I Am A Boat Person Inc is an apolitical and secular charity whose foundation was formed through our passion for an issue neglected in our local area. We started in April 2013 in the Sutherland Shire, distributing information about the plight of refugees to Cronulla residents. Around the same time, I started regular visits to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, where I met one of my best friends, a Villawood detainee*, roughly my age; a kind and gentle soul. This was a turning point for the IAABP team, as we saw he and his friends deteriorating mentally as waves of political propaganda destroyed their hope for freedom.
Our weekly visits turned into a break from their reality, as we played cards and shared a laugh. These occasions also included visits from my mum, who brought educational materials to assist my friend in his English studies, while also bringing materials that would help child detainees at school. The feedback we received was instrumental in our move towards an educational focus this year.
Since seeing the reality behind the political slogans and misinformation, my determination to keep I Am A Boat Person Inc moving forward is stronger than ever. It is so important in this political climate to reclaim the negative connotation between the term ‘boat people’ and asylum seekers. If innocent refugees coming across the seas (often one of their only options) to share in our 'boundless plains' are ‘boat people’, then so are we. If I have freedom and opportunities, then so should they. If I have access to education, then so should they. If I can hope and dream, then so should they.
We want to make our message very clear: we are NOT colonialists who believe the First Fleet was when ‘real’ Australia started. Our name is merely a symbol of the fact that the majority of Australians immigrated here at some point or another. We recognise that the majority of modern Australians have ancestors who immigrated to Australia via boat or other means, whether that be because of reasons related to war and asylum, economic immigration or otherwise, and that this makes our claim to the land and the right to 'close our borders' illegitimate, as Aborigines and Torres-Strait Islanders are the original owners of Australian land and reserve this right. My heritage is Greek (1955) and English (1815), which means my family have an immigrant past, not unlike most Australians. We believe that everyone should recognise their past in understanding the future of Australia as a multicultural place which welcomes people from far and wide, especially those who aren't lucky enough to experience growing up in such a peaceful, plentiful country as ours.
I am so proud to say that in the brief 3 months we have been a charity we have given so much and have so much more to give. The team and I can't wait to share this journey with you.
*For privacy reasons, my friend's name has been omitted.
by Daniel Heycox / Director