Selvi Parameswaran in Letter to Editor, AUSTRALIAN, 21 January 2015, which carried the title “Generous welcome makes me feel Australian”
EVERY time there is a crisis at a refugee detention centre I am reminded of the experience I had coming to Australia as a refugee in 1986. After my father and grandfather were killed in Sri Lanka, my mother brought us to Australia and stayed in the Graylands migrant centre in Perth for six months. I was seven and my sister was two, and we had such a wonderful time there, visiting the nurse so we could get biscuits and eating strange new food like fish and chips and crumbed chicken.
My mother got help with her CV and finding a job as a librarian. After she found a job, the lovely staff helped us find rental accommodation and we moved out.This initial experience I had in Australia made me feel welcome here and I have felt like an Australian ever since. Only remarks about my skin colour or ethnicity remind me I am not from here. I have Australian friends, I have married an Australian, and have Australian kids.
I cannot help thinking this current method of treating refugees will only serve to segregate the ethnic groups that come to reside here and rule out any kind of warm feelings refugees might have towards Australia. It is not humane. As an Australian, I feel ashamed and saddened.
Selvi Parameswaran, Coolbellup, WA
A Scene today: “Some of the Tamil asylum seekers board a plane in the Cocos Islands en route to Curtin (AAP: Brad Waugh)