Posted by: jkirkby8712 | June 26, 2011

Thursday, 23 June 2011 – ‘Go back where you came from’ – TV Series!!

I notice that the National Seniors organisation is sponsoring an Australian film production which deals with taboo subjects faced by ageing males.  Titled ‘Codgers’, it tells the story of five senior Aussie men, four of them mates since war service.  They exercise together, chew the fat about their families together, laugh, tease and sing. They solve the problems of the world, agreeing to disagree.  Subjects raised within the film, include such topics as ageing with dignity, friendships and self-worth, together with questions relating to the existence of adequate incomes in retirement,  and men’s health issues.  It has been adapted for the screen from the award-winning stage comedy, Codgers [which I didn’t see], and  stars Ronald Faulk, Ron Haddrick, Edwin Hodgeman, Jon Lam, Russell Newman and Shane Porteous.  I suppose I should begin to take note of all these kind of issues – well actually, in most instances, I am anyway, but do need a bit of work on the future financial area!!!  Time is getting short, so guess I had better make some positive moods in that direction – I’ve never been one to constantly have money and material needs on my mind, but perhaps it is those who possess the most wealth, who think about such things the most.

This week, there has been a very challenging, and at times emotional TV series [over three nights] on the SBS channel, called ‘Go Back Where You Came From’, it features the ‘adventures’ of  six ordinary Australians who take on the challenge to live like refugees for 25 days, and in the process, undertake amongst other things, a perilous boat journey. Much emphasise was place on our attitudes towards refugees, and in particular the different perceptions of the terms of boat people, refugees and asylum seekers.  Generally, these perceptions, and attitudes such as referring to the boat people as illegal immigrants, criminals, etc are pushed by political persuasion and the kind of aggro that has been built over the past decade or so, by the nature of government policies.  I think a point that myself and couple of friends on Face Book agreed with was that the program would have been better shown on mainstream commercial television where it would reach a wider audience, and generally, that part of the Australian community who have willingly accepted the type of political innuendos about refugees we constantly get from our leaders, who claim compassion in their policies, but seem to have forgotten the true meaning of that word, or extended their ‘compassion’ in the wrong direction. It needed an audience, where people felt ashamed of the way they act, and the way they think and feel about refugees in general, and while doubt many viewers such as myself, were even left with that time of shame, there was a market of potentially millions, who seldom consider tuning into SBS, and missed that opportunity.

The program encouraged comments from viewers, and the one that follows, more or less expressed many of my feelings. The contributor wrote:-    “SBS- I can’t thank and commend you enough for what you have been able to put together. What an amazing concept- one of the best ways to encourage real thought and challenge assumptions than to allow all of us to walk in the shoes of others. The format of this program is outstanding and really effective in pulling out some of the aspects of the refugee experience that we often forget to consider or take for granted (loss of documents, belongings being taken away etc). One really powerful point I found in last nights program was where the congolese lady mentioned that peace in Australia is felt in the absence of gun fire. So often criticism surrounds people seeking refuge in Australia for “our jobs”, “our land”, “our money” or whatever when simple things like this, that should be a universal right, means more than anything else in the world to these people. What a simple thing to share!”   Another comment, put it to the government directly – ‘I really wish the Government, the Opposition, and the Media would overtly recognize and emphasize the small proportion of immigration represented by boat refugees and say openly “This is a tiny problem compared to immigration by air. By and large these are the kind of people with the courage and determination that we need in Australia. We are not ashamed to accept them in the same way that we accepted the refugee boat people from Vietnam. Therefore we will no longer have our policies determined by scaremongering.”

As often with these matters, I was ‘risky’ enough to initiate a ‘conversation’ on Face Book about the subject, and had a few friends joined in. Most of their comments seemed to be in line with mine, with one exception , a family member who came over with the kind of misguided and misunderstood perception of the whole process that I was referring to above – the kind of opinion that needs to actually try and learn something from shows such as this one. Still entitled to her view of course, but unfortunately, I can’t relate here what she had to say  – after receiving one or two responses, including mine, below, that one ‘opposing’ viewpoint pulled her contribution from the discussion [deleted it], so we really only had the one side of things represented as a result, although the responses tend to suggest the other views. Anyway, the following are some of the comments made, and I’ve simply used an initial for the contributors – [B] for Bill, and the others I have left anonymous, for their comfort.

[B] Folks, if you get the chance, SBS tonight/Thurs 8.30 pts 2 & 3 of  ‘Go Back To Where You Come From’ – Ep 1 last night , I was disturbed to think that the racial prejudice & associated ignorance displayed by a couple of the participants is presumably typical of the way many Australians think. Yes, well I liked it, although it disturbed me a little. [A] made a good point on another feed – that it is wasted on SBS, should be shown on mainstream TV [7,9, etc] where it will reach a wider, and probably an audience that needs to see something like that – give them a bit of reality instead of just what is fed by politicians, etc

[S]If it was on Channel 9 it would be shot as an expose’ on wicked people smugglers and no-good queue jumpers ripping off Your Tax Paying Dollars. I think the participants are pretty typical of most Aussies and their attitudes to boat people, Bill.  By ‘most’ I mean ‘the majority’. I’m told that we’re a bit more tolerant in this part of Australia but that Queensland, Western Sydney and Western Australia lap that stuff up. Just ask Alan Jones.

[B] Comment 1 – probably true. Comment 2 – I don’t accept the word ‘most’ – a high proportion, yes, but there area lot of individuals, groups and organisations in Australia who work very hard to the welfare of refugees, esp the ‘boat people’

At this point, a point of opposition against the boat people, and some antagonism in general to refugees was expressed, and the following couple of pieces came in response to that viewpoint.

[R] Asylum seekers are people seeking asylum/ refuge who may or may not be refugees – once assessed most people who arrive by boat are found to be refugees- i guess this is due to the extremely dangerous and arduous journey involved- generally only the most desperate attempt it.

[B]  Thank you R, your explanation is why people who don’t watch SBS should do so for 2 hours tonight/tomorrow, they will get a wake up to the reality of both classes of refugees/asylum seekers, as the participants in the program are no doubt going to do when their journey is over. If the option is to ‘hitch’ a ride, or stay where you are and face certain death, as thousands of innocent families have under the Burmese regime, as just one example,, or spend up to 20 years over the border as a stateless refugee in Thailand [as thousands more continue to do], there is no choice to my mind if you want to ‘try’ and protect your loved ones – except for the majority, they don’t even get that choice to ‘hitch’ a ride, as they simply don’t have the resources to sell up what is left of their lives, to the vultures with the boats. There is no ‘last desperate attempt’ to find a better life, most don’t even get that opportunity.

[S]. An asylum seeker is still someone who is a refugee. According to the figures claimed in the program last night, 1% of refugees in the world are resettled in new countries by the UNHCR. Saying that asylum seekers aren’t real refugees is a bit like saying that you aren’t entitled to Government assistance if your house burnt down on Black Saturday, if the CFA never attended to that particular fire. People like to think that there are cut and dried rules about being a refugee and that there are right ways and wrong ways but the system seems pretty broken to me. People are trying to survive anyway they can to find a safe haven. Maybe you should watch the show to get more information about the a bit like saying that you aren’t entitled to Government assistance if your house burnt down on Black Saturday if the CFA never attended to that particular fire. People like to think that there are cut and dried rules about being a refugee and that there are right ways and wrong ways but the system seems pretty broken to me. People are trying to survive anyway they can to try and find a safe haven. Maybe you should watch the show to get more information about the issue?

[B] Watching the final episode, can’t find the words to describe how it leaves one feeling, perhaps someone else can find that word for me! Highlyconfronting, emotional, a real wake up call to how we think about the rest of the world.

[R] Do you mean that in the sense that there is horror and chaos out there beyond imagining and that if we think that our talk of queues and turn taking, here in margarine ad land has one iota of relevance we are deluded?

[B]  Something along those lines R – I recall the comment made by one of the participants, that we are indeed a lucky country, and peoples – travelling with that group, that would have been an instant realisation. I was ‘almost’ beginning to like that girl named Raquel, I think, towards the end, she was almost starting to suggest that she had a heart that could feel for the misfortunes of others. Perhaps the return to the participants next Tuesday night will reveal how the journey actually changed any of them.  Tonight’s [3rd] episode, quite heart rending at times.

As far as the TV channel was concerned, the program was all good news, and would suggest there were more people watching around Australia then I gave TV viewers credit for! As one report said   ‘SBS has had its biggest ratings result of the year with the first episode of its three-part reality-cum-documentary series Go Back to Where You Came From.  The show was watched by an average 524,000 people on Tuesday night in the five mainland capitals (the audience measure generally quoted), and was the 23rd most-watched program on the night. Typically, SBS would expect to attract about 300,000 people to its prime-time offerings. A further 206,000 people in regional Australia also watched.  The program has resonated with audiences beyond the small screen, and beyond these shores, too. It was the top-trending topic on Twitter worldwide as it screened, and remained in the top 10 in Australia all day yesterday. There was media interest from the BBC and Korea, and The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune ran long stories on the program.  The interest in the show was evidence that SBS was fulfilling its charter, managing director Michael Ebeid said. ”Our ambition is to be the catalyst for the nation’s conversation about multiculturalism and social inclusion,” he said.’

I had another brief visit from Jodie again this evening, think she stayed for about an hour or so, leaving just before the above program commenced. I guess when she gets her computer fixed, the visits won’t be so frequent. Meanwhile, I think I am expecting Susie back from Bendigo tomorrow. Can never be sure of her movements, but she has been up there since Monday of last week, the longest absence this year. She is tending not to commit to specific times at present [not to her family anyway], so we [me anyway] just wait and see!!


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