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Wednesday, May 7, 2014


I have been volunteering with RISE: Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees for almost 2 years, since I moved to Melbourne.

Those of my FB friends who may have been following the ongoing issue that has been the cruel and inhumane punishment of people seeking asylum in Australia, may be familiar with RISE, as the first refugee-, asylum seeker-, and ex-detainee-governed advocacy organisation in Australia (that we know of).

Being a part of RISE's organisational history has been a very meaningful one for me. Through my work there, I have made amazing new friends and comrades, learned SO MUCH about the pathological energies of globalism, (just as I live in a country that has also largely profited from its successes), and I have also gone through some extremely emotionally challenging times, where some previously amicable or even creative relationships have gone sour.

This all feels part and parcel of a journey through work and passion,
the exploration of tenacity, righteousness and resolve,
the messy work of sorting through the stuff of injustice and hopeful possibility,
the humbling reminders of my own frailty and imperfection
(indeed, also of my comrades and fellow travellers...),
my moments of weakness
and my moments also of greatest resilience.

The greatest paradox that I have held and straddled as an ally of and volunteer at RISE has been that of my position as someone of non-refugee background "taking up space" in a refugee-run organisation.

In many ways, I am deeply uncomfortable with a visible dualism in mainstream coverage that views asylum seekers as racially and culturally irreconcilably "Other" and materially pitiable, while Australians (including supportive, compassionate allies) are portrayed as largely white and middle class.

Indeed, I am also deeply uncomfortable with a world in which people become synonymous with their conditions of entry, in which people become "refugees" to become represented primarily as objects of persecution or pity.

I am deeply uncomfortable with this because there are so many complexities to the actual lived experiences of people who seek asylum (besides "pitiability"), particularly as they pertain to a broader problem of arbitrarily drafted and often colonially defined geographic and political boundaries.

All these boundaries, of the Australian country, that have had pernicious, long lasting impacts on a broad range of people, including Aboriginal Australians, all migrants, particularly poor migrants and migrants of colour, and people in general who may have been classified as non-White historically, but who have all, nevertheless, been resilient in survival and the genesis of Australian culture(s).

a dense and bewildering cauldron of
perplexing paradoxes

I feel a connection to RISE and am sensing, also, the legitimacy of the part I can play as a person, neither "refugee" nor comfortably "citizen", to the formation of what it means to both empathise with and identify with the people whom I show up to support,
perhaps by supporting others I am also supporting myself,
and that there is an exploration of what it is in me
that is implicated in both the problem and the solution.

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