There is a detention centre for asylum seekers about an hour away. It’s currently populated by 15-17 year old boys, mainly from Sri Lanka. They have travelled from their homes, usually through Indonesia and after spending time at Christmas Island (not as fun as it sounds) and Melbourne, they are now here awaiting the outcomes of their Temporary Protection Visa applications.
If you are willing to put up with some paper work and red tape and uncertainty, then you can become a visitor
The first time I visited I was uncertain of what to expect. The ‘Alternative Detention Facility’ is a pile of fibro buildings surrounded by wire, in the middle of a dirt-bare paddock. (It’s also next to a rifle-range which is puzzling and more than a bit inappropriate.)
Young boys, only a few years older than my eldest, who have travelled in a leaky fishing boat to be here. Would I need to have trauma counselling experience? I’ve dealt with at-risk teenagers before, but this was totally beyond my experience…
As I said, I didn’t know what to expect. But I do know what I didn’t expect.
It’s hard to see, but it’s all glittery. It was done by a 16 year old asylum seeker. One of the personnel noticed that he was drawing on his arms with pen, and bought him these special body art textas. You only have to make eye contact with him to be asked if you would like some decoration. He’s only discovered this gift in the past few weeks and it’s practically bursting out of him.
As I left, I showed the guard on the exit gate. She decided to try to get him some henna, as the texta would wash off and she thought that he might like his art to last longer than one day.
There’s a whole lot of love and good stuff right there.