Page 1122 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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Villawood Detention Centre and the extraordinary and life-changing relationships that develop between them. Through the Wire offers an opportunity for all Australians to get a glimpse of the way refugees are treated in detention centres. It recounts the gripping, true tales of repression and exile, dangerous escapes, powerful friendships, resilience and survival inside Australian detention centres.

Most of these people flee wars and other such atrocities to come to a country for a fresh start. They use all their savings to get to Australia and oftentimes are unaware that Australian law does not condone their passage. They are then detained in one of our many detention centres, usually without their families. The Australian government fails to acknowledge their plight, placing them behind the wire in mandatory detention while waiting for their applications to be processed. There is no future. They are in a constant state of limbo. They are pawns in the play-off between political powers that has continued for years, with little hope in sight.

The federal government pursues a policy of long-term mandatory detention of asylum seekers who arrive on our shores without proper authorisation. Some have been incarcerated for long periods. As of April 2004, more than 320 adult asylum seekers had been held in mandatory detention in Australia for a period of more than two years. There were also 85 children held in detention centres over the same period. Amnesty International Australia considers that the current Australian policy of automatic mandatory detention for people considered to be so-called unlawful non-citizens is a direct breach of Australia’s international human rights obligations.

Through the Wire is disarmingly simple, thought-provoking theatre that urges us to replace suspicion and fear with compassion and hope. There is much warmth and humour provided through the intimate and inspiring relationships that develop between the refugees and their Australian friends. I would encourage all of us to take family and friends to see this amazing story playing at the Canberra Theatre from 29 March to 2 April 2005. It provides Canberrans with a rare insight into the lives of people who remain behind barbed wire in Australian detention centres.

Ulysses motorcycle club

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (6.06): I stand today to talk briefly about the deep community concern surrounding events over the last week or so involving the Ulysses motorcycle club and the grief it has worn from the Rebels motorcycle gang.

This week we have heard the police minister’s claim that everything is just hunky-dory with the Rebels motorcycle gang and his allegations that the opposition is “scaremongering” on this issue. Yesterday we heard Mr Gentleman’s similar, head in the sand, joyful and sanitised celebration of the Ulysses motorcycle club weekend here in the ACT. Mr Gentleman did not mention that the Ulysses weekend had been under some threat as a result of quite serious intimidation and that the Rebels behaved with impunity in this town.

The Ulysses weekend was indeed a good weekend, and Ulysses members are to be congratulated. But that this important tourist event was seriously threatened is certainly unacceptable to the community. We can see that in the letters to the editor and editorials

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