Simon Keenan is the founder of Paddling for Refugees And Asylum Seekers, and David Corlett is the author of Following Them Home: The Fate of the Returned Asylum Seekers.
Together are embarking on a sea kayaking journey in and around Australia's 'excised zone'.
This zone is the part of Australia's north (including Christmas Island and Ashmore Reef) that has been legislatively cut off from the migration zone in order to prohibit any asylum seeker arriving there from applying for protection in Australia.
Update: the website of the Paddling for Refugees project no longer exists, and all links have been removed from this page.
19 September 2007: Paddling Excision: Big John comes home - This Tuesday at 11:00am, Dave Corlett and Simon Keenan symbolically landed their Big John mascot on home soil - right on the rock shelf in front of his official residence at Kirribilli House on Sydney Harbour. Big John's APS / AFP Federal guards weren't all that delighted, but Sydney Water Police were very interested in the epic 3-month sea kayak journey...
5 August 2007: E X C I S E D ! - Paddling The Excision Zone with David Corlett and Simon Keenan - Be part of a sea kayaking journey in and around Australia's 'excised zone' - those parts of Australia's north (including Christmas Island and Ashmore Reef) that have been legislatively cut off from the migration zone in order to prohibit any asylum seeker arriving there from applying for protection in Australia.
11 July 2005: David Corlett, Following them home: The fate of the returned asylum seekers - "One of the things that I found that was almost universal was that the implications of Australia's detention policies continued to affect people's lives as they had been returned ... They spoke of, as a result of Australia's asylum seeker policies, of losing their dignity, of having lost their humanity, and they also spoke of being institutionalised in Australia's detention regime ... There was a couple of instances in Iran of people who had been sent back with documents that put them at risk, and they were interrogated as a result of those documents."
Paddling for Refugees And Asylum Seekers (PRAS) has initiated a project, Paddling in the Excised Zone, which it hopes will generate nation-wide public interest in Australia's response to asylum seekers, and in particular, the denial of asylum seekers' access to Australian territory and its onshore protection determination process.
PRAS is seeking the support and endorsement of businesses and community-based organisations to help make the project become one of real significance. The project already has been endorsed by Amnesty International Australia, A Just Australia, the Asylum Seeker Project of the Hotham Mission, Fremantle's Project SafeCom and the Centre for Human Rights Education at Curtin University. The project has been made possible with the support of Lonely Planet and East Coast Kayaking.
PRAS founder, Simon Keenan, and author of Following Them Home: The Fate of the Returned Asylum Seekers David Corlett are embarking on a sea kayaking journey in and around Australia's 'excised zone' - those parts of Australia's north (including Christmas Island and Ashmore Reef) that have been legislatively cut off from the migration zone in order to prohibit any asylum seeker arriving there from applying for protection in Australia. (click the map image for enlargement!) Asylum seekers who are found in the excised zone can be forcibly transferred to Nauru or elsewhere where their applications for protection are assessed in a system without an independent appeals mechanism and which is not subject to judicial oversight. Nor do such people have a right to independent legal advice. There is compelling evidence that this system has led to the return of asylum seekers to situations where their human rights have been violated. Some have been killed. Those asylum seekers found to be refugees have no right to be resettled in Australia or any other country and can wait for extended periods of time in limbo while their resettlement is negotiated between governments. Excision and its denial of access to Australian territory and the onshore protection determination process remains one of the key outstanding issues in Australia's response to asylum seekers.
As well as generating a good deal of public and media interest as we stop off at towns and cities all over Australia on the two-month journey, the project will be the basis for a documentary film (produced by Scarab Studio). We will also write articles for newspapers and magazines and maintain an interactive webpage including a blog, maps, photos, travel log, etc on Paddling for Refugees And Asylum Seekers website. We will post vision from our trip on other websites, including Lonely Planet's LPTV, Amnesty International's website and/or Youtube and myspace. We will also speak at various public functions along the way.
The audience for our work includes people under the age of 35, travellers of all ages, consumers of rural and regional media and people interested in human rights and refugee issues.
The journey will occur between mid-July and mid-September.
We are currently seeking support in many different forms. For example, we are seeking:
Endorsements from community-based and non-governmental organisations that work with asylum seekers and refugees and in the field of human rights. 'Endorsement' would mean that your organisation publicly supports the project and is willing to have its logo linked onto the Paddling for Refugees and Asylum Seekers website. By endorsing the project, your organisation adds to the projects authority. As mentioned above, Amnesty International Australia, the Asylum Seeker Project of the Hotham Mission, Project SafeCom and the Centre for Human Rights Education have already endorsed the project.
In-kind support, including advertising/publicising the project through your organisation's networks, email lists, website, organising awareness-raising functions to which the project could be linked as it circumnavigates the country etc.
Financial support. We have already raised $10,000 for the project and have applied for further funds (including an application to cover the costs of documentary production). Any amount of funding would contribute to the overall project. For example, $50 would pay for fuel for part of the journey and $1420 would pay for one participant's flights to Cocos and Christmas Islands.
Product support in the form of items that could be used to fund-raise or items that might be of use for the journey.
Simon Keenan is the founder of Paddling for Asylum Seekers and Refugees, an organisation that evolved from Simon's 2,226 km, 116 day solo kayak down the length of the Murray River. PRAS seeks to raise community awareness of the plight of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia through public gatherings, paddles and awareness raising activities. As well as generating national support and publicity, PRAS has raised more than $22,000 for organisations that assist asylum seekers living in the Australian community.
David Corlett is a freelance writer and the author of Following Them Home: The Fate of the Returned Asylum Seekers, a book described as a 'mix of travelogue, oral history and investigative journalism with a moderate dose of polemic' and which was highly commended by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and shortlisted for a Queensland Premier's Literary Award. David has written articles for a wide range of publications including The Age, The Canberra Times, The Courier Mail, The Advertiser, The Monthly, Eureka Street, Dissent, and AQ. His work has been reported and written about in, among other publications, Rolling Stone, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Hobart Mercury and the Australian Federal Parliament. David has also appeared on national and local radio and is an honorary research fellow at La Trobe University.
Scarab Studio is an exciting emergent Australian production company and successful maker of broadcast and web documentaries and short films. It has worked for corporate clients and produced a number of documentaries such as Estudio 101 (broadcast on Channel 10 and Qantas) which tells the story of the band 'The Cat Empire' recording their second album in Havana, Cuba, and One Cup on Fair Trade Coffee and East Timor (broadcast on ABC International). Scarab's website is at www.thescarab.org
If you would like to know more about Paddling in the Excised Zone and to talk further about being involved in the project please contact David Corlett on 0407 074 088 or Simon Keenan on 0417 379 121, or email us at paddlingforrefugees(at)gmail.com. You can also visit the PRAS website.
ABC ONLINE NEWS
Wednesday, 14 June 2006
Four months ago, Simon Keenan jumped in a kayak and set off to start the adventure of a lifetime; paddling the two thousand kilometres of the mighty Murray River.
But this was more than just a test of physical endurance for Simon, for him the Murray holds a wealth of stories and experiences, especially for those refugees who now call it their home.
"I have decided to couple my personal challenge and dream with a passion that is very close to my heart - the plight of refugees in Australia." Simon says. "I am continually surprised at the lack of serious attention which is given to people who have sought to live in Australia out of nothing more than a dire necessity for survival."
After studying his Bachelor of Business at University, Simon spent six years as an accountant and business consultant. And, in what much have been a major turning point in his life, he threw it all in mid last year to study a International Development.
"I would like to use my paddling experience to highlight the plight of those refugees who have made the heartbreaking journey to Australia and are now attempting to integrate into rural communities."
And of course many of the towns along the Murray are now thriving after they began an intake of refugees. They have been a gift to many communities, bringing a story of tragedy but also a strength of heart and wealth of understanding.
Simon's journey gave him a unique insight, a chance to speak candidly with those that have fled their country and now call Australia home.