Archives for the month of: September, 2011

“Bear one another’s burdens…So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all.”* Paul ends his letter to the Galatians with this resounding call for a community of solidarity. This morning I participated in a fundraising jog for a 13-year-old local boy who received spinal injuries from a motorbike accident. I’d say that well over a hundred, perhaps even 200, people were there. What a show of support! One of the participants commented: “That’s what I love about the country community. Everyone pools together whenever there is a need.” As if to celebrate this spirit, a trio of dolphins entertained us as we went along the foreshore. I’m sure Paul would have been proud of Port Augusta today.

* Galatians 6:2,10

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Boxing kangaroos??? Doesn’t it sound exciting! Well, I’ll get to that, but you’ll have to read the rest of this blog first. The boxing kangaroos came at the end of a very dramatic week here in Port Augusta. You may have heard the news: that last weekend was the culmination of a hunger strike held by Vietnamese minors in our immigration Detention Centre. They have been in Australia for months now, in detention, while they apply for asylum. A remote area, away from adults of their nationality, and only the primary age children go to school. They are all Catholic, but have not been able to attend Mass at our church. Unsurprisingly, the anxiety and isolation rose to the point of taking dramatic action: a hunger strike and all night sleep-outs. They simply demanded what others in a similar situation have received: detention in the community.

We (the ‘religious mob’) were called in last weekend to try to calm things down and were there many hours over the next 3 days. Things settles somewhat; the hunger strike ended – for now. But their situation didn’t change. And neither did some public perceptions; the local paper still called them “illegal migrants”. As I reminded the Editor, under the UN Refugee Convention, to which Australia is a signatory, seeking asylum in a country, regardless of the means of arrival, is not illegal. In Australia in 2009, less than 3,000 asylum seekers arrived by boat and around 6,000 by air. To put these figures in perspective, Australia accepts about 170,000 immigrants per year. There are around 400,000 yearly asylum seeker applications in industrialised nations and over 15 million refugees worldwide. Furthermore, there are around 50,000 who have overstayed their visa in Australia. But the top two countries they come from are the UK and the US. So this is a call to everyone: please do not be so quick to label people as ‘illegals’!

Now, I’ll tell you a bit about one of these beautiful children still incarcerated in Australia, the land of peace and freedom. Let’s call him Vinh (not his real name). He is in his mid-teens and loves to tease the younger children in waterfights, which the older ones have grown out of. Vinh wanders around in bare feet, saying that he likes to be like the people in Africa. One day I asked him what he would like to do in the future. He said something that I couldn’t be sure of in his broken English, so he wrote it down: Newton. Newton, he said, or Einstein. That’s what he wants to be – a great scientist. He had been researching Einstein and found that he had also been a refugee. Another time Vinh said, roughly, that it didn’t really matter in the scheme of things whether he was freed in Australia or not. There are bigger issues, such as world peace…After the hunger strike, the gloom was broken somewhat on Monday by the Vietnamese Full Moon Festival. It was here that Vinh really shone. Some of the group had crafted an amazing dragon head, around a garbage bin, for the traditional dragon dance. Well, Vinh was the front of the dragon and he skipped, dancing and did running jumps off lounge chairs while we all laughed and cheered. Why such a child is considered a threat to Australian society, I have no idea. I just pray that he will be able to live his dreams one day, in freedom.

I said the boxing kangaroos would come and they are still on the radar. But first a little detour through the rest of The Dramatic Week. Apart from the above being uppermost on our minds, we have had all sorts of weird, woeful and wonderful happenings. We had a visit from a friend of mine, a world peace clown, who travels around Australia and the world doing peace and values education in a clown costume. What an inspiration! I also had my first full week of teaching on my primary teaching practicum, an assignment due for my study, and some exploration in to possibilities for next year. To top it all off, one of our Sisters celebrated her birthday and that was an occasion to spend a little time here:

By ‘here’ I mean Devil’s Peak, which is about 20 minutes drive from our house. Yesterday Anne and I climbed the peak and witnessed the stunning views that you see above. There was also an interesting rock up there – nicknamed ‘The Lion’s Head’. You can see what I mean:

This morning, not far from where we were staying, we were privy to a special form of morning exercise: kangaroo boxing! For quite some time there were two pairs at it, not in a angry way, but simply a cheery dawn fitness or funness regime. One pair was playfighting I’m sure – there was nothing very serious in their wrestling. But the other two spiced it up with the proper kangaroo posturing: leaning back on their tails, they picked up both legs to kick the other. Although this sounds rather drastic, in actual fact, their match was also just for laughs. Sorry that there is no photo, but only had my phone to take a pic. And that was where one week ended and the new one began. I wonder what mysteries God has in store for me now…