Friday, 7 September 2007

Australia's Worst Maritime Disaster (353 refugees)

via Ant McKenna...


Last weekend I was honoured and humbled to attend the memorial for Australia’s worst maritime tragedy since world war two in Canberra, performing the incredible song ‘Time and Tide’ by my brother Phill.

The ‘SIEV X’ sank in late 2001, with 353 people drowned – predominantly women and children.

Despite the enormity of the tragedy many Australian’s have never heard of this.

The boat was carrying over 400 people seeking a better life in Australia.

Documented evidence has been presented in the Australian Senate that the Australian Federal Police undertook a project to disable and damage asylum seeker’s boats to prevent them reaching Australia. It has also been alleged in the senate that the Howard government was aware of the boat, that it was overcrowded, that the boat intended to make its way to Australia, where it was leaving from and the approximate time of its departure.

It has also been alleged (again in our national senate) that our government could have undertaken a rescue operation immediately but decided not do so for almost 48 hours.

Many Australians are simply asking – why?

The memorial last weekend was the sixth anniversary of the incident and marks the first time that a physical memorial has been allowed within the Australian countryside – beside Lake Burley Griffin.

353 Poles, painted by schools and community groups from around the country were placed in the ground – one for every person who lost their life.

The federal government holds a list of the names of all those who were on the boat, but refuses to release the names. Recently a motion by the greens to release the list was defeated. Officially this is ‘for security reasons’.
The Howard government has not shown any support for a memorial for Australia’s worst modern day maritime incident. In the past, this memorial has been refused permission. Last year, on the anniversary, over 300 people held a pole each in place during a memorial ceremony - and then the poles had to be taken down and packed away. This year the poles have only been allowed to stand for 7 weeks and then they must be removed.

On the weekend, hundreds of Australians walking / driving past saw the poles and stopped and asked ‘what is this for?’ When they found out they almost all said ‘I had no idea…’ Maybe you had no idea about this either? Or maybe you had heard about this somewhere but did not know the facts. Remember, this is not some conspiracy theory, but based upon documented evidence presented by our federal representatives in the Australian senate and countless documented essays, books, interviews, etc.

This tragedy raises huge questions for us as a nation. How far do we go to protect ourselves? What innocence are we willing to lose to ensure that ‘we say who comes to this country and the manner in which they come here’? What did the federal government really know about this ship and these people? If we hold men in immigration detention, then who is supporting their wives and children? Why did we keep children who survived this tragedy in detention centres? Why is there such bureaucratic red tape and so many hurdles to this important memorial?

The purpose of this email is twofold – to raise awareness - so I would be grateful if you passed this on to anyone you think who would be interested.

The main purpose of this email however, is in the hope that this does not ever happen again.

For more information, go to

All the best to you and your family.

Ant McKenna

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