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: www.safecom.org.au/paddling-big-john.htm. 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 paddlingforrefugees.org website soon.