The Woomera hunger strike

I want to tell a story,
want to share with you the mail
about a group of people
whose struggle mustn’t fail.
They were seeking asylum
from civil strife and war.
They came in overcrowded boats
and were knocking on our door.
But we put them in detention
in Australia’s great outback
and searched for excuses
to send the buggers back.
This tale’s about intolerance
and persecution too
what governments do in our name
affects them and me and you.
It’s about a group of people
who came across the sea.
They didn’t have a visa,
didn’t dress like you and me.
They were fleeing persecution.
They were fleeing rape and war.
The Australian Government asked them
“What have you come here for?”
They said they’d come for freedom,
for humanity and more,
and they wanted to make a new life
on this far and distant shore.
They couldn’t get an answer
though they pleaded and they cried.
They were growing desolate
because everything was tried.
For month on month they languished
behind Woomera’s razor wire
The Government was stunned when
they set their cells on fire.
They were becoming desperate
to escape this desert hell
the Government just ignored them
locked in their prison cell.
So they sewed their lips together
and the children joined them too
they were told “That’s unAustralian,
it was not the thing to do.”
The press got the story out
and Australia’s conscience stirred
in cities and in country towns
we realised we had erred.
The news of what is happening
is causing apprehension.
There has got to be a better way
than mandatory detention.
There has to be a better way
than mandatory detention.

Written 2002.