2016 marks the 40th anniversary of the first major group of refugee arrivals seeking asylum and protection directly from Australia. On 26 April 1976, five young men fleeing Vietnam sailed into Darwin Harbour.
Over four decades, people who have fled war and persecution have enriched their new communities and changed their new homes for the better. Former refugees are to be found across all areas of Australian life. They have become business leaders, doctors, teachers, politicians, sportsmen and women, and an integral part of Australian society.
But refugees should be protected for the simple reason that they are people – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, neighbours and friends.
Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right. Everyone has the right to life and liberty. Everyone has the right to freedom from fear. Everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution.
These human rights don’t change based on race, religion, sex or nationality. Human rights don’t change based on whether you seek safety by land, air or sea.
People fleeing war and persecution have few options. Most are faced with impossible choices to find protection for themselves and their families.
The four Australians taking part in this unscripted campaign represent the stories of countless others who have faced the difficult journey to safety, and found it in their new country. Despite their many varied accomplishments, these Australians are ordinary people who have survived through extraordinary circumstances.
Far too often, the humanity of refugees and asylum-seekers is ignored or forgotten. The campaign asks us to reconsider who refugees really are, and to reinforce the basic, common values that compel us to protect them – Human lives, Human rights.