All packed and ready to go
It was just an idea, one of those ideas that comes to mind when I am trying to find ways to raise awareness about the plight of refugees stuck in Port Moresby, Nauru and those who are here on mainland Australia. While this injustice occurs I can’t rest so I am always thinking of different ways to bring the information to more people. There are too many people who don’t realise the tragic stories that each of the refugees that were sent to Manus and Nauru are carrying. We also don’t know enough about the barbaric way that refugees are detained in Australia. So I as an artist can use my music to grab people’s attention and bring them into the world that I believe is Australia’s dirty secret.
Please join me on this incredible journey that I took in my car with my guitar and what I know about the situation. I plastered my car with signs because I wanted it to be very clear what I was doing. It was not comfortable at times because people definitely treated me differently and some of those that did talk to me couldn’t wait to say something that they felt about refugees. I didn’t take any of it personally but I was aware of how lonely it was a times. I was only lonely in the moments that these incidents happened though and I knew that all the way I was being supported by 100s of people across Australia. I got so many messages of support from advocates and people who want justice for these vulnerable people. The refugees were also incredibly proud and excited that someone was doing this for them which in itself made it so worthwhile and is what kept me going.
I had to leave Denmark WA a week late because of the bush fires on the Nullabor and there was a moment when I had to make a decision whether it was a sensible idea to go at all. But nothing could hold me back once the decision was made. My first port of call was Esperance where I stayed for one night with a lovely Vietnamese family who were refugees. Then on I went, I was nervous because I didn’t know if the road would be open at Caiguna (my next stop) but it was so nice once I got on my way I was happy and relieved. The road was open and Caiguna roadhouse was my first camping spot, it’s a dry and dusty roadhouse with powered and unpowered sites. I paid for a powered site but very quickly realised that the space was not suitable for tents so I moved to an unpowered site. It was just a dusty patch under a small tree. The generator was going most of the night and the main road was very close, these were all things I had not anticipated. I still got a good nights sleep and felt pretty refreshed to move on the next day. My next stop was Penong where I camped in a relatively reasonable campsite and then I did airbnb in Port Augusta, it was 42°. Every night that I camped I had my signs in and outside of my car. It was very interesting to see how people responded or didn’t respond. Some people were very quick to make a case against the refugees before they had even considered asking me more about it. I purposely made what I was doing very visible because I wanted to put myself in the line of fire. I have done lots of touring and presenting my work to groups of people that are very compassionate towards the refugees and already doing lots of work to seek change in the system.
I felt that this on this trip I needed to step further out of my comfort zone because that is the only way that I can connect or interact with the “others”. I know that the minute people talk to me they can see what a considered and understanding person that I am. I always find ways to challenge their perspective, even if that means I say nothing. They throw lines at me and I listen and give a considered response which usually ends in a question or two. I want to be on even ground with them, I want to understand where they are coming from. Because when push comes to a shove we are all the same. Yes I get frustrated and yes I get despondent but I never loose faith in humanity and our ability to heal and reach to others.
I spent a week in Adelaide and while there I visited a refugee who was on Manus for 6 years and had been medivaced here to Australia and is still stuck in detention. I took Iranian treats that I bought from the Iranian store and we sat and chatted and chatted and laughed and there was sadness too as he talked about missing his family that he hadn’t seen for almost 7 years. While there I saw another refugee walk into the room and I went over to shake his hand and greet him, then the guard came over. There are guards watching you all the time when you visit refugees. The guard threatened to end the visit because I was not allowed to talk with other refugees and he also threatened to send the guy I was visiting back to his room. I couldn’t believe it…at the end of the visit I complained to the other guard and told them it was totally out of line for them in to intimidate me like that. He could have just told me the rules first and I would have complied.
While in Adelaide I went to Parliament House and did a busking protest. I had a great response and managed to play for 45 mins before the Police came and moved me on. I continued on to Melbourne and spent a week there. I stayed with a fellow refugee advocate and my plan was to busk and I also had a “Manus, Music Talks” concert lined up in Bittern at the “Bayview Country Art Club“. It was touch and go whether it would happen because of the fires but Jenny Keck who has run the club for 10 years was awesome and brought the evening together. I joined the Melbourne State Library protest and busked there too.
While in Melbourne I decided to use my time protesting as often as possible on the Bell Highway outside the Mantra Bell Hotel where they are keeping 70 refugees who were medivaced from Manus and Nauru. I positioned myself on the highway at the traffic lights and in view of the men in the hotel rooms. I also visited refugees everyday, I did 2 visits each day with 2 of the guys and some days just one. It was great to catch up again but very sad and disappointing to see them stuck in detention still.
It is so wrong that they are still being detained after almost 7 years. Many of them are not receiving adequate medical care and they are withdrawing and loosing hope again. On one of the evenings I was asked to go and join a flash mob to play music outside the hotel. A bunch of musicians and singers rolled up at 7pm and we went to the carpark and positioned ourselves so that all the refugees could see us through the windows. We sang and played music for an hour.
While in Melbourne I went to visit 3 Sudanese refugees who had not had any visitors yet. I organised the visit just like any other online. It’s a ridiculous process. When I got there I went through the strict security procedures and when they did the swab for chemical substances I tested positive. I couldn’t believe it….they tested me a gain and it came up positive again. It was so frustrating and since then I have heard it happens all the time. I argued with the SERCO boss but he would not allow a contact visit. I had to do a non contact visit which was so disappointing. Here is a link to the video I did on Facebook at the end of the visit. I don’t know how I managed to do it because they are very strict about using devices to record what is going on there. https://www.facebook.com/dawnindenmark/videos/vb.630081916/10157108957651917/?type=2&video_source=user_video_tab
There is so much that I would love to write but just don’t have the time. I met many amazing people and had lots of interactions some positive some negative but overall I believe it was a very productive time. I would do it all again if I had the money. I absolutely love being on the road and love meeting and talking to people and playing music everywhere I go.
I took my trek back across the Nullabor and stayed at different spots on the way home and decided to spend 4 days in Esperance for a bit of a rest. I also had a gig at Taylors Street Quarters Cafe and Restaurant which I was pretty exited about. I took the opportunity to do a busking protest in the centre of Esperance and surprisingly I got a lot of support. I posted on Facebook and tagged Taylors to let people know that I was looking forward to playing there that night. Mousey is the lovely guy who organised the gig in Esperance. Just before I arrived he said the boss of Taylors asked that I not get “political” to which I responded of course I never get involved in politics. The boss was very respectful in the way he approached it and said he had full respect for what I was doing. However, a part of me couldn’t help feeling a bit concerned that there are so many people in fear of doing the right thing. I don’t believe that what I am doing is political, all that I talk and sing about is in the name of HUMAN RIGHTS and nothing more.
Just one more photo for the record. While in Melbourne I joined the Friday vigil at the State Library. If you are in Melbourne you can join them every Friday at 5pm and show the refugees that you are with them.