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Philip Ruddock's advice on how to enter Australia from the Nauru detention centre
Philip Ruddock to asylum seeker: 'If you can polevault the razor wire, sprint to the beach, and swim to Australia, in a good time, we'd be proud to have you'. Thanks to Nicholson cartoons.

Australia's Pacific Solution: BBC movie

a Cinema Event in Fremantle

Image: Thanks to The Australian
and Nicholson cartoons

Thanks for visiting the page for Project SafeCom's first ever major screen event on 24 January 2003, featuring no less than two staggered screenings of two movies at the Fremantle Film and TV Institute.

Amongst the honoured guests in attendance were Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett and ALP Member for Fremantle Dr Carmen Lawrence, who both spoke from the heart about Howard's hardline asylum seeker policies, while singer Bernard Carney offered the moving song "Refuge to a Refugee".

The event was attended by almost 200 people, and it confirmed that current issues, even if they're controversial, need to be poured in an attractive vessel that also keeps the public spell-bound.

And spell-bound the audience was!

An apology: This was our first event, and because of the overwhelming demand we were kept very, vey busy making sure everything proceeded smoothly. As a result we did not ask for written transcripts of the speeches of Dr Carmen Lawrence and Senator Andrew Bartlett. We cannot present these two speeches here. Our apologies!


20 June 2003: Project SafeCom's World Refugee Day 2003 comes to Bunbury - An event at Edith Cowan University's Bunbury Campus with two movies, including the clandestinely made Australia's Pacific Solution (BBC) and guest speakers, including local peace activist Liam Barry. In conjunction with BRAG, the Bunbury Refugee Action Group.

Some other web pages are a must: for a peek at the movie, the BBC website, and Marg Hutton's SIEVX website, where you can read the complete voice transcript of the documentary:

What's on this page:

This page layout follows the evening's proceedings, and it has seven sections. Use the quick links to jump to these sections!

The event's Flyer

Project SafeCom

in collaboration with

Fremantle Film and TV Institute

presents BBC's Australia's Pacific Solution


Angela van Boxtel's The Cage House

with Democrats leader Senator Andrew Bartlett and
ALP Member for Fremantle Dr Carmen Lawrence

A Project SafeCom fundraising event
several screenings
Friday 24 January, 2003, 6:00 & 7:30 pm
FTI Cinemas, 92 Adelaide Street, Fremantle

Overflow screenings in place - Tickets $9.00 - $ 5.00 concession (seniors, students, health care card) - bookings essential call (08) 9431 6700 pay or collect tickets
before 5pm, Thursday 23 January

Photos by Claudia Zerbini

click to open the full-size image
Carmen Lawrence
click to open the full-size image
Andrew Bartlett
click to open the full-size image
Jack Smit thanks AB
click to open the full-size image
Word of thanks
click to open the full-size image
Abbas, honoured guest
click to open the full-size image
Bernard Carney

Australians Against Racism Mini-docco
Faces in the Crowd (30 secs)

Jack H Smit: short speech

First, before I start, I want to remember Fatima Erfani. Fatima was a young mother, 21 years old [1], with three very young children. She died last Sunday in Sir Charles Gardner hospital as the ninth death in custody of people, indefinitely locked up without any criminal charges on one of Australia's bird poo islands, in an area only scrutinized by a minister who gives us all to think he hates refugees - for one single reason: keep a nineteenth century, fanatic and sickening government in control and supreme power in your country.

Just two hours after our scathing Media release, when we discovered her death, your government had already painted the most glowing picture to the Murdoch press of their great standard of medical care in this case.

I'm sure your government had no intention whatsoever to inform you about this event without the action of your local member Dr Carmen Lawrence, and our action.

Last year's Federal election, the one I always call "The Tampa Election", was not just memorable because Howard gained a third term of office. Howard voted himself into a third term of government by manipulating Australian opinion, by lying about children being thrown overboard, by bringing disgraceful Hansonite divisionism into Australia, by forcing - as in the Tampa case - a breach of the International Covenant of the Sea, and by manipulating the UN Refugee convention to suit its own arrogant and conservative right-wing ends.

For the record I have to go further. You know, the most remembered quote from the 2001 election was from Howard:

"We shall control who comes to this country, and in which way they come".

With that statement Howard proclaimed himself Australia's new dictator, and as his first act he was prepared to drive his bloody dagger of death into the very heart of the UN Refugee convention.

More than 70% of Australians applauded, because they were conveniently kept uninformed by the Howard gang that that Refugee Convention provides sovereign entry and protection for asylum seekers into Australia as one of its signatory countries, whether they have valid identification papers or not, and whether they come in a sea-container or through agents we have come to call people-smugglers.

And following that shameful election, Howard's agent, Philip Ruddock, implemented this dictatorship further by scheming for amendments to the Migration Act, tabled at the most convenient hours of a parliamentary day: in the middle of the night, even at 4am in the morning.

The express purpose of these amendments was to disable the Courts as a forum for judicial review, and to further exclude the bother of human rights accountabilities from the refugee assessment process.

Howard and Ruddock then also embarked on a deliberate campaign of launching underhand and degrading remarks about the Australian Court system, hoping to instil into your mind vilification of the court processes, making you believe these courts make Ruddock's job only more difficult through "interference".

And so they instituted policies, bursting at the seams with Human Rights atrocities.

Human rights atrocities, you say? I'll give you some examples in this short space.

In the Woomera detention centre, a female ACM guard is filming one of the little Bakhtiary boys on archived company footage, while talking to herself audibly on tape: "When can I beat him up with my baton, please?".

And - I assume that many of you watched The Lord of the Rings during the Christmas break - in the Baxter detention centre, touted by the Murdoch press as the three-star hotel, the crown on the policy from the dark lands of Gollem, the King of Mordor, you may break a leg, and as in the case of a man in November, spend sixteen days in pain before someone believes you and replaces reluctance, vilification, victimization and Panadol for a plaster cast.

Or you can be a three-month-old baby who is not evacuated from a smoke-filled compound during a fire, as happened during the December fires. Never mind that this baby grows up without ever seeing a horizon, with only the sky recording its soundless suffering of incarceration - grotesquely symbolising the deliberate intentions of this baby's official Government appointed Guardian - Philip Ruddock.

This year the gloves are coming off. And as they do come off, the hands of Ruddock and Howard show blood dripping off them, and not just because of the growing number of those who were murdered after they were forcibly deported by the Howard government.

And as for this Minister's department: ask any of the human rights or pro-bono lawyers, working tirelessly to bring some form of justice back into the refugee assessment process, whether they received cooperation from Ruddock's department in their work during 2002. In the words of lawyer Nick Poynder:

"....obstruction, 365 days per year, day in, day out...." [2]

At Project SafeCom we're starting on our second year of activity, and we need your help.

Angela van Boxtel, The Cage House

The Cage House

The Cage House
  • first movie by Angela van Boxtel

  • Award-winning short movie (5' 51" 16"')

  • winner of the NSW 'Raw Nerve project' for novice filmmakers

  • with work by David Goldy (Matrix), John Ogden (Mission Impossible II) and Paul Huntingford (My Mother Frank)

"Van Boxtel's success is astounding."

Mark Tamhane, ABC

"In six-year-old Shayan Badraie's drawing, the stick figure of a boy and girl standing behind a razorwire-topped fence, tears streaming from their eyes as baton-wielding security guards hover menacingly in the background. From this two dimensional, black-and-white representation of life inside the Villawood Detention Centre, came the seed for an idea that spawned The Cage House..."

Sydney Morning Herald

(Jack H Smit, cont'd)

In the late seventies, when I did my social work degree at Curtin University, we would sometimes say, keen as we were to be young and existentialist students:

God is dead and has been replaced by 50,000 social workers.

In Australia, since last year's Federal election, we may well pose:

In Australia, sacred regard for International Conventions is dead, political conscience for asylum seekers has been murdered by its leaders, and it has been replaced by fifty thousand refugee advocates.

Project SafeCom is part of this movement, and one of the errors in judgments of the Howard government is its continuing dismissal of the power of this movement in Australia. There are now something like 170 refugee advocacy and action groups in Australia. You'll find them in cities as well as in small country towns, in each and every state and territory.

Project SafeCom is a proud member of one of Australia's largest organisations: Rural Australians for Refugees, with 5000 members, working in almost 60 groups in towns and cities around Australia.

And in those groups, within all organisations, there is a solid unity, and it is a unity about honouring human rights, and to not tolerate the current Australian human rights atrocities.

During 2002 we concentrated much of our work and output on making links to other refugee groups around Australia. As a result of this, we're now well established as one of Australia's refugee advocacy groups, and we're ready to move into our second year.

In 2003 we intend to focus our work into several areas. First, we want to concentrate on issues on a local level.

on a local level

I already mentioned Rural Australians for Refugees. In the last couple of months of 2002 we established a first contact with the City of Fremantle to introduce the Rural Australians for Refugees Welcome Towns Proposal. In such a proposal, we first compose a map of available local support resources for refugees who live in the community, such as welcoming, supportive and sponsoring residents and families; GP's, dentists and other community resources such as shops and merchants who are willing and keen to help. We would also map the available lawyers and trauma counselling services. [3]

This catalogue of community resources then forms the basis of a submission to the City Council, who hopefully will in response table a motion, endorsing a proposal to declare the City a Welcome Town for Refugees. Fremantle is most suited for such a proposal, with its long-standing tradition of migrants from Italy, Macedonia, Greece and other Slavian countries, who settled in Fremantle as fishermen and small market gardeners.

If Council passes such a motion, Fremantle would be declared a Welcome Town in a public Ceremony, and the Mayor would be presented with a Welcome Towns Certificate, issued by Rural Australians for Refugees and Project SafeCom Inc.

Some local government authorities, who already are Welcome Towns are the Shire of Bega Valley, the City of Newcastle, and the Town of Whyalla.

on a regional level

Secondly, we plan to be active on a more regional level in Western Australia. The Welcome Towns proposal could possibly be repeated in the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River, the Shire of Denmark, and the Shire of Katanning.

In addition, the support we received during the Rural Australians for Refugees National Conference in Mudgee for a West Australian Speaking Tour with delegates of RAR, have encouraged us to proceed with this planned tour. The tour would in many ways give us an insight in and prepare the way for the Welcome Towns proposal to be launched in the mentioned rural towns in WA.

on a national level

In December, while we were on the way to "the Mudgee Muster", RAR's National Conference, we made a stop-over in Sydney, and we ran a small workshop about Reporting of Detention Dentre Incidents. That was the beginning of an initiative we hope to write more about, and in doing so, assist refugee advocates, the growing army of largely untrained human rights workers around Australia.

In the last twelve months, a situation has suddenly developed in Australia, where were have many, many concerned people, who as a result of their developing relationship with people inside detention centres, may well be called "human rights workers" - but they lag in their professional standard of reporting, or they simply do not report traumatic events, stories and reports, no matter how credible these reports are.

This situation calls for training and development of skills for reporting to an accountable standard, also because at a later date, these reports may be needed as evidence in courts, either the Refugee Review Tribunal, or magistrate courts, or the Federal or the High Court.

We hope to further develop instruments which will help refugee advocates in Australia.

on an international level

And thirdly, we plan to start work - in conjunction with 'senior refugee advocates' around Australia, on an international level.

A few weeks ago, when the news was hot around the fires in detention centres, I spoke on Singapore News Radio. When the reporter asked me what I thought the way ahead was for Australia from the point of refugee advocates, I replied, that it would help a great deal if the leaders of other countries would start speaking out about Australia's dealings with asylum seekers.

I mentioned first, that even while those who come here, may have run away from their countries, they are still citizens of the countries they come from. In general terms, the leaders of those countries could issue a general communiqué that they are not at all happy that Australia imprisons their residents.

No doubt that would result in Ruddock retorting that they can pick them up from here any time - and I don't think it would be a good idea at all in some cases. But the attention would be concentrating on Australia, and what it does with the citizens of those countries.

Secondly, I raised the suggestion that I would truly like to hear from other country leaders in the region. For example, I think if he were asked, Mahatir from Malaysia would happily oblige.

In that radio interview I also suggested that an approach and presentation for the European Parliament would be able to make a great deal of difference - during last year's Woomera hunger strikes, the European Parliament indeed talked about imposing sanctions against Australia.

So, during 2003 we would like to research the feasibility of making representations to other countries to increase pressure on the Howard government, and - if need be - severely embarrass the government.

Finally, we have also been invited to be part of a group to research and prepare International Court prosecutions against the Howard government. That also means, that we're in for the long haul. I hope you'll join us.


[1] Information received at a later date by Fatima's lawyer confirms that she was 28 years old. Our page about Fatima Erfani is here.

[2] Quoted from the Rural Australians for Refugees First Annuual Conference in Mudgee. See also our section on this event here.

[3] See our page on the RAR Welcome Towns Concept here.

Screening Australia's Pacific Solution (BBC: Durham & Macdonald)

Australia's Pacific Solution

The MV Tampa, where all the trouble started from

A remarkable movie, shot clandestinely on the remote island of Nauru

  • 46 minutes duration

  • clandestinely shot in and around the Nauru detention centre, by 'Melbourne housewives' undercover with micro cameras: BBC's Sarah MacDonald and Kate Durham, Melbourne artist and refugee advocate - partner of Julian Burnside QC

  • features interview with Tony Kevin from SIEV X

"I talked to Australian tradesmen who boasted they were earning $5000 a week but they had to be secretive because they had to sign confidentiality agreements..."

"[Durham and Macdonald] went to the tiny island posing as tourists and used hidden cameras to record the plight of detainees held as part of the Howard Government's Pacific solution. "It worked because we looked like stupid blondes. We had these little cameras in bumbags around our waists, with sound and everything. We secretly filmed but I was nervous and bad at it..."

"They sidestepped visa restrictions by making a roundabout 10-day island tour, starting in New Zealand, ... entered Nauru on a three-day transit permit."

- The Age, June 22 2002

Intro Grant van Riessen, Steering Committee

Australia's recent public debate on asylum seekers and refugees has become a been one of the most extraordinary political episodes in recent years.

It has been a political firestorm: Years of deliberate vilification, misinformation and distortions about asylum seekers from the Government were the fuel.

The Tampa Affair was the spark.

The outrageous application of the military in that affair has just been but one example of the intervention into, and politicisation of every aspect of Australia's humanitarian obligation to asylum seekers.

The handling of asylum seekers has been an example of populist politics, but one with bad leadership.

The backbones of international treaties and conventions, and even our judicial system have been compromised in reckless politics that refuse to acknowledge the principles and the lives that are at stake.

Tonight we can take heart in the fact that our two speakers can hold hands across party lines to bring the debate on asylum seekers and refugees back to where it should be - in the realm of common sense, and common decency: human rights and human obligations.

Our speakers tonight, ALP's Dr Carmen Lawrence, Federal Member for Fremantle, and Senator Andrew Bartlett - Leader of the Democrats - have been proud but sometimes lonely voices of reason against the government's policies towards refugees.

Like many people in this room, Dr Lawrence and Senator Bartlett aren't casual observers to this debate - they both actively engage the sources of concerns expressed about the governments asylum seeker policy and they do something about it.

Dr Carmen Lawrence:

Our first speaker, Dr Carmen Lawrence, is no stranger to Fremantlers nor to refugee advocates around the country. Dr Lawrence has stood up strongly on principle, regardless of whether it is unpopular or not.

Recently, through my involvement in Project SafeCom I have seen the extent of Dr Lawrence's commitment to the asylum seekers and her practical and outspoken support presently seems boundless.

Dr Lawrence recently assisted in being active in timely interventions into incidents of abuse, mistreatment and death of asylum seekers in detention in Port Hedland.

In December last year Carmen Lawrence resigned from Labor's shadow cabinet in protest at the party's new immigration policy, opposing labor plans to keep mandatory detention for 90 days, maintain the exclusion of Christmas Island from Australia's migration zone and the retention of temporary protection visas.

With that she became one of the very few Federal politicians who has not compromised her honesty and conscience over refugee issues.

Senator Andrew Bartlett:

Senator Andrew Bartlett is the leader of the Australian Democrats and a Senator for Queensland. His portfolio includes Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. Senator Bartlett was the only federal politician to attend to the recent Rural Australians for Refugees' Annual Conference in Mudgee, NSW.

Andrew Bartlett used that Rural Australians for Refugees conference in Mudgee to praise Dr Lawrence's assessment of Labor's immigration policy and even offered Dr Lawrence asylum amongst the ranks of the Australian Democrats.

During his first overseas senatorial study tour, taken during last year's Australian winter, Mr Bartlett visited seven West-European countries with the deliberate intention to study those countries' asylum seeker policies, and to meet, wherever he could, with Ministers or other representatives of Immigration and Naturalisation departments.