Friday, September 21, 2007

Day 70: Melbourne

The final paddle and the final day of EXCISED. We got in the water at the Maribyrnong River, not far from the Lonely Planet building. Lonely Planet, after all, is an important sponsor of this project! We paddled down the river, passed where the Maribyrnong and the Yarra meet and then out into the bay. En route, we were questioned by a security guard who wanted to know who we were and why we were there. We are a little tired of this. It is fair enough that security folks wanted to know what were up to at Kirribilli. But not when we are paddling kayaks down the river. The security guy said that his need to question us was merely a reflection of the times. But we were hardly being discrete or secretive. It left me wondering how much more hassle you would get if you were of ‘middle eastern appearance’. As we are of ‘middle Australian’ appearance, it did not take much to get back on the water.

We arrived at the Brigidine Sisters in Albert Park where we had hoped to have been met by some local media. In the end, it was a quiet re-entry back to Melbourne. The trip is over.

Thanks everyone for following our journey and for taking the time to learn something about Australia’s policy and practice of excision. The journey has been fun and profound and frustrating and exhilarating. We hope that we have been able to communicate some of this. We now begin work on the documentary film!!! We hope that this will be completed by December, although it will depend on a few things, not least some funding to polish the sound and picture quality.

Stay tuned for when and where you will be able to see the film…..

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Day 69: Gundagai - Euroa

Picture this: another crusty night in a public park. It’s raining. It’s cold. (We’re no longer in the tropics!). The trailer looks a lot worse than first expected. We got back to the trailer and jacked it up. Once off the ground the wheel literally fell off. It just toppled over. And in that sense we were so lucky and relieved. Another kilometre or two and we would have watched our wheel whiz past us, sparks shooting out from beneath the trailer, which then would flip, leaving the kayaks just a smudge of coloured plastic on the Hume Highway. So discovering our dilemma in town was fortunate, you might say. But still, we couldn’t believe it…., 2 days from the end of our journey and here we are….still dealing with our bloody trailer!!!

We spent about 5hrs mucking around getting the bearings fixed. We’ve gone over our budget so we have decided (or really have been limited) to a DIY job….well its not quick but it’s a good way to learn! Eventually back on the road and we made it to the Murray River for a dinner stop. In fact, this particularly pleasant dining spot is the place that I spent my first night on my paddle down the river. A nice bit of symmetry!

We’ve driven on and stopped somewhere outside of Euroa for a kip.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Day 68: Kiama – Canberra – Gundagai

The purpose for our stop in Kiama (as well as checking out some lovely NSW coast) was to do some filming in the surf. After waking up in what we thought was a quiet public park, we rose from the tent to find 6 or 7 people/groups all walking their dogs…it was not long after 6:00am! We headed for the surf and upon entering the water the swell seemed to pick up a couple more feet…this was reinforced by all the gun surfers swarming to the beach to be part of the action. Fortunately there were no kayaks seriously dumped and only the 1 capsize I think Dave?

We’ve left the coast – headed inland to Canberra, to do some filming with ‘Big John’ at Parliament House …All innocent – some would say, juvenile – fun. But not for the police at Parliament house. They were fully on our case. What were we doing? Why? And why did I keep smiling at him? This boring tiring pestering was enough to make us want to scream. We had a quick paddle ‘next’ to Lake Burley Griffin… and split.

We drove on to gain some km’s and made it to Gundagai where a truckie in the street whistled out and point to our trailer. We got out. He suggested we better check our wheel bearing. Hmmm, not good. Pretty content with the progress we’d made (we only had 600 odd km’s to go, and a couple days up our sleave)…we decided to leave the trailer in the street and head to the pub for feed. We can deal with it in the morning.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Days 65-68: Sydney

This morning, before we drove to Sydney, we had a brief breakfast-time gathering with some of the West Haven locals interested in asylum seeker issues. As always, it is encouraging to meet people who take the time to think and act for more humane responses to asylum seekers.

We then took off for Sydney. We finally got rid of Maree. She was initially going to leave us in Brisbane, but we are clearly too much fun to be around, so we couldn’t shake her.

Time also for BIG JOHN to go home. He has been with us since Christmas Island and has learnt a whole lot about the human implications of Australia’s response to asylum seekers. It has been a very moving experience for him and for us watching as he has approached this issue with an open heart and an open mind. We paddled out under the Harbour Bridge and passed the Opera House. This is truly a magnificent city. We have been in some beautiful places on this tour and the Sydney Harbour, in its own way, is on a par with those places of incredible natural beauty. We did a short live interview with Virginia Trioli (ABC Sydney morning program) on the water and a JJJ journalist joined us (with the help of John Highfield who met us in his tinny) for the trip. We paddled Big John to Kirribilli where Simon took him to a rock shelf at the base of the Prime Minister’s residence. Unfortunately, Big John got a similar response to being ‘home’ as asylum seekers get when they land in Australia: the powers that be were not so keen to see him! The security guards told us to move away and called the water police. Just as Simon was suggesting that it would be funny if the ‘water rats’ paid us a visit, a huge police boat rounded the point to check us out. They were friendly enough, asking us what we were doing and were interested in the business of excision. To view the report & pictures of this momentous occasion see: Our attempt to paddle Big John Home was reported on JJJ’s Hack program later in the afternoon. You will be able to hear the audio on the website soon.



Early Days

A word from Kerry Nettle

Friday, September 14, 2007

Day 64: West Haven

After a fantastic evening with my friend Judy, and her friends John and Mick, we finally got on the road for West Haven. Again, it felt difficult to get going after hanging out with such great people. A flat battery in the car seemed to indicate that we should stay put. But that excuse was easily overcome. It wasn’t long before we hit a traffic jam – a truck had overturned on the highway. We were stuck for an hour and a half. The day seemed like it was against us. But we had to push on. We were due to meet Elaine and Geoff – and we had to get to Sydney by Saturday.


We finally made it to Elaine and Geoff’s place. As usual, it was an absolute pleasure to see them and to spend some – albeit too little – time.

I first met Elaine and Geoff when I travelled to their house in early 2003 to do some research for the Quarterly Essay that Robert Manne and I wrote. It was during this time that a number of the men on Nauru were on a hunger strike and some had sewn their lips together in a dramatic show of how they felt completely silenced in the system that the Australian government had set up. During this time, Elaine was the conduit between the people on Nauru and Australians. I felt that I was working hard during my time with Elaine and Geoff – I would wake early, work all day, and sleep late. But Elaine was up earlier and asleep later than me. In the middle of this, she would go to work. One of the things that I remember of this time, and I know that it hasn’t always been the way, was the ease with which Elaine and Geoff would laugh. And during the single night that Simon, Maree and I were with Elaine and Geoff there was again plenty of laughter.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Day 63: Byron Bay

From Brisbane to Byron Bay. We had intended to take some surf shots in Byron – the further south we get, the colder the weather is and so we want to get some good images before the ice-bergs start appearing. Alas, there was no surf. So we hung around Byron for a few hours. Not such a bad outcome.

Also heard that 72 of the Sri Lankans who are on Nauru having been intercepted off Christmas Island have been found to be refugees. That is, they have been found to have a well-founded fear of persecution in Sri Lanka. This is a good outcome for those people. But a significant problem remains: Because they have been processed in the offshore system – i.e. the system set up by excision, the Sri Lankans have no automatic right of resettlement in Australia or any other country. The Australian government has said that it will not allow the group to be resettled in Australia. So the 72 must wait while Australia negotiates with other countries to accept them. There is no time limit for these negotiations. So these people, people whose lives have been disrupted and dislocated due to their being the targets of human rights violations, must live in limbo for the foreseeable future, unable to rebuild their lives that have been shattered by the refugee experience.