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Let Them Be Free: Creative Talent From Manus and Nauru Refugee Camp

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Event description

Since 19 Jul 2013, Australia has been detaining irregular maritime arrivals in our offshore detention facilities on Manus Island, which is part of PNG and on Nauru. Manus has closed now but around 80 people are still in PNG in Port Moresby and around 40 on Nauru.

On that day in 2013, Kevin Rudd made a speech in a press conference. He said that none of these boat people would ever be settled permanently in Australia. Right up until today, both major parties seem determined to keep to this policy, despite the majority of the detainees - over 80% - successfully completing refugee assessments. Some have been settled in the U.S. under a deal with the U.S. government, a few have been sponsored into Canada and one has been settled in Norway. Another 450 are to go to NZ over three years under a deal struck with the NZ government last year.

Actually, the policy has never been used as an absolute. Even some of the people in Manus and Nauru will tell how they were lined up on Christmas Island and a immigration officer went down the line going "Australia, Manus, Nauru" counting the men off as to where they would go.

Now, around 1200 former inmates from Manus and Nauru who arrived since the change of policy in 2013, are in Australia in detention, community detention or on bridging visas, with most having been transferred to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru for medical treatment. This include those that were transferred under the now defunct Medivac legislation.

The Australian Government shows no indication of backing down and settling them permanently - outside the 450 going to NZ. Some were detained for 9 years or more and all of those left are still in limbo. These men, women and children are people just like us with similar hopes and dreams. Those that have children have the same dreams for their kids that we do. The fact that they are like us is indicated by the variety of talent coming out of Manus and Nauru.

One of these talented men is Mohammad Maleki who is a poet. His poetry bears witness to the suffering experienced in the offshore detention facilities. During the event, several examples of his poetry will be read, and you will be able to look at other samples of his poetry as well as purchase some of his poetry books.

As Mohammad is unable to take part in the event personally, we are looking to bring you other samples of the art work, music, poetry and prose of several of the other men. All this work bears witness to their talent and what they have experienced while detained. The pool of talent available, includes musicians that have won prizes in music, painters that were finalists for Archibald prizes and authors who have won literary prizes. There is even a film makers that won international awards. Some are here in Australia on bridging visas while some are in the U.S., Canada, N.Z. and Norway, where sadly, their talent has been lost to us.

It has just been confirmed that we now have another poet taking, this time someone who spent a couple of years on Nauru and then some further time in immigration detention in Melbourne. His name is S. Nagaveeran also known as Ravi. A full bio about Ravi will posted on the event.

We will also be showing a documentary "Once a Jolly Swagman". This award winning documentary was made by Charby Maroun Ibrahim. Ravi (the same one mentioned above) fled the civil chaos in his homeland of Sri Lanka, at the height of civil unrest in Sri Lanka. He felt he had no other choice but to jump on a leaky boat and try to make his way to Australia in order to seek asylum. Through a deliberate juxtaposition, Ravi shares his personal story of life inside the Nauru Immigration Detention Centre, to a back-drop of haunting instrumental renditions of ‘Waltzing Matilda’. He tells his story while fleeing and on Nauru. He also talks about the ongoing mental health issues that he faces now that he’s been released into the Australian community.

If all goes well, there will be a Q & A session either in person or with the men via video link.

Hopefully, their creative talent and their words will prompt you to think about what sort of treatment and welcome we should be giving these people and encourage you to support more humane policies for refugees.

The MC will be Chris Schmidt. I have been a refugee and human rights advocate for many years now. I am determined to see these men free and take the fight to change our system and the laws that govern refugees to parliament. I will do this a candidate in the house of representatives while remaining at heart a real activist. To do this I am involved with a party called TNL has very strong social justice policies. This event is proudly sponsored by TNL but it is not partisan. It is about raising awareness and getting people to support a more humane policy.. You can DM me with any questions about this event or give me a call on 0459 573 941.

Venue: Payneham Library, 2 Turner St, Felixstow and online

Cost: $20 Purchase tickets at You can purchase an online ticket or attend in person. Please choose the general ticket type if attending in person and online if attending online. Both are the same price.

I will email the links to log into the evening online for those attending online on 22 Jun 2023. If you pay after that, I will email the link when you pay.

Tickets will be available at the door. Of course, those attending the event online must purchase tickets online

All profits from the event will go to the refugees taking part themselves. Please share with the #PoetryMusicArtFromManus

One of the participants S Nagaveeran (Ravi) will be involved in two other events over the weekend:

1. "Food For Thought" come and enjoy a vegetarian Sri Lankan meal with Ravi and hear some of his poetry in a relaxed setting at 6.30 PM at Bethlehem House, 2 Sudholz Place, Adelaide (opposite side of Bethlehem Lutheran Church). The cost is $30.00. The event page is not yet up for this.

2. "Great Nature Poetry Dinner". This will be a relaxed afternoon of poetry followed by a vegetarian dinner at Great Nature Vegetarian Snacks and Groceries, Shop 3/48 Beach Rd, Christies Beach, It will start 3.30 PM. SA. Cost: $20. See:

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