Last week I walked through Sydney Botanic Gardens and took these photos with my phone camera. The day was overcast and I found myself drawn to textures and shapes.
“When you walk across the fields with your mind pure and holy, then from all the stones, and all growing things, and all animals, the sparks of their soul come out and cling to you, and then they are purified and become a holy fire in you.”
I walk daily along a country road that runs parallel to a river after a bend. I’ve just bought a second hand Pentax K-r camera and since this is the first time I’ve owned a “proper” camera I’d take it on my daily walk. I’m especially enthralled by the close up macro capacity of this camera which opened another level of looking and seeing in my walk.
So every photo here is taken as I walk along my country road- except the pictures of Buddha, Jesus and Rumi 🙂
While walking I try to be aware of myself by focussing on sensations of my feet touching the ground, the flies landing on my skin, the breeze touching my face and bare arms while attending to my breath. I often say hello to the cows and bulls if they’re nearby. I even try my version of cow talk by bellowing out loudly MMMOOOO!! They just look at me, don’t reply and often just run away.
It’s my attempt of walking meditation – an extension of Buddha’s suggestion:
“When walking, the practitioner is aware, ‘I am walking’; when standing, is aware, ‘I am standing’; when sitting, is aware, ‘I am sitting’; when lying down, is aware, ‘I am lying down.’ In whatever position one’s body happens to be, one is aware of the position of the body. When one is going forward or backward, one applies one’s full awareness to one’s going forward or backward. When one looks in front or looks behind, bends down or stands up, one also applies full awareness to what one is doing. One applies full awareness to wearing the robe or carrying the alms bowl. When one eats or drinks, chews or savors the food, one applies full awareness to all this. When passing excrement or urinating, one applies full awareness to this. When one walks, stands, lies down, sleeps or wakes up, speaks or is silent, one shines his awareness on all this.” So said the Buddha.
While walking I’m also aware of the chattering monkey mind climbing and swinging on mental vines in my skull. To calm the monkey and to see the chattering thoughts as clouds passing by I recite a mantra. This mantra is the Trisagion chant I learnt in the Orthodox Church as a child. It is an ancient Christian prayer believed to be an expansion of the angelic cry recorded in Revelation 4:8 :
The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
“Holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”
Ἅγιος ὁ Θεός, Ἅγιος ἰσχυρός, Ἅγιος ἀθάνατος, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.
Agios o Theos, Agios ischyros, Agios athanatos, eleison imas.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
I inwardly chant this in Greek while watching my breath.
The words of the Trisagion are enhanced by the beautiful tune of the chant. You can hear a version of this chant here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbVBC1zQll4
I also love the quote below from Rumi, the great Islamic scholar and mystic, founder of the Whirling Dervishes:
“I searched for God among the Christians and on the Cross and therein I found Him not.
I went into the ancient temples of idolatry; no trace of Him was there.
I entered the mountain cave of Hira and then went as far as Qandhar but God I found not.
With set purpose I fared to the summit of Mount Caucasus and found there only ‘anqa’s habitation.
Then I directed my search to the Kaaba, the resort of old and young; God was not there even.
Turning to philosophy I inquired about him from ibn Sina but found Him not within his range.
I fared then to the scene of the Prophet’s experience of a great divine manifestation only a “two bow-lengths’ distance from him” but God was not there even in that exalted court.
Finally, I looked into my own heart and there I saw Him; He was nowhere else.”
If everything is in tune and there descends a silence within which may only last as long as a breath cycle or a few seconds then the words of this Hasidic saying come alive for a nano moment:
“When you walk across the fields with your mind pure and holy, then from all the stones, and all growing things, and all animals, the sparks of their soul come out and cling to you, and then they are purified and become a holy fire in you.”
At the end of the bamboo grove I always eat fruit in season – winter an orange or mandarine – home grown, and in summer stone fruit – peach, plum or apricot. I relish the taste, feeling the life force zing of fresh fruit as I look across the river to the mountains in the distance. At times a pelican may fly overhead or a hawk dive down to the field. Always there are ducks gliding over the river’s surface.
After eating the fruit, I take three deep breaths and now aloud, chant the Trisagion followed by the Lord’s Prayer said in the original Greek.
The only beings who hear me are the flowers and trees nearby, birds nesting, insects buzzing around, lizards near my feet scurrying away and the river and breeze. I ponder on the meaning of this prayer amongst the “lilies of the field”. I wonder why the word translated as “daily”, the Greek word “epiousion” is a huge mystery because the only time it is used in Greek is in this prayer and no one knows what it means! Here we have a set of words memorised by millions and millions with a hidden mystery word – “epiousion”. I like to think that the “bread” the prayer is referring to is the “sparks of the soul of things”.
I keep walking trying to be present, trying to be in the moment all the way back home. Once at home I try to re-member the tiny moments of awareness that sparked across my synapses and along the river’s edge.
One the things that I love to do is fly kites. There is something so beautiful, peaceful and meditative when one is flying a kite against a blue sky. When the kite is high up in the sky and the kite string sings its low volumed but high pitched sound, you feel that you hold your quivering soul in your hands.
Sometimes, when the sky is clear and the wind constant, it feels like the reverse, that the soul holds my quivering body in its hands.
At rare moments, the string becomes an analogue of attention and instead of it being just one way, it is seen as being two way, the Kite holding me and “I” holding the Kite, simultaneously … double attention.
At even rarer moments, if I am centred and watching attentively, feeling the breeze on my face and arms, feeling the sensation of my body through the weight on my feet, a Third Attention arises. This Attention is the Attention of the Sky Above enveloping the double attention between Kite and “Me”. At moments like these, one feels the miniscule, tiny microscale of the Holy Trinity of Attention as expressed in one flying a kite under the sky.
One is reminded of a greater Holy Trinity of Attention which holds the World together – the Holy Trinity of Forces as expressed in many different traditions.
Check out the transcript of a talk I gave on “Turning Inwards” https://dodona777.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/turning-inwards/
If you click on the images below you will see a larger version of same.
Mucking around with Photoshop I found the Posteriser, well, technically “poster edges”. It makes posters of photos and emphasises the edges of the picture’s various contours. It’s incredible to see some of my photos in a new light. I posterised some photos I put up on my old Photojournal website in 2002 and the whole process changes the picture in an amazing way. This old geocities website no longer exists. So who said that websites are eternal?
When I took these pictures I used a cheap “instamatic” camera without a zooms lens. My instamatic camera used film and it was very expensive to develop the large number of rolls of film I had when I returned to Australia. I then scanned the photos and used Photoshop to enhance and edit as needed. Today I use a small digital camera, not only is it far cheaper to take and see your photos, but also with the large memory disks available you don’t have to worry about carrying rolls of film.
So, 2000 seems like another age when it comes to photography!
The following pictures are from the above website.
I will put up more “posterised” photos as I complete them here.
Here’s a few:
Just click on the pictures below to see an enlarged version.
When are true beginnings of events, births and resurrections? I ask this question because I’ve been asked when did the “Flotillas of Hope” begin? Common sense answers that it was the day and time the boats set off for Nauru. “Eureka” left Sydney on 15 May and “One Off” and “Eureka” left Brisbane for Nauru on 23 May, 2004. However, before the boats even existed, “Flotillas of Hope” was an email sent at a particular date and time from somewhere. Was this email “Call to Action” the real beginning of the project? A feeling anchored in my heart for a few months before the “Call to Action” email was sent over the internet. Was this feeling the real beginning that only needed my fear of ridicule to disappear to express itself? Where did this feeling arise from?
I believe the real beginning happened four years before we set sail for Nauru. My father died in December, 1999 and being the eldest son of a Greek family it was my duty to go to Greece and check out some property stuff. I hadn’t been back to Greece since I left when I was four years old. I couldn’t afford to return to my birthplace, my roots, until I was 48. Over the years I dreamt about returning and all the special places I would visit. One was Dodona which is about 5 kilometres from Anatoli, the village where I was born. It is the oldest oracle in Greece, older than the Delphic Oracle. Legend has it that Jason, before he sailed off with the Argonauts searching for the Golden Fleece, visited the oracle of Dodona. The miraculous priam that spoke in prophecies from the front of the Argonauts’ boat, was carved from wood of Dodona’s sacred grove.
I was baptised as Greek Orthodox when I was a baby. In my late teens and early twenties I searched far and wide, behind book covers and the open roads of Australia and New Zealand looking for something. As part of that search I found that the Holy Mountain may have something of what I was looking for. I had sought answers in religions and philosophies alien to my heritage. Now was the chance to look into my own indigenous faith.
It was Easter, 2000, there I was sitting opposite Geronta Pavlo at the table with the wood oven heating some water behind me. I was inside a time bubble hugged by mud, stone and timber walls. Byzantium breathed in this small kitchen that has cooked meals and boiled water for over a millenium.
Of all the cats scampering for fish heads in the saucer near the door, two – the twins, Alpha and Omega ran towards Geronta, finding their way onto the table top. Geronta was quietly reading a newspaper. His hair, like small waterfalls of grey, fell over his shoulders and behind his back. Strands of his long white beard fell on the table. Gerontas, 90 years old, looked like a middle aged biker, with the full round belly of body armour and broad shoulders. Alpha and Omega tugged at his beard, he said, “Off with you,” and then smiled. I went to lift the boiling water off the stove and when I returned I saw Geronta folding a page of the newspaper. Over and over he folded. I wondered if this was some kind of Holy Mountain origami. When he finished folding he held it up.
He said, “Here Stavros, this is for you.”
I said, “What is it Gerontas?”
“It’s a boat. I don’t know why but my heart told my hands to make this for you.”
As I received the gift he said, shrugging his shoulders, “Who knows, it may mean that you return to the Holy Mountain sooner than you think. Or maybe something else. It is for you.”
What was interesting in retrospect is that he gave me the boat a day after we had a discussion about what is needed to alleviate suffering and injustice on Earth. I was thinking about the dispossessed, the homeless, the weak, the persecuted, the refugees of the world. I told Gerontas that the needs of the world are such that people who can do something should not hide on Holy Mountains but be in the world and try to change it for the better, Smiling, he said, “Our Christianity is esoteric, it is hidden. Here on the Holy Mountain you are no longer in the exoteric world. Our concerns are spiritual.”
“Gerontas, you appear not to care for the very ones Jesus tells us we should care for.”
“Stavros, from where you are it appears that way. You know, the Holy Mountain needs at least five monks to survive in caves and feed on light. Without these monks connecting Heaven and Earth through their sacrifice, the Mother of God’s Garden will wither and die. How do you know that this house, this monastery, this Holy Mountain does not play a similar role for the whole Earth? How much more pain and injustice would be on Earth now if the Holy Mountain did not exist? We, each of us has our calling, our vocation. My work is here while yours is in the exoteric.”
“Gerontas, do I need to become a monk to fulfil what is needed or is there another way?” I asked him.
Alpha or was it Omega, crawled softly towards his hand. He reached for the cat’s head and stroked it gently. He said, “This is what is needed from all…..the practice to bring the spiritual into the material, Heaven on Earth. You don’t need to be a monk or a nun to do this. All you need is pure intention. If your intent is pure, the way is open. Do what you have to do, follow your conscience and allow this particle of God,” he pointed to my heart,” your conscience, guide you.” He looked at me with soft eyes and added, “You must die before you die and then be reborn, this is what Easter is all about.”
A few days after I was on my way to Istanbul or Constantinople as Greeks call it with the paper boat and lots of material for thought. My journey over the next two months was along the ancient trade route from Istanbul to Cairo.
I took the paper boat with me on Eureka. I now believe that the beginning of the journey to Nauru was the moment when Gerontas gave me the paper boat. He, as a gardener, planted a seed.
The Flotillas of Hope was a voyage by two yachts carried out in 2004 by protesters critical of the Australian government’s asylum policy. The boats sailed to Nauru, a Pacific island nation which was host to Australia’s offshore immigrant detention center until the new Labor government came to power in 2007. They intended to deliver goods to those interned (most detainees are families who fled conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq), but not surprisingly were not allowed to land by the Nauruan government. Under an agreement put into effect earlier that year, Australia had taken responsibility for the island’s finances and civilian police force. John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister at the time, forced the Nauru government to take armed Australian Police Force to “protect” the island nation from the Flotillas of Hope flying Teddy Bear flags. The Flotillas of Hope project had two intentions 1) to give the refugees caged on the Island of Shame – Nauru, hope – that they have not been forgotten by people, that the Pacific Solution – out of sight, out of mind, did not work and 2) to bring the world media spotlight on Nauru on World Refugee Day, 20 June 2004. This the project achieved and it saw the granting of asylum to over half the refugees on Nauru and the release of Aladdin Sisalem who was in solitary confinement on Manus Island, New Guinea while we were sailing to Nauru.
The way the Flotillas grew from an idea, a dream that manifested at first as an email Call to Action using the internet as a nervous system which then as an organsim, gathered into the Flotillas intention – satellite mobile phones, life rafts, high frequency radios, laptops, generators, sun power inverters, flags painted by community hands, dolls and teddy bears in handmade clothes, knitted sweaters, a large canvas sail painted by local Sydney artists along with other paintings expressly made and auctioned to raise money for the safe passage of the Flotillas of Hope, all of this and more occurred during the event.. From the finer embedded world of qualities, the realm of hope, love, justice, freedom – the realm of the spirits, the realm of creation, the Flotillas sparked into the internet. It was Art – in – Action using the world wide web to manifest. Hope was generated in not only the refugees caged on Nauru, but also in all people of good will who felt despondent that nothing will change the government’s heartless policy.
Along the way, to the launch of the Flotillas, musicians performed live gigs to raise money for the project. There was a theme song written, performed and recorded along with poems about the Action. Check out Ernesto Presente’s poem on Poetry for Change website here. The lyrics of the Flotillas of Hope Theme Song is below. You can download the song here. You can also check out Joanna Leigh’s myspace profile here.
University students made videos. At the send – offs from Sydney, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay and Brisbane, the Flotillas of Hope gathered the communities wishes and intentions to bring Hope to the refugees in the concentration camp of Nauru. The Flotillas did this by accepting hand made toys, hand made clothes for the dolls and teddy bears, the drawings and paintings of love and hope by Australian children, hand made flags with hand written words of love and hope from the people of Australia and overseas who sent gifts by post. Communities made beautiful flags – one with a Mandala made under the direction of a Buddhist priest, another of a Teddy Bear made by people who cared.
On route to Nauru, the Flotillas docked at Santa Cruz Island, a far flung island of the Solomon Islands. The local indigenous people were so touched by our intention and by how far we had sailed and were sailing that they carved a beautiful wooden oar and gave it us to symbolize that they were rowing all the way with us to Nauru. They gave us the gift on the day we departed Santa Cruz with a send off that included singing, dancing, eating and words of power and encouragement.
The Flotillas carried the cargo of hope through the 12 mile No Go Zone and got to within 500 metres of Nauru coast until they were chased out by 6 Nauruan boats. The boats, Eureka and One Off became living talismans of peaceful and compassionate energies from Australians.
On the way to Nauru, refugees were freed and the websites designed to be the communications hub of the project informed the world about what was happening. There were live interviews with ABC, SBS, BBC, NZBC, Houston Radio, USA along with commercial radio and TV in Australia. A filmmaker, Angela van Boxtel made a Lucid Launch Flotillas of Hope website where artists contributed their art on the website. The Flotillas of Hope was an idea that touched people from across the world and it was an effective art action in all its levels of manifestation.
It was also an expression of the newly coined word “Noopolitics” which encompasses Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the noosphere of knowledge / information (Teilhard is often called the patron saint of the Internet) because we not only made the news, we also reported the news which was transmitted across the world wide web and TV, radio and text media through our logs and the live satellite phone hookups with global media. The narrative of the journey was transmitted live by the logs of the crew.
The crew received messages of hope – poems and passionate prose from people all over the world who sent text messages from the web directly to our sat – phone in the middle of the deep blue sea. People following the journey on the web were informed as to the exact location of the boats by maps updated by satellite phone to the communications cluster. The project has been archived at the Australian Maritime Museum.
Artists that contributed the sections on the Sail are in order from the top to the bottom, left to right: Dale Dean, Euan Macleod, Mareia Brozky, Angelica Greening, Ingrid Skirkia, John Bell, Lorna Grear, Neil Mallard, Euan Macleod (one more section), Leo Robbia and Martin Sharp.
The Flotillas of Hope was a Journey of Hope, to bring hope to the innocent people imprisoned on Nauru by John Howard’s Australian government. Please note that most of the time the plural “Flotillas” is used instead of Flotilla even though on the surface there was only one flotilla of two boats that sailed to Nauru. The reason that Flotillas is used is because all the actions, the ceremonies, the prayers, the chants, the letters, the songs, the rituals, every action, are ALL flotillas of inner and outer vessels used to bring hope to the refugees imprisoned on Nauru.
The Woomera @ Easter 2002, Baxter @ Easter 2003 and the Flotillas of Hope Actions were not part of an organisation and in fact the websites which supported the Actions have virtually disappeared. The Actions were organic institutes – of – the – moment and like a Tibetan Buddhist sand painting, once the Actions were completed, the organisations like sand grains were blown by the wind to the four corners of the earth. They remain in peoples’ lives that have been transformed by the granting of freedom from the Australian gulags of shame.
When I sent the Call to Action for the human rights social action groups to unite to shame John Howard and highlight the plight of innocent refugees caged on the so called “Pacific Solution” – Nauru, it was deemed an incredibly audacious and unrealistic call. Why? Because Nauru is 4000 kms from Australia and when the call went out, we had no boats, no technology, no crew, no money, indeed, for me – no sailing experience. Well, within 2 weeks of the Call to Action over 250 people from around the planet had joined the new Internet group “Flotillas of Hope”. Within the first two weeks, the creators of the Woomera 2002 website contacted me and created the Flotilla2004 website. Another website was created for digital artists by a film maker and our own Hope Caravan website was the “hub”. A theme song for the project was recorded by Joanna Leigh, “HOPE”. You can download the mp3 version of the song here .. “HOPE…We Bring You Hope” .
Within a short time 2 boats appeared and in the weeks and months before we took off on our journey to Nauru we had received satellite telephones, solar energy inverters, radios, life rafts, money and the incredible creative output of artists and communities across Australia which gave our Cargo of Hope, toys and Teddy Bears for the kids in the gulag.
Along the way to Nauru, the Flotillas docked at Santa Cruz, a far flung island of the Solomon Islands Where they were met by the local indigenous people. The Flotillas carried their cargo through the 12 mile No Go Zone
Below the map is an article written by a close friend who was a member of the Ground Crew. It gives you the background to the Journey. Lynda, along with some others, made sure that our messages sent by the satellite phone would get out to our website people and so to the world. Lynda was based in Far North NSW. After this article you will find the links I mentioned earlier. After the links and photos of the boats, there is an article by another friend and member of the Ground Crew, Angela. She looked after one of the websites for the project and was based in Melbourne.
Flotilla of Hope (from Zmag)
May 10, 2004 by Lynda Smith
Back in Easter 2002, a group of concerned people from the Hunter region of NSW, Australia, appalled by the Australian Government’s attitude and policy on asylum seekers, joined the actions of the Festival of Freedoms in the South Australian desert. This became Hope Caravan. Along the way, the ‘O’ in Hope transformed from an organisation to an organism.
In 2003, Hope Caravan went to the Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia. Many strong bonds and friendships were formed with some of those people initiating the Flotillas of Hope project, which in association with Hope Caravan, sails to Nauru this month to arrive on the tiny impoverished Pacific island of Nauru.
This diverse group of people include a research scientist, an award winning film maker, teachers of maritime studies and multicultural education, a shipwright as well as a soccer coach from the Brisbane based, Tigers Refugee team.
Nauru is the smallest republic in the world with a population of only 12,000. It not only faces an environmental catastrophe but also economic bankruptcy.
The exploitation of Nauru’s rich source of phosphate began in the early 1900s. After World War l, the Australian, British and New Zealand governments took over the original mining company that had been previously German owned. It was called the British Phosphate Company. As demands grew for fertiliser, so did their profits. However, only 2% of the revenue went to the Nauru people. At the time of Nauru’s independence in 1968, mining had destroyed over one-third of the tiny island. In 1991, Nauru took the Australian Government to the International Court of Justice for the exploitation of its economy and environment. In 1993, Australia settled out-of-court for $57 million with an additional $2.5 million per annum for the next 20 years. By the late 1990’s, the money had all but dried up.
During the Australian federal election in 2001, the Howard government seized the opportunity to pressure Nauru into taking asylum seekers from the shores of Australia in return for many millions of dollars. These refugees were removed by the Australian military in violation of the International Refugee Convention. This was the beginning of “The Pacific Solution”. Many of these people were initially rescued by the now infamous Tampa, a Norwegian Freighter off the Western Australian coast. In denying the Tampa refugees access to the Australian mainland, and their rights under Australian law, Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, said, “whilst this is a humanitarian decent country, we are not a soft touch and we are not a nation whose sovereign rights in relation to who comes here are going to be trampled on”.
Nauru continues to deny entry to all lawyers, journalists and representatives of human rights groups as well as independent doctors and psychiatrists from assessing the health of the refugees.
Nauru has since been called Australia’s Guantanamo Bay.
These refugees merely sought to flee life-threatening persecution and repression, economic deprivation and poverty and to bring themselves and their families to a safe and secure environment. This must be surely the most basic right of any individual, yet in seeking to exercise it, they have come face to face with the Australian army.
In the last week, three Australian lawyers were ordered off Nauru before they had a chance to appear in a court case challenging the legality of the island’s detention centre for asylum seekers. Their visas were revoked by Nauru’s Minister for Justice, Russell Kun. On April 27, he appointed his uncle, former Finance Minister and paralegal “pleader”, Reuben Kun, to present the detainees’ case.
There are approximately 21 million refugees worldwide, yet there is only one who is on a remote island in solitary confinement. The Australian government pays $23,000 per day to detain Aladdin Sisalem, a 25 year old man who has suffered persecution most of his life. The son of a Palestinian refugee (his father) and an Egyptian mother, Aladdin was born in Kuwait. Persecuted in his home country, he began a perilous journey in search of a country that would accept him, travelling via West Papua, Papua New Guinea, finally arriving in the Torres Straight Islands, where he was seized by the Australian Police before being taken to Thursday Island. When he asked Australian authorities for asylum, he was removed and taken to a detention centre set up by the Australian Government on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Even if he wanted to return, Kuwait will not take Aladdin back after his period of absence. Egypt does not want him. Israel does not consider his “right of return” as a Palestinian.
It is noted that the 1948 Universal Declaration Human Rights, Article 14, states “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”. Ongoing, indefinite suffering by asylum seekers both here and on the offshore detention centres is a clear indication that these basic human rights are being violated.
On 15th May, Flotillas of Hope departs Sydney Harbour, sailing up the east coast of Australia, converging in Brisbane, before departing for Nauru on 23rd May. The boats should arrive at Nauru on 20th June (World Refugee Day) with their “Cargo of Hope” which will include toys, educational, recreational items and a generator for the country’s hospital.
The voyage of this Flotilla recalls the old law of the sea – which obliges us to give assistance to anyone in peril, without regard for flags – and seeks to open a multitude of flows toward a new world for which maps are yet to be created.
Therefore, the Flotilla will use a diversity of tactics: boats converging to Australia’s north in mid-2004 crewed by autonomous affinity groups ; media streams and online protests; radio waves and OpenFlow events.
Ground Crew – Media, Flotillas of Hope.
azadi ~ eleftheria ~ freedom
“eleftheria” is one of the most beautiful words in Greek – it means freedom..
Flotillas of Hope
by Angela Mitropoulos
Melbourne, June 3, 2004.
There are currently boats travelling 4,000
kilometres to Australia’s internment camp on
Nauru. This is the most recent culmination of a
series of protests against successive Australian
governments’ policies of interning undocumented
migrants. The boats are presently at the halfway
mark and, weather permitting, expected to reach
Nauru by June 20. The crews have been threatened
with imprisonment for crossing borders without the
proper papers. The importance of the internet to
the communication and character of noborder
protests is here amplified by distance, threats of
violence and the risks of sea travel.
It is well known that since 1989, successive
Australian Governments have administered a
notorious policy subsequently referred to the
‘mandatory and non-reviewable detention’ of all
those who arrive by boat and without papers. This
was a response to the (by international
comparison) extremely small rise in undocumented
boat arrivals after 1989 – many from the Middle
East, Vietnam and Cambodia – whose internment was
often successfully challenged through legal
The post-1989 regime of border policing
effectively and over time legislated that the
refugee determination process exist outside the
rule of law in the form of ministerial and
administrative dictate and be discharged through
concentration camps and military intervention.
It is also well known that in 2002, protesters on
both sides of the barbed wire scaled the fences at
the Woomera internment camp in South Australia and
a number of escapes occurred.
www.woomera2002.antimedia.net Woomera, which
closed shortly after this, was emblematic of the
Australian Government’s strategy of interning
undocumented migrants in remote, rural camps as a
means of containment and control. Woomera was
located 1,000 kilometres from the nearest capital
city (Adelaide) and, for a time, held the largest
number of detainees.
2002 was the culmination of four years of protests
by detainees in Australia’s internment camps,
including hunger strikes, the destruction of
buildings, and mass escapes. Many of those
protests were met with tear gas, riot police and
the use of chemical restraints.
Following this, the Australian Government shifted
its strategy toward a combination of ‘dislocation’
and electrification in an attempt to decompose the
protests against the post-1989 regime of the
camps. The so-called ‘Pacific Solution’ was
introduced which established camps on Nauru and
Papua New Guinea (Manus Island) funded by the
Australian Government and managed by the
International Organisation for Migration.
Australian military vessels would forcibly remove
undocumented boat arrivals from territorial waters
and Australian islands, and transport them to
those camps in the Pacific.
In Australia, a new technology of internment was
constructed (such as at Baxter) which replaced the
grim (but scalable) coils of barbed wire and steel
fences with hi-tech, refined systems of electronic
barriers, surveillance and a greater reliance on
technological and chemical restraint. (The
Government has also budgeted for another of these
hi-tech camps in Broadmeadows, Melbourne to
replace the current, smaller one in Maribyrnong.)
The result of these changes to the architecture of
the camps were immediate: the protesters outside
Baxter in 2003 were unable to get close to or even
within sight of any of those imprisoned there,
many of whom had been relocated from Woomera.
Whereas Woomera2002 had managed to break with the
symbolic character of protests by those outside
the camps; Baxter2003 signalled the restoration of
such, and subsequently ushered in a decline in the
impetus of the movements against the camps.
Having circulated as an audacious, but regarded as
impractical, strategy after Woomera2002, the idea
of shifting the protests against the camps to the
northern waters of Australia became an imperative
with the inauguration of the ‘Pacific Solution.’
After Baxter, Hopecaravan
distributed a call for boats to travel to the
internment camp on Nauru. That voyage is
currently underway, with boats presently located
at the halfway mark, and expecting to reach Nauru
by June 20.
The Nauru Government which – given its current
fiscal woes and recent economic bankruptcy –
relies on the continuing funding of the camp as a
source of revenue and employment, has threatened
to suspend maritime convention (the Law of the
Sea) and forcibly seize the boats. They have also
threatened to imprison the Flotilla crews as
undocumented boat arrivals. This has not deterred
the crews, who nevertheless require ongoing
support and communication.
Regular updates are available at flotilla2004.com,
as are crew b-logs, instructions on sending text
messages to the crews, and detailed background
The Australian Government, for its part, has
adopted the pose of detached benevolence – an echo
of its previous, farcical contention that it was
not legally liable for the treatment and
internment of those in the camps because they were
outside Australian jurisdiction. Facing with an
upcoming election, and as the Flotilla boats were
cheered off from eastern coastal cities, the
Government announced that under half of those
detained on Nauru would be granted visas, and
recently granted a visa to the remaining detainee,
Aladdin Sisalem, on Manus Island.
These shifts follow a determined hunger strike
last year on Nauru, after which the Government
promised that it would review its rejection of the
applications for asylum by those imprisoned on
The Government has, nevertheless, insisted that
its camps in the Pacific will remain, at a cost of
around $300, 000 per month.
Previously, the Government had refused to grant
visas to those taken hostage from the MV Tampa and
forcibly transported to Nauru. At the time, the
Government insisted that ‘not one of those would
set foot on Australian soil.’ It is abundantly
clear that the definition of who is a refugee and
who is not (or: who is subject to the regime of
the camps in order to classify people along this
axis) is defined by what the Australian Government
imagines to be politically advantageous at any
Those released from Nauru and PNG have expressed
concern for the fate and safety of those who
remain interned there. The voyage continues until
the camps are closed.
Melbourne, June 3, 2004.
The Flotillas of Hope Sailing Crew