In More to the Story: Conversations with refugees, Rosemary Sayer tells the stories of seven refugees who have settled in Western Australia.
She also captures the spirit of some remarkable organisations and a community which have opened their hearts to asylum seekers.
Rosemary Sayer interviewed people from Sudan, Afghanistan and Burma. She recounts stories of heartbreak, separation, terror, pain, love, courage. Her protagonists eventually discover havens in their new homes.
She writes about the Katanning-based Western Australian Meat Marketing Co-operative. She describes the warmhearted community of the wheat-belt town which welcomes refugees and the Edmund Rice Centre in Mirrabooka.
While some of the stories are harrowing, the book is easy to read because of the author’s commitment to human rights and her compassion, and the conversational tone of her writing. She quotes generously from interviews and makes people and their experiences come alive on the page.
This is not just a book of powerful stories, but also an important contribution to the history and politics of Australia’s dealings with refugees since the rescue of a boatload of refugees by the Norwegian freighter, Tampa in 2001.
As Julian Burnside AO QC says in his Foreword to More to the Story,
The Tampa episode was the start of Australia’s conspicuously harsh approach to boat people.
Refugees found themselves in off-shore detention centres when they sought asylum in Australia. This approach denies Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that every human being has the right to seek asylum in any territory.
While the research that has gone into this book shines from every page, another aspect makes the book special. Rosemary Sayer has written this important material in the form of a memoir.
She recounts the story of her own journey of discovery as she talks with refugees, not only those whose stories she has written, but also many others. She and her husband, Terry, share meals, conversations and cultural events with refugees. They invite them to their home. She meets their children and introduces her own.
Eventually, to try to understand more of an asylum seeker’s experience, they travel to a refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border.
More to the Story inspired me. It has moved me to act more decisively on the advice of refugee Piok,
I wish more people would take the time to talk to refugees and volunteer to help refugees and new arrivals…I hope people think about the simple things like offering help the shopping centre or at the bus stop or in town if someone looks lost or confused.
Author: Rosemary Sayer
Title: More to the Story, Conversations with refugees
Publisher: Margaret River Press, 2015
This review will be included in my tally for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, 2018