Just before Christmas of 2010 I went to Darwin to volunteer in running some programs for asylum-seekers in the detention centre centre there. I left just over a month later, after New Years eve and the beginning of 2011 with a resolution that I would take what I had seen and learned and what had changed me and I would do something.
This is what I did. This was my big plan. I had two weeks after I got back from the life-changing experience that was Darwin to another life-changing experience where I would spend a year living and studying in Spain. I was going to put my skills as a Public Relations student to good use, create an advocacy campaign to draw attention to the plight of asylum-seekers in Australia and the government's unfair and internationally illegal mandatory detention policy. The big idea was to connect the idea of Travel - an idea we love, cherish and are infamous for as Aussies - with the perilous and often fatal journey of asylum-seekers across relentless oceans and far off lands. If I was going to spend a year travelling all over Europe, setting foot in the North of Africa and the tip of Asia on the eastern side of Istanbul - I was going to make it count.
Now this is where things happened and didn't happen. I'm sharing this here because I think my experiences as a well intentioned novice and the many lessons I learned can be useful. What happened was that I tried to launch a campaign single-handedly. What didn't happen is that I didn't use the resources I had at my disposal to the best of my ability. I had these incredible travel opportunities, experiences of meeting people from Morocco, France, America, Sweden and all over the world to take part. My failure was too often that my own insecurity and self-doubt led me to inaction while I debated the details, the viability of my plan. Also, I was being distracted by the many incredible experiences I was having in Spain, and instead of incorporating that into the campaign it became a separate part. I wasn't sure how to integrate the two.
All shortcomings aside, the learning curve was an achievement in itself. I did manage to get some incredible video footage, participation from a few friends and a video I will be releasing within the next week. Meanwhile while the campaign took a back seat, I kept updated with the many great works and advocacy campaigns gaining traction in the public sphere and media back home. In Australia documentary makers, Artists, Politicians, celebrities and a host of other professions, students and everyday people were joining in the conversation on Asylum-seekers in a number of ways. Promoting and being a part of Welcome to Australia and watching the ground breaking, thought provoking series Go Back To Where You Came From inspired me.
While my campaigning last year may have failed in some regards owing to my own inaction, others all around Australia were acting. They were making sure the stories and humanity of persecuted people finding themselves on our shores were being told. More than that, they were being listened to earnestly by a public confronted by a truth we rarely got to see beyond the political rhetoric of our nation's leaders vying for cheap points and media headlines. These campaigns showed me the large and growing network of Australians who care to know more, to understand and to take educated action on those who seek asylum in this 'Lucky Country'.
The Will Travel For Life campaign is still under works, I'm updating it with a video I will release this week. It will show my 2011 efforts on this learning-curve of a campaign that taught me invaluable lessons in advocacy campaigning. However this will definitely not be the end of my self-education and campaigning on this issue that is so close to my heart. Look out for more as I make better use of this platform, the resources I have here and the lessons I've already learned.
Here's to Trying and Failing, and trying again.
Here's to those seeking asylum on our shores and all over the world.