Page 1480 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 April 2005

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forum to discuss the topic of migrants and refugees and the launch of two other books on the same subject.

The launch took place at the Bogong Theatre at Gorman House, with guest speakers Rochelle Ball, Domenic Mico and Steve Tolbert. I must say it was heart warming to hear Minister Hargreaves recount his younger days in a Nissan hut at a migration camp, but he was pleased to advise that there was no barbed wire there.

Steve Tolbert’s new book Dreaming Australia tells the story of a 14-year-old Afghani girl, Soraya, who flees Taliban rule to seek asylum in Australia. She was detained at the now closed Woomera Detention Centre, and the story details her experiences there. I was particularly affected by the discussion from the author of the relationships formed between the guards of the detention centre and the inmates.

As a serving officer of the Australian Protective Service, I worked at the Port Hedland Detention Centre and similarly witnessed and experienced strong bonds that form between guards and inmates in such a remote location. The experience was a trying one, witnessing the incarceration of innocent people, including children of Soraya’s age and younger, and the impact that this has on many already traumatised asylum seekers in the Australian detention system. I must say that I did my very best to ensure that their time was at least as comfortable as I could make it.

Worlds Turned Upside Down, by Rochelle Ball, details the experiences of migrant children in the Canberra community. This is an important contribution to debate in our community and a timely reminder to us that the experiences of migrants and refugees include those in our own community. It is important that we, as a community, have an appreciation—and attempt to gain an understanding—of the experiences of migrants making a home and a life in our community, in order to support them in this difficult transition, as Mr Hargreaves described.

For refugees living in our community, this is amplified as they struggle to come to terms with their experiences from their country of origin. For those families now living on temporary protection visas, it is important that we, as a community, work to support them and to make them welcome in the Canberra community.

This is particularly identified by the third Ginninderra Press publication launched on Sunday, Tamara Jermolajew’s It Can’t Be Forever. The story of a Yugoslav migrant working to provide for her young family emphasises the importance of the provision of essential services to migrants and refugees. In particular, language is a barrier to community participation and inclusion. It is also vital that we, as a community, ensure the provision of English language classes to migrants and refugees to facilitate their settlement and engagement in our community. This has been achieved in the ACT in relation to TPV holders, with the ACT government providing free English classes through CIT. It is an example of the very real ways we can facilitate the welcoming of newcomers to our community.

The launch on Sunday provided a fantastic exhibition of the work of local publisher Ginninderra Press in publishing the work of Canberrans and those from the surrounding region. This contribution, in the form of allowing the hearing of voices and the enlivening of debate in our community, is a valuable one. As I have discussed, the issues

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