The Member for Solomon, Natasha Griggs has criticised the practice of asylum seekers living in the community with members of the public. Ms Griggs has also blamed asylum seekers for the Territory's health problems and high rents. This is one Darwin resident's response:
Dear Ms Griggs,
As a voter in your electorate I was extremely disappointed to read your negative comment in your Gazette about Darwin residents being asked to house asylum-seekers in their homes.
For the past 3 months I have enjoyed having 2 young Kurdish men from Iran as my house guests. They are courteous, helpful in doing all they can to help in the house and yard, scrupulously clean, completely honest and trustworthy, and generally a pleasure to have around. I enjoy the Kurdish music they download and their sense of humour, and greatly admire their efforts to find work and to learn English. Both have now found paid employment.
I am not part of the homestay scheme and take no money for the arrangement.
When I was away they house-sat for me, and I came back to find everything in perfect order and my pets happy and well-cared for.
A distressing aspect is hear - gradually, as it comes out - their past history of persecution as stateless people in Iran and torture by police under Sharia law. As stateless Kurds they were never allowed any documentation, not even driving licences, which is why they arrive in Australia paperless. Not because they have thrown identity papers overboard.
Even more distressing for me as a retired psychologist is to observe the effect of long-term detention on them. Difficulty in concentration, recurring nightmares, stress-induced high blood pressure, constant headaches and a battle with depression.
Long-term detention is the very worst preparation for their new life in Australia. Genuine refugees, which the great majority are found to be, come seeking freedom and justice and the right to work, not imprisonment and/or living on welfare. By causing them even further trauma by long-term detention, we are creating a quite unecessary need for expensive long-term mental health services on their release.
I strongly urge you to find out the truth for yourself from these people now
living in your electorate.
For our first Blog post we thought we'd take advantage of the comfort offered by the distance of time. Sometimes it is hard to consider a situation clearly when we are caught up in the turbulence of political spin, rhetoric emotive reporting and fear mongering and urgency of Now!
The letter below was forwarded to us by a DASSAN member who recalls an experience with a group of people from Vietnam back in the mid 70s.
"I was ferreting in an old file and found this letter. It brings back a few memories. there were 6 Vietnamese who were locked in a cabin while their boat was sailed to Darwin, where the 'thieves' applied for asylum. These 6 had to wait until a bigger vessel came to darwin to escort them home in their ship. I was calling by to say hello a few times, and took half of them to visit a farmer friend at Tortilla Flats. They had an English speaking student helping them out for a while. This letter from him just demonstrates how a little kindness goes a long way - further that we might think."
Letter written on 28th March 1976 by a Vietnamese student who had been in Darwin as interpreter for the 6 Vietnamese refugees.
Pat Walsh booklaunch, ET in 2000's mainly, Wed 5.15 Library in Parlt Hse
typed letter 28/3/76
I am very sorry for having written you a bit late. It due to, as you know, a very long postal strike in Canberra and in NSW. Beside, I have been a bit busy during these days. On writing you today, first of all, I would like to express my many thanks to you for what you have done for me and my friends. I think that my stay in Darwin, with your help and kindness, was very nice. I myself will never forget these experiences. For my friends too, they are very grateful to you. With your help, they could spend those very long days a bit less lonely and less homesick. Your coming to the boat and your talks made them understand more about Australian people, and made them more merrier. I think that when they return to our homeland, they will never forget those days. They will never forget the experiences they lived in the farm, hunting, exploring the harbour, etc . ... Are you busy in the last days? Have you got time to go the boat and have talk with them. Although they do not speak English, they can understand you, and they fell (feel) less lonely by having talked with Australian friends. Now I would like to say something about me. First of all, I would like to tell you that my trip to Canberra was nice and safe. I arrived at Canberra airport on early Monday morning. That day was the Canberra day, so I have got time to rest after a long journey from Darwin. I was a bit busy preparing for my study, but now everything is O.K. I have been very well since I said good-bye to you. I think that I will be well during the last days in Australia.To conclude my letter, again I would like to thank you very much. I will never forget your help and kindness. My friends I think that they are very grateful to you. They will never forget you and Darwin.I wish you many successes in your work. Good luck.
Nguyen (Name omitted)