Culture

Government Publishes Harrowing Comic Book To Show The World How Terrible Australia Is

Another proud day to be Australian.

You saw your brother get shot in the face last week, for refusing to join the local militia. You’ve been receiving death threats for months. Your wife comes home from the market and tells you, “It’s time. We have to get out.”

Naturally, you get out your iPad and look up the website of the Australian Customs. If you’re going to flee for your life you want to make sure you’re fleeing correctly.

So, I imagine, goes the scenario in the hive-mind of the Department of Immigration and Border Security, which  has on its website an 18-page graphic novel depicting the journey of an asylum seeker from Afghanistan to Australia. It shows a man arranging to escape, getting on a plane, paying a people smuggler and riding rough seas in a leaky boat.

comic6

He is then flown to a shanty town on a small island, where he is haunted by memories of home and surrounded by people in the clutches of despair.

comic3

And that’s where the story ends.

The final panel shows the man crying above the Australian Government logo. Just to drive the point home.

logo

There are several details in the images which alarm me, but what stuck out instantly was that the man was drawn to deliberately look like a Hazara – a member of an ethnic minority which suffers horrendous persecution in Afghanistan. They are among the most vulnerable people on Earth.

This sick little comic was commissioned by the Rudd Government and first published in November as part of a communications campaign which, according to a government spokesperson, aims to help “people become more informed and make smarter, safer choices”. The campaign began in July when televisions and billboards in Australia, Asia and the Middle East told people “If you come by boat, you won’t be settled in Australia.”

When the Rudd Government first announced the campaign, the Coalition called it propaganda, and a waste of taxpayer money. “[These ads] are ram-raiding the taxpayer’s ATM … Eddie Obeid would be proud,” said the then Shadow Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison. For once, Scott Morrison and I can agree.

Except no. Now in Government, Morrison has continued the campaign, contributing the slogan “No Way. They will not make Australia home.”

noway

On the Australian version of the website, people are told “Keep your family and friends safe – tell them to come the right way” — which, I suppose, is to overstay on a working holiday visa like a normal person. The story was picked up by The Guardian, where it comes with a Level 8 Don’t Read The Comments Warning.

If you really want to learn about our asylum seeker policy via a graphic novel, try At Work Inside Our Detention Centres: A Guard’s Story on The Global Mail.

Go ‘Straya!

Eliza Cussen is an emerging creative writer who spends her days editing websites for Australian non-profits. Her writing has appeared in places like The Drum, Ramp Up and Tabula Rasa. She blogs sometimes at Fix It, Dear Henry, and tweets under @ElizaCussen.