Posts Tagged ‘Nissan huts’

Reverse Parking and Dancing

June 14, 2021

The above photos were taken within a week or so of our arrival In Australia 1956 January. It was during a heat wave. I took them with my Agfa Clack that I bought from money earned delivering fruit to Embassies in The Hague.

The photo on the left shows our living quarters in an unlined Nissan Hut. Unbearably hot and not at all like the films we were shown about Australia. The other photo is after disembarking from our boat. My mother clutching her handbag and dad looking around.

It was within a few years after that I decided to buy a car and combine it with taking dancing lessons at the same time. I was around 17 years and liked the look of cars and girls. It was already well known that owning a car would be looked upon favorably by girls and would make up for going out with a boy with a strange guttural accent.   It did not take me long after a few driving lessons to get my license and soon after a large car; a clapped out Ford V 8 with leather seats, an ashtray, cigarette lighter and a blue smoke spewing engine. My dancing lessons were alright too but not so with getting a date. The dancing school was in Sydney above a milk bar called Stavros. I bought a booklet of twenty tickets on ‘special’, giving me twenty dancing lessons on a wooden floor with the required dancing steps painted in green.

The female teachers were soft and moved with some grace. One had to dance ‘chest to chest’ with a book held firmly in between in order to gently with suppled grace yet firmly, swirl and dance around without dropping the book. I only dropped the book once. It was a large book with the title ‘Of Human Bondage’ by Somerset Maugham. It was a very popular book at the time but a solid tome of over hundreds of pages. Of course the softness of the teacher was well protected by this heavy book and so it should have. It was a Phyllis Bates Dance academy and had a good name to behold and protect.

At the same time I had a good friend named Otto whose family was on the same boat as ours. He too took driving and dancing lessons at the same time. He was not so good with both of them and failed his drivers test on numerous occasions. He did not want to give up and decided to travel back to Holland to take both driving and dancing lessons. That’s just how Otto was. I can’t explain, but he was a good but somewhat unorthodox man. He passed away two years ago, well in his eighties but never been in conjugal bondage/married. He did get his driver’s license though!

During those years at one stage my mother rented out our previous living quarters, a humble converted fibro sheeted garage to a single divorced Dutch woman in her forties.  Otto watched her reverse parking her car. That was it! Otto became smitten. He would accept all sorts of blemishes, both mental or physical but if a woman could reverse park she would be his queen forever. Unfortunately for Otto, the woman had a boyfriend, a Dutch bricklayer with concrete and cement encrusted boots which he would kick off as soon as he arrived at the woman’s place from work and; according to Otto, most likely leap into her bed. Otto was that sort of generous man.

Here you have it; reverse parking was the overriding quality Otto looked for in a woman. As for my dating efforts? I’ll tell you next time.

Cowboys and Indians: shooting at Detainees

March 31, 2011

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21 March 2011

Police fired tear gas and synthetic bullets at a group of 250 asylum seekers who had burned down accommodation buildings

Cowboys and Indians: shooting at detainees


Gerard Oosterman

Gerard Oosterman

TV footage shows tear gas and ‘soft’ bullets tracing through the night sky, aimed at the rioting Christmas Island boatpeople, fired by armed police force from the back of trucks.

One wonders how long it will be before we will finally admit that the present way of handling and treating boat people is not working, and that our detention or care for those unfortunate people with families is cruel in the extreme?

Don’t we care, is that why we now shoot them? For how much longer will the UN commissioner point out our failures?

The overcrowding, the isolation and the length it takes to process the claims are given as the main cause for the riots.

Of course dealing with people landing on our shores has often been accompanied by riots. Back in 1952 it took 200 soldiers to restore order at Bonegilla Migrant camp. Three young men had committed suicide. The reasons for the riot then were the same as the present discontent today: overcrowding and inhumane living condition.

The Nissan hut migrant camps have long disappeared… only to be replaced with a more modern variety, but with still the same aim: to provide housing but also to isolate and to keep detainees separate, away from ‘normality and if possible from scrutiny.

What more proof do we need that the process is de-humanizing? Why do we persist in our punitive way of dealing with boat people and refugees? The detainees are desperately trying to tell us something. Why are we not listening and taking it in? They have done nothing wrong. Why are they being detained and separated from other people and normality? While violence and riots are not tolerable, neither are keeping people detained who have done nothing unlawful.

Rest assured though that TV footage of the shootings has raced around the world and that our treatment of detainees would have sunk a notch lower, if that was still possible. The tension amongst the asylum seekers is never far from the surface. Mix that in with isolation, the despair of endless waiting for progress about their claims, the utter boredom, heat and cold, the sheer deliberate forbiddingness of surroundings, jail-like architecture, fences, guards and you have created very tortuous conditions that no one could possibly accept as normality.

The response by our Immigration Minister Chris Bowen must be very encouraging to the detainees when he stated that the fire arms used were a bit like shooting ’mini bean bag pellets’ coming from ’gun-like weapons’. They might cause a bit of bruising, he added.

However, David Manne of the Refugee Legal Centre said police had used a modified shotgun ‘that can cause serious injury or death’.

With just a few thousand trickling in per year, we can hardly claim to be overwhelmed by boatpeople and as we have some experience in settling migrants for some decades it is indeed surprising the whole issue has became so unmanageable.

What is the problem and why can’t we settle them in normal circumstances in assessing their status? I mean, Australia is an Island and after harrowing and hazardous boat journeys, they are hardly likely to jump on a boat again and escape. Escape from what? What Governmental stupidity and obstinacy prevents them to not just do what most countries are doing and simply have them living amongst other people, letting them work, earn money, go shopping and process their applications. European countries are coping with thousands of refugees on a daily basis. We have trouble with a few thousand a year, spend hundreds of millions to keep them detained and separated from a functioning society. Why?

How often does the UNHCR have to put to Australia that we are in breach of basic Human Rights by keeping them in detention when no crime has been committed?

Of course, the real reason apart from the ingrained xenophobia by some of political parties’ leaders and the usual ramping up by hysterical coterie of radio and other media flotsam is the risk of losing votes. It’s all about that, isn’t it?  Let human suffering continue but not risk upsetting the voters who for years have been indoctrinated with ‘our shores’ are under siege from hordes of ‘illegal queue jumpers’. We mustn’t be seen to take sides of humanity and change course midway, must we?

Is it still preferable to continue to de-humanize a few thousand boat people than to losing voters and an election?

Come on Australia. Enough is enough. Our minister for immigration looked genuinely uncomfortable discussing the riots on Christmas Island. It shows he still has a heart. Perhaps over half the population still have hearts as well. We can’t shoot boat people just because they happen to have come to our shores and need a leg up from misery and wars.

They want a leg up from their misery, not to be shot at.