
Why not allow voluntary educators to contribute without such let and hindrance?
The Minister’s word echo those of the leader of Australia’s populist,nativist parliamentary bloc of whose views he is ‘ respectful’. Besides “the privileges Aboriginals enjoy over other Australians” and the threat of being “swamped by Asians”, one of the many concerns they’ve raised in Parliament is that ‘we are being swamped by Muslims’,who have bore ‘a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own’.
We Australians are a very accepting people.We accept all denominations – fivers, tenners, twenties and bigger.
Like their counterparts abroad,this new bloc wants Muslim immigration to cease, a ban on new mosques in which hatred against Australia is preached.Huh!No kinds of Australians would dare tolerate that if it actually happened. The leader of the bloc has declared, ‘We are a Christian country and that’s what I’m saying. John Howard said we have a right to say who comes into our country and I’m saying exactly the same.’
What kind of Christians are these?
Australia is a secular country and should stay that way.
Australians for Syria Association president Anas Natfaji ,has said
‘Local communities can do even more,’
Dr Natfaji also criticised any potential selection criteria that prioritised specific religions, saying it was “just not acceptable”.
“I think we should be humans with everyone.”
The ‘Crusaders’ want a royal commission into Islam and climate science.
Their demands seem to be being met to some extent.
In spite of Premier Baird’s expressed humanitarian impulse and what he says is NSW’s focus on settling Syrian refugees,the expected surge of migrants from Syria slowed to a trickle for a period.
Priority was being given to families and children and those considered to be vulnerable. Just over 20 people arrived here in February 2016 as the Federal Government ramped up its security checks. A document leaked to ABC Lateline included a warning about the 12,000 Syrian refugees coming to Australia and argued in favour of increasing monitoring.
The document states”… it is expected that some refugees from this conflict will bring issues, beliefs or associations that lead them to advocate or engage in politically motivated or communal violence.” It cites links between terrorist attacks on Australian soil and Australia’s humanitarian intake, pointing to,among a few well known others, Parramatta police shooter Farhad Jabar.
I trusted the operations proposed by the Council would help put such linkages to rest.That they would speed up resettlement to make up for the long political and bureaucratic delays experienced by the newcomers.
New South Wales. State of Reluctance.
Those responsible for public education are still reluctant to encourage all children to read and write about their homeland.Those responsible for community services seem reluctant to encourage all newcomers to read and write about their new homeland.
To agitate for this approach I’ve come out all guns blazing.
In April 2016 a meeting organised by the local Council was held in Balmain Town Hall to explain the progress on establishing the Welcome Centre.I handed out flyers expressing my wish to make contact with other volunteers who would like to collaborate on the education project I started.I rely on their collaboration owing to my physical limitations. I stated how it could be employed for the Centre.I discussed this with the representative of SSI and the Council’s Manager of Community and Cultural Services.
The latter had answered a volley of critical questions from one unsympathetic resident who asked why so many people had not been informed about the meeting.
In June the democratically elected Councillors informed me that the Welcome Centre had been opened. I could see in our local newspaper that it had attracted a large crowd which would have been an ideal occasion for me to leaflet again.Alas I was not informed.
I got hold of the Volunteer Handbook put out by the Council in 2006. It sets out a range of rights and responsibilities of both voluntary workers and the Council.
Council has the responsibility ‘to keep the worker informed of the organisation’.
I spoke to the Council’s Manager of Community and Cultural Services asking for the timeline of commencing operations. I was told that although the Centre had been opened,so much renovating work needed to be done and that operations were several months down the line.That at least gave me time to make contact with someone else seriously interested in working with me.
I spoke to the the Manager about my difficulty with the resettlement ‘consortium’.
Council has a responsibility to be aware of my professional background.
I forwarded to her my toned down message to the public with it’s references to Henry Parkes.She said this made her feel ‘ uncomfortable’.Goodness knows what she would think if I mentioned what I really wanted to say about timidity,slackness or whatever it is that stops resettlement bureaucrats carrying out their social responsibilities.
They should approach this epochal resettlement as more than just part of a job.
It requires dedication,involvement of the community and most importantly co-ordination of resources.
Art for Art’s Sake.
I asked the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre to display my message at an art exhibition titled ‘Refugees.’It’s officially described as ‘politically charged’.Liverpool Council who operate the centre declined my request.Maybe they thought if people were to do anything about the situation, it might blow their minds.
I approached one of the artists but got no reply.
In late 2016 a friend passed on to me a notice from the Inner-West Council.Although my interest in taking part was known I hadn’t received it.I include it here in inverted commas followed by my comments .I passed these on to the relevant official.
‘Volunteers Wanted for Refugee and Asylum Seeker App’
Inner West Council is seeking volunteers to support the development of the ‘Arrival App’, a mobile app that will welcome and assist refugees and asylum seekers.
It will help them find services places and activities in the Inner West.They will be able to browse popular activities,nearby parks,swimming pools and so much more.’
This sounded like the same migrant re-settlement tool ‘replacing’ my voluntary services with the re-settlement consortium member, Metro Assist. It shouldn’t replace but supplement the unique resources I placed at the consortium’s disposal. I had worked hard over many years to assemble these, tailor made for the same purpose.
Let’s be serious here.Before anything else,it’s people that are needed to welcome and assist refugees and asylum seekers.
It’s only people who can win over those who won’t welcome them.
It’s people as a resource that the consortium sees as least important.
‘Developed in partnership with the Asylum Seekers Centre, the app is a communication tool that will enhance social cohesion and inclusion by connecting refugees and asylum seekers to their community.’
Hopefully it will enhance social cohesion and inclusion.But what will actually lay the framework that’s to be enhanced ? The app should be part of a comprehensive plan to receive and re-settle migrants and refugees.This requires the involvement of all willing to play a part and provide resources.By itself the app’s a technical fix to a huge social challenge.
‘Arrival App Volunteers will work as a team to research, evaluate and collate relevant content for the Arrival App.
Volunteers will be based at Council offices in Petersham or at the new Refugee Welcome centre in Callan Park and must be able to commit to working on the project one day per week.’
In asking how Council itself commits itself to this admirable goal,I mentioned it’s response to my commitment as a volunteer.I brought up the aforementioned gatherings I had attended offering my services and my desire to connect with other volunteers.
I told Council this operation requires dedication,involvement of the community and most importantly co-ordination of resources.By wilfully limiting this sensitive operation’s chances of success,the consortium and Council by default do nobody a favour except nativists.It is a sop to their more narrow minded elements.Why lay down the welcome mat for them?
Why not win over their moderate numbers who understandably feel legitimately anxious,left out and left behind, threatened and challenged by the influx?
These are the ‘Somewheres’, most rooted in geographical identity who find the rapid changes of the modern world unsettling. They are likely to be older and less well educated.They have lost economically with the decline of well-paid jobs for those without qualifications .They have lost too, with the disappearance of a distinct working-class culture and the marginalisation of their views in the public conversation.
Why not encourage them to recognise themselves in the ‘other.’
Why not encourage them to recognise themselves in the ‘other?’
I was hoping Council might be able to convince SSI to bring to bear all the resources at the disposal of the consortium it leads on the Welcome Centre.Instead it seems to follow it’s ‘lead’.
Council has been, I believe, remiss in communicating with volunteers who have no way of communicating with each other,who have no way of working together as a team.I realise Council cannot forward my request to other volunteers but it must know of at least one other who is prepared to offer more than lip service and could approach me.
I have spent the last year trying unsuccessfully to link up with other volunteers.I spent the previous five years trying the same unsuccessfully through ‘Metro Assist, partner of SSI.
It would have been much more productive that I spent this time preparing educational work for the Centre.
This particular resettlement should be seen by representatives of all agencies involved as more than just part of a job.
There’s too much at stake.
Redemption or Exemption ?
New services were announced at the Callan Park Refugee Centre in early 2017.It was said they would boost the Centre’s capacity.
So what services were there to boost?
The Inner West Courier reports claim the facility had become ‘a refugee centre without any refugees’. [Inner West Courier – Inner City Edition – Church to fund refugee centre.]
‘Settlement Services International[SSI] to whom delivery of services was outsourced would not say exactly how many refugees had used the facility, or how many were based in the inner west.’
This was hardly surprising.The consortium which it leads appears from my experience to be made up of ‘re-settlement agencies without any migrants.’At least those who would benefit from educational services focussed on their new country.
Everything about the operations at Callan Park has been kept under tight wraps, making it difficult for community involvement.
SSI’s agreement with the Inner West Council was said to have been ‘a non-monetary’ one.
Like the agreement I had had with the consortium partner ,Metro Assist.
One in which suddenly without any consideration or discussion whatsoever the terms of our gentleman’s’ agreement were changed to specious monetary ones.
Regrettably over the years The Inner West Council proved unable to help connect me with any able bodied refugees or volunteers to mount a salvage operation.
Neither could agencies of Protestant churches or or their members expressing interest.
Council officers could only say that everything about the Centre would be discussed at future meetings .
Over the first year of my registration,I drew Council’s attention publicly and personally to my desired involvement. It proved unable to connect me with any of the large number of ‘generous spirited’ volunteers it speaks of.
It long proved unable to help me mount an operation to salvage these precious education resources from the SSI led consortium. Resources ready made for the enterprise.
According to the Courier Council says it had been working extremely hard behind the scenes to move the Welcome Centre project forward.
Just where were the ‘ scenes’, how far ‘behind’ was it and to what extent is it a vanity project ?
Coming to the rescue,the Catholic Church in a salvage mission of it’s own, pledged to fund two full time staff members and permanent day services.
The Holy Father has called on members of his Church to further human rights, to emulate a model “for all those who, in different ways, seek to restore the dignity of our brothers and sisters lost through the pain of life’s wounds, to restore the dignity of those who are excluded.”
These aims and this model could and should be shown in practice at the Centre
The Church’s spokesman said it was the “responsibility of all Sydney” to welcome refugees, “not just the western suburbs.”
He sees those in the influx as ‘the most needy and most demonised members of our community.””
Fairfield and Liverpool Councils are housing more than half of the 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees settled in Australia.
The Inner West Council provides buses to transport refugees based in Fairfield and Liverpool to and from the centre, as well as computers and other resources.
As talks between Inner West Council and the official co-ordinator of refugee settlement in NSW stalled,the new staff could do well to co-ordinate inter-Council activities so as to bring volunteers into the loop.
My overture to Fairfield Council regarding this was warmly received.
Liverpool Council, which pleading ‘art for art’s sake’, rejected them, hopefully could be convinced to come on board.
I hoped this welcome initiative by the Church would break the impasse.
“People of the Inner West have many gifts and talents that can enrich the lives of refugees,says Father Peter Smith.
Too much is at stake for a project such as this to fail.
Not just the monetary resources already invested by Inner-West Council ratepayers and to be invested by the Catholic parishioners of Sydney but the wellbeing of our society.
I contacted the Catholic Church spokesman to inform him of my availability.As with the other players of the Triple C-the Council,the Church and the Consortium lead he has at his fingertips my full account of things , the capacity to criticise it and help me edit it where necessary.
His response was to suggest that my services were not needed.
He said that the language skills of those arriving was quite high although the Mayor of Fairfield says that English language learning is needed.
He said that the children were being catered for well in the local schools in Fairfield and Liverpool.
Considering the vital role that learning English plays in re-settlement, I was very surprised at this response considering that flexibility, appropriateness, length of time of on-arrival English language training are ongoing issues of concern for refugee communities.Asher Hirsch senior policy officer at the Refugee Council of Australia says asylum seekers are having language difficulties.The Refugee Council says that despite a raft of challenges, many refugee children and young people perform remarkably well and have the potential to match the educational achievements of their peers born in Australia. ‘However’, it points out there are also a significant number of children and young people whose learning needs remain unmet, sometimes with devastating consequences. Arriving at an age where it is not compulsory to be enrolled in school means that those who do not easily ‘fit’ into education and training systems are often not catered for and risk falling through the gaps. The failure to meet the educational needs of refugee entrant students at high school, and the lack of alternative post-compulsory education and training pathways, can have a devastating impact on young people and lead to their disengagement from education, employment and other services, and ultimately to social exclusion.
We can’t afford to be complacent in this area. The spokesman’s approach came soon after the release of a report into the extent of widespread student disengagement in Australian classrooms. The report by the government and business funded Grattan Institute measured it by the presence of certain behaviours like being late for class, disrupting other students, and speaking out in an aggressive way. Drawing on more than a decade of academic research,it concluded that as many as 40 per cent of school students are unproductive in a given year. On average one to two years behind their peers, and their disengagement also damages their classmates and teachers. The momentum of the class can be lost.
The main problem the report brought to attention is not the sort of aggressive or even violent behaviour that attracts media headlines. More prevalent, and more stressful for teachers, are ‘easy riders’ going slowly and minor disruptions such as students talking back,out of turn or simply switching off ,complaining boredom and avoiding work, being late for class, moving around in class, fiddling with their phones,making impertinent remarks and being rowdy.
The problem is most severe in poorer areas such as the western suburbs of Sydney where the refugees first arrive . In general, refugee students have greater educational and support needs than most other newly arrived migrant students. Most refugee children and young people have had disrupted or no education prior to arrival in Australia. Many have no literacy skills in their first language and in addition may have complex health problems, including mental health issues as a result of their experiences.
The spokesman’s comments came before it was reported Catholic school fees are tipped to skyrocket amid education funding changes. The Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Sydney, Dr.Dan White, said the new funding policy could force low income families to leave the Catholic system.
‘It would push a greater number of children in to state schools and they are struggling to accommodate them as it is,’ Dr White told The Sunday Telegraph.
“It will push more marginalised family with greater learning needs into state education.”
One way towards combatting such problems as these would be for those agencies involved in migrant and refugee re-settlement agencies to foster an engaging educational environment for newcomers and their families.To raise such educational provision from the bottom of their priorities.
Of all societal goods, education seems to me the highest. Were I dictator, I’d prioritise free, fine and universal education over healthcare, social welfare or public housing; over parks, pools or solar panels. Why? Because it underpins all these and sustains them. Education is civilisation. Sine qua non. Period.
I have the right as a volunteer ‘to a suitable assignment with consideration for personal preference, temperament, abilities, education, and employment background’.
The Last of the Dunera Boys.
‘It was quite a joy to hold the little kids’ hands and watch them smile’.
Australian Naval Commander Norman Banks
His countrymen had been told others been thrown off a refugee boat by adults.
‘To this day the official meanness towards refugees, at least those arriving by boat is maintained by making sure no Australian can get close to them.’
Nicholas Gruen, [son of a Dunera boy]
‘When I hear people make derogatory remarks about refugees,I think that’s my dad.’
Lord Nicholas Stern.[son of a Dunera boy]
My father taught me that Australia should be open to refugees.
Professor Stephen Castles [son of a Dunera boy]
‘It’s typical of the refugee story that they want to succeed and excel despite all the pressure on them. It’s typical of groups in exile. It’s one of the reasons Jews have succeeded all over the world for so many centuries and millennia. Any group like the Palestinians or others who are in exile, mistreated, denied their national rights, dispersed, disenfranchised, occupied, subjugated, under siege, whatever the conditions may be, find refuge and hope in only one thing, which is to develop their human talents and to maintain their ethical behavior to other people in society, so they can excel as human beings and engage with others for the mutual success of themselves and their families and the societies where they live, or wherever they may live.
A boatload of refugees arrive in a new land. They are locked up, confined to a camp, treated with suspicion and allowed minimal contact with the local citizenry.
How do we comprehend and deal with this all too familiar contemporary story?
The Australian resettlement agencies and those they answer to might do well to consider the experience of my convivial friend Henry James,a slice of history, and in my eyes and letter case a national treasure.
He is one of the few remaining cohort of World War Two refugees.
He and his fellow internees found hope, friendship and solace in an impressively organised refugee camp community.
They continually appealed for justice,finally earning the right to recreate themselves.
They took it upon themselves to become integrated successfully into Australian society.
In ways big and small, grand and humble, they helped build postwar Australia.
Their experience is a parable for our times.
One of history’s most important roles to make us blink.It is to make us momentarily close our eyes to the present and contemplate a past seemingly disconnected from the present – only to open them again to a present that may now appear in a new light.
Hopefully this story will show Australians something of their society and invite them to dwell on what they see.’
One can draw parallels between the Dunera story and the current treatment of asylum seekers in Australia, Europe and the U.S.A.
Their’s is told in the telemovie,’The Dunera Boys’ starring Bob Hoskins and Warren Mitchell.
It’s nothing new that refugees in general are unwanted and unloved when they arrive, but being at the bottom of the heap they persevere and make the best of the chance they’ve been given, to become an asset to their adopted country.
Nowhere is that better illustrated than with the story of the Dunera Boys, many of whom had lost everything in the Holocaust.
Like millions forced from their homes today,they had ‘no rights and no nation.’
They didn’t intend to come here.They came to an unknown destination.that seemed the very end of the earth. They had no wish to come here.They didn’t receive a terrific reception at the time.Many would never return to where they came from.
They grappled physically, emotionally and imaginatively with living as newcomers in a strange land, at a time when their world was tearing itself apart.
Yet the consensus view is that by and large Australia and the Dunera Boys have been good to each other. Many of the ‘Boys’ and their children have made a mark as Australian citizens.
By banding together this diverse group, thrown together by fate, were fashioned into one large fictive family.based on experience rather than on blood lines.
It was the Australian people who rescued the Dunera Boys. Australian officialdom was none too keen.
Central to their survival and success was the role of community education and self management. As had already been the case on the Dunera,the steamship that brought them to Australia, the administration facilitated these.
This role is restricted among contemporary refugees and those who volunteer to assist them.
The Boy from Halbe.
I met Henry James on the front verandah of Balmain Hospital. I was waiting to attend one of my regular exercise sessions
Henry was waiting while his wife was doing hers.
When exchanging greetings, I detected what I took to be a mittel European background.
‘Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Henry James.’
‘Sie sprechen Deutsch, Henry?’
‘Sehr gut’, he replied.’ You hit the nail on the head’, said this former painter and decorator who had hit many in his work.
‘That’s not a typical German name is it?
‘No’ he said laughing. ‘I abandoned my Germanic name,Heinz Jacobius and adopted my current one after the war.Having an anglicized name meant a better chance of getting a job.and less explaining to do.’
I suddenly knew where he was coming from.
‘That’s a distinguished literary name.Is that why you chose it?’
‘Yes,I did have something in common with the writer- at least initially.Then gradually I realised it wasn’t my ability in writing English.’
I told him of my experience in Berlin.
‘I did my technical training there. I grew up not far away. In a little town called Halbe.
‘I’ve been there.’ I said. ‘It holds a strategic place in military history.The Battle of Halbe.
Were you there when it took place?’
‘Heavens forbid, no. I was lucky on that count. Thousands of civilians were slaughtered, caught up in the bloodbath. As fate would have it I was here Down Under.’
‘So you had left the motherland.’
‘I had no choice in the matter. The vandalism of Kristallnacht shattered any remaining hopes of safety in Hitler’s Germany. I left with the clothes I was wearing and my carryall bag. I escaped the Nazis by a hair’s width.’
‘You wouldn’t have got far hiding in Halbe or taking to the woods, would you.’
‘Many of the townfolk I grew up with were cut down in the crossfire when the war came home. Those who had supported Hitler were paid in their own coin.’
‘How did you manage to get to Australia?’
‘That is a long story.I escaped with others from the Niederschönhausen trade training school I attended and made it to England.’
‘What was the situation when you left?’
‘There was a sense of imminent danger, I recall the frantic crowds at the station.
I had to board the train by climbing through the window.We had some hair raising moments with custom officials and police checks.’
‘You could have been charged with fare evasion.’
‘We were on one of the last trains to leave and it was stopped by the Nazis. We were worried the Nazis would remove our passports.
Thankfully they didn’t and the train kept going.
Finally we made it to Holland and connected with our passage to Britain.
The timing was very fortunate,’ he said. ‘If we had left a week later, we probably wouldn’t have survived. Soon war was declared and the borders closed.’
‘That was a close escape indeed.It’s worthy of a Hollywood movie,” I commented.
‘How were you treated in Britain?’
‘We were regarded as ‘friendly aliens’ and as such placed in Categories B or C. Although I passed the immigration tribunal my fellow students and I were left in no doubt we weren’t welcome. In the eyes of the Leeds Christian people we were members of an enemy country which they were at war with.
Do nothing at any time to arouse the slightest hostility and don’t attract attention,’ we were instructed. Meanwhile we managed to continue our normal educational studies combined with our apprenticeship as mechanics and toolmakers.’
’‘That must have given you some sense of normalcy again’
‘It seemed like the start of an orderly life.However it was interrupted when the British Government decided to arrest all Germans in the UK no matter how long they had been here.
‘The fear of ‘the enemy within’. After the fall of France you would have all been considered a security threat.’
The wide cross section of society we represented were again being forced into the one category. Our talents would better have enhanced Britain’s war effort ’
‘What happened to you?’
‘ Plain clothes policemen contacted me at my workplace.After my group was rounded up, we were shunted around England on a grand tour of internment sites, including the Isle Of Man.’
‘You weren’t lashed with branches, I hope.’ I said remembering the island as the last bastion of this form of punishment.
‘Not at all.We were searched but not birched. Actually we had it good there. The government had commandeered lodgings for us along the beach front. We had ocean views. We almost forgot the guards and the barbed wire outside.’
‘And then you remembered.’
‘Yes, our ‘seaside holiday’ came to an abrupt end. They had worked out what to do with us.When the offer arose I volunteered for transportation out of the country. We allegedly dangerous characters were herded onto this sombre grey and black ship the Dunera,I thought we’d be going to Canada.’
‘Did the leaving of Liverpool grieve you?’
‘That would come later.Once underway the ship changed course.We were bound for Australia.’
‘Heave away,heave away’, I said,quoting the sea shanty.’
There was plenty of that.Many of us got seasick.Others threw up after their beating from the guards.’
‘That sounds like the convict experience from the First Fleets.’
‘We were treated as such.More of England’s unwanted being transported to be incarcerated in some faraway place.’
‘How were you treated on the voyage? What were your . physical conditions ?’
‘In one word, deplorable.They were hardly better, if at all, than those endured by convicts on the same route a hundred years before. Most of us were kept below decks throughout the voyage.We would have drowned like rats if the ship sank.The only exceptions were for daily ten minute exercise periods, during which we would walk around the deck under heavy guard. During one such period, a guard smashed beer bottles on the deck so that we would have to walk on the shards. In contrast to the Army personnel, the ship’s crew and officers showed kindness to us.
‘Due to wartime exigiencies,I imagine, the ship must have been overcrowded ‘.
‘Hugely over capacity.
It was so claustrophobic.Our three layers of hammocks almost touched.
Many men had to sleep on the floor or on tables. There was only one piece of soap for twenty men, and one towel for ten men,fresh water was rationed, and luggage was stowed away so there was no change of clothing.The meagre meals consisted of thin soup, maggoty meat and potatoes.’
‘That must have affected your health’
‘Skin diseases were common. There was a hospital on board but no operating theatre.’
‘What about those running the ship? You mentioned the beatings.’
‘Blows with rifle butts and beatings from the soldiers were daily occurrences.
One refugee tried to go to the latrines on deck during the night which was out of bounds. He was bayoneted in the stomach by one of the guards and spent the rest of the voyage in the hospital.’
‘If they didn’t respect your person,I don’t suppose they respected your property.’
They confiscated our razors and shaving equipment.O.K.that fits in with the ‘foreign enemy’ thinking.’
‘Standard procedure in today’s airline passenger precautions.’
‘But they also ransacked,stole and destroyed
piles of our personal,treasured possessions.
‘With allies like that who needed enemies?’
‘The U boats had a go at us too.While we were passing through the Irish sea, we were struck by a torpedo.It made a loud bang but failed to detonate. A second torpedo passed underneath us and the Dunera was lifted out of its path by the rough seas.’
’‘Neptune must have been smiling up on you,if not the the most poorly disciplined of the British Army.How did you guys cope?’
‘As week followed week at sea, men passed the time as best they could. Many played cards. Others played chess, sometimes with chess pieces made from the ship’s tasteless doughy bread. Others set up classes and discussion groups.’
‘How did the appalling treatment colour your world?’
‘It was rather harrowing but I can’t complain. Compared to what happened to my family and friends back home,I was lucky. Better the Dunera than a death camp or dying on the Eastern Front of frost-bite.’
‘No hard feelings?’
‘Some were decidedly not happy campers.Those still alive are still understandably resentful for the way they were treated. Most of those quickly left, their experience of Australia “an unfortunate interlude”, to be “endured and then left behind”. I bear no animosity towards Britain for having deported us. I bear no ill will to Australia for confining us.We were fortunate in coming to a fairly tolerant society where we were reasonably safe. It wasn’t terribly upsetting for me personally.’
‘What happened after the ‘Voyage of the Scammed’ came to an end?’
‘The treatment on the train was in stark contrast to the horrors of the Dunera .We were given packages of food and fruit, and Australian soldiers offered us cigarettes. We were grateful to the nation for having saved our lives .’
‘Your family were persecuted badly by the Nazis?’
‘Were they what! First through their discriminatory practices those criminals brought about the collapse of my parents’ business. Then they dragged both off to Treblinka.’
‘I’m so sorry to hear that. You must harbour a lot of bitterness towards the beastly swine responsible.’
‘Bitterness does more harm to the person harbouring it than to those against whom it is directed. Anyway they lost in the end.’
‘What do you say about the taint left by the Nazi past. What do you say to those who believe Germans are intrinsically cruel.’
‘Then I would have to include myself so it’s not true. And where would the world be without the joy brought by Beethoven and Schubert?’People are the same wherever you go. There is good and bad in everyone.’
‘Who could have predicted the genocide in Rwanda just a decade ago?’
‘We had our fair share of rogues, thugs and scoundrels on the Dunera.and that didn’t include the guards or the fascists.Our anti-social elements had to learn how to respect others and reject the temptations scarcity throws up.We had to rely on their common decency to surface for the group to get by. We learn to live when we learn to give each other what we need to survive.
‘Did you know any of your friends and neighbours who didn’t conform to the anti-semitic dictates?’
‘Certainly.One of them Frau Schulze offered food when others were ideologically opposed, or too frightened to be seen to be helping Jews. She later advised me discreetly – as did the village postman – of my parents arrest and transportation to the Warsaw Ghetto.’
Then there was the action of a teacher at the state school I attended. Herr Lehmann was unfazed by the Nazis. He was not only bold but had a liking for black humour.When the Nazis came to power we had racial lessons about the superiority of the Aryan race. Having just a single Jewish grandparent was determined as a ‘polluting’ this master race. They were depicted as blond, blue-eyed Nordic types. Studies were made of the human face, with charts and diagrams to show the desired type.
Herr Lehmann, knowing full well that I was Jewish but also that I had fair wavy hair, called me to the front of the class and used me as an example saying, “This is Heinz Jacobius. He’s got many of the desired features.”’
This account took my mind back to my ‘classes’ on eugenics at the former Reichsakadamie fur Leibesubungen.[ Reich Academy for Physical Exercise] in Berlin.
‘Herr Lehmann took us boys for a day’s swimming in a nearby lake. The Nazis had erected a sign saying ‘Jews Forbidden!’ It was the day of a swimming carnival where prizes were to be awarded.
I saw the sign and hesitated. Herr Lehmann called out, ‘Forget about that. Just come in!’
‘I swam in a race and came second. This was embarrassing because the prize was a big picture of Hitler. Herr Lehmann felt he couldn’t give that to me, so he gave me a book which was first prize.The real winner got the picture of Hitler.’
‘Herr Lehmann was very brave and quick witted, Henry.A teacher in the truest sense of the word. Have you ever returned to Germany? Or are your memories there too painful to tackle..’
‘I’ve long come to terms with the past. In 1988 I went back with Leah. I returned to Halbe. Herr Lehmann’s daughter was still living in the village.’
‘I had my photo taken with one of my former classmates at our old school.’
‘You still have a soft spot for your homeland.As an interested observer of this rich subject,I’d like to hear more of that long remarkable story of yours’
‘Why don’t you pay my wife, Leah a visit? Then I can fill you in on the details.’
My friend Dietrich drove me to their lovely apartment in a neighbouring suburb.
I had expected to find the dining table decorated with strands of barbed wire, that being the custom at the Dunera Boys’ reunions. Instead it was covered with delicious snacks.
Henry showed us some interesting family photos.
One was of his father dressed in his military uniform from the First World War. He was wearing the standard spiked boiled leather combat helmet.
‘This picture says a lot’, I said.’ Your father’s fate alone reveals the twisted treacherous nature of the Reich. Murdering those who had risked their lives in defence of their homeland.’
‘Yes, look where devotion to the fatherland got my father.It didn’t exempt him from the stepwise escalation of restrictive edicts. Our family were fully integrated into German society. Our first language was German which we proudly spoke at home.
Another photo Henry showed us remained in my mind. Henry in his Australian army uniform beside a truck.
‘I became part of a labour unit,the 8th Employment Command,under the command of Australian officers.We called it the 8th Enjoyment Company. Many musicians and performers in our ranks combined their military duties with theatrical pursuits. Though not allowed to carry guns we were ordered to shift boxes of ammunition from one train to another.’
‘Your story,Henry,is one of shifting identities.’
‘You’re not wrong. During that phase of my life who I was seemed to depend on whether it was an odd or even day of the month.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, we were reclassified as ‘friendly aliens’After our release in 1942 I went from being an internee of the Australian government to transporting their chemical weapons.’
‘Another irony,’ I said, ‘in light of our correct condemnation of the Baathist regimes for using them. We may not have used them but we would have had if necessary.’
‘Wars certainly bring out the worst in people.
‘And the best. Our popular commander, Captain Edward ‘Tip’ Broughton, took a personal interest in our welfare.He said to one of his refugee charges from across the world “You and me, we’re the same”.’
‘He must have been a refreshing change for you after so many subservient,officious officers.’
‘He was deeply interested in human beings and shared our feelings.He not only gained our immediate respect and obedience, but also our love and affection.
He knew many of us by our first names. He learned German phrases and spoke to us in two languages.
He encouraged us to enrol in the courses offered by the Australian Army Education Service.’
That Service was pioneered by Robert Madgwick, who I’m proud to say, became the Chancellor of my university .’
‘It’s courses built our morale and provided a diversion from tedium.It taught us new skills and prepared us for a smooth re-entry to civilian life.’
‘The Service was accused by conservatives of all nature of sins. It’s publication Salt was often censored by the Army’s Director-General of Public Relations for ideas “damaging to morale”, content of “questionable taste”, and information which might affect security.’
‘In other words it was getting those enlisted to think for themselves.’
‘The Service was accused of politicising the army,of harbouring left wing intellectual instructors,of being too high brow for under educated working class soldiers.And for the cardinal sin of revealing that many young Australians were illiterate.’
‘They would have preferred to let sleeping dogs lie.That revelation would have put the spotlight on the education system.’
‘Madgwick’s reply was that the Service provided education for personal growth and active citizenship,not propaganda.’
‘Captain Broughton said the courses gave us incentives and provided hope for us to improve our lot long term.
It was he alone who could have turned us internees into willing manual labourers. He enjoyed hugely being at the head of our unit and was immensely proud of it. He believed we did splendid work. He learned and meticulously respected our culture. After being shoved around as flotsam and jetsam for many years he managed to make us feel like human beings again.On top of all that he had a great sense of humour.’
‘If he had lived longer,he would have liked to this joke : ‘What did the Kiwi say to the Jewish man.Answer- ‘He,brew,’which if one says with a certain accent , sounds close to the popular contemporary kiwi greeting, “Hey, bro” .’
‘How do you spend your time,Allan?’
‘I do a lot of reading and writing at my computer,Henry,working on my life story.’
‘Am I in it?’
‘You just entered.I hope you’ll feel at home.I’ve got the basic structure in place.You might care to advise me on the painting and decorating.’
‘Allan,here’s a thought. Would you like to accompany me to the Sydney Jewish Museum? I’m sure you’d find it fascinating and adding to your knowledge.’
‘I’d be honoured, Henry but that would be a great trek for me.’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll give you a hand. We can get a ferry from near here. We’ll go to Circular Quay and from there by taxi.’
Once on the ferry I pointed to various harbourside landmarks of interest.
That’s Balmain High School over there,’I said.My three sons all got a good schooling there and went on to university,’
‘There’s Tom Uren’s home over there.He knows what its like to spend time
behind barbed wire.Japanese wire.
‘That’s where the comparison ends,Allan.We fought to kill time under absurd conditions.He fought to stay alive under barbaric conditions.’
Suddenly I regretted having drunk my last glass of water.I had a strong urge to activate my urethra.
‘Look,Henry,I’m afraid I have to spend a penny.’
‘I’ll help you to the toilet,Allan.I’ll wait outside in case you’re a while.I’ll act as the ‘toilet policeman’.’
I wondered what he meant but my mind was on and around the muscles of my bladder.
Henry waited outside while I held on tight inside,trying to aim straight while the ferry rocked and rolled.
Once back seated on deck, I asked him,’So what did you mean by ‘toilet police’
‘On the Dunera there were just ten toilets for more than two thousand men. We had to have such enforcers who would call up people as vacancies arose.’
‘Were the facilities on the Dunera not adequate?’,
‘Far from it. You had an average of seven minutes per day to empty your bowels and bladder and to peer through the only portholes not covered by iron plates.
Makeshift latrines had to be erected on the decks.I f you wanted to go to the toilet at night you were walking on others Sewage flooded the decks.’’
‘As Cec Pitt would say, the ‘poop decks’.The Dunera must have felt like one big dunny.’
‘Dysentery ran through the ship.We were issued a daily limit of two sheets of toilet paper.’
That’s scandalous!And they call members of the lost tribes mean.’
‘I didn’t know the Scots were lost.By any standards the rationing of toilet paper for us was meagre.Despite this three of our guys managed to steal a whole roll on which they wrote a ‘camp constitution’.It set out in detail a form of self-government for when we arrived in Australia.
As we passed Darling Harbour,I asked Henry,What do you remember from that day you disembarked.
‘We were pale, emaciated and bedraggled as we came down the gangway but so relieved.Many broke into a run automatically in the open air before we filed along.
I pointed upwards to the Harbour Bridge as we went under it. ‘It may not be the Statue of Liberty but it symbolizes the value of Depression era public works.’
‘The coathanger was an amazing sight for me.Our steamship sailed under this feat of engineering six weeks after leaving Liverpool.’
‘You’ll recall it was ‘opened’ by our local fascists who cut the ribbon.They didn’t like who’d be performing the act. The fact it was a socialist minded republican Premier.’
‘The New Guard was yet another group who hoped they could seize power.Their leader later met with Hitler’s Foreign Minister.’
‘From ribbon chop to von Ribbentrop.’
‘Fortunately the voters gave them the chop.’
I picked up on Henry’s account of his longer voyage.
As we cruised into Circular Quay I said to Henry, ‘This has been a lot more pleasant cruise than on the bad ship Dunera, hasn’t it.’
‘I have to speak in defence of that ship. It may not have been a classy vessel but it wasn’t a broken down tub as some claim. It was just terribly overcrowded.’
At the Museum Henry directed me to the exhibits on the internment camps.They showcase the wealth of primary material, both visual and textual, in the collections. The paintings,drawings, photographs, sketches and compositions, concert posters and camp newspapers tell the story by themselves. They show that, art and education mattered to many of these men. Together the exhibits represent an archive of creativity, resilience and dignity in the face of adversity.
‘There’s Captain Broughton,’Henry said pointing to a photograph of him, ‘so integral to our story.
He’s a legend.The kind of soldier every military commander dreams of having.A real fighting machine.A tattooed veteran of the Boer War and the Gallipoli Campaign,he overstated his age to take part in those.He understated it to take part in the second world war.’
‘He looks like he’s of indigenous extraction.’
‘He was of mixed European and Maori parentage.He himself was completely untainted by any racial prejudice. He engaged nonstop in a publicity war on our behalf and fought hard to have our status changed.. He restored our faith in our fellow man.’
He displayed the kind of leadership I had in mind when I joined the army reserve.Direction from someone at one with his force but at the same time showing initiative and daring.Captain Broughton showed these same qualities as did‘Weary’ Dunlop who taught Tom Uren the value of pulling together and facing problems collectively.’
We studied the highly acclaimed paintings of scenes rendered by the camp artists.
‘Look at those huts,Allan.
When we arrived they still smelled of fresh timber.Being clad with corrugated iron.they didn’t give much shelter from the cold and heat .All the buildings were surrounded by barbed wire, the areas in between patrolled by armed guards.
Watchtowers and searchlights overlooked the camp. None of it was necessary of course.We didn’t want to escape.We ran our own affairs.’
‘What do you have to say about the way you were treated on the ship and when you arrived Down Under?’
‘What anger we felt was at being interned alongside people who were pro-fascist and anti-Jewish.This created a lot of tension. As well as transporting about two thousand men from Jewish backgrounds, the HMT Dunera also carried about 240 German and 200 Italian prisoners of war. Australia also interned German citizens who were in Australia and German Australians regardless of their political persuasions. The result was that Jews and Nazi supporters were often interned together.
‘That must have really stuck in your craw.’
‘What we had no way of knowing was the recorded view of the commander of the military guard. He’s on record as stating the Nazi Germans on board were ‘of a fine type, honest and straightforward, and extremely well-disciplined’, whereas us Jewish charges were ‘subversive liars, demanding and arrogant’.
‘How villainous from the one in top place.It certainly wasn’t his ‘finest hour’.You must have felt upset about his approach.Then not being able to achieve whatever it was you wanted to do after arriving.’
‘We felt immense frustration..Release into the community was not an option. From the moment we landed there we tried repeatedly to convince the authorities that a mistake had been made – that my fellow internees and I weren’t Nazi spies but those who had fled their reach. One news report wrongly classified us as ‘Nazi prisoners’.’It didn’t help that we were portrayed in the Australian media as sinister and fifth columnists.’
‘It would have been crazy for the Gestapo to enlist refugees such as yourself, those whose accents usually made their foreign origins conspicuous.’
‘That was the looney logic at play then.’
‘Did you experience any of that bastardry meted out to you on the Dunera.’
‘Australians don’t make very good internment camp operators. The top brass were more bumbling than anything, muddling along in total war.They weren’t racist and efficient enough. The guards were easygoing, casual and friendly.They didn’t intrude in our barracks. I remember one digger in the camp who said to us, ‘Jesus,I thought you were enemies, but you’re friends. Jews! Jesus Christ!’
Through their dignified treatment the guards indicated to us something of great importance. They recognised the injustice and absurdity of our situation.’:
Zelman Cowen. brought that to my attention.We were discussing the idea of a fair go and how it is inculcated in the Australian character.That knockabout trait of everyone being treated equal.’
‘It’s fascinating how class differences can be subtly different from one country to another,isn’t it.’
‘Now the diggers’ conditions at the camps.They must have been much better than that of of the Dunera’s guards.’
‘That voyage was extremely unpleasant for everyone.The English guards became quickly brutalised. These ruffians suspected us of being saboteurs and took it out on us.’
‘You must have also felt very isolated out there in the quiet remoteness of the broiling,Australian bush.’
‘And uncomfortable.At first we sweltered by day, shivered by night, and endured choking dust storms and clouds of flies.During our eighteen months’ internment we had little contact with the outside world or with our families.
We had been sent far away from sources of news about the War.’
‘How did you set about countering this?
‘When the feeling of being homesick for our homeland and our culture got overwhelming, we took up sport,
and put on musical and theatrical performances.’
While only a minority of our numbers practised Jewish rites and customs,we loved
the music and dance which lifted our spirits.’
‘Did you have a fiddler on the roof?’
‘Ours was not so pretentious. He was always down to earth. As part of the orchestra we set up.We put on concerts and cabarets.’
‘I remember in the film the young man who was the camp’s only real Nazi.The one who impersonated Marlene Dietrich.’
‘Music has charms to soothe the savage breast.It was through music that we and the soldiers found a basis for communicating.This carried us all across any cultural and language boundaries. .’
All these pastimes would have enabled you to fill time and combat boredom.’
‘It also made the posting of the soldiers more bearable.’
‘Thanks to your talents being so organised,it would have helped them counter ‘Le Cafard.’
‘We organised ourselves to prepare for and hasten the day we’d be released.’
‘I remember seeing in the telemovie how you held classes in various subjects.’
‘Our minds were not interned nor confined to camp,We improvised our own unofficial university and ran a library.We were offered scientific as well as practical and technical courses which were of particular benefit to the younger guys like me whose education had been disrupted.
We learned all about the plants and animals new to us.
One of our men was shown a galah in a tree beyond the barbed wire by a soldier. “Have you ever seen one of those before?”. The soldier asked.
‘Yes’ came the reply, ‘but on that occasion it was in the cage.’
‘What subject was emphasised most?’
‘Most importantly we held classes in English, scribbling at first on any paper we could get ourhands on.Like the back of old jam labels.This prepared us to argue our case,to communicate to Australian people who we were and what we had to offer their land.We were by the day able to make friends with the local townspeople.It was paramount we win acceptance and overcome any fears.’
‘You had a good pool of teachers and instructors to draw upon,’ I said, ‘You made the best of what you had.’
I would later realise how this spirit of co-operation and community involvement is so under valued today in the Australian resettlement sector.How the value of true tolerance of difference as well as collective responsibility for one another are not seen as a priority.
How it makes so little of what it has.
‘Our arrival brought a wealth of knowledge and talent. Amongst us were artists,academics, philosophers, scientists and athletes. Our members included very well educated people,some from the ‘little Vienna’ created in the East End of London who were second generation British.
‘I remember Bob Hoskins’film role as the ‘kosher cockney,’ the East End fishmonger,as British as they come, picked up in error.
‘What do you put the ignorance and lack of comprehension about your situation down to?’
‘In 1940 Australians were unaware of the extent of Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany and in occupied Europe.As in Britain there was some degree of support for the Reich.Hence the soldiers guarding us were perplexed by our appeal. If nothing else our strong accents revealed our strangeness.’
‘Migrants and refugees are always easy to blame for things for which they are not responsible,arenn’t they?.’
‘Every migrant and refugee group can be vulnerable because of events many miles away.Events with which they have nothing to do.Moreover people have short memories. Keep in mind that before 1914 by far the most favoured non British migrants were the Germans. When the war broke out they were shunned.All German companies were shut down immediately. Those of German heritage lost the vote under the Enemy Aliens Act, all this despite the fact some had sons at the front.’
Fortunately in the passage of time and the turn of events in the war,you were all released in 1942 Your internment would be later described by Winston Churchill as ‘a deplorable mistake.
’Just like the firestorm over Dresden.’
‘.If you had wanted to return to devastated Europe,you would have been going against the flow of “reffos”,wouldn’t you.’
‘Happily nine hundred of our two thousand strong comrades decided to remain in Australia. lThe domineering officer in charge,of the Dunera was ‘severely reprimanded’ at a court martial.One the most sadistic NCO’s was reduced to the ranks, given a twelve-month prison sentence and then discharged from the British Army.We were compensated for what had happened to us.This helped us get back on our feet and settle into Australian life.I like its relaxed attitudes, its climate, and its beer.
I later became an Australian citizen and a proud stalwart of my trade union,whose meetings I still attend.Most importantly I met the love of my life followed by the arrival of our dear daughter.
‘Heinz, du bist ein echter Mensch!Henry,you’re true blue!’
The Syrian Influx.
The agencies might do well to consider the attitude of Aida Kerfarkes,Assyrian refugee who along with her husband Antoun Abdal and their four children arrived in Fairfield:
‘Sitting at home waiting for things to happen isn’t going to make us fit in.
We’ve decided English is the top of our priority, but also any settlement services available to us we would attend to learn more about this country.’
Aida and Antoun said they were looking forward to being able to give back to the country that provided them with safety.
They could do no better than becoming involved in an educational project that allows them to pass on knowledge of their new country to others.
Such a project would enable Syrian refugee Tony Fares from Fairfield
to help new migrants as a gesture of thanks to Australia.
It would help 29-year-old Nirary, an IT professional who’s been in Australia for nine months.Taking ‘a deep breath’ in the words of the NSW Coordinator-General for Refugee Resettlement, he speaks of his frustration at finding a job after being rejected in more than 80 employment applications. For the first time in his life, Nirary has had to actually think about ways to pass the time.By coming to the Welcome Centre he would build on his English skills and make new contacts.Nirary,an avid chess player, thinks Fairfield is the best place in Australia.
Faraj Diarbakrli and his family are relieved to find sanctuary here. The mechanic from Aleppo says about his hometown ‘Every time you’d go to work someone would try to abduct or kill you.’
You’d expect a person escaping such horror to go out of his way to make sure such a situation never arose here.
Faraj hopes to pick up his trade again and shouldn’t have difficulty adjusting .’
His two children are looking forward to school here.
Nader Hamouch is about to literally plant the seeds of his new life in Australia.
But like many of his fellow travellers, it’s been difficult for Mr Hamouch to find his feet.
The 44-year-old from Latakia City carries photos of his old flower farm on his phone. But says it was no longer safe for him, his wife and four children.
He’s just bought his first batch of seeds to help him start the business all over again — this time at Tahmoor on Sydney’s outskirts.
When you see the flowers growing and blooming a little bit every day,it gives you joy and happiness,’he said.
He’s coming across flowers he’s never seen before — and learning the English names for the ones he is already familiar with.
While learning English, Mr Hanouch has also had to get his head around Australian regulations and the local environment.
‘There was too many barriers, I couldn’t take all of them in one package because otherwise I get disappointed, I wouldn’t do anything,’ he says.
Serg, an Armenian tradesman from Aleppo, arrived in Australia three months ago with his wife and two daughters.
His son is still overseas, and his full name or his face can’t be shown.
But his dream is to unite his family in Sydney.
‘I would love my family to settle here quickly, find jobs, settle here and get married here,’ he says.
He’s learning English, and says it’s a slow adjustment to the safety and security Australia offers.
‘We came from the Middle East, we are there a bit different from here, we are a bit quick, nervous maybe,’ he says.
‘But here we are learning how to be calm, how to follow the rules, follow the system in a perfect way.’
His daughter Lucy is trained as a dentist and speaks English, but is yet to have her qualifications recognised here.
‘It’s my dream,’ she says.
‘Dentistry is the first to treat the people; it’s communication with people.’
Communication with the old hands is what preoccupies the thoughts of Talar Anjer-Koushian who has thrown herself into life at Perth.
Ms Anjer-Koushian says while many of her fellow refugees will be grateful for the chance at a new life, they will need help to adjust to a completely new environment.
‘They might get afraid people won’t be welcoming of them, so they won’t approach others,’ she says.
‘They will be closed and always questioning themselves, ‘are we good enough, are we OK to approach and to talk to others, and form friendships and meet other people?
‘—- Australians are really welcoming, from my experience -everyone was really welcoming and helpful … so I think in time they will get over that.
We should aim to assist newcomers to reduce this time.
We can do this by helping them to read books about their interests,particularly about them in Australia,whether the subject is plants,photography,dentistry,
Management in the migrant re-settlement industry sceptical about the value of books as resources could well consider the words of Premier Berejiklian: ‘The great thing about books is they cover just about any issue or story you can imagine.’
I’m fully aware of of the stress on local resources stemming from re-settlement resource imbalances as pointed out by Wendy Waller,Mayor of Liverpool and Frank Carbone,Mayor of Fairfield.
Ms.Waller compared the urgency of attending to the new arrivals as that of administering intensive care:If you do not produce that attention as soon as they arrive,things can happen that are untoward that they have no control over.’
Many service providers funded by the Federal Government are not located in the actual local areas where the newcomers settle.
‘While Liverpool or Bankstown might be reasonably close, it is too far for locals struggling to integrate into the Australian system,’ Mr.Carbone said.
He compares it to establishing a whole new suburb, but one where most people are unable to work.
‘Our unemployment rate in Fairfield has gone up above 9 per cent, while the state average has gone below 5 per cent,’ he says.
There is a tyranny of both distance and time to consider here but we can work against these.
I happily trekked each day to the far western suburbs of this extended city of Sydney.I threw all my energy into developing professionally so as to manoeuvre closer to home.
Unlike costs of housing and employment, those of education can be minimised by drawing upon the large the large pool of voluntary talent.This can help lead to the proper recognition and the wiser funding such councils deserve.
In this country lucky for so many,we have no shortage of people of good will.We have no shortage of cars and means of communication.
As Ms.Waller points out, ‘We’re a big family,we can share the load.’
Raja Yassine, teacher at Holroyd High School where all the students come from non-English speaking backgrounds, showed how this can be done.Raja says, ‘I think its very important you feel comfortable within your own community,but I think to settle in really well you’ve got to meet people from outside your local area.She took a group of mothers of children from her school to historic Vaucluse House in Sydney’s affluent eastern suburbs to be greeted happily by local women.
What’s lacking is any organised co-ordination of volunteered resources and talents.
This was borne out in March 2017 when Council announced with great flourish that it would launch services of the Welcome Centre on ‘Harmony Day’
Harmony Day falls on March 21 when the Federal Department of Social Services invites us,the public, through schools, workplaces and our wider communities to celebrate our diversity on.
Interestingly those directing operations at Callan Park chose instead another date,March 23rd ‘to coincide with Harmony Day’.
I choose to interpret this as an attempt to extend the spread of harmony.
I believe promoting harmony should be the guiding principle for all players in the Callan Park Centre .
It raises the question of what is meant by harmony and what is meant by diversity.
The online Free Dictionary gives one definition of harmony as the ‘order or congruity of parts to their whole or to one another’.
Congruity is a quality of agreement,relevance and appropriateness. When there’s congruity, things fit together in a way that makes sense. If a team has congruity, the players work together well, even if they don’t succeed in their goal.
The Free Dictionary also defines harmony as ‘ a relationship characterized by a lack of conflict or by agreement, as of opinion or interest’.
Mine with Metro was originally as such.Until my opinion was disregarded and our interests seen as divergent.Until the educational activity already in operation became reduced to that of a mere idea and maybe one considered a bit risky at that.
I prepared a message to distribute at the Harmony Day event drawing attention once again to my need for assistance in being involved.Then the day before came the news that the venue at the Park had been damaged by a tree collapse during a recent storm.I was told the Centre wouldn’t operate for some months or even later in the year.
After I checked with the works department official responsible for maintenance,he informed me the damage had already been repaired and that the building was once again suitable for operations.
Eventually in mid May 2017 I was informed by Council of an Information and Planning Session at the Community and Refugee Welcome Centre.
Taxiing along Callan Park,I found the location perfect for such purposes.When I got there early there were Syrians and Iraqis moving in and out of the main hall where they were being introduced to the area.
I had a message prepared to deliver to volunteers coming and hopefully to get through to the organisers,especially the consortium lead agency.
I took my wheelchair along as I can’t stand long and give sheets out.I set it up right at the entrance and when obvious volunteers started coming I started giving out copies of my message neatly contained on two A4 pages.
I stated my status thus:
‘I have the dubious distinction of having been both invited and disinvited .
In fact it’s greater than that.It’s a double whammy.I was both invited and disinvited to the recent ‘Harmony Day’ event,spruiked to celebrate delivery of these programs .
I had given out half a dozen when the ladies from the Council started to urge me to desist.
When they worked out who I was,they decided to pin on my badge as a community member.
Then when I insisted on continuing to giving the messages out until someone in charge of operations spoke to me,my badge was off again.
First I was appointed.Then I was disappointed.
One of the ladies from the Council said my stance might spoil the vibes with the newcomers present.
I was glad and so were the ladies when Darcy Byrne arrived. I had been tossing up in my mind whether to go in or let them try to evict me from outside.
Wouldn’t that have been embarrassing,evicting someone in a wheelchair trying to be of assistance to those in need?
Anyway I complied, demonstrating both a reasonableness that the ladies described as understandable and a passion.Council knows I mean business at least.
The exchange certainly added some irony to my message.Here I was drawing attention to the double whammy delivered, when I got invited in,a badge pinned to my front,then having it removed until it finally returned to stay.
I’d say that was a perfect triple whammy !
Darcy compered the preliminary procedures with great aplomb and conviction.
The volunteers ,mostly middle aged and upwards women , were channeled into groups according to interests so as to brainstorm ideas.This was well organised by the facilitators.
I asked the Council head facilitator as to how to overcome the problem of communicating with other volunteers but she left her answer vague before time ran out.
Then came out the bouquets for the Council ladies: ‘No brickbats if you please!’
Their parade had not been rained on.
Their parade had not been rained on.And from then on there was no follow up or interest shown in what skills we volunteers had to offer,at least in my case.
And I’m sure everyone felt moved in the presence of the poor unfortunate gentle people forced to seek refuge abroad.
One little boy came up to me as I was sitting at the front with a salad wrap.What great courtesy!
And one lady brought me an orange juice.Such consideration!
I made one promising contact at the session. Loretta Picone a Balmain visual artist was the first of the ‘guests’ to define her area of interest.
She offered to be of practical assistance when the time was right
.To help me pick up educational material from Metro Assist in Campsie.
She might advise me on what to wear if I have to ginger up any further gatherings.
Clad in chains she once carried a protest sign at Sydney University declaring “$100,000+ degrees are Anti-Australian”.
She believes in the importance of public institutions and agencies demonstrating transparency regarding decisions.
Darcy offered to approach Metro Assist which I agreed a useful tactic.At the same time I emphasised to him that the agency should negotiate to redress in some way the loss they incurred.
After this approach proved unsuccessful,my lobbying Council to be accepted as a volunteer appearing to gain ground,I turned my attention again to Metro Assist.After coming across it’s website,I emailed the following message to it’s staff and Board of Directors,expecting this to produce an outcome in which they would come more to my way of thinking.
Can Metro Assist ?
The NSW Settlement Partnership [NSP] provides services to newcomers to Australia .
Is this consortium of agencies able to further our wellbeing and homeland security?
Metro Assist is one such publicly funded agency.
Metro Assist makes certain claims about itself and the benefits derived by it’s volunteers.
It claims it’s vision is of ‘a socially just society that respects individuality, dignity and diversity and provides avenues for all people to fulfil their potential.’
It claims it’s mission is ‘to empower individuals, families and communities of diverse backgrounds through innovative, professional and responsive services.’
It claims it’s values are:
- Caring – ‘We care for the wellbeing of our clients, colleagues and our community’
- Respect – ‘We deliver our services in a non-judgemental way and treat our clients and colleagues with respect.’
- Client focussed – ‘We work to serve our clients and strive to resolve their issues in a professional, timely and appropriate manner.’
- Honesty and integrity – ‘We undertake our work in an honest, ethical and transparent way.’
- Innovative – ‘We strive to continuously improve the services we provide to our clients and to the community.’
Does Metro Assist live up to these fine words in relation to those it issues about it’s volunteers ?
Let’s look at the ways it thinks so [in green]
Keeping in mind financial considerations figure little in any of this,you might like to consider my experience as such.
Volunteering at Metro Assist helps volunteers:
Learn new skills.
With client service officers of Metro Assist I was bringing together the fruits of my lengthy educational research about New South Wales with that of the world wide web.
This was furthering a project,lauded by the public as highly valuable, that excited both myself and Metro staff.
We were just getting into our stride,realising our potential, when the new management pulled the plug.
The voluntary commitment on my part,no matter how efficacious,no matter how cost effective, was suddenly disregarded for further development.I was suddenly frozen out.What I thought professionally was not considered worthy of consideration.I couldn’t see see my work come to fruition.
I was working with Metro’s officers to build networks around education in the community.
That’s when management put an abrupt end to this without satisfactory explanation.
It believes it’s services are so innovative that even educational books custom made for it’s purposes are outdated.
It believes storing knowledge that is not fully digitised is unpractical.
It’s guided not by how much newcomers should learn but through what medium.
Hence it decreed the educational tool I placed at their disposal as redundant.
Despite my protestations resources I developed to help fill the huge gap in the NSW education system were stolen,pilfered,misplaced,lost or degraded.
Their integrity was damaged.
Subsequently I have been led to building networks among other members of the NSP.
My aim is to convince them how shabbily volunteers within this consortium can be treated and to urge redress.
Tellingly none have answered to either support me or take me to task.
On a statistical basis at least one of the number in the metropolitan area would have looked at my email message:
This says a lot about the sense of collaboration they are supposed to be imbued with as NSP partners.
It says a lot about their ability to reply in a forthright,professional way to any critique of consortium operations.
My aim was also to urge them to persuade Metro Assist to bring all the educational resources at it’s disposal to bear on the Community and Refugee Welcome Centre in Callan Park:
This venture is partnered by the Inner-West Council,a funder and supporter of Metro Assist, SSI and the Catholic Church.
The Park, an urban oasis for us locals, is an ideal location for refugees— and those involved in re-settling them— to visit, set aside our differences and create an atmosphere of healing and enlightenment.
I lobbied hard for a year and a half to bring my request for voluntary participation to the partners’ attention.
While I have been finally been recognised officially as a ‘Community Member’,I have been blocked out of any participation so far in the program at the Centre and being able to communicate with other volunteers.
All consortium partners express an inability to influence Metro in this important settlement venture although this is within their official ambit.
Gain work experience
My experience gives even deeper insight into what lies behind our abysmal level of functional literacy.
It raises the big question about literacy in New South Wales.
Just how total as in ‘totalitarian’ are the barriers placed in front of educators ?
Before those striving to make noticeable progress in reducing such a shameful level. See ‘Desiderata’ Find: one in five
The consortium upholds this level by omission.
The detriment to people’s welfare from the it’s decisions can be just as serious.
Learn more about the welfare sector if they have an interest, or are undertaking studies in the area
I learned how questionable decisions in the delivery of resettlement services in New South Wales rival those in delivery of public educational services. See: ‘Desiderata’
Give back to society
Metro Assist and the lead partner of the consortium know from my work this to be my leitmotif, but they have not been able yet to come to terms with it.
They have not been able yet to implement our shared educational tool as designed.
Metro should itself give back to society access to hard earned educational resources.
The ones about New South Wales and it’s culture that I entrusted them with.
It should negotiate as to how to set right what I consider gross negligence and wastage.
It should negotiate as to what condition the resources should be recovered and resuscitated in.
It should commit to collaborating with me again seriously as I have encouraged them over the past years.
Resolving the issues I have brought up with it is hardly responsive, timely or appropriate.It’s taking years as it refuses to address them.
Above all – volunteering makes you feel good in knowing that you are doing something for someone in need.
Volunteering with Metro Assist at first filled me with optimism and hope.
Then it filled me with great pain. I have been left deeply shocked, disappointed and offended.While resisting I have tended to despondency.
Metro certainly doesn’t care for my welfare as a Living Book, the persona it bestowed on me in a library of all places.
This character too seeks refuge,denied it in Campsie Library.
Metro has treated me, a professional educator, with great disrespect.
It has acted neither ethically nor transparently towards me.
As for honesty—get out of here!
It’s management may feel good believing they are doing something for someone in need.
I feel very bad because instead of being able to assisting anyone in need, I have had to continue critiquing re-settlement decisions and operations.
My approach was rather to pick flowers,not weeds.
I feel bad because I’d rather write about a social success story. Something as inspiring as the refugee re-settlement operations of our Canadian cousins,if not even more.
I feel bad because I have had to consider networking Metro’s various funders and supporters.
Metro’s intransigence in this matter left me little choice.
I feel bad because I have to consider networking interested people and organizations more widely. Bringing it to the attention of others.
Starting with Metro’s home base, Campsie.
This is a suburb where migrants have had such difficulties in the past due to their deficiencies in English.
Build stronger communities
To do so in this climate of heightened security fear and seething anger requires that agencies such as Metro and SSI give greater priority,not less, to provision of educational services.
It requires that they expand rather than restrict knowledge of our homeland.
That they marshal their resources strategically rather than divest themselves of them.
That they boost more than their own feelgood factor.
Re-settlement agencies should utilise the talents and resources of all willing and suitable volunteers.
Lakemba state MP Jihad Dib has said this is ‘no time to shy away from our moral potential’.
The Refugee Council of Australia has said ‘strong community leadership’ is needed at this time, with English lessons helping to make refugees feel welcome.
Instead Metro puts a spin on things and spins things out. Stretching out noble sounding gestures to make them look good.
Their self congratulation little more than window dressing. Their talk of their values and constructiveness nothing more than charades.
Metro Assist should not pick and choose according to it’s fancy,name=”Confidential”>then discard those it claims no longer fit this.
To show it’s words not ring hollow Metro should reply to my critique of it’s decisions. I believe they lack any professional and administrative basis.
Or it should simply re-commence collaboration in a constructive manner.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
Hedy Lamarr,screen actress and inventor.
The management of Metro acted swiftly in a manner I would never had thought possible. While confirming resoundingly it’s view of how total barriers to educators should be,it revealed it’s serious lack of professional ethics.It issued me a one week deadline in which I had to remove the materials or they would ‘dispose’ of them.
In my placing the resources at the disposal of the re-settlement agency partner,it’s management somehow confused the preposition ‘at’ with ‘for’.
This provider of resources to newcomers to Australia would just as well destroy resources tailor made for such clients than assist in making them available to refugees.
Rather than reply to my critique,to ensure the matter bore no discussion, it hid behind a cloak of frivolous legal gimmickry.They didn’t want to to justify the losses caused by their inaction.They couldn’t justify this game of ducks and drakes just as they can’t justify ttheir mental confusion.In deigning to grant me a non-negotiable time extension before disposal they sent me a letter.It’s first line reads, ‘This letter has been formally sent via registered mail to ensure you have received it (sic!)’
Now I’ve seen everything! Their in house lawyers have nothing better to do.
So what’s the statute of limitations on inanity?
The CEO who sees himself as an advocate for the well being of migrant and refugee families and communities is on the board of a long-standing organisation that provides welfare and cultural services to the Italian community in Sydney. Significantly this operator of the Italian Bilingual School in Sydney has a similar problem with books as that of Mussolini. The problem of disposal. The same task faced by the Indonesian military regime who disposed of Pramoedya’s books-the best collection devoted to knowledge of his country.
Daesh it, the very same task confronting ISIS in their Caliphate, along with that of restricting education.
This is the face of Australia that many new arrivals are presented with.
So goes the way of the resettlement world.
I have never met the man and have nothing personal against him.I only wanted to shake his tree and provoke a response.My criticism of his operations was intended solely to spurring him into accelerating my assisting the well being of migrant and refugee families and communities.
I had never seen our arrangement as a legally binding one but one based on professional and social principles.However because of their threat backed up by recourse to the law,I had to pursue my options in order to stop their proposed destruction.
LawAccess NSW, a free government telephone service that provides legal information, referrals and in some cases, advice for people who have a legal problem in NSW referred me to Redfern Legal Aid Service. The Service at which one of Metro’s board members works as a volunteer couldn’t meet with me until after the deadline.They confirmed what I had always thought- that I had no legal case. Metro wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know.It could have done whatever it liked with the material regardless of my concerns and could have done so at any point during our association. They could have thrown it in the rubbish or burnt it as is the biblioclast custom.So much for old fashioned goodwill.
Curiously their letter had the word ‘Confidential’ emblazoned across the letter.Providing me with self damning information that was hardly confidential seemed rather perverse and based on bush law. On enquiring they supplied me with the following explanation: ‘The CONFIDENTIAL watermark on Metro Assist Ltd. correspondence denotes that it is Management Restricted. This is for documents that should only be viewed by the senior management and/or the Board of Directors of Metro Assist Ltd.’
I solicited the support of both the federal and state ombudsmans and the state Department of Fair Trading who all pointed out they have no jurisdiction over the area of voluntary work.
Any deal I had had with Metro was rendered null and void.
‘Dear Mr Davis Your complaint about Metro Assist Thank you for your email received on 25 July 2017, complaining about Metro Assist. You complained that Metro Assist told you they would destroy your documents if you did not collect them. We are not taking any action in response to your complaint for the reasons outlined below. On 26 July 2017, Ms Natalina Cheatham, Senior Investigation Officer, spoke to you about your complaint. You were advised that as your issues were employment related we would be taking no further action as employment related matters are outside of our jurisdiction. Schedule 1 of the Ombudsman Act 1974 sets out these exclusions, including under clause 12: Conduct of a public authority relating to: (a) the appointment or employment of a person as an officer or employee, and (b) matters affecting a person as an officer or employee, Ms Cheatham suggested that you should attempt to make contact with Metro Assist to renegotiate the timeframes that had been imposed on you. I trust this information has been of assistance. Yours sincerely Simon Kempton Investigation Officer Community Services Division For the Acting NSW Ombudsman’
Finally the Inner West Council’s Community Development Coordinator,found space for the materials at Petersham Town Hall,for which I am very grateful.
My Last Hurrah.
In preparation for the December 5,2017 meeting of volunteers at the Welcome Centre, I aimed to reach across any possible ideological divide of those who express support for it.
I wished to propagate the following message:
‘Fellow volunteers and organisation representatives at the Welcome Centre for Refugees,
In comparing her new Australian homeland to that she was forced out of, refugee from Aleppo, Talar Anjer-Koushian comments, ‘Here people don’t go around and around, they just tell you straight what their opinion is or what they think about a topic.’
That straightforwardness just happens to be my approach to matters,including those about refugees .
You know those stories you sometimes get in the papers about refugees doing brilliantly in their HSC, being offered places at our universities and setting up businesses. Well, the story for some is pretty much the opposite of these.
In fact it’s the same story as that of those born here.
While Australians by global standards achieve individually a high level of knowledge and training,one in five lacks functional literacy 1.
Overcoming the entrenched resistance that maintains this situation requires a progressive and methodical approach to popular education.
The new leadership of the Inner-West Council has declared:
‘With our belief in social justice and our commitment to diversity, we can show the rest of the country how progressive principles can be put into practice at the local government level.’
It’s stated goal is one of efficiency.
After two years in waiting,I look forward to helping it show such a practice.
First and foremost to local Councils in western Sydney.
Those that plead for better educational provision for refugees.
Those that plead for back up resources.
Understandably and rightly so.
At the Welcome Centre for Refugees in Wharf Road we have potentially the resources to ease their burden.
We have a highly educated local citizenry,many of whom are on call as volunteers at the Centre.
Thanks to the Inner West Council’s Community Development Coordinator,we have in house in terms of of educational resources a mother lode to draw upon. The seed materiel to assist the wider populace approach universal literacy more closely.2
It was put together by myself assisted by volunteers inside the Catholic Church.
I did to provide a service to families of the large number of children forced out of our schools.
This was highly approved of by Tom Uren. He had collaborated with the Sisters of St Joseph, the Catholic order in supporting the East Timorese people and refugees. The Sisters admired his humanity and called him an honorary Josephite.
It should not appear a photo op stocked PR exercise to trumpet one’s sense of compassion.
It could be seen as a memorial to Brother Tom who represented us so devoutly in Canberra, and the Josephites he teamed up with to protect Timorese refugees.
‘No single life has encompassed more of Balmain’s history and traditions than Tom’s did,’ said the last mayor of Leichhardt.
Bob Brown likewise knows only too well Tom’s love of of Balmain, where he lived the last decades of his life. How dedicated Tom was to the preservation and extension of public access to the foreshores of Sydney Harbour.
Tom and I discussed our exchanges on human nature and education with the founder of the Australian Liberal Party who encouraged me in my studies 3.
It goes without saying Tom agreed all should be actively encouraged so.
One of the relatively few people on earth who knows what a nuclear bomb exploding on people looks like, Tom Uren shared at least one of Premier Berejiklian’s choice of books 4.
Here’s the deal.I call upon all involved in the operations at the Welcome Centre to act in the best interests of the homeland we each love in our own way. To blend our different ways of thinking about people into a harmonious way of raising the educational bar. To work with me towards maintaining and developing our educational materiel. To assist any newcomers to NSW and old hands to become fully conversant with our language and culture. I’m urging all to see a fully literate populace as being within our reach .
I call on the Church’s Peace and Justice Office and the Inner-West Council to get the volunteers behind this project right away, not in some distant time.To put into practice these words of former Premier of NSW, Mike Baird, on education :
Everyone counts. Every single person has something to contribute and sometimes being a leader is about ensuring that everyone gets the chance to show their talent.
I call on all to engage in a discussion as to the viability of this educational project.To give me constructive feedback.
I never distributed this message so as to avoid any misunderstanding of my motives as happened at the previous meeting. I am not about making any scenes.Although Council says there are many volunteers,the problem remains how to connect with the others. I had hoped to link up with Derek Waddell, a former TAFE teacher but he has become involved in family matters,including the loss of his wife.’
In April 2018,I contacted Council to enquire as to what was happening for volunteers.
I was informed that a training session had been held for them.
Unfortunately I was heading for open heart surgery at the time and couldn’t attend.
I was reminded that matters of literacy were being handled adequately by existing institutions of learning.
After thanking Council again profusely for rescuing my educational materials from being’ disposed’ of,I was reminded:
‘The storage of your resources —- is temporary and we assisted you when it was becoming urgent for you to move these resources.
I told the Council representative, ‘ Please don’t have any reservations about having arranged the storage of the educational resources.You did the right thing.And don’t look on it as a case of accommodating my personal property.Tailor made for what the Welcome Centre is supposed to be about,the resources are designed to be used collectively. This should be expedited .’
1 See ‘Desiderata’ Find: one in five
2 See ‘ Safe Haven ’ Find : settlement services
3 See ‘ Boom Boom Baby ’ Find : the land of nod
4 See ‘ The Gentle Giant ’ Find : paper cranes
Pulling up the drawbridge?
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Hedy Lamarr,screen actress and inventor.
In early 2018 after continuing to wait for my clearance,I was informed by Council of a new hurdle for me to contend with.My involvement was contingent on my attending human rights training sessions. I communicated the following message to Council:
‘At the inauguration of the Welcome Centre for Refugees in Callan Park, Father Peter Smith, was asked if there were any barriers to voluntary involvement on ideological grounds.
In the presence of the Administrator of the Inner West Council,the last Mayor of Leichhardt Council,the State member for Balmain and representatives of Settlement Services Īnternational,Father Peter stated that there were none.
This my third year waiting in vain to be involved as such at the Welcome Centre .
My professional career involved selling the idea that all Australians are indeed genetically capable of reaching a high level of functional literacy.
In order to further this aim,I built up a unique collection of educational resources focussing on a major social problem in our country- the inability of one fifth it’s citizenry to read and write about it.
This estimate didn’t come out of my head.It’s derived from official statistics.
However representatives of all three partners behind the Welcome Centre, the Inner West Council, The Justice and Peace Office of the Catholic Church and the re-settlement agency SSI, assure me that existing educational services are more than adequate to cater for the educational needs of the refugee influx.
They don’t recognise that there is an important gap at play here.
All point out to me that activities and programs at the Centre are to be guided by evidence and needs and that the agenda will focus on this.
I have brought to their attention well documented evidence as to the grave inadequacies in the education system.These militate against the achievement of universal literacy. I set out my practice to compensate for this.
According to this April 18, 2013, statement by UNESCO : “Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. It is fully essential to social and human development in its ability to transform lives.”
I have brought to their attention my approach to addressing this shortfall.
Visit inletterandinspirit.com See: Desiderata Find: methodology
I have spelled out to them the pressing need expressed by the community for a fully literate society.
Visit inletterandinspirit. com See: Desiderata Find: Client Comments
The need to have everyone resident in our homeland able to read and write about it.To the best of their measurable ability.
Representatives of the partnership have not considered this relevant.
My pedagogic approach has been disallowed out of hand.No argument as to how my methodology is less appropriate than others has been given.
I took this approach after the NSW government rescinded the right of a large number of allegedly disruptive school students to attend school, I set up my practice to help compensate for the damage caused to life and property by this policy.
At the last NSW government school I worked at, I warned in vain about the risks faced by children denied supplementary assistance with their language skills.The consequences were tragic.
I set about encouraging children to attend school instead of staying absent.I set about advocating the authorities consider the welfare of children to be of paramount importance.
At the four meetings I have leafleted regarding the Centre, I have informed representatives of all three partners of this account online.I have invited critical comment but never received any reasoned response
Representatives of the partnership so far consider all this irrelevant .
Do they see me as too forthright? Too politically incorrect? Not ‘multicultural’ enough.I can only guess at what’s in their mind.
If there has been a can of worms opened,it wasn’t of my doing alone.When representatives don’t answer your questions openly and transparently, misunderstanding is bound to arise.
My pedagogic approach has been disallowed out of hand.As with my former voluntary work with Metro Assist,another partner in the resettlement ‘consortium’, my services are seen as superfluous to need.
Council states there are other providers already doing the work I offer, and so mine would be duplication.
This is not the case. Obviously Council cannot say who these providers are.Anyone who has looked at my resources or has worked in a N.S.W. government school knows things to be otherwise.My approach is resource based in terms of both people and materials.It eliminates the duplication of material so baneful to teachers and students and so prevalent in schools. It doesn’t pretend to replicate the five hundred hours study of English required of new arrivals. It aims to allow all members of the family to read and write about what interests them in New South Wales and beyond at their own pace.
The educational resources now stored by Council are remembered by the CEO of Settlement Services International for helping me make a ‘great contribution’to her previous agency.That was my goal.
Council rules out any role I can play due to the time commitments that refugees already have to attend compulsory English classes etc.
It states that while it has no doubt of my ability, rules are rules and must be adhered to.It downplays the value of professional and community based experience.
‘So what’s the point of the Centre ?’,the cynics continue to ask.
‘Why the continued static on it’s implementation?
If nobody has time to attend, this raises again the question as to what actually goes on at the Centre.I say ‘again’ because I drew attention in one of my in house circulars to negative reporting in the Inner West Courier.It raised the question of ‘The Centre for Refugees without Refugees’.
The Council asserts it’s resettlement partner has engaged and mobilised the refugee community very well.
Why hasn’t it considered mobilising the bulk of volunteers to promote key knowledge about the newcomers’ intended homeland? This knowledge should become a a priority requirement for newcomers.
The Council says it’s process of developing programs for refugees has been based on consultation, engagement and documenting the gaps and priority of issues to develop it’s plans which neither duplicate nor re invent what’s already happening in other parts of Sydney and the Inner West.
It has consulted and engaged with me to rescue the resources it has stored but has not been able to follow this up regarding how they can be put to use.
I have made several unanswered requests to the mayoralty to explain my being excluded.
It has the authority to over ride the inane decisions being made.
Over to you Mr.Mayor.
Instead Council put it to me put it to me that my requests to appeal these decisions are excessive.It put it to me that I was expecting it to be at my ‘.beck and call’.Nothing could be further from the truth.
The mayoralty didn’t respond to my earnest requests to justify operations .
Council fails to see universal literacy as a priority.
Yet at the same time the Minister for Multi-Cultural Affairs and Citizenship” has revealed ‘close to a million’ Australians now do not speak the national language,it still fails to see the goal of universal literacy as a priority.
Council has spoken of the large number of volunteers it says have offered their services
Council says it’s resettlement partner SSI has mobilised refugees in various activities. In it’s learn to swim program for refugees at Leichhardt Aquatic Centre” while some participants had never been in water before,some are already good swimmers.Three, possibly four, would like to become lifeguards and or learn to swim instructors, The SSI spokesperson says that training refugees will help to make Australian beaches safer places.
‘One of the advantages of this program is [that the] people who are becoming lifeguards — they can speak two languages,’ she said.
‘It would be a real advantage for people going on the beach [to] find some people who speak their language as well.’
This brings to mind the cruel joke reported to circulate on social media during the anti-Arab rioting at Cronulla: ‘Did you hear about the lousy leb sprouting gypporish on our beach? He came came to the Shire learning to swim? We taught him to run before he escaped on a bike.He’s now training for the triathlon.’
Most Australians expect others living here to speak good English.like people everywhere they are more likely to be impressed by and build a quicker rapport with others when the newcomer displays a good knowledge of their homeland.
And in how many languages should you need to shout out ‘Shark!’ or ‘Help!’ ?
The SSI spokesperson said the swimming program will help to create a conversation about refugees within the wider Australian culture.
‘It provides an opportunity to Australians to get a better understanding of who refugees are and how they can be beneficial for this country,’ she said.
‘I think one of the other things from learn-to-swim program is that it really helps them to build their capacity and their confidence.’
So why can’t those directing operations at the Centre consided mobilising the bulk of volunteers to promote key knowledge about the newcomers’ intended homeland.
Hopefully conversation about this omission will also help to create a conversation about volunteers and education within the wider Australian culture.
Such knowledge should become a key requirement for newcomers.As essential at least as sewing,another priority for SSI.
And I’m sure those learning to swim are allowed professional training, learning more than just how to dog paddle.
Any teachers, including the TAFE teachers who lay the foundations for the newcomers knowledge of English,know that the five hundred hours of classes involved needs to be built on to strengthen students’ capacity and their confidence.This is best achieved by students becoming immersed in English and putting their own language on the back rather than the frontburner.
‘It’s not that this is an idea foreign to the re-settlement sector.Settlement Council of Australia CEO Tammy Wolffs says, ‘Many [refugees] need particular access to English language services well after the period that they’re funded for.’
realized the sacrifice this means when her brother would come home from school crying because he had no English and couldn’t understand what anyone was saying. Paz’s mother decided she absolutely had to learn English, so these Chilean refugees moved away from the Latin community.
Paz might like to catch up with what she may have missed by checking out my account of Latin American culture in Sydney:
The drawn out requirements of linguistic mastery is understood by Ms Fatema Al Askar
whose long-term aim for life in Australia includes improving her English.
‘When I first arrived [from Syria], I didn’t know any English. Now step by step, I’m starting to speak English. I now have friends from all different countries and cultures too. I talk to them in English too. Sometimes I don’t understand, but I try different sentences to make my friends understand me. We try our best to understand each other.’
For Dana Al Samaan
from Damascus language has also been a challenge. ‘No matter how much I thought that I knew English as a second language, when I lived here I realised that I knew little of the language expressions, not to mention the Australian accent.’
The partners behind the Centre’s operations might heed her words on smartness.
The idea of refugees forming a task force to make our beaches safer should be supported.It is a bold and ambitious one no less than mine.The difference is the resources I offer are aimed at making our country safer for everyone, both in the water and on dry land .Moreover they can be brought to bear immediately depending on the damage caused within the re-settlement consortium.
The Council says it started small and developed some key programs and so therefore haven’t needed a large number of volunteers to date.
Previously it drew attention to the large number of volunteers offering their services.It says it’s work with refugee community is strength based and around capacity building.
It should consider the fact that it’s strength lies in it’s volunteers whose commonality is a high level of education.Volunteers who are capable of helping put a dent in our abysmal level of national literacy.
This pool of human resources would be, if managed wisely, a magic pudding,an endlessly renewable resource.
Volunteers who could help refugees consolidate the five hundred hours of English study required of them by reading and writing about our country.
Do the organisers want the Centre to be known as ‘the volunteer based refugee centre without volunteers?’
In June 2018 The Welcome Centre held an open Refugee Day, The New Beginnings Festival,at which I hoped to distribute a leaflet inviting contact with other volunteers.Once again Council asked me not to which I reluctantly complied with.
I hoped the gathering might create a new beginning for my tortuous effort to come on board as a volunteer.
To create a comity between all participants.
The SSI festival producer said that the festival demonstrated how ‘collaborative work and community engagement are key elements to building a sustainable and diverse arts community’.
Why can’t such elements become key to building a safer and more sustainable wider community?
SSI was proud to report that it had facilitated in partnership with the Department of Home Affairs, a visit to Canberra.
Thirty invited refugees attended a special meeting with the Minister for Home Affairs and Immigration and Border Protection, on Wednesday June 20,2018. They had the opportunity to tell their stories of successful settlement in Australia and their dreams for the future.
As things turned out neither my hope of being invited on board the Welcome Centre project nor the Minister’s dream of settling into The Lodge would be realised any time soon.
Only days after the meeting,The Minister declared that Australia is facing a ‘danger phase’ so to to show compassion for refugees would undo the government’s hard-fought success in discouraging people smugglers.
His downplaying the value of refugee education-migrant education becoming his direct responsibility-would continue to flow onto the resettlement sector.
The Welcome Centre Coordinator said that the Centre is ‘all about bringing communities together and that the Festival provided an ample opportunity to do just that’.
There are exceptions,of course the main one being bringing together the community of volunteers involved who have little opportunity whatsoever to work
Other groupings are not considered as yet being able to be brought together .Every week women come from the western suburbs to the Centre where the social exclusion they are said to confront is tackled.The coordinator says ‘many face social isolation because of language barriers — they don’t have much opportunity to get involved in wider Australian community, so we’ve got people from this community here, and they get connected with people with a refugee background.”
That Australian community turns out to be not very wide.It rules out half the population .Although the women express a wish to learn English and knowledge about their new country,this is restricted to conversation with a few lady volunteers.That rules out my contributing not only on professional but gender grounds .The coordinator says that at the Centre the women ‘can do what they like’ but how do they know what educational possibilities they’d like if these are kept from them.
I’m fully aware of the sensitivities there may be at play here and the troubled histories the women may have experienced but one can’t escape the world of men and expect to fit into society.The women obviously get a lot of pleasure from the gatherings which is to be encouraged but why are they denied choice of a social and professional service they express a wish for.
Council says it is looking to expand the programs offered at the Welcome Centre. It says it is in discussions with Welcome Centre attendees to identify and support activities the refugees and their families have expressed an interest in.
Now that I know there are volunteers active at the Centre I have to track them down.Then to find out if they would be interested in working with me on the materials I developed.They could offer them to the newcomer women on my behalf.
Council sees the Welcome Centre as a template for resettlement practice. It might consider building our capacity to assist a greater future influx of refugees in the likely situation that the war keeps intensifying.
I signed a legal waiver to the effect that I would not speak negatively about Centre operations to outside parties such as the media.For it’s part Council has a responsibility not give so much easy ammunition to it’s critics.
It points out that the resources it correctly and wisely rescued from ‘disposal’by Metro Assist whose executive straddles SSI can only be stored temporarily.It also points out that I can only become involved until after I attend a compulsory four week training period at the end of the three year waiting period.Which defeats the purpose of having such a singular tool for social progress.Catch 22.
The theme of the compulsory training sessions is “Human rights approaches to working with refugees.” Council reminds us that refugees are vulnerable and have experienced grief and loss, including fleeing their country under extreme circumstances.’
I accept this requirement but would like to point out some matters for consideration.
I wasn’t required to attend such sessions before assisting such people at the Sydney resettlement agency Metro Assist.
I wasn’t required to attend such sessions when teaching children with such issues at Chester Hill , Granville Boys and Auburn Girls High in the eighties.The youth from Vietnamese and Lebanese refugee families fleeing devastated war zones needed available permanent teachers rather than to be left hanging round the playground or street.My recommendation as to this didn’t reach a receptive ear.
Is the grief and loss experienced by such people so different to that experienced by those who come to the Welcome Centre?
These youths I’ve mentioned needed the satisfaction an equitable schooling provides rather resentment at a raw deal.For some this would erupt into violence at Cronulla in response to that of semi-literate skippies with gripes of their own.
The situation of such schools hasn’t changed substantially a generation later.
For those who believe everyone’s access to the attainment of a functional level of literacy is assured, this of course is not seen as a human rights issue.
The received wisdom in the education and resettlement sectors is that ‘they’re born this way, so why waste time on them’.
I write at great length about the highly restrictive educational situation facing migrants and refugees.
As they indicate, management in the migrant re-settlement consortium can reject the educational value of books . It can happily dispense with resources available to it’s ‘consortium’ for furthering literacy.This is tantamount to restricting a most fundamental human right of it’s clientele.
Are they to be charged with teaching me about human rights?
Are they to teach me about my lack of rights as a voluntary worker that both Federal and State Ombudsmen state is my lot.
Are these training sessions part of some radical innovative program designed to produce empathy with the refugee? To instil in the volunteer a related sense of frustration and pain as suffered by the refugee?
The actual situation facing new arrivals should be handled quite differently. There’s great merit in the citizenry reading more books.
The need for the citizenry to read more books is stressed by none other than the N.S.W. Premier herself.
Assisting volunteers make contact with others among their great numbers has proved to be an insurmountable difficulty for Council.
Yet it advertises an English Conversation Program which ‘provides a wonderful opportunity for students and volunteers to make new friends and support each other.’
I have plenty of friends as it is but would just like to meet what the Volunteer Handbook refers to as ‘co-workers’.
I have the right to sound guidance,direction and support by someone who has the time to invest in giving guidance.
I have the right ‘to know as much about the Council as possible.It’s policies,programs and people’.
The new Council administration has pledged to be progressive and efficient.
The Holy Father has called on members of his Church to further human rights, to emulate a model “for all those who, in different ways, seek to restore the dignity of our brothers and sisters lost through the pain of life’s wounds, to restore the dignity of those who are excluded.”
These aims and this model could and should be shown in practice at the Centre.
The Centre should be encouraged to be a visibly collaborative community operation.
It should be an operation that may have started small but grows in full view rather than remaining stunted.
It should be more than at most a limited success.More than a photo op packed PR exercise to trumpet one’s sense of compassion.
Progressive and efficient.You could have fooled me!
Whether through our tithes,taxes or rates,we all pay for it.
Allan Davis ( 0298183052 )
Everything always ends well. If not – it’s probably not the end.