Editorial Statement, Dance Journalism
We are in Northam at the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre in regional Western Australia. For approximately 14 years, Australian politics has fixated on immigration policies. We are in an era where the treatment of refugees has become a central battleground of our electoral democracy. Both of the major Australian parties have adopted a policy of mandatory detention of refugees. And both major parties have steadily increased the punitive and abusive nature of the detention system. This race to the bottom, to the depths of institutional human rights abuses, has become a major feature of Australia’s political culture.
The detention centres are set against the harsh, distinctively beautiful landscapes that are unique to this country. They are spaces of major cultural significance. The centres are prison environments built to show strength of purpose by being tough on refugees. The brutality of the detention system is designed to spread messages back to the world’s most vulnerable people – refugees from Afghanistan and Iran, Sri Lanka and Sudan and more, the message is do not come here. You will find the same abuse here as in the land you flee. The centres are a key feature of policy, spoken of in media releases and spin, but kept as far out of view as possible. In 2012 it was revealed that the Department for Immigration had modelled its media visitation policy on the guidelines for the Guantamo Bay Detention Camp. These places are hard to get to and when journalists do get here, they are regurlarly denied access. Whether we like it or not, this facility you can see behind me is an icon of Australian culture. And if remote detention centres are cultural spaces, they demand attention from all forms of art and culture. Dance belongs here. Bands should breach the perimeter fence with drones that say ‘we know you are in there’. Writers should be stuck here for days on end, staring at the multiple lines of fencing and being denied access to the people inside. AFL players should be here trying to kick footballs over the police lines, and over the impossible distance to the perimeter fences. Audiences of all kinds should be drawn here to witness these sites and to be acocuntable to what is happening here in our names. Many Aboriginal nations have already welcomed refugees, but consider the ultimate, most powerful and important Welcome To Country ceremonies that could be performed here. Consider the closing ceremony of this centre.
This dance you see occuring is dedicated to the people inside this detention facility. The dance can’t possibly try to represent or capture what indefinite detention is like. It is unlikely that any form of media or report can capture that experience. By occupying this space with dance. By covering the work of the activists, and by reporting direct accounts of the centre and any messages we are able to recieve from the refugees inside, we are here to assert that these sites are of extreme cultural importance. They are the shameful counter to the Sydney Opera House or Uluru or Federation Square or the MCG. Where those icons are venerated and loved, these sites demand our immediate, critical and uncompromising attention. This is the Union of Dance Journalism, reporting from Yongah Hill Detention Centre in outback Western Australia, where refugees are held in high security, indeterminite, illegal detention. Activists have converged from around the nation to demand an immediate end to mandatory detention and offshore processing, and to support the refugee’s demands for basic human rights. Repeating, this is the Union of Dance Journalism from Yongah Hill Detention Centre where the campaign to end mandatory detention and offshore processing continues to fly in the face of Australia’s violent political scapegoating.
Video features: Sam Fox and Deborah Robertson
Dancers: Laura Boynes, Deborah Robertson, Gabriela Green, Jess Lewis, Daniella Olea, Tarryn Gill, Jule Japhet Chiari, Isabella Stone, Carly Armstrong, Sete Tele, Musicians:Tristen Parr, Chris Cobilis, Technicians and camera ops: Chris McCormick, Neil Berrick, Benjamin Forster