People have asked whether there is an “archive” of the various human rights actions which I’ve been involved in over the years. I have recorded some of these on this blog but I think one page which takes you to these stories may be useful.
I am aware that there are many people who have done some incredible work supporting social justice and human rights but no one knows about these. Many people across the world do think globally and act locally but we don’t hear about it. One reason is that mainstream media quite often does not tell or record these actions and we find these local actions don’t even make a footnote in a local history book, let alone in a “big” history book.
So, I’ve written about some of our local actions just so people do know about them.
2020 – what a time to be an activist! I can’t help but reimagine some of the stuff we did before Social Media, before Go Fund Me, drone photography. Maybe, the Flotillas of Hope could have raised so much money we could have chartered some boats? We wouldn’t have needed a giant Kite with a camera to film the refugees in Woomera. A drone would have done the job magnificently.
Anyway, there’s lots of opportunities and means to fight for social justice today with the technology available to all of us.
What’s our local area? Newcastle, in the Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia.
I am listing these local actions in chronological order with a short description.
The Cultural Stomp had its birth in 1997 when Pauline Hanson launched her One Nation Party in Newcastle. We decided that she wasn’t going to launch it without hearing what we in the Hunter felt about it. We formed a group we called Cultures in Action and every year since 1997 for ten years Newcastle celebrated its cultural diversity in Civic Park.
Refugees and Asylum Seekers held a hunger strike in this detention centre stuck in the South Australian desert. Some people in Melbourne decided to organise a Festival of Freedoms at the Woomera Detention Centre. Hunter Organisation for Peace & Equity joined them and we became a Caravan, a HOPE Caravan.
With all the racist crap pushed by the Liberal National Party we thought that Newcastle should become a Welcome Town for Refugees. For those not in Australia, the conservative right wing party which aligns itself more with the USA Republican Party & UK Tories is called the “Liberal” Party. Yes, one couldn’t get a more Orwellian name for a political party than that.
Below is the introduction to the Horoscope of the Flotillas of Hope Project in 2004. I sent this out to a few supporters of the Project around the world who I felt would not laugh at the idea of an astrological – magical approach to a human rights campaign. Now, since the Action is complete and Nauru Detention Centre is shut down I feel that I can reveal my own inner stance to such external actions publicly.
I will also upload the complete reading of the Flotillas horoscope to a storage site. When I do I will give you the link.
“..the apparently lifeless data of astronomy can be used to produce a calculated and objective emotional effect.This is astrology. But it is an astrology quite unlike astrology today.”
John Anthony West and Jan Gerhard Toonder
I feel like experimenting with my beginner’s astrologer mind on the Flotillas of Hope. Part of me is uncertain as to how it will be taken by you and in what spirit. My concerns revolve around the bad press that astrology has received since the Age of Reason. I am not going to justify the working rationale of such an ancient method of making sense of the world. Astrology is one of the oldest science – arts in the world, globally used by the first great civilisations of humanity, in Egypt, India, China, Americas, Africa, and Australasia. Written history shows that the Babylonians or Chaldeans developed it to a fine art. In fact “Chaldean” was synonymous with “astrologer” in those days because the practitioners of that country were considered the best practitioners of the art. Abraham, the root of Judaism, Christianity and Islam was a Chaldean. In those days the dichotomy between science and art did not exist. One could argue that our 21 St Century “West” is schizophrenic when we compare ourselves to the unitive vision of the ancient worlds. Check out Jaynes “The Origin of Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind” to see where I’m coming from. Sure we’ve got Eye of Hubble taking and transmitting beautiful images of the heavens from the edge of our Solar System to us on ground zero. However, we cannot see ourselves as an integral part of a living organism we call the Universe. We don’t believe that the Eye of Ra looks over us. Funny that, because the Sun still shines and that is what the Eye of Ra is – the Sun. This reminds me of William Blake’s response to someone who said that the Sun was just a guinea coin shape in the sky, “For you the Sun is a guinea disc, for me it is a chorus of Angels singing Alleluia! Alleluia!”
I want to reclaim that sense of wonder. Astrology helps me ponder the interconnection between myself and the universe, between all of us and the universes.
I want to experiment to see if Astrology as a symbolic language can demonstrate the noumenal underpinning of reality. This two way communication between mind and symbol may help manifest the Flotillas of Hope. I’m more comfortable in using the French “symbolique “ in the Schwaller de Lubicz sense than symbolic. The difference is so small yet it adds another world of meaning. Symbolic in the usual sense means a sign that stands for something. Symbolique means that the sign is the represented ie the symbol is alive in its own essential meaning – it is in itself what it symbolizes. The aliveness is the symbolique.
The underpinning I am referring to is not a static slab of concrete but rather a cluster of “energetic” patterns. If David Bohm is right about implicate and explicate orders of the universe then the pattern crystallizing between the implicate and the explicate orders as pin pointed at the moment of sending the Flotilla email is the Sky Map – a particle of the Holographic Universe . That moment carries with it space and we enter the zone of descriptions, associative tracings dancing across nervous systems and neuronal connections making “realities”. The Horoscope/email did not cause the journey of hope to Nauru. We are not talking about Causes here but rather acausal resonances, synchronicities, patterns of what is.
It is a fundamental premise in this reading that there are multiple descriptions of reality and that these descriptions have an equal being status. Consensus reality, in which we are embedded, is not the only one around. Australian Aboriginal people can discern over twenty different words for different kinds of desert sand where through Western eyes only one sand word exists “SAND”. The same applies to the ground. Original Australians see sacred ground where Western consensus reality only sees a potential dollar making resource.
The more you look into it, with a beginner’s mind, you find that the macroscale physics of relativity is in contradiction to the micro scale of the quantum universe. The humble electron orbiting around the nucleus of an atom cannot be placed. The electron cannot be pinned down as to where it will be at any moment. Its location is probable only. Picture the journey of a car in the centre of a city. You will see the car stop and turn, make its way in a continuous action. The car moves through space in a certain amount of time. This is the macroscale, however in the microscale, within the heart of matter it is a different picture. The analogous image of the car-electron travelling through the city centre, is the discontinuous location of the car. Instead of moving and turning around a corner for the car to be at a particular place, the quanta car first appears in one place and then another and then another without the “journey”. It is this discontinuity which is the quanta – a time –space packet of probabilistic matter. In fact, it seems that the micro universe of probabilistic matter is in closer concert with Astrology than the macro scale of “separate” stuff in an open universe. That moment, according to astrology encompasses the position of the planets and stars and the time the email was sent – it is all an Event Organism. The astrological hypothesis is based on a resonance between that which is above (the heavens) and that which is below (the everyday world of our existence – Earth). In other words there is a coincidence between the positions of the stars at that moment and the event. I won’t even try to enter synchronicity’s whirlpool to explain the connection. Check out Carl Jung’s Introduction to Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching. It is the best summation of the synchronicity idea. Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance comes to mind applying its theme to a time body. The Flotillas of Hope may even be tapping into morphological roots in archetypal memory …..Jason and the Argonauts on a quest for the Golden Fleece. By the way, Jason is pronounced Yiason and when Greeks say “Yiasou” it means “long life and health to you”. Yia and as it means “hygia” as in hygiene…it also means to make Whole and is the Earth – Gaea = Yia both in pronounciation and in meaning. Gaea Mind – Hive Mind.
In other words the emerging pattern from the invisible world into the visible 3 D world of what is called “Flotillas of Hope” may be revealed in a symbolique exploration of a Sky Map. Not necessarily the future but the potential trends and cycles of an emerging future. Kind of like seeing the lineaments of a living time body. Seeing the curve of the Flotillas time sail, tiller and anchor may indicate certain needs. Sure, its not prediction pure and simple but it is better than nothing at all. This kind of astrology is as far removed from fortune telling as Reality is from Reality TV.
The Flotillas of Hope was conceived as an event organism when the “SEND” button was pressed. The idea entered the web-mind-womb and the flotilla was conceived. We know it was at that moment because we have witnessed its embryonic movements and now, at the time of writing, 4 boats – 3 from Australia, one from Colombia are here in the 3 – D World of our senses. The baby is kicking in the womb waters of both the web and the earth. On World Refugee Day, 20 June, 2004, the Flotilla of Hope will be born at Nauru, Longitude 166 E 55, Latitude 00 S 32.
Astrology for me is a means of exploring the edges of rational thought as it touches the unknown. The horoscope is like a semi permeable membrane, it can suspend the ordinary associative processes of the mind and allow a different kind of attention to manifest. This attention striking off from the symbolique elements of the horoscope gives a different kind of mind environment. Psychologists call it imagination. Sometimes, in flickering moments it can be vision. A vision – feeling into another dimensional world that is holographic in structure, energetic and alive. In these glimpses, a human and the universe are seen as the same organism. As above so below, as Hermes Trismegistus says. A different relationship exists between things – or at least that is what appears when astrological Sun glasses are worn.
Astrology for me is a mantic science with an intuitive technos.
In political or judicial astrology the beginnings of any event is deemed to hold its potential futures. Note the plural for it shows that there is no predetermined single end but rather multiple futures resonant to a common end. It was believed in ancient times that a study of the stars could ascertain the rise and fall of kingdoms and dynasties. It has also been recorded that the birth of Jesus was predicted by astrology when the three magi in a caravan crossing the Middle Eastern desert followed the Star of Hope to Bethlehem. Astrologers were employed to chart possible battles and voyages trying to predict what may happen and advise accordingly. Someone wrote, “In my beginning is my end and in my end is my beginning” Judicial or mundane astrology (mundanus from the Latin meaning “material world”) sees events in the same light – in a beginning is its end and in its end is its beginning. Judicial or political astrology deals with events in the social sphere. It is not as well known as the personal natal astrology but it has been of enormous influence in shaping history up to the Age of Reason. Some say, even until today.
Art of Manifestation
Another aspect to this reading is that the actual exercise of casting a chart, reading it and writing out the interpretation can be an intentional act of manifestation. Well, according to all the stuff I’ve read and been told, it can be. If the miraculous or the lyric by Leonard Cohen, “God is alive, Magic is afoot “ irritates your sensibility then so be it. I take those words literally. The secret seems to be “not doing” and “resting”; in knowing “how to wait”. It is a contradictory state >>> manifesting an intention by not doing. Something like Tao and the process of “From Little Things Big Things Grow” – Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody.
Look, I am new in this kind of work. One of the main things anybody has to do when learning a new skill is to apply it, try it out – practice. So, this effort of mine is a beginner’s effort. It may all be fantasy but at least I got another chart out of the way for my personal target of 1000 completed practice charts. It is an experiment in using a different model of the world to see if it can have an effect. Who knows what powers lie both within and outside ourselves when we remain open to different modes of apprehension.
“When positive, equational logic rejects feeling, it makes as great a mistake as when intuitive feeling rejects logical control.”
Schwaller de Lubicz
If the interpretation is all mere fantasy with no true moments of seeing, do not blame the stars. Blame my faulty vision. If astrology has no objective reality, it may yet have a reality in the subjective world.
In many ways, this reading is an experiment in communicating a social – political event and its intentions using categories that are Astrological. Whilst every attempt has been made to keep the Astrological technical language to a minimum, no prior knowledge of Astrology is required to understand its intentions.
The Flotillas not only sail on physical oceans they also sail in peoples’ hearts as courage and compassion bringing an end to the heartless and inhumane incarceration of refugees on Australia’s Islands of Shame.
This is just my small effort to do something, armed with a computer and a sense of wonder at the oneness of it all. As you read the interpretation you are also helping to manifest by reinventing and recreating the Flotillas of Hope in your own imagination. In effect you are creating your own vision of what may be.
Any other astrologers both beginner and advanced please send me your comments. I‘d be interested in hearing your views and interpretations of the Flotillas of Hope Sky Map.
Final word to those who know:
Somehow you’ve come to the conclusion that at the very heart of matter, at the turning point of decisions, at the core of bone marrow, molecule, atom, neutrino and pepperino there is an intelligence operating. You know that Earth is a stone with a lick of moisture on its surface orbiting about a type G star we call the Sun. You don’t disdain science and you also know that there is a blueprint of the whole of Creation. This blueprint, this plan , this informational map is embedded within every atom, cell, organism and living whole from a sand flea to Andromeda, from a child playing with a ball to the Milky Way.
How you came about this knowledge is your business. It could have been through a book. It could have been a friend who told you. It could have been a certain altered state of mind that led you to this knowledge. It doesn’t really matter where you got your knowledge or even how. The important thing is that you know that there is an imperishable spirit in every piece of matter, in every volume and in every measure. This means that there is an imperishable immortal part of human nature. It is here and now, we only have to slice through the onion layers of conditioning to see it. This knowledge we are speaking about is certain knowledge. It is an X ray vision of the imperishable in matter. It is not a mere belief and neither is it an open conclusion of faith. It is certain knowledge based on direct experience…nothing is in the way. Having this knowledge gives a different spin on the Earth as a stone orbiting a medium sized type G star.
In fact having this knowledge makes words like Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto mean something different to hunks of rock gravitationally stuck in orbits about the Sun. They are verbs in one context and gods in another. They are as far removed from the astronomical planets and Sun as green cheese is to the moon. This is where the possession of this knowledge instead of bringing fame and fortune will bring instead ridicule and laughter, sometimes scorn and banishment. The possession of this knowledge has marked you as an outsider. Even though it is invisible, your mark of Cain is your knowledge. If you are lucky you may have found a way to manifest secretly and keep a semblance of an ordinary householder life. Being an invisible outsider gives you great opportunities to observe and learn how to be a partner in creation. For this is what it comes down to. In essence humans are not a symbol of the Universe – we are the Universe and in this kind of partnership we all do our bit or we get flushed out of existence. Where’s our immortality then? It’s still there waiting for another to clothe it.
The denial of human rights of one is the denial of humanity for all.
Method of Approach
I’ll try to see if I can delineate the “soul” of the event as if it was a living organism, you know, the “Flotillas of Hope”. It is my way of considering the project in a holistic manner. I will try to place this Organism within the context of the socio – political world. One moves from the particular to the general – a person to a nation. – a local event to a national and global context. Astrology allows you to zoom in and out of the various contexts within contexts like a telescope . It can sometimes be time free and so indicate trends invisible to the naked eye. Trends seen through a time free zone? A contradiction and yet possible. Pataphysics and the Third Mind juxtaposed by situational poetics, the poetry of the moment shown not only in words but by the signs of the stars and our living motions.
Lance Gowland, Skipper of Eureka on the way to Nauru with the Flotillas of Hope.
On Saturday, November 22, a celebration of Lance Gowland’s life was held in Sydney. He was a proud 78’er for Gay Liberation risking life and limb for the rights of LGBTQI people. I couldn’t go because of my broken leg but I did send some photos and and some words to be recited as the photos appeared in the appropriate space of Lance’s life in the slide show.
I first met Lance when he answered the Call to Action, for the Flotillas of Hope, to bring hope to the refugees imprisoned on Nauru. He wrote me an email saying he had a boat and he was willing to sail it to Nauru. For him very simple words to utter, but for me, they were miraculous sounds that further crystallized the dream of going to Nauru. Now we had at least 2 boats – Eureka and One Off in Brisbane. When the Call to Action was sent on its email trajectory, there were no boats, no money, no technology, no crew. All there was, was a dream quickening into life any time someone offered some support for the dream to manifest.
Lance also asked me later on the phone if there was another experienced sailor that was going on the trip to Nauru. He wanted to know because he had a terminal illness and he didn’t want the people like me who had never sailed, to be stranded out in the deep blue ocean with no way of returning to Australia. He also asked me to not say anything to anyone about his condition until we returned safely.
Luckily I could answer with a resounding YES!
Ruth Boydell on Eureka.
Ruth Boydell, a Maritime Teacher at Newcastle TAFE, was not only an experienced sailor who had sailed solo from India to Australia but was also a TAFE teacher of sailing and other maritime esoterica. Ruth and I both work in TAFE at Newcastle. I work in Multicultural Education.
The words below were recited on 22 November, 2008 at the Celebration of Lance’s Life.
It was a windy night, the Southern Cross flag flapped behind us, we the crew of Eureka, sat listening to Lance telling us the story of the Eureka Stockade. We were about 400 miles away from Nauru out in the deep blue without any certainty that we would arrive safely and even if we did whether the Nauruan people would greet us peacefully or with the Australian Federal Police armed with their guns.
The Southern Cross flag on Eureka. Photo taken on the night that Lance told us the story.
After a short spell of silence, with the wind blowing, Lance with great feeling quoted these words from the Eureka Stockade:
“We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and defend our rights and liberties”.
For most of us, it was the first time we heard these words and on Eureka out in the deep blue, sailing to Nauru to bring hope to imprisoned refugees, hearing our Skipper, Lance say them, made it an unforgettable moment.
Lance, our Skipper, thank you for standing by me and the crew. Thank you for your courage and generosity of spirit standing by the impoverished refugees who sought hope on Nauru.
You, Lance, are a man who will live on in any action done by any person for the cause of social justice.
Since writing the above Australia has legalised Same Sex Marriage in 2017 and in 2018 the 40th Anniversary of the Mardi Gras was celebrated. Just before this ABC TV broadcast a documentary about the struggle for equal rights for gay people.
Mardi Gras named Lance Gowland the Father of the Revolution.
The Flotillas of Hope was a voyage by two yachts carried out in 2004 by protesters critical of the Australian government’s asylum policy. The boats sailed to Nauru, a Pacific island nation which was host to Australia’s offshore immigrant detention center until the new Labor government came to power in 2007. They intended to deliver goods to those interned (most detainees are families who fled conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq), but not surprisingly were not allowed to land by the Nauruan government. Under an agreement put into effect earlier that year, Australia had taken responsibility for the island’s finances and civilian police force. John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister at the time, forced the Nauru government to take armed Australian Police Force to “protect” the island nation from the Flotillas of Hope flying Teddy Bear flags. The Flotillas of Hope project had two intentions 1) to give the refugees caged on the Island of Shame – Nauru, hope – that they have not been forgotten by people, that the Pacific Solution – out of sight, out of mind, did not work and 2) to bring the world media spotlight on Nauru on World Refugee Day, 20 June 2004. This the project achieved and it saw the granting of asylum to over half the refugees on Nauru and the release of Aladdin Sisalem who was in solitary confinement on Manus Island, New Guinea while we were sailing to Nauru.
Hand made flags with messages of hope and love made by the people of Australia flew on Eureka and One Off.
The way the Flotillas grew from an idea, a dream that manifested at first as an email Call to Action using the internet as a nervous system which then as an organsim, gathered into the Flotillas intention – satellite mobile phones, life rafts, high frequency radios, laptops, generators, sun power inverters, flags painted by community hands, dolls and teddy bears in handmade clothes, knitted sweaters, a large canvas sail painted by local Sydney artists along with other paintings expressly made and auctioned to raise money for the safe passage of the Flotillas of Hope, all of this and more occurred during the event.. From the finer embedded world of qualities, the realm of hope, love, justice, freedom – the realm of the spirits, the realm of creation, the Flotillas sparked into the internet. It was Art – in – Action using the world wide web to manifest. Hope was generated in not only the refugees caged on Nauru, but also in all people of good will who felt despondent that nothing will change the government’s heartless policy.
Trade Union Choir singing at the launch of the Flotillas of Hope in Sydney, 15 May, 2004.
University students made videos. At the send – offs from Sydney, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay and Brisbane, the Flotillas of Hope gathered the communities wishes and intentions to bring Hope to the refugees in the concentration camp of Nauru. The Flotillas did this by accepting hand made toys, hand made clothes for the dolls and teddy bears, the drawings and paintings of love and hope by Australian children, hand made flags with hand written words of love and hope from the people of Australia and overseas who sent gifts by post. Communities made beautiful flags – one with a Mandala made under the direction of a Buddhist priest, another of a Teddy Bear made by people who cared.
Poster promoting the departure of the flotillas from Brisbane.
On route to Nauru, the Flotillas docked at Santa Cruz Island, a far flung island of the Solomon Islands. The local indigenous people were so touched by our intention and by how far we had sailed and were sailing that they carved a beautiful wooden oar and gave it us to symbolize that they were rowing all the way with us to Nauru. They gave us the gift on the day we departed Santa Cruz with a send off that included singing, dancing, eating and words of power and encouragement.
The Flotillas carried the cargo of hope through the 12 mile No Go Zone and got to within 500 metres of Nauru coast until they were chased out by 6 Nauruan boats. The boats, Eureka and One Off became living talismans of peaceful and compassionate energies from Australians.
On the way to Nauru, refugees were freed and the websites designed to be the communications hub of the project informed the world about what was happening. There were live interviews with ABC, SBS, BBC, NZBC, Houston Radio, USA along with commercial radio and TV in Australia. A filmmaker, Angela van Boxtel made a Lucid Launch Flotillas of Hope website where artists contributed their art on the website. The Flotillas of Hope was an idea that touched people from across the world and it was an effective art action in all its levels of manifestation.
Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands locals dancing at the departure ceremony.
Santa Cruz, Solomon Island dancers at the departure ceremony wishing us luck and grace.
Various artists painted sections of this canvas sail which was auctioned off along with other original works of art in Gallery 179, Darlinghurst to raise funds for the Flotillas of Hope..
It was also an expression of the newly coined word “Noopolitics” which encompasses Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the noosphere of knowledge / information (Teilhard is often called the patron saint of the Internet) because we not only made the news, we also reported the news which was transmitted across the world wide web and TV, radio and text media through our logs and the live satellite phone hookups with global media. The narrative of the journey was transmitted live by the logs of the crew.
The crew received messages of hope – poems and passionate prose from people all over the world who sent text messages from the web directly to our sat – phone in the middle of the deep blue sea. People following the journey on the web were informed as to the exact location of the boats by maps updated by satellite phone to the communications cluster. The project has been archived at the Australian Maritime Museum.
Artists that contributed the sections on the Sail are in order from the top to the bottom, left to right: Dale Dean, Euan Macleod, Mareia Brozky, Angelica Greening, Ingrid Skirkia, John Bell, Lorna Grear, Neil Mallard, Euan Macleod (one more section), Leo Robbia and Martin Sharp.
Teddy Bear flag made by Newcastle community and flown as we entered the barred 12 mile zone.
Some of the Cargo of Hope – toys and gifts from the Australian people for the children and their parents imprisoned on Nauru.
Prayers in Newcastle launch with members of the crew.
Flotillas – the precedents.
Speaking in 1984, on the occasion to launch of an initiative to send a ship to escort people fleeing in boats in South East Asia, Michel Foucault said:
“We are just private individuals here, with no other grounds for speaking, or for speaking together, than a certain shared difficulty in enduring what is taking place. … there’s not much we can do about the reasons why some men and women would rather leave their country than live in it. The fact is beyond our reach.
Who appointed us, then? No one. And that is precisely what constitutes our right. […]
After all, we are all members of the community of the governed, and thereby obliged to show mutual solidarity.
We must reject the division of labour so often proposed to us: individuals can get indignant and talk; governments will reflect and act. […] Experience shows that one can and must refuse the theatrical role of pure and simple indignation that is proposed to us.”
Letter written to supporters about 6 weeks before departure. At the time of the launch, the Project had 2 satellite phones, raised over $20,000 to cover all costs and other technology – all donated by the people of Australia.
Lyrics to the song “Who Is That Refugee?’
A Fluxus Manifesto. Some have said that the Flotillas of Hope was a Fluxus Action.
The first poster to promote the Flotillas of Hope by Matt Hamon, who was also the computer wizkid for Hope Caravan and Ground Crew for the project.
TheFlotillas of Hope was a Journey of Hope, to bring hope to the innocent people imprisoned on Nauru by John Howard’s Australian government. Please note that most of the time the plural “Flotillas” is used instead of Flotilla even though on the surface there was only one flotilla of two boats that sailed to Nauru. The reason that Flotillas is used is because all the actions, the ceremonies, the prayers, the chants, the letters, the songs, the rituals, every action, are ALL flotillas of inner and outer vessels used to bring hope to the refugees imprisoned on Nauru.
The Woomera @ Easter 2002, Baxter @ Easter 2003 and the Flotillas of Hope Actions were not part of an organisation and in fact the websites which supported the Actions have virtually disappeared. The Actions were organic institutes – of – the – moment and like a Tibetan Buddhist sand painting, once the Actions were completed, the organisations like sand grains were blown by the wind to the four corners of the earth. They remain in peoples’ lives that have been transformed by the granting of freedom from the Australian gulags of shame.
When I sent the Call to Action for the human rights social action groups to unite to shame John Howard and highlight the plight of innocent refugees caged on the so called “Pacific Solution” – Nauru, it was deemed an incredibly audacious and unrealistic call. Why? Because Nauru is 4000 kms from Australia and when the call went out, we had no boats, no technology, no crew, no money, indeed, for me – no sailing experience. Well, within 2 weeks of the Call to Action over 250 people from around the planet had joined the new Internet group “Flotillas of Hope”. Within the first two weeks, the creators of the Woomera 2002 website contacted me and created the Flotilla2004 website. Another website was created for digital artists by a film maker and our own Hope Caravan website was the “hub”. A theme song for the project was recorded by Joanna Leigh, “HOPE”. You can download the mp3 version of the song here .. “HOPE…We Bring You Hope” .
Within a short time 2 boats appeared and in the weeks and months before we took off on our journey to Nauru we had received satellite telephones, solar energy inverters, radios, life rafts, money and the incredible creative output of artists and communities across Australia which gave our Cargo of Hope, toys and Teddy Bears for the kids in the gulag.
The Flotillas of Hope Mascot – Azadi Koala. The script on the koala’s shirt says “AZADI” which means Freedom in the Farsi language. The koala is steering Eureka to Nauru 🙂
Following the action, asylum was granted to over half the refugees on Nauru and Aladdin Salanin who was in solitary confinement on Manus Island, New Guinea was released.
Along the way to Nauru, the Flotillas docked at Santa Cruz, a far flung island of the Solomon Islands Where they were met by the local indigenous people. The Flotillas carried their cargo through the 12 mile No Go Zone
Below the map is an article written by a close friend who was a member of the Ground Crew. It gives you the background to the Journey. Lynda, along with some others, made sure that our messages sent by the satellite phone would get out to our website people and so to the world. Lynda was based in Far North NSW. After this article you will find the links I mentioned earlier. After the links and photos of the boats, there is an article by another friend and member of the Ground Crew, Angela. She looked after one of the websites for the project and was based in Melbourne.
Route taken by Flotilla of Hope to Nauru to reach Nauru on 20 June, 2004 – World Refugee Day.
Back in Easter 2002, a group of concerned people from the Hunter region of NSW, Australia, appalled by the Australian Government’s attitude and policy on asylum seekers, joined the actions of the Festival of Freedoms in the South Australian desert. This became Hope Caravan. Along the way, the ‘O’ in Hope transformed from an organisation to an organism.
In 2003, Hope Caravan went to the Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia. Many strong bonds and friendships were formed with some of those people initiating the Flotillas of Hope project, which in association with Hope Caravan, sails to Nauru this month to arrive on the tiny impoverished Pacific island of Nauru.
This diverse group of people include a research scientist, an award winning film maker, teachers of maritime studies and multicultural education, a shipwright as well as a soccer coach from the Brisbane based, Tigers Refugee team.
Nauru is the smallest republic in the world with a population of only 12,000. It not only faces an environmental catastrophe but also economic bankruptcy.
The exploitation of Nauru’s rich source of phosphate began in the early 1900s. After World War l, the Australian, British and New Zealand governments took over the original mining company that had been previously German owned. It was called the British Phosphate Company. As demands grew for fertiliser, so did their profits. However, only 2% of the revenue went to the Nauru people. At the time of Nauru’s independence in 1968, mining had destroyed over one-third of the tiny island. In 1991, Nauru took the Australian Government to the International Court of Justice for the exploitation of its economy and environment. In 1993, Australia settled out-of-court for $57 million with an additional $2.5 million per annum for the next 20 years. By the late 1990’s, the money had all but dried up.
During the Australian federal election in 2001, the Howard government seized the opportunity to pressure Nauru into taking asylum seekers from the shores of Australia in return for many millions of dollars. These refugees were removed by the Australian military in violation of the International Refugee Convention. This was the beginning of “The Pacific Solution”. Many of these people were initially rescued by the now infamous Tampa, a Norwegian Freighter off the Western Australian coast. In denying the Tampa refugees access to the Australian mainland, and their rights under Australian law, Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, said, “whilst this is a humanitarian decent country, we are not a soft touch and we are not a nation whose sovereign rights in relation to who comes here are going to be trampled on”.
Nauru continues to deny entry to all lawyers, journalists and representatives of human rights groups as well as independent doctors and psychiatrists from assessing the health of the refugees.
Nauru has since been called Australia’s Guantanamo Bay.
These refugees merely sought to flee life-threatening persecution and repression, economic deprivation and poverty and to bring themselves and their families to a safe and secure environment. This must be surely the most basic right of any individual, yet in seeking to exercise it, they have come face to face with the Australian army.
In the last week, three Australian lawyers were ordered off Nauru before they had a chance to appear in a court case challenging the legality of the island’s detention centre for asylum seekers. Their visas were revoked by Nauru’s Minister for Justice, Russell Kun. On April 27, he appointed his uncle, former Finance Minister and paralegal “pleader”, Reuben Kun, to present the detainees’ case.
There are approximately 21 million refugees worldwide, yet there is only one who is on a remote island in solitary confinement. The Australian government pays $23,000 per day to detain Aladdin Sisalem, a 25 year old man who has suffered persecution most of his life. The son of a Palestinian refugee (his father) and an Egyptian mother, Aladdin was born in Kuwait. Persecuted in his home country, he began a perilous journey in search of a country that would accept him, travelling via West Papua, Papua New Guinea, finally arriving in the Torres Straight Islands, where he was seized by the Australian Police before being taken to Thursday Island. When he asked Australian authorities for asylum, he was removed and taken to a detention centre set up by the Australian Government on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Even if he wanted to return, Kuwait will not take Aladdin back after his period of absence. Egypt does not want him. Israel does not consider his “right of return” as a Palestinian.
It is noted that the 1948 Universal Declaration Human Rights, Article 14, states “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”. Ongoing, indefinite suffering by asylum seekers both here and on the offshore detention centres is a clear indication that these basic human rights are being violated.
On 15th May, Flotillas of Hope departs Sydney Harbour, sailing up the east coast of Australia, converging in Brisbane, before departing for Nauru on 23rd May. The boats should arrive at Nauru on 20th June (World Refugee Day) with their “Cargo of Hope” which will include toys, educational, recreational items and a generator for the country’s hospital.
The voyage of this Flotilla recalls the old law of the sea – which obliges us to give assistance to anyone in peril, without regard for flags – and seeks to open a multitude of flows toward a new world for which maps are yet to be created.
Therefore, the Flotilla will use a diversity of tactics: boats converging to Australia’s north in mid-2004 crewed by autonomous affinity groups ; media streams and online protests; radio waves and OpenFlow events.
The view from Eureka’s porthole, somewhere between Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands and Nauru.
One Off with crew.
azadi ~ eleftheria ~ freedom
“eleftheria” is one of the most beautiful words in Greek – it means freedom..
Flotillas of Hope
by Angela Mitropoulos
Melbourne, June 3, 2004.
There are currently boats travelling 4,000
kilometres to Australia’s internment camp on
Nauru. This is the most recent culmination of a
series of protests against successive Australian
governments’ policies of interning undocumented
migrants. The boats are presently at the halfway
mark and, weather permitting, expected to reach
Nauru by June 20. The crews have been threatened
with imprisonment for crossing borders without the
proper papers. The importance of the internet to
the communication and character of noborder
protests is here amplified by distance, threats of
violence and the risks of sea travel.
It is well known that since 1989, successive
Australian Governments have administered a
notorious policy subsequently referred to the
‘mandatory and non-reviewable detention’ of all
those who arrive by boat and without papers. This
was a response to the (by international
comparison) extremely small rise in undocumented
boat arrivals after 1989 – many from the Middle
East, Vietnam and Cambodia – whose internment was
often successfully challenged through legal
The post-1989 regime of border policing
effectively and over time legislated that the
refugee determination process exist outside the
rule of law in the form of ministerial and
administrative dictate and be discharged through
concentration camps and military intervention.
It is also well known that in 2002, protesters on
both sides of the barbed wire scaled the fences at
the Woomera internment camp in South Australia and
a number of escapes occurred. www.woomera2002.antimedia.net Woomera, which
closed shortly after this, was emblematic of the
Australian Government’s strategy of interning
undocumented migrants in remote, rural camps as a
means of containment and control. Woomera was
located 1,000 kilometres from the nearest capital
city (Adelaide) and, for a time, held the largest
number of detainees.
2002 was the culmination of four years of protests
by detainees in Australia’s internment camps,
including hunger strikes, the destruction of
buildings, and mass escapes. Many of those
protests were met with tear gas, riot police and
the use of chemical restraints. www.antimedia.net/xborder
Following this, the Australian Government shifted
its strategy toward a combination of ‘dislocation’
and electrification in an attempt to decompose the
protests against the post-1989 regime of the
camps. The so-called ‘Pacific Solution’ was
introduced which established camps on Nauru and
Papua New Guinea (Manus Island) funded by the
Australian Government and managed by the
International Organisation for Migration.
Australian military vessels would forcibly remove
undocumented boat arrivals from territorial waters
and Australian islands, and transport them to
those camps in the Pacific.
In Australia, a new technology of internment was
constructed (such as at Baxter) which replaced the
grim (but scalable) coils of barbed wire and steel
fences with hi-tech, refined systems of electronic
barriers, surveillance and a greater reliance on
technological and chemical restraint. (The
Government has also budgeted for another of these
hi-tech camps in Broadmeadows, Melbourne to
replace the current, smaller one in Maribyrnong.)
The result of these changes to the architecture of
the camps were immediate: the protesters outside
Baxter in 2003 were unable to get close to or even
within sight of any of those imprisoned there,
many of whom had been relocated from Woomera. www.baxter2003.com
Whereas Woomera2002 had managed to break with the
symbolic character of protests by those outside
the camps; Baxter2003 signalled the restoration of
such, and subsequently ushered in a decline in the
impetus of the movements against the camps.
Having circulated as an audacious, but regarded as
impractical, strategy after Woomera2002, the idea
of shifting the protests against the camps to the
northern waters of Australia became an imperative
with the inauguration of the ‘Pacific Solution.’
After Baxter, Hopecaravan
distributed a call for boats to travel to the
internment camp on Nauru. That voyage is
currently underway, with boats presently located
at the halfway mark, and expecting to reach Nauru
by June 20.
The Nauru Government which – given its current
fiscal woes and recent economic bankruptcy –
relies on the continuing funding of the camp as a
source of revenue and employment, has threatened
to suspend maritime convention (the Law of the
Sea) and forcibly seize the boats. They have also
threatened to imprison the Flotilla crews as
undocumented boat arrivals. This has not deterred
the crews, who nevertheless require ongoing
support and communication.
Regular updates are available at flotilla2004.com,
as are crew b-logs, instructions on sending text
messages to the crews, and detailed background
The Australian Government, for its part, has
adopted the pose of detached benevolence – an echo
of its previous, farcical contention that it was
not legally liable for the treatment and
internment of those in the camps because they were
outside Australian jurisdiction. Facing with an
upcoming election, and as the Flotilla boats were
cheered off from eastern coastal cities, the
Government announced that under half of those
detained on Nauru would be granted visas, and
recently granted a visa to the remaining detainee,
Aladdin Sisalem, on Manus Island. www.freealaddin.com
These shifts follow a determined hunger strike
last year on Nauru, after which the Government
promised that it would review its rejection of the
applications for asylum by those imprisoned on
The Government has, nevertheless, insisted that
its camps in the Pacific will remain, at a cost of
around $300, 000 per month.
Previously, the Government had refused to grant
visas to those taken hostage from the MV Tampa and
forcibly transported to Nauru. At the time, the
Government insisted that ‘not one of those would
set foot on Australian soil.’ It is abundantly
clear that the definition of who is a refugee and
who is not (or: who is subject to the regime of
the camps in order to classify people along this
axis) is defined by what the Australian Government
imagines to be politically advantageous at any
Those released from Nauru and PNG have expressed
concern for the fate and safety of those who
remain interned there. The voyage continues until
the camps are closed.
Melbourne, June 3, 2004.
The Flotillas of Hope Sailing Crew
Keith Davies, Skipper of One Off, pointing to the sticker from Rainbow Power who donated a solar power inverter to the project.
Thank you for visiting Journeys and Star Gazing. Here there's stories of my various journeys, some inner but mostly outer; photos, song lyrics, poems, astrological readings and interpretations, I Ching speculations, quotes from people I admire and some cool graphics. There are reflections and archival material on various human rights campaigns I have been involved in over the years. With these, some have a "Star Gazing" interpretive filter.
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