teaching context: we were looking at Joseph Beuys 'End of the Twentieth Century' - an artwork make of large rocks, about the dimensions of an adult person or a coffin, strewn about the floor. The rocks are grey, almost green, like mud with a hole gouged out of each. The hole is maybe the size of a face and is plugged in with clay, felt and the orginal hewn-out rock.
To me, this artwork speaks of war, destruction and the lives that are lost. We were talking about this work - me and a group of twenty 9 year olds. One boy in the group, refering to the strewn rocks, asked, "Are they asylum seekers?" I can't really imagine why he said that.

Spoke to T. today, a friend from school in Australia. We talked of course about the current world situation and also about the time recently when the Australian government refused entry to a ship of Afgani refugees. She told me how the popularity ratings for the Prime Minister rose dramatically over his 'handling' of the refugees, that everyone believed this man would lose the upcoming election but now he would probably win. For her, this is was one of only 2 times in her life that she was ashamed to be Australian.

I added that, in fact, the current war showed how wrong Australia was to not take in refugees, now that we understand how oppressive Afganistan is as a place to live if you are a woman or from one of the many ethnic groups that don't form part of the ethnically-based Taliban. The rest of the world should understand properly the plight of the average Afgani person and have greater sympathy for them.

She disagreed. She said that because of the war, it was good that Australia didn't let in Afgan people because on that ship there may have been members of terrorist groups or the Taliban.

To me this seems bizarre and filled with unfounded prejudicial fears. I doubt that refugees who have bought passage on a rickety, unseaworthy boat are likely to be part of a well-organised, well-funded terrorist group, as bin Laden's is. It seems incredibly unlikely that they would be part of that kind of haphazard act of desperation. It doesn't make sense. Besides, Australia should be confident that their system for processing potential immigrants is intelligent enough and strong enough to exclude people with terrorist histories... otherwise why have any system? is the implication that they should simply end all immigration? how ironic for a country based on immigration.

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