Monthly Archive: March 2019

Taking music to the refugees on Manus

I really am not sure how to start this post because the past month and a half has been totally out of the box as far as my usual daily life goes. If you have read my previous posts you will see how I began to engage in the issue of offshore detention and the plight of the refugees being held indefinitely by the Australian government. How did it all begin? and why am I still engaged?

Well it began when I started to notice my good friend textile artist Ruth Halbert started to write letters to the Prime Minster (Malcolm Turnbull at that time) about the refugees on Manus on Nauru. She wrote a letter everyday for 2 years…..yep over 600 letters in all. I also saw her posts on social media condemning the government and it’s behaviour towards the refugees being detained. I found it hard to believe, but, I have a huge amount of respect for Ruth and she is an intelligent woman so I couldn’t ignore it. She was stepping out of her comfort zone and that is what stood out for me the most…I had to investigate further.

I then had a friend request from one of the refugees on Manus who was in a terrible situation. They were being forcibly moved to the new camps and they were having the power cut off and water tanks were being smashed by guards in 4WDs, it was terrible and he was in panic. I felt helpless and I needed to do something. I started protesting with Ruth and I wrote letters to the Members of Parliament but I needed to do more….I needed to dig deeper I needed to find something within myself that would rise and take action. So I had to go to Manus to meet these men and to engage with them and learn more.

I took a film maker and we went in March of 2018 and I took my guitar with the intention to play music and we were going to produce a documentary. I wanted to find a way to show the people in my town that these men were real people just like us. I wanted to show people that what we were doing to them as a nation was wrong very wrong. We came back with a documentary and I took it to many towns and communities in WA and NSW and it made an incredible impact. Everyone I met was horrified at what was happening and people would ask what can we do? How can we end this?

Music from Manus – 5 Days not 5 Years, March 2018 (Dawn Barrington and Tim Maisey)

I really wasn’t sure how people could help but my mission as a singer songwriter was to suggest to others to use their art like Ruth had and like I was doing to bring attention to the situation. This had been going on for over 4 years and 1000s of people across Australia had written letters to MPs and protested and yet the refugees were still there in terrible conditions.

By the end of last year I felt I needed to go again just to offer some more support through music and I also assisted Anne Moon with the work that she does to support the men. Anne has been working tirelessly for the past 5 years for these guys and she wasn’t getting any younger and I was able to offer some support for her. So off we went and we didn’t know if we were going to get it because it’s not easy to get there and since I had quite a large online presence I wasn’t sure if they would stop me at the airport and send me back. It had happened a friend of mine only 4 weeks earlier so it really was a possibility.

We spent time in Port Moresby and on Manus and the newspaper article below gives the rest of the story which was not what we were expecting. I did get to play some music with the refugees and I took an extra guitar and did some teaching and it was lovely to see the guys again and to meet some that I hadn’t met before too. But they were all very sick and many had multiple problems and many of them were not being treated and hadn’t been treated for years. It really is terrible what is happening there an there is so much more to this story. I have added a few facebook posts to give you some examples of what happened there.

I played music with Kazem and Farhad and I was there for my birthday so Kazem made me a beautiful cake shown here in the photo. I saw many of the refugees that I saw before and lots of new ones and they all put on a very brave face. They are the most graceful and kind people I have ever met and they all are very sick. They all have so many medical problems that have not been treated for so many years and Australia will not take responsibility for it. It is so frustrating and so wrong. I really quite honestly don’t know what to do with it in my head….it’s happening in real life and yet we are all powerless to change the situation because the government have this ridiculous policy in place. These are real people and they are being treated so badly and it’s all wrong so very wrong.

It was also wonderful to meet Behrouz Boochani the author of “No Friends but the Mountains” which is an incredible read. He is a humble incredibly smart man and he really does think big picture. We had a lovely day on my birthday a bunch of the guys came to the hotel and we had cake and music which was lovely.

It was a difficult time overall because I knew there was not really much we could except listen to their stories and I hope playing a bit of music helped in some way too.

Kazem and me on my birthday.

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