Kent Martin is a regular and long time Free Movement reader and sent this in for the blog. I thought it made an interesting contrast to the absence of positive media coverage in this country.
I’m an Australian/Brit who has spent over a decade in both countries and have been horrified by the race to the bottom of politics in both countries. Whether it is the hateful Home Office use of social media, or the #racistvans on the streets of London, the curtailing of appeal rights, or the myriad of other pieces of nastiness in the UK, we’re not seeing much if anything positive to be said about migrants or, refugees in particular. Australia is arguably worse, where the cry of “stop the boats!” is a phrase uttered in almost any political discourse relating to asylum seekers, so much so in fact, that it is a primary issue in the upcoming election, with the two main parties each trying to appear tougher on ‘boat people’ and ‘queue jumpers’ than the other. If you’re interested in the tenor of Australian politics in this matter, I’d suggest you have a look here, here and here.
Disturbingly, I have found that often public opinion is in favour of ever more draconian policies, primarily because they rely on disinformation or sensationalistic press coverage which gives an inaccurate or, very incomplete picture of the true plight of an asylum seeker. There isn’t a vast horde out there seeking free mansions and cable TV, just people wanting a safe place to live.
Fortunately there is a programme called Go Back To Where You Came From, aired by Australia’s ethnic channel (SBS), which has swum against that tide. It is some sort of blend between a documentary and a reality programme (the latter, a genre generally I wouldn’t touch with someone else’s barge pole). Season 1 takes a group of Australians with a range of attitudes to this issue, exposes them to some refugees, the journeys they have taken, and the places they came from. It has won Rose d’Or awards for Best of 2012 and Factual Entertainment as well as a Logie (think BAFTA).
I’m sure you can guess that the attitudes of most of the participants are, to say the least, altered by their experience.
Season 2 is a similar premise, but the participants are public figures, most of whom have been connected politically to the public discourse on asylum seekers. This includes Peter Reith, who was one of the architects of Australia’s offshore detention solution.
The whole series appears to be available for viewing on SBS’s website, but unfortunately, at the time of writing the links there don’t appear to be working. Fortunately, it is mirrored on youtube. Season 1, Episode 1, Episode 2,Episode 3, Episode 4. I can’t find Series 2 there, but both series are available as digital downloads from the SBS Shop (S1 & S2) for around £6 each.
I would be delighted to see a similar series produced in the UK. The parallels between boats and lorries, and Greece and Indonesia aren’t difficult to see.
Having had a look around the show’s website, I can also recommend the excellent fact sheets.