A Night in the Heart of Australia

April 6, 2017

This is an excerpt from a larger article “A Ganma Odyssey” in this blog https://dodona777.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/a-ganma-odyssey-2/

I will post other stories about my travels across Australia so look at this excerpt as if it’s a prologue of sorts.

===========================================================================

It’s been 25 years since I last visited Central Australia. Back then, the Sturt Highway was a two way dirt road all the way from Darwin to near Port Augusta. In 1972, words like revolution, liberation, justice, equality, freedom and peace, rolled off my tongue with a tender passion. Feeling the emptiness in the institutions, the knowledge factories and the general lack of soul in the world I hit the road. Back then I was searching for something. Nowadays, I’m still searching and it seems that the ” R ” word is the only one that doesn’t roll off my tongue so easily. Perhaps it should.
Twenty five years ago I found myself, with little more than nothing, in the heart of Australia. All I had was my canvas pack with a few clothes, a couple of books and some water in a bottle. I had no money. The previous three nights I had slept under the stars along the highway and during the day I prayed for a lift. I was two hours south of Alice heading for Adelaide when I was dropped off at Erldunda, near the turn off to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Across the road a petrol bowser stood as if on guard outside the general shop. A bus arrived and parked a few metres away from where I was standing. I watched the tourists get off. I hadn’t eaten a thing for over three days and I knew that the people getting off the bus would have something to eat. I approached a woman in a white hat as she stepped off the bus. Looking her in the eyes I said, “Excuse me, have you any food?”.

She looked at me with some pity and reached her hand into a brown paper bag pulling out a small green tomato. As she handed me the fruit I sensed everyone looking at me, from the bus driver to the little girl with her face pressed against the bus window. The white hat woman released the tomato into my hand and a ripple of disgust crossed her eyes and brow. I was dirty, I was homeless, a Dharma Bum now just a bum. I accepted the food and turned away from my shame. I noticed someone standing ahead of me in the distance waving, beckoning me to come over.

uluru-kata_tjuta1

Photo © Mark Moxon 1995-2017
All Rights Reserved

I had nothing to lose but everything to gain, holding the unripe tomato in my hand, I walked towards the stranger. As I got closer I could see white hair and a white beard on the face of an old black man. He wore trousers that were a little too big for him and a coat that was a little too small. He smiled and placed his hand on his belly whispering, what sounded like, “Hunger…hunger..” He took me by the arm and showed me to his home by the highway. It was a lean to humpy with a corrugated iron mulga branch roof. Some old flour bags were scattered on the dirt floor to sit on. He shared with me some milk arrowroot biscuit pieces and a powdered milk drink in a tin cup. He let me stay the night. The shop with the petrol bowser had switched its lights off. During the night, nothing much was said between us – the silences, with the occasional bark of a lone dog, said it all.

In the centre of Australia I saw that the dispossessed ones were the generous ones. We non – indigenous ones take and take while these people, the original ones give and give. Twenty five years later, in 1997, our government wants to stop the original people from reestablishing their culture and reconnecting with their land. Extinguishing the recently acquired native title rights is the equivalent of stealing what little these people have and giving this little to the rich, whether pastoralists, miners or just greedy transnational corporations. Will we the non – indigenous ones ever learn? So, 25 years later I was returning with a hunger so subtle that you’d miss it if you weren’t seeking it. It’s a hunger for something which may transform the hole in my being to the whole.

Advertisements

Denial of Racism is Racism.

March 9, 2017

Below is a recent twitter thread talking about bullying and racism. I remembered an incident when I was a teenager walking with my mother from Redfern Station, Sydney to our place. Three Anglo guys stood in front of us and one yelled, “This is what YOU are!”  He rasped his throat and spat a huge glob of green mucus onto the footpath, just missing my mother’s shoe, “THIS! you big fat wogs!” he pointed to the glob. They laughed. My heart skipped a beat, my fists clenched by my side. My mother, looked forward and whispered in Greek, “Ignore them, keep walking.”

Ignore them? Smash the guy’s face into the ground, rub his nose into the green glob, and if there was any dog shit around, rub his face into that too. That’s what was ricocheting in my skull. I kept walking and saw my mother clutching her gold cross near her throat.

Attacking me with racist crap was all part of living in Redfern in those days. But attacking my mother in front of me was another thing. I knew these dicks, my gang knew them and we would get revenge. Our gang was wog only with two Aboriginal kids and we got back at them for the greeny and other crap they did to us. That’s another story.

Someone else told us about her father being hit with a molotov greeny through a car window. Others joined the thread.

Spitting Bogans 1

I then remembered what happened to me as a TAFE teacher and tweeted:

Twitter Insidious Racism

I promised I’d write about it – and here it is.

—————————————————

I’m not going to use peoples’ real names nor the real region and campus. I’m protecting the guilty because, who knows, they may have changed and feel some remorse. Also, I don’t want to tar a region and a college with the same racist brush because they weren’t all racists. Everything is true except the names.

It was 1988, the Bicentennial of the White Invasion. I was transferred from an inner Sydney TAFE college to a regional college beyond the Great Dividing Range. My friends knew me as an inner city rat because that’s all I lived. Migrants moved to the slums because it was cheap and close to the factory work in the 1950’s and 60’s. For me, anything beyond Liverpool was the Bush. Sure travel through the Bush but not live in it. Snippets of the film “Wake in Fright” bobbed in my mind. An Aussified Duelling Banjos soundtrack played in the background of what I thought it will be like in my new place.

I had no choice but to take this transfer as an English Literature / Communications teacher. My English as a Second Language qualifications were not going to be of any use there. We couldn’t afford the rent in inner Sydney on one wage for a house big enough for me, my wife and five kids.

Upon arrival at my new college I was told the whole region had been waiting for a suitably qualified teacher of English/Communications for over five years. Now they had one.

It was my first ever class in a country college, an initiation into the rural classroom. It was an English class in the Certificate of General Education, TAFE’s equivalent to the NSW School Certificate for those seeking a second chance.

After introducing myself and greeting the class of 15 students I wrote my name on the board. While my back was turned I heard some muttering. When I turned to face the class two students in their early twenties, boy and girl stood up. The guy says, “I’m not having a fucking wog teach me English!”

Before I could reply he and his girlfriend ran out of the class. The other students laughed. I told them I’d be back soon. I saw the two students run down the corridor in the direction of my Head Teacher’s office. I caught up with them as my Head Teacher, Mr Turnip, greeted them.

I said, “Right, you two are not allowed back in my class unless you apologise in front of the class.”

The girl started to cry and the guy stared at me. Mr Turnip put his arm around the girl’s shoulder and said,”Look, just go outside for a while. I’ll handle this.” They walked away with the guy turning his head in my direction smirking.

Mr Turnip asked what happened and I told him. He replied, “But you know Stavros, it IS a bit strange having someone like you teach English.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. From a distance, I  heard faint banjos playing. I replied, “Do you realise what you’re saying? I’m a fully qualified English teacher with an Honours degree in English Literature from Sydney University and a Diploma of Education from the same place. Why is it strange?” I hated telling him my quals and feeling defensive.

He said, “Well, because, you know, you’re not the usual type of person to teach English.”

“Be careful Mr Turnip because you are defending racial harassment.”

Denial of Racism is Racism

“Oh! Come off the grass. What those kids did was not racist. They can’t help being surprised that you are their English teacher.They’re disadvantaged and not used to seeing people like you. Show some compassion.” He folded his arms, ” You take those students back into your class.”

“Sure, they can return as long as they apologise in front of the whole class. They have to do this, otherwise I’ll be a laughing stock to the rest of the class and others will attack me with their racist bull shit.”

“No, you will take them back regardless of an apology. I’m directing you as your Head Teacher.”

“No, I refuse to accept them without an apology and I’m giving you notice I think this whole episode and your attitude is harassment.”

I turned away from him and returned to the class. I never saw the two students again.

I didn’t put in a formal complaint against Mr Turnip. It didn’t seem right in the first week of my teaching in a new college. Needless to say the vibes were tense.  My duties included teaching Higher School Certificate, Certificate of General Education English and Communications classes for vocational courses. There was such a need for my services I had plenty of overtime.

A department from Head Office, Sydney called me. They officiated over the Tertiary Preparation Certificate (TPC) – a course that prepares students for university study. They told me the Aboriginal community needed  a suitably qualified teacher to both teach and coordinate a pilot program. The local community had been waiting for years for this program. It had never been conducted before in NSW and it was now possible to happen because I had arrived. Wow! I grabbed this opportunity with my arms, legs, heart and brain. It was 1988, the Bicentennial of White Invasion – what an honour to implement this pilot program and to have an opportunity to teach an all Aboriginal class.

Yothu Yindi replaced Duelling Banjos in my heart.

Head Office warned me that there would be many obstacles to overcome to make it happen. As far as I was concerned, like the Blues Brothers, I was on a MISSION FROM GOD!

It’s another story for another time about the travails in getting this course off the ground and the joy of working in it.

Teaching and coordinating this course required me to travel 120 kms there and back to the small college twice a week. I heard there were other teachers who travelled even further to teach in colleges in rural sectors so my travelling was nothing.

One day, after returning from the special Aboriginal program I was called to the Head Teacher’s office for a meeting. Mr Turnip was replaced temporarily because he was promoted for a semester as Deputy Principal. My new acting Head Teacher, Ms String O’Pearls was also the Head Teacher of Adult Basic Education and she felt she could look after two sections for a semester.

There was no smile on her face when I entered the office and sat opposite her. Ms String O’Pearls asked me how I was finding working there. I told her it was OK and a bit of a culture shock for me. I also said I loved teaching the Tertiary Preparation Certificate even though I had to travel a fair distance to do so.

She didn’t smile, there was no spark of life – she just touched her pearls with the tips of her fingers. She said, “I’ve called you for this meeting because there’s been a complaint.”

“A complaint? About me?”

“Yes, well, not a specific complaint just a general statement that you don’t quite fit in here.”

I was aghast. “Don’t fit in here? What do you mean?” Yothu Yindi receded and I could hear the distant twang of banjos once again.

“People have been complaining about the way you talk and gesticulate. You’re pretty loud you know.” Her fingers played with the pearls around her neck.

My mind was somersaulting. As far as I was concerned everything seemed OK. I got on well with my students and I thought with my colleagues.

“What’s wrong with the way I talk?”

“You’re too loud, too passionate – everything is so big,” she said in her staid official tone.

“Wow! You’re kidding me! What about my gesticulations?”

“You can’t stop using your hands as you talk. People say if we tied your hands you wouldn’t be able to speak.”

“Well, it’s been a bit of a culture shock coming here. I’ve often wondered why no one ever smiles in this building. In fact you all may as well have a bag over your heads you’re so expressionless. How do the students handle you?”

“How dare you speak like that to me!”

“How dare you speak to me like this! Fuck! Unbelievable!”

The lines on her face contorted into a weird question mark with her mouth a tiny dot.

By now I couldn’t stop,

“Have you considered that maybe I’m suffering from a double whammy culture shock? You know, I’m the only non English speaking background person here among all of you uptight Anglos AND the shock of coming from inner Sydney – cosmopolitan – to this all white province – except for the Aboriginal people who live away from here. It’s a fucking shock to my system.”

“Oh, come on. You’re nothing special and I don’t appreciate your tone or language.”

“I am special, like we all are. You’re saying I don’t fit in. Well, so what? Have you heard of diversity? You say that staff don’t like the way I speak, act or BREATHE! I’m a Greek Aussie. This is how we are. YOU are a racist and you don’t even see it.”

“Careful! Don’t use terms like that. I’m telling you we don’t like the way you behave.”

“No, you’re telling me you don’t like the way I AM! You don’t acknowledge cultural differences – both ethnic and social – inner city Sydney to this place here.”

“You have been warned about your behaviour.”

I shook my head, looked down at my feet. Exasperated I said, ” You have been told that I consider this whole interview as racist in nature. In fact I’m going to use this experience, if I’m granted an interview for the position of Regional Multicultural Education Coordinator, in the Hunter as a classic instance of systemic racism perpetrated by staff who don’t even see it as racist.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“If granted an interview I will. I’m out of this place. Lucky for me I love my students – especially my TPC students. If I get that job it’ll be the only thing I’ll miss.”

I walked out of the office feeling flustered, upset, hurt and defiant. I wished with all my heart that I would get that job in the Hunter.

Well, I did get the job in the Hunter and I did use the incident with Ms String O’Pearls in my interview. I couldn’t help my self telling her how I used the incident in her office in the interview. I thanked her.

Lets talk about Racism


Submissions for current Refugee Issues UNHCR >> Dadaab Refugee Camp

May 27, 2010

Hi

I received this today. Those who can please send in a submission for the Dadaab refugees.

Below the reminder is the document and submission form.

stavros

============================================================

A reminder that the Australian Refugee Rights Alliance (ARRA) is calling for brief submissions from individuals and refugee community groups regarding current issues of concern to refugee populations in and from the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions.

The due date for submissions is 31 May. Please see the attached information sheet for further details on making a submission. Feel free to distribute this information to your networks. If you have any queries, please feel free to contact me as per the details below.

We look forward to receiving your submissions!

Kind regards, Lucy Morgan Information & Membership Officer Refugee Council of Australia

Suite 4A6, 410 Elizabeth Street Surry Hills NSW 2010 Phone: 61 2 9211 9333 Fax: 61 2 9211 9288 email: info@refugeecouncil.org.au

www.refugeecouncil.org.au

====================================================

INVITATION FOR SUBMISSIONS

TO THE UNHCR- NGO CONSULTATIONS

The Australian Refugee Rights Alliance (ARRA) is calling for brief submissions from individuals and refugee community groups regarding current issues of concern to refugee populations in and from the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions.

ARRA is a coalition of Australian NGOs, refugee advocates and academics. Organisations involved in ARRA include the Centre for Refugee Research of University of NSW, Refugee Council of Australia, Amnesty International and Act for Peace (National Council of Churches).  Each year, representatives from ARRA travel to Geneva to participate in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ NGO consultations.

Prior to the UNHCR meetings, the group prepares a comprehensive set of documents addressing policy issues of shared concern. This process enables more effective advocacy at the meetings by ensuring coordinated and targeted action by the Australian delegation. In 2010, the meetings will occur in late June.

Individuals and refugee community groups are invited to make submissions on issues they would like to recommend that ARRA put forward during the meetings with UNHCR.

ARRA is particularly interested in current issues of concern to refugee populations in the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions, however issues of concern to refugee populations in other regions of the world are also invited.

 Some possible themes you may choose to use include:

  • Women at Risk
  • Protracted Refugee Situations
  • Xenophobia/Racism 
  • Families at Risk
  • Urban Refugee Policy

 How Can I Contribute to the UNHCR NGO Consultations?

You can submit a brief submission to us, focusing on any current issue, but it should be limited to one page in length.  We will then read your submission contact you for more information if required and do our best to include your issues in our papers for discussion at the UNHCR in late June. 

 Please return submission application form with your submission to Lucy Morgan at the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA).

 All submissions must be received by 31 May.

Submissions must be received by 31 MayVia post or email:  
ATT: Lucy MorganRefugee Council of Australia (RCOA)  
Suite 4A6, 410 Elizabeth Street,Surry Hills NSW 2010

Tel: 02 9211 9333

Fax: 02 9211 9288

 
Email: info@refugeecouncil.org.au  
   

 

 

Submission Form        

 

Name:  
Organisation (if applicable):  

 

Contact Information:

 

Address:  
Email:  
Contact Phone Number:  
Country of Origin:  

 

 

Topic of Submission:

 

Regional Focus (Asia, Africa, Middle East, other)  
Country Focus:  

 

Issues Covered in Submission:
1.2

3.

4.

Recommendations to UNHCR  
1.2.

3

 

 

 

* * Please Attach your 1-page Submission


Help Make the Free Gaza Flotilla a Reality

April 9, 2010

Hi

I received this message today and it reminded me of the efforts made to make the Flotillas of Hope to Nauru a reality. Every little bit counts, every positive thought form focussed on manifesting the intention helps, every dollar and every dialogue that concerns this project helps make it a reality.

Please help make this Free Gaza Flotilla a Reality, support the Free Gaza Movement.

http://www.freegaza.org/de/donate

Why we care – written by Free Gaza Movement, April, 2009

stavros

=============================================================================

Our four boats are purchased or refurbished, flagged and registered. The cargo ship is now named the MV Rachel Corrie with the blessing of the Corrie family. Children in Gaza and the occupied West Bank will name the other two boats, and we will let you know what they chose.

The Free Gaza Cargo Ship "MV Rachel Corrie"

We are hard at work collecting the cargo… cement, books for children and universities, paper for printing books, water filtration equipment, and medical equipment, all being denied the people of Gaza by Israel’s brutal blockade.

So we ask one last time for a $25.00-$100.00 donation from each of you, a donation that will be used for our operating costs. It is not enough to buy, register and insure the boats. We need fuel for all vessles, crew expenses, supplies for all four boats, a crane to add to the cargo ship to offload the cargo, and miscellaneous expenses that always appear at the last minute.

Please go to http://www.freegaza.org/de/donate and help us raise the final 20%. You can donate in the U.S. by writing a tax-deductible check to our fiscal sponsor in DC, donate through our two PayPal accounts, one in Cyprus and one in the U.S. or wire an amount into our Free Gaza account in Cyprus. The website provides all of the detail for you.  

With your help, our final $100,000 can be raised in the next month as we get ready to leave Europe on May 3 and begin our voyage to Gaza. More than 5000 of you now follow our voyages; you have signed up for our TWITTER account, you have joined our newsletter, and you are members of many Free Gaza lists. Please donate, send our plea to your own lists, then watch our journey as we make our way across the sea to Gaza.

Thank you from all of us at Free Gaza. Every one of you has made this flotilla a reality.


The Triumph of Triviality – John Schumaker (from New Internationalist)

March 31, 2010

The triumph of triviality

John F Schumaker asks if consumer society is too shallow to deal with the deepening crises facing the planet.

The results of the cultural indoctrination stakes are not yet in but there is a definite trend – triviality leads, followed closely by superficiality and mindless distraction. Vanity looks great while profundity is bringing up the rear. Pettiness is powering ahead, along with passivity and indifference. Curiosity lost interest, wisdom was scratched and critical thought had to be put down. Ego is running wild. Attention span continues to shorten and no-one is betting on survival.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Half a century ago, humanistic thinkers were heralding a great awakening that would usher in a golden age of enlightened living. People like Erich Fromm, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Rollo May and Viktor Frankl were laying the groundwork for a new social order distinguished by raised consciousness, depth of purpose and ethical refinement. This tantalizing vision was the antithesis of our society of blinkered narcissists and hypnogogic materialists. Dumbness was not our destiny. Planetary annihilation was not the plan. By the 21st century, we were supposed to be the rarefied ‘people of tomorrow’, inhabiting a sagacious and wholesome world.

Today, the demand for triviality has never been higher and our tolerance for seriousness has never been lower

Erich Fromm’s 1955 tome, The Sane Society, signalled the début of the one-dimensional ‘marketing character’ – a robotic, all-consuming creature, ‘well-fed, well-entertained… passive, unalive and lacking in feeling’. But Fromm was also confident that we would avoid further descent into the fatuous. He forecast a utopian society based on ‘humanistic communitarianism’ that would nurture our higher ‘existential needs’.

In his 1961 book, On Becoming a Person, Carl Rogers wrote: ‘When I look at the world I am pessimistic, but when I look at people I am optimistic.’ While acknowledging consumer culture’s seductive dreamland of trinkets and desire, he believed that we – those ‘people of tomorrow’ – would minister over a growth-oriented society, with ‘growth’ defined as the full and positive unfolding of human potential.

We would be upwardly driven toward authenticity, social equality and the welfare of coming generations. We would revere nature, realize the unimportance of material things and hold a healthy scepticism about technology and science. An anti-institutional vision would enable us to fend off dehumanizing bureaucratic and corporate authority as we united to meet our ‘higher needs’.

One of the most famous concepts in the history of psychology is Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, often illustrated by a pyramid. Once widely accepted, it was also inspired by a faith in innate positive human potential. Maslow claimed that human beings naturally switch attention to higher-level needs (intellectual, spiritual, social, existential) once they have met lower-level material ones. In moving up the pyramid and ‘becoming’, we channel ourselves toward wisdom, beauty, truth, love, gratitude and respect for life. Instead of a society that catered to and maintained the lowest common denominator, Maslow imagined one that prospered in the course of promoting mature ‘self-actualized’ individuals.

But something happened along the way. The pyramid collapsed. Human potential took a back seat to economic potential while self-actualization gave way to self-absorption on a spectacular scale. A pulp culture flourished as the masses were successfully duped into making a home amidst an ever-changing smorgasbord of false material needs.

Operating on the principle that triviality is more profitable than substance and dedicating itself to unceasing material overkill, consumer culture has become a fine-tuned instrument for keeping people incomplete, shallow and dehumanized. Materialism continues to gain ground, even in the face of an impending eco-apocalypse.

Pulp culture is a feast of tinsel and veneer. The ideal citizen is an empty tract through which gadgets can pass quickly, largely undigested, so there is always space for more. Reality races by as a blur of consumer choices that never feel quite real. We know it as the fast lane and whip ourselves to keep apace.

Rollo May described it accurately in his 1953 book, Man’s Search for Himself:

‘It’s an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when they have lost their way.’ So it’s largely business-as-usual even as the sky is falling.

Some critics did predict the triumph of the trivial. In his 1957 essay, ‘A Theory of Mass Culture’, Dwight MacDonald foresaw our ‘debased trivial culture that voids both the deep realities and also the simple spontaneous pleasures’, adding that ‘the masses, debauched by several generations of this sort of thing, in turn come to demand trivial cultural products’.

Today, the demand for triviality has never been higher and our tolerance for seriousness has never been lower.

In this dense fog the meaningful and meaningless can easily get reversed. Losers look like winners and the lofty and ludicrous get confused. The caption under a recent ad for men’s underwear read: ‘I’ve got something that’s good for your body, mind and soul.’ Fashion statements become a form of literacy; brand names father pride and celebrity drivel becomes compelling.

Not even God has been spared. Once a potent commander of attention and allegiance, God has been gelded into a sort of celestial lapdog who fetches our wishes for this-world success. Nothing is so great that it can’t be reconceived or rephrased in order to render it insubstantial, non-threatening or – best of all – entertaining.

The age of trivialization has left its mark on marriage, family and love. In a recent AC Nielsen survey, when asked to choose between spending time with their fathers and watching television, 54 per cent of American 4-6 year-olds chose television. The same study reported that American parents spend an average of 3.5 minutes per week in ‘meaningful conversation’ with their children, while the children themselves watch 28 hours of television a week. To which we can add cellphones, computer games and other techno-toys that are inducing a state of digital autism in our young people.

Out of this cock-up comes the most pressing question of our age. Can a highly trivialized culture, marooned between fact and fiction, dizzy with distraction and denial, elevate its values and priorities to respond effectively to the multiple planetary emergencies looming? Empty talk and token gestures aside, it doesn’t appear to be happening.

Some of the great humanists felt that there are limits to a culture’s ability to suppress our higher needs. They assumed that we are ethical creatures by nature and that we’ll do the right thing when necessary – we will transcend materialism given the freedom to do so. That seems far-fetched given the ethical coma in which we now find ourselves. Yet the ultimate test is whether or not we can do the right thing by the planet and for future generations.

Ethics and politics have never sat well together. When ‘citizens’ changed into ‘consumers’, political life became an exercise in keeping the customer happy. The imperfect democracies we have today have never been tested with planetary issues like global warming and climate change, which demand radical and unsettling solutions. In the race against the clock, politicians appear almost comical as they try not to disturb the trivial pursuits propping up our dangerously obsolete socio-economic system.

Global calamity is forcing us into a post-political era in which ethically driven individuals and groups race ahead of the political class. Soon centre-stage will belong to culture-change strategists who are able to inspire leaps of consciousness independently of hapless follow-the-leader politics. One such person is Jan Lundberg (www.culturechange.org). Lundberg is an environmental activist and a long-standing voice for pre-emptive culture change. He understands that hyper-consumerism trivializes reality and numbs people, even to prospects of their own destruction. In his essay ‘Interconnections of All in the Universe’, he writes: ‘Unless we broaden and deepen our perception of both the universe and our fellow members of society, we all may perish in persisting to manipulate each other and our ecosystem with materialism and exploitation.’

Culture-change strategists all agree about the urgent need to promote ‘global consciousness’ or ‘cosmic consciousness’ – a broad worldview with a high awareness of the inter-relatedness and sacredness of all living things. It is thought that such a universality of mind leads not only to intellectual illumination, but also to heightened moral sensibilities, compassion and greater community responsibility.

Behind the scenes some noteworthy organizations are working toward the goal of global consciousness, including the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality (www.globalspirit.org), whose members include Nobel laureates, culture theorists, futurists and spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama. The group points out the huge backlog of positive human potential that is ready to unleash itself once we assume control and carve healthier cultural pathways for people’s energies. According to their mission statement, the fate of humankind and the ecosystem lies in our ability over the next couple of decades actively to revise our cultural blueprints in order to foster global consciousness and create new, more ‘mindful’ political and economic models.

Global calamity is forcing us into a post-political era in which ethically driven individuals and groups race ahead of the political class

Even in the formal education system, a small but growing number of teachers are incorporating a ‘global awareness’ perspective into the curriculum, aimed at dissolving cultural barriers and building a sense of global community (www.globalawareness.com). Some are even encouraging a ‘global grammar’ that links students both to other human beings and to the entire planet.

In the war against trivialization some groups speak of ‘planetization’ – an expansive worldview that can slow our cultural death march. It was the French philosopher, palaeontologist and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who coined this term in calling for a global mind that fused our ecological, spiritual and political energies, and thereby paved the way for harmonious living and lasting peace. The organization Planetization Rising (www.planetization.com) sees this next phase as the only means by which we can ascend to a higher knowledge and thereby find a life-sustaining path for ourselves and the Earth: ‘It’s the next watershed mark in our evolutionary journey which alone can provide us with the empowerment and insight needed to overcome the gathering forces of ecological devastation, greed and war which now threaten our survival.’

The cultural indoctrination race is not over. The losers are still winning and the odds for a revolution in consciousness are no more than even. But is there an alternative – other than to drown in our own shallowness?

John F Schumaker is a US-born clinical psychologist living in Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. His latest book is In search of happiness: understanding an endangered state of mind (Penguin, 2006).

also by…
THIS AUTHOR

The happiness conspiracy
What does it mean to be happy in a modern consumer society? John F Schumaker argues that the elusive state has more to do with culture than genetics.

In greed we trust
John F Schumaker takes on the philosophers of greed.

Dead zone
John F Schumaker now lives and works in Aotearoa/New Zealand. But on a recent trip back home he came face-to-face with the monster of American consumer culture. The sobering encounter left him questioning both human greed and the pursuit of materialism.


A Voice from the Voiceless >> Dadaab Refugee Camps Kenya

March 9, 2010

Hi

I received the following message from some African refugee workers I am in contact with in my day job. This is stuff you won’t see on ABC, BBC, PBS or written about in UN Reports. It is a Call from those whose voice has been voiceless in Dadaab, Kenya. I have not corrected any grammar, syntax or spelling. I am posting this as I received it.

stavros

================================================================

Dear All the concerned Memebers,

With humble respect, on behalf of the refugees living in the camps of Dadaab, we would like to share our grievances with the world and ask for you to help us find our way to freedom.

Our lives in the camps are far worse than you can imagine. We live in an open prison, far away from justice and humanity. We talk, but our voices are never heard. We move, but only inside a cage. We have many skills and talents, but we are denied our chance to maximize our potential. We are chained to a life full of stress and despair; a life for which many would prefer death. We are denied opportunities for education and employment. We live in a condition without adequate water, food, or health facilities. We are arbitrarily beaten or detained by police within the confines of the camp. We lack the ability to freely express ourselves or have control over the decisions affecting our lives.

For those of us lucky enough to obtain employment with the agencies, we are exploited through the payment of mere “incentive” wages, while national and international staff receive much greater payment and benefits. How can you force us to live in a certain place that denies us our human rights and our basic needs?

 This note wishes to express some of the challenges we face here in the refugee camps of Dadaab in the hopes that we will be given a chance to have greater control over our lives, and have our fundamental human rights fulfilled. Although the challenges and abuses we face are numerous, we will only briefly mention some of our main grievances, including restricted movement, exploitative working conditions, poor service deliver, and false information and abuse by UNHCR and other agencies operating in the camps.

For many of us, the restrictions on movement and the conditions in our forced confinement have caused more psychological, economical, and health problems than diseases and wars have caused.

We ask the Kenyan government, the other governments of Africa, and the people of the world to hear our voices, see our condition, and look further into our situation. We only want our chance to thrive, to live our lives, to visit our family members, to attend school, to receive medical treatment, to help support our families, and to have control over the economic and policy making decisions affecting our lives. We only want the chance to live as other human beings live, with a hope for the future.

Please hear our cries, allow us to move freely from this open prison, and provide us the opportunity to live our lives, support ourselves, and pursue our dreams!

Restricted Movement

Some of us have faced the imprisonment of the refugee camps of Dadaab since 1991, while others of us are newly arriving. Although there have been changes and developments over the past nineteen years, our restricted movement has caused and continues to cause our underdevelopment and deterioration. Many people have died from simple diseases because they could not move to get treatment in Garissa (a town only 90 km from Dadaab). Many parents have remained separated from their children who disappeared from the camps because they could not move to search for them or inquire of their whereabouts. Many students have missed their chances for educational opportunities, have failed to take their final examinations, or have been unable to obtain education certificates earned because they could not receive the permission to move. Many people have been forced into greater poverty by being denied the chance to work and by having to pay three times the price of goods in other regions because they can not move to get cheaper goods for consumption or business. Perhaps worse still, many who have tried to move have been beaten, arrested, detained, and/or forced to pay heavy bribes or fines of large amounts of money they never imagined.

Exploitative Working Conditions

Ever since the creation of the refugee camps of Dadaab in 1991 and 1992 and thereafter, UNHCR and the agencies operating in the refugee camps of Dadaab have relied for their operations on the exploited labor of the refugee communities. Whether skilled or unskilled labor, refugee staff members have worked in conditions and received wages that are in violation of national and international labor laws. While many of the refugee staff in the agencies work tirelessly for the agencies and their fellow refugees, they still merely receive “incentives” for their hard work and dedication. Even highly experienced individuals, some of whom have graduated from Universities, colleges, and secondary schools in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Congo, Sudan, etc., receive unlivable wages, let alone wages commensurate with their experience. In addition to the dreadfully low, unlivable wage, refugee staff members are discriminated against in their payment. Specifically, although refugee staff members work as many hours and complete as many or more tasks as national or some international staff members, refugee staff members are paid significantly lower amounts and are called the derogatory name of “incentive” staff members receiving not wages or a salary but “incentives.” Indeed, though the work load given refugee staff members often exceeds that national/international staff members, refugee staff members are not given their proper respect or payment.

In a related manner, refugee staff often face harsh and discriminatory treatment by national and international staff of UNHCR and the agencies. Several national and international staff frequently use harsh commands and create a difficult work environment, and are given titles of officers even though they do not have as much experience or strong work ethic as the refugee staff members. As an example of the unfair treatment of refugee staff members, these staff members often have to queue for long hours simply to receive their payments and such long lines often cause staff members to miss the limited opportunities to receive their payment and in turn delay their receipt of their hard earned payments. As another example, refugee staff members have great difficulty receiving transportation services of the agencies, sometimes even when travel is required by their jobs. Also, refugee staff members are often not given opportunities for training or scholarships, or even if they do receive such opportunities they are not given work permits at the end of even multiple degrees. Moreover, refugee staff members are not allowed to take part in decision making about the refugee programmes ironically that the refugee staff members usually must implement and that are intended to benefit refugee beneficiaries. Similarly, refugee staff members are not afforded an opportunity to participate in planning, writing project proposals, or otherwise participating in any other management functions despite in many circumstances years of experience and knowledge about the refugee communities who are supposedly the beneficiaries of the agencies’ programs and the conditions in which they live and operate. Indeed, refugee staff members are not even provided meaningful opportunities to present feedback that is received, considered, and/or implemented. Incentive Wages At the heart of the exploitation of refugee staff members lies the entire system of “incentive workers.”

The agencies in the camps of Dadaab divide staff into three main categories:

§ International staff

§ National staff

§ Incentive staff

While national and international staff have relatively similar salaries, working conditions, and privileges, the so-called incentive staff are barely paid, are discriminated against, and are often treated with disrespect. The national and international staff members have every thing required for the fulfillment of the respective work such as transport, office tools and equipment, refreshments etc. at their disposal. At the same time, the refugee staff generally have no such access despite the fact that the national and international staff often greatly depend upon the refugee staff in order to carry out their duties, gain access to and understand the refugee communities, and break through language barriers and cultural differences. Yet, while the incentive staff are indeed the back bone of the agency operations in the camps, the relationship between these two sets of staff and the treatment of refugee staff members is horrible.

 The agencies and UNHCR continue to simply pay only meager incentives, which are minimal amounts in and of themselves and are not accompanied by any significant bonuses, benefits, allowances, pensions, separation payments, or other components of standard national and international staff contracts even for refugee staff members that have been working for over a decade. An incentive worker will earn as little as 50 – 90 USD per month, regardless of the number of years of experience, seniority in employment or academic qualifications. Indeed, the skills, academic credentials, and experiences varies significantly across the work force of refugees, ranging from primary school leavers to those with multiple Masters degrees and diplomas who have worked for more than a decade. Yet all are subject to harsh conditions and meager payment. In addition, the ill treatment and lack of respect for refugee staff and their tireless efforts has taken its physical and emotional toll on many staff members, and in fact some young professionals have developed psychological problems due to the frustrations they face while others have chosen to even risk their lives to return to their respective homelands in the hopes of finding an adequate means of survival for themselves and their families. Moreover, the vast disparities between refugee staff and national/international staff continues to create envy and hatred among the staff of the same agency.

 The incentive system is often claimed to be necessary because of limited budgetary resources and because refugee staff members are not allowed to officially work under Kenyan law. However, in actuality, these supposed justifications serve only as mere excuses for the agencies to hide behind so that they can continue to exploit refugee labor. With respect to the limited resources, first of all limited resources can not serve as an excuse for exploiting refugee labour. Moreover, the amount of money that is wasted if not skimmed off the top by the agencies reaches huge amounts; if there are indeed limited resources, the agencies could shift resources away from ineffective trainings, corrupted individuals, and high paid national and international staff in order to adequately pay incentive staff members.

In a related manner, in line with the problem noted above of not including refugee staff in decision-making and managerial tasks: the agencies should “open the books” and allow refugee staff members to be a part of resource allocation decisions. With respect to the inability for refugees to work under Kenyan law, again the agencies and not the Kenyan government are setting the amounts of the incentive wages and if the agencies are able to legally provide incentives at all then the agencies can not point the finger at anyone other than themselves with respect to the exploitative amounts that are arbitrarily set by UNHCR and the agencies. Moreover, UNHCR and agencies are able to obtain work permits for refugee staff members in Nairobi and elsewhere when they deem it appropriate. Further, it is the obligation of UNHCR to advocate on behalf of refugees’ right to work and pressure the government of Kenya to follow its obligations under the Refugee Convention to allow for such rights.

We ask members of the international community to step up for this matter and come forward to help us refugee staff members regain our human dignity and equality and fairness for all in terms wage earning, working conditions and decision-making. Furthermore, we ask that international human rights bodies and the International Labor Organization study and scrutinize the years in which our talents, skills and services have been exploited and abused by the agencies in Dadaab. The title “incentive worker” The title given to the refugees working with the humanitarian agencies is itself exploitative and demeaning. Literally the word incentive means something given to some in order that he/she keeps the same spirit in the course of an operation; however the magnitude of the incentive in the camps of Dadaab is negligible. Considering the workload carried out by the staff or employees drawn from the refugee community, it is the case that refugee workers form the backbone of the humanitarian operations in the Dadaab camps. Indeed, without these workers, the agencies would suffer an acute shortage of human resources. Given the fact that the title “incentive” does not actually sound proper, the refugee workers often feel discouraged and humiliated to be called an incentive worker, which even can weaken the productivity and output of the workers. Furthermore the title incentive widens the already expansive gap between the refugee workers and the national and international staff, which further hinders the cooperation necessary to achieve the important goals of the humanitarian operations in Dadaab.

The more favorable the working conditions, the more efficient an employee will be in her/his daily undertakings, and the more cooperative relations amongst different categories of staff members, the more likely the operations in general will be successful. Thus, if only from the point of view of improving operations in Dadaab, the title of the refugee staff should be changed, the disparity in wages must be closed, and the working conditions must be improved. Harmonization Incentive Document for 2010 A memo concerning the “harmonization of refugees incentive workers wages” was developed by UNHCR in collaboration with all of the NGOs working in the refugee camps; some of the NGOs have shown skepticism about the effects of the document but the policy has been passed without adequate input or consideration of the viewpoints of current refugee staff members. While we recognize the potential positive effect of raising the wages of those agencies paying the lowest amounts, harmonization should only result in a harmonization upward. Moreover, we believe that individuals should be paid wages that are both living wages and appropriate for their jobs and their level of expertise and experience. The document is totally contradicting the conventions to the refuges. Indeed this is a practical evidence that UNHCR is violating the international conventions and protocols relating to the provisions and service of the refuges instead of promoting, it.

Furthermore, the UNHCR has not increased a sigle coin to the refguee workers and what it done was a cheating withno consultation to the concerned parties; indeed the amount that was dedected from the fellow refugee workers were increased for the other fellow refguee workers thus, creating envy and hatered among the working refguee workers!. In this world it has never been noticed that somesone’s pay is lowered without proper justifications.

Despite the fact that many other irrlguralies that can not be not be summarized is ongoing on daily, weekly, monthly or annually basses within the confines of the refugee camps of Dadaab.

Poor Service Delivery

The Dadaab refugee camps were established in the wake the devastating civil wars and persecution in neighboring countries, such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Congo, and Eritrea. While we are grateful for the support that has been provided to those who have had to flee from their home countries, it is incredible that nearly twenty years after their adoption, their remains terrible problems in the service delivery and operations of the various agencies operating in the Dadaab camps: UNHCR, WFP, CARE, NRC LWF, IRC GTZ –IS, WINDLE TRUST KENYA, DRC HI, MSF, etc. The food distribution sector, the education sector, the medical care sector, the water and sanitation sector, and the land allocation and shelter sectors provide just a few of the many examples of the continuing and sometimes worsening poor service delivery. Food While the refugees in the Dadaab camps do appreciate the relentless efforts of the international community to ensure that the refugees in the Dadaab camps are given food, we ask the international community if a three (03) kilograms of maize and 50 grams of oil is enough to feed a person for a period of 15 days. This meager amount does not meet international standards. Worse still, a quarter of the amount claimed to be given is often stolen during food distribution, in large part because the workers of the food distribution are not adequately paid and are thus encouraged to steal from the beneficiaries. How can refugees be forced to remain in camps, told for twenty years that they are not allowed to work and raise their own livelihood, and then not be given enough food to feed themselves and their families?

Education

Education in the camps consists of several primary schools and secondary schools and other adult learning literacy institutions. While education, especially at the primary level, is a basic need and right, various factors have limited the quantity and quality of education provided in the camps of Dadaab. At the most basic level, the camps’ population has swollen thrice in recent years, while the capacity has only minimally increased. The focal organization for education in the camps, CARE international in Kenya, has not done a good enough job at increasing the education capacity. Poor quality education is matched with poor infrastructure, as many of the buildings remain the same as those built in 1992 to accommodate some 97,000 refugees while the population has currently grown to nearly 300,000. We have 18 primary schools across the three camps with an average of 3500 pupils per school. These large numbers of learners face many challenges in school. The general ratio of teachers to pupils is 1:80; a situation that has forced many learners to become dropouts, ending up on the market streets. All the 18 mentioned primary school are registered as Kenyan National examination centers while the learners in grade 8 (standard eight) must sit for the national exams in November of each year. The Kenya national examination law states that for a school to be a centre for national examination, there should be a least one trained teacher per class in that school; contrary to this law the schools in Dadaab do not have adequately trained P1 teachers. Yet the ministry of education of the government of Kenya officially has accepted this situation, which has resulted in poor performance in all these 18 schools. Another factor affecting education is the issue of payment. A teacher who is expected to serve as a role model, shape the study and character of various children, and teach the next generation of students, receive some of the lowest wages, lower even than donkey cart riders. The low payment causes more qualified individuals to seek other jobs, and for those who remain as teachers to have little motivation to do a good job in their work. Another problematic feature of the education system is that although as many as 4000 pupils sit for their national exams (KCPE), only roughly 120 students from each camp will have the opportunity to move on to secondary school, and even fewer of those who complete secondary school will have opportunities for further education after high school. Courses in Kenya University and colleges, despite funding by the international community, remains limited.

Medical Care

Medical conditions and nutrition have declined since 1992; down the line diseases are increasing while the interventions are relatively minimal compared to the number of patients in the hospital. In addition, as a result of acute malnutrition in the camps and anemia, child mortality rate is on the rise.

Further, due to ongoing fighting in neighboring Somalia, many refugees continue to come to the camps with numerous diseases, injuries, mental sickness, skin diseases and birth defects, many of which are not able to receive medical attention and are told that their ailment is too complicated to be attended to in the camps. As result many patients will converge at UNHCR field offices for their medical concerns but unfortunately UNHCR protection unit staff will keep refugees waiting and only refer them to the same doctors, nurses, and medical facilities that are already stretched too thins Which are expected to assist roughly three hundred deliveries per month in each of the camps. Currently, we have three medical charity organizations in camps MSF SWIZ in Dagahaley, IRC in Hagadera, and GTZ-IS in Ifo. Yet, especially due to the overcrowding, the medical facilities simply do not meet the incredible medical needs in the camps. Some of the most basic issues in the medical care sector include: – Lack of qualified personnel in hospitals – Lack of medicine/ procured – Lack of emergency equipment / ambulance theatre – Lack of adequate facilities or equipment to deal with many of the ailments Water and Sanitation Water and sanitation services are basic and essential; there are 15 boreholes in the camps which supply safe water to the refugee population since water is chlorinated before being supplied. Those boreholes are managed by borehole attendants or incentive workers who work from 6:30am to 6:30pm ever day, even on weekends or public holidays, since water is needed every hour of the day, and yet only earn minimal wages. Similarly, sanitation, waste management, and carcass collection and disposal, as well meat inspections/hygiene promotion are carried out incentives staff while the national staff seem to sit in the office browsing the internet and pretending to be busy in the offices. (Issues of latrine are handled by NRC whiles other sanitary and hygiene activities are done by CARE – RAP Watsan). In addition, the water crisis in the deeply populated Dadaab camps often results in fighting at the tap stands among families, village mates, and block mates. Sanitation and waste management is also worrying. The current network of latrines is hardly maintained and there are not nearly enough latrines for the Dadaab refugees in general. The latrine system in Dadaab camps is far below internationally accepted and minimum standards, such as 1 latrine for every 20 people.

Land Allocation and Shelter

For security reasons and because of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Somalia, many Somali refugees flee and escape ordeals in the war torn Somalia and seek protection in the Dadaab camps. Yet upon arrival in Dadaab, new arrivals often receive little guidance, orientation, or support to find land, obtain food, seek medical screening or vaccinations, etc. For instance, when a family comes to Dagahaley camp, where registration has been undertaken since 2005, the only thing they receive form UNHCR is a food ration card after waiting for around 10 days.

Finding shelter is often left to the good will of the refugees already living in the camps, despite the fact that severe overcrowding and congestion already exists in the camps. Most of the new arrivals simply build make-shift shelters that are susceptible being washed away by the heavy rains, or they resort to a living under the trees or a “house” where they are exposed to the elements. New arrivals thus face problems related to security, cold, wild animals, poor sanitation, etc. In addition, after registration the new arrivals often do not get non food items that they are intended to receive such as plastic sheeting, a cooking set, Jeri cans, and blankets; even accessing food is hard for new arrivals as they will start getting food from WFP up to 10 days after obtaining registration from UNHCR.

False Information Provided to Community Representatives and Visitors

Although there are the above problems and many more in the refugee camps of Dadaab, often visitors come to Dadaab and are shown a very different picture than the actual reality. Indeed, visitors of various high positions and organizations visit the worlds’ largest refugee camps of Dadaab in north eastern Kenya. Dadaab has in some ways become like a circus display or tourist attraction, with so many visitors coming in and out to see the camps and meet with refugees. Most visitors come with the intention of evaluating how the funds they have donated have been implemented for the target refugees. Visitors who individually only infrequently and occasionally pay visits to the refugee camps are thoroughly misguided about the real information on the ground. Visitors are often taken to pre-arranged places and meet with special people organized to supposedly speak on behalf of the refugees, who often give information that does not inform the visitors of the real circumstances of refugees’ conditions. It is believed that some agency staff members use bribery and other means of influence with refugee leaders whom they think can give substantial and fabricated information to the visitors that will protect and promote the agencies and their supposedly humanitarian work. It is believed that some agency staff members make false promises to such leaders, such as offering resettlement opportunities or contracts in order to entice these leaders to hide the true information about how agencies deal with refugees when high profile visitors come to the refugee camps. In addition, often when high profile visitors come to the camps, their time is scheduled such that they do not meet with many of the true leaders, intellectuals, young leaders, women’s groups and other stakeholders from the refugee community to hear and know from them directly without the presence of the Agency’s representatives. Moreover, the security guards (AGK) are given instructions to be on high alert and only allow those who had been chosen by the agencies to meet with the visitors. For instance during a recent visit by 17 embassies to the refugees camps, our community leaders, intellectual, young leaders and other stakeholders from the refugee community were only given an opportunity to present all of their pressing problems in a mere 45 Minutes, with agency representatives present who could note which refugees spoke and potentially deal harshly with those who spoke after the visitors had left. In addition, on the onset of the arrival of various visitors, agencies attempt to undertake various preparations intended to deceive visitors about the situation in the camps, such as intensive cleaning campaigns, having even senior officers wade through the rubbish, adding new/temporary infrastructure of all sorts (tables, seats, wall hangings/messages, computers, etc.), painting walls, putting up boards and signs to show orgnanized residential and office compounds, and so forth. As but one example, when some high profile visitors were coming to visit the camps in mid-2009, new buildings were constructed, walls were painted, old equipment was hidden, and intense cleaning efforts were undertaken at a surface level in order to deceive the visitors. If the amount of hard work that was taken to make these preparations was done on a daily basis to actually address the problems facing those in the camps rather than simply providing surface level window dressing to please visiting donors and officials, the situation in the camps could much improve. As another example, when an envoy of ambassadors visited the WFP food distributed centre, all of the former containers used for distributing food (which had been cut in size in order to limit the amount of food given to each refugee) were set aside and every individual was allowed to receive a full ration. But these measures only existed during the few minutes when the visitors were present.

 Taken together, the agencies make significant efforts to hide the truth of the situation of refugees in the camps of Dadaab when visitors arrive. We therefore make a heartfelt request to the Intentional Community, high profile visitors, media, government officials, human rights bodies, independent journalists and other concerned parties to always think beyond the box while visiting the Dadaab refugee camps, to be skeptical of what they are being shown, to try to ensure that they take some time to talk privately to a number of different refugees, and to visit unplanned areas in order to uncover the true living situation of the refugees and hear their voices longing to determine their uncertain future! Abuse from UNHCR Officers in Dadaab against refugee youth advocating for their rights. National and international staff members of UNHCR and other agencies in the camps of Dadaab often attempt to harass and intimidate refugees who advocate for their own rights. As a recent example, the UNHCR Head of Sub Office, in the presence of elder witnesses, threatened various refugee youth who intended to attend a meeting at his office, shouting that in case any youth came into his (UNHCR) office he would call the police and arrest them. Similarly, the senior Protection Officer has often failed to protect the rights of the refugees while allegations of harassment and human rights abuses flood his office in Dadaab. If UNHCR jeopardizes and denies the basic rights of the refugees in Dadaab Refugee Camps and denies the opportunity for refugees to advocate for their own rights; who will then advocate for the rights of the thousands of the disadvantaged societies in Dadaab camps? It can only be concluded that the UN and other agencies do not wish to see a community who can manage their own affairs independently. It can only also be concluded that the agencies in Dadaab are more political agencies than they are humanitarian agencies, with many agencies undertaking similar tasks and doing little to actually assist refugees as they claim. Moreover, the reports shared by the agencies with the donors often provide false information and figures, including but not limited to false information about living conditions, security, service delivery, movement, education, development, health, water and sanitation, food, and services they allegedly provide but often either do in a sub-standard manner or never have even undertaken at all. While agency staff often argue that refugees have no right to complain because the services they receive are free, it must be noted that agency staff also receive free of charge much better services than the refugees receive, including in the areas of water, medical care, food, housing, electricity, etc. We request from the international community and other concerned parties to help us mange our own affairs and that affect us by giving us a chance to get the jobs we can do for own selves.

Conclusion

 In sum, we wish to reiterate that we hope that the international community will hear our cries and undertake efforts to end the exploitation and abuse we face by pressing for an end to restricted movement, a reform of exploitative labor policies, an improvement in service provision, a greater allowance for participation in decisions about service provision to the refugee communities and refugee staff members, and the end to the deception and abusive practices of the Kenyan government, UNHCR, and the other agencies operating in the camps of Dadaab toward the refugees and the international community. Furthermore, the International community and the concerned goverments should watchout carefully the actions of the govermentof kenya, UNHCR and the other Agenceis opertaing in the region decissively and should held account for any inhuman acts. Thanks and looking forward to your immediate durable solutions.

Kind Regards,

Refugee Silent Welfare Committees


From the Archives – Newcastle, Australia becomes a Welcome Town for Refugees

September 11, 2009

 

Way back in 2002 I was part of two groups which had a focus on human rights and refugee issues.

The more “operational” and lobbying aspect had expression in the group Newcastle Action for Refugee Rights (NARR). My more “cultural jamming” and “Situationist – Anarchist” aspect had its expression in HOPE Caravan. It was through HOPE Caravan that I was involved in the Easter Actions at Woomera Detention Centre in 2002 and Baxter Detention Centre in 2003. It was also as part of HOPE Caravan that the Flotillas of Hope found expression.

Hope Caravan logo we used on our now absent website.

Hope Caravan logo we used on our now absent website. The drawing was based on an original pencil drawing made by a prisoner at Woomera Detention Centre. He gave us permission to use it.

As part of NARR, I, along with others presented a proposal to Newcastle City Council to make Newcastle, Australia, an official Welcome Town for Refugees. Here’s the link to the whole proposal we presented at Newcastle City Council >> Welcome Town Presentation – thanks Jack for taking the time to make it available on your website.

Now that the dark years of the John Howard’s Decade is over in Australia, it is important that we are reminded that there were people in Australia (many, many of us) that were ashamed at the opportunistic tickling of the xenophobic underbelly of the Australian people that Howard’s genius did. People say that he was not a racist. Maybe he wasn’t in a way that Hitler was, but his myopic vision and policies that demonised innocent people who were seeking a new life were.

Anyway, I don’t want to go on about him here, suffice to say that there were Australians around during the Dark Howard Decade who stood against his crap.

My social conscience is clear and I’m proud to say that I was one of them.

NARR conducted a sympathy fast with the hunger strikers at Woomera Detention Centre in 2002. This is the tent we lived in at Civic Park, Newcastle. The head on the corner is a paper mache of Philip Ruddock, the Immigration Minister at the time.

NARR conducted a sympathy fast with the hunger strikers at Woomera Detention Centre in 2002. This is the tent we lived in at Civic Park, Newcastle. The head on the corner is a paper mache of Philip Ruddock, the Immigration Minister at the time.

 


%d bloggers like this: