Report and photographs from Julie Martin

About 60 people filled the Bates room at Blackheath Community Centre on Saturday afternoon to hear about  a book written by refugees on their experiences in off shore detention centres. They Cannot take the Sky.

A BMRSG contingent was there, Joy Connor, committee member and Villawood Visitor gave an excellent overview of the work of BMRSG  and urged all to “stand up for a decent Australia.”

The highlight for me was the conversation with Hani Abdile, a Somali asylum seeker who came by boat to Australia in 2013 and was subsequently interred on Christmas Island. Hani came alone aged 17 and we were all entralled by her cheeky sense of humour, intelligence, creativity and resilience.   Hani recounted how she wanted to be a journalist and started a newsletter in the detention centre. She also described writing regularly to Mr Abbot and with a grin told us that she had said to him, in one of her many letters, “We have something in common we both came to Australia by boat.!”

She recited several of her very moving poems..including “I write” . You can listen to Hani recite this evocative and moving poem on YouTube here

Hani is now in Australia on a bridging Visa.   Since being released from detention she has performed many poetry slams and at the Sydney Opera House.

The book has many stories and accounts from refugees. And the intriguing title ..draws on an observation by Iranian Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani who also shares his story in this collection.”The sky is like a friend for a prisoner, because all around you everything is metal fences, but the sky, they cannot take the sky”

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