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Saturday, 5 July 2014

Let me shake your hand and welcome you to your new home

The Minister for Immigration Mr Arthur Calwell welcomes a happy family of new post-war immigrants to Australia, c.1947.

The above unidentified photograph was published in this article in The Melbourne Age in 2007, which marked sixty years since the wave of post-war refugees arrived in Australia.

My husband's grandmother Grace Eleanor Calwell was a first cousin to ArthurAugustus Calwell, who was a dominant figure in Australian politics from 1940 until 1967. Mr Calwell was the Minister for Immigration under the post-war Labor Government and later as leader of the party he narrowly lost a Federal election in 1961. I've written a little about Arthur here in  previous posts, for example here and here

Arthur Calwell must have shaken the hands of a very large number of new European migrants who had come to Australia after being displaced from their home countries following World War 2, and he subsequently became a personal  friend to many of these new Australian families.

In 2012 Arthur's daughter Mary Elizabeth Calwell published a book about her father's life and work, and at the book launch Arthur was acknowledged as the father of multiculturalism in Australia.   For a report of the speech given at the launch by the then Minister for Immigration Mr Chris Bowen giving credit to Arthur for his considerable achievements in the field of immigration and dispelling a few commonly held misconceptions about him, click here

I don't mean to get political here, but in my humble opinion, the current Australian government's policy on refugees is very, very wrong, and the Labor Party's approach to the subject is no better. I believe we should welcome all people who come here. We should be shaking their hands and offering them a new chance at life, rather than turning back the boats on which they have attempted very hazardous voyages, refusing to allow them to land on our shores and condemning them either to indefinite incarceration in camps in other less fortunate countries or to a return to the hostile places from which they have desperately tried to escape. 

I simply offer this letter on the subject from Julian Burnside, AO, QC, a notable Australian whom I very much admire for his courage to speak out. He is a barrister, human rights and refugee advocate.

Letter published on Facebook by Adam Bandt, Australian Greens, with permission of Julian Burnside 

The inimitable British folk singer Roy Bailey has a song in his latest album, entitled 'Welcome'. Here are some of the opening lines:
'Welcome, come into my land. It's your land too now, I want to shake your hand. I want to know your story, the journey you've been on ..."
No video clip to be found, but you can hear Roy sing it on Spotify. I say 'welcome'!

For more hand shaking or any other matters that this week's photo may have prompted fellow Sepians to blog about, please go to Sepia Saturday # 235