No name just a number

A young asylum seeker secreted behind the shafts of razor wire at Woomera asks “Why are there no flowers in Australia?” What can I tell her that would make sense in such a desert landscape? Will the Wackenhut guards who confine would-be refugees be displeased with my answer?

If I told her that there are wonderful flowers in Australia will that further wound her, knowing she is being prevented from seeing the blooms? Will she be bewildered trying to understand why the Government, which claims to be inspired by humanity and compassion, prevents her seeing Australia’s flowers?

Would it be kinder to tell her that the cleared red brown earth which she and her fellow inmates daily pound, the distant salt bush and spinifex (observable through the detention camp’s steel mesh) is the totality of vegetation she is likely to observe in this country? Or, should I tell her that about every 7 years the desert country around Woomera is deluged by rain and the desert comes alive with flowers?

Will that news create so much excitement in this young woman’s heart that she will not be able to put up with the day-to-day drabness of the detention centre, the sameness of the daily routine of imprisonment and the meanness of spirit of her incarcerators?

I don’t know what to tell her. I would appreciate it if you would write to juvenile detainee number 433 and explain to her why there are no flowers in Australia.

Written 2002.