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SIEV X - SENATE EXPRESSES REGRET AND SYMPATHY ()
by Mary Dagmar Davies
19 Oct 2003
On the eve of the second SIEV X anniversary in a welcome and historic development the Senate of Australia specifically expressed its regret and sympathy for the loss of so many innocent lives 146 children, 142 women and 65 men -a total of 353. While many politicians in the both houses of parliament are working hard to ensure justice, it was the first motion of condolence for asylum seekers to pass into the Australian parliament.
SIEV X - SENATE EXPRESSES REGRET AND
On the eve of the second SIEV X anniversary in a welcome and historic
development the Senate of Australia specifically expressed its regret and
sympathy for the loss of so many innocent lives 146 children, 142 women and 65
men -a total of 353. While many politicians in the both houses of parliament are
working hard to ensure justice, it was the first motion of condolence for asylum
seekers to pass into the Australian parliament.
The motion was put by Senator Andrew Bartlett and supported by the ALP and the
Greens. Senator Bartlett has always seen asylum seekers as people just like us.
Unlike some politicians he sees the desperate families on SIEV X in human terms.
In a moving speech to the historic motion Bartlett made this absolutely clear.
~ "It will be a day and a date I will always remember, because 19 October 2001,
the day that all those children drowned, was the same day that my first and only
daughter, Lillith, was born. She is, in my view, the most beautiful girl ever
born - I apologise to everybody else who might have children, but that is just
the way it is and to think that, at the same time that she was being born and
all the wonder that goes with that, there were 146 children whose lives were
about to end as they struggled in the water in
such fear and terror. It is indeed a tragedy, and it is one that should be
remembered. They were all trying to seek a better life. I do not way to get into
the rhetoric about asylum seekers, queue jumpers, illegal immigrants or anything
like that." ~
Senator Bartlett correctly sees SIEV X not simply a political issue but
something which impacts on everyone in the electorate in a very personal way.
Whether we speak about it or are silent in our concern. Because we know every
parent of every child who died in the SIEV X tragedy felt exactly the same way
about each of child of theirs.
To understand or visualise the horror SIEV X it is necessary like Senator
Bartlett to place this in context with things we know even if we have never
experience parenthood or tragedy.
Most of us watch tennis - At 19.5 meters long SIEV X was four meters shorter
than a tennis court and less than half it's width (tennis court 23.774 m x
Over 400 people were forced at gun point onto tiny boat that advocate, former
Australian Ambassador to Poland and Cambodia Tony Kevin. would later name SIEV
So many people, so many families. Over 400 human beings were put to sea on a
tiny, leaky wooden boat that could have been dry docked on a tennis court on one
side of the centre line with room to spare.
We travel and would know the population of many small towns, and villages in
many parts of the world is less than 400. The population of Lord Howe Island was
recorded as 300 in 2002.
The human cargo of SIEV X was packed tighter than live sheep trade regulations
would allow. There was nothing wrong with us being upset when we saw the faces
the sheep Saudi Arabia rejected and no one is pretending they could be anything
The difference was our government was rejecting people but for one photograph of
three beautiful little girls we didn't see their faces. They were simply
refugees they jumped no queues because there were no queues to join. They were
not illegal because it is not illegal to seek refuge and they could only have
fitted such a description if they had arrived.
The great big difference is this the sheep were bought and paid for, transported
in modern sea worthy ships and bred for slaughter. These were people and
slaughtering people is a crime. Because SIEV X sunk international waters
manslaughter apparently does not apply and other charges must be laid.
Australians aren't cruel or heartless we don't put people above sheep. But as
the protagonists in the election ignored the monstrous tragedy of SIEV X all the
things that disturbed us, or were just to frightening to think about, had to be
pushed into our subconscious. It's likely the emotion we had bottled up about
SIEV X was triggered and released when we saw the sheep. It was like being
released from a hypnotic trance when someone snaps their fingers.
Yes they were people on SIEV X people just like us. When people are travelling
the it is a crime to accept payment and not ensure save transportation and
arrival. If someone dies a violent death before their time there has to be an
353 people died. SIEV X sunk in Australia's surveillance zone and it is this
country's responsibility to find out why and who was responsible for the
criminal and forced overloading of the boat and the cause of it's sinking. There
must be a full judicial inquiry
In the wake of the first anniversary of the tragedy and horror of the Bali
bombing, on the second anniversary of the sinking of SIEV X in our border
protection surveillance zone and on the eve of the arrival of President George
W.Bush in Canberra its impossible to avoid the realisation that we are eye
witnesses to history.
We might not understand how or why we changed from the multi cultural and
welcoming Australia we presented to the world at Olympics 2000, to a place of
division and hostility. How we were prepared to accept lies without question and
ignore the death of 146 innocent children? How did we allow laws to be passed
that would be so abusive to children, robbing them of their innocence and their
identity, locked up behind the electrified fences and razor wire of detention
As we remember the tragic sinking of SIEV X and shed tears for those children we
will never know. We must think of what we can do to persuade our government to
stop the cruelty children detention. Every child matters every child is
important. They are the future.
Senator Bartlett's daughter and the children of her generation and all your
children will grow up with the results of laws and decisions made in this time.
They will judge how all this happened and they will write the history books. I
wonder what they will think.
Happy birthday Ms Bartlett. I wish you and every child anywhere in Australia a
wonderful, happy, healthy and secure future. But most of all I wish you freedom.
Freedom is most valuable thing in life.
[MARY DAGMAR DAVIES is the Founder and co-ordinator of JANNAH THE SIEV X
MEMORIAL on the Refugee Action Committee Canberra ACT website
JANNAH THE SIEV X MEMORIAL
To post a message of condolence for those lives lost in the SIEV X tragedy
jannah (at) refugeeaction.org