You are here

The SIEV X Memorial

We took the opportunity afforded to us by the APEC public holiday to visit the SIEVX Memorial in Canberra last Friday. It is a sobering place.

Jamie's school decorated two of the poles, hence the special attraction. There are 287 poles planted in Weston Creek on the quiet shores of Lake Burley Griffin - an attempt to have one pole for each person who drowned when the SIEVX went down. There are only names for the first 135. Some of the poles are arranged in the shape of the SIEVX - a boat about 20 metres long. You can stand inside it and it is very difficult to imagine how 400 people were crammed on board, for a journey across rough seas to Australia.

I was disappointed to realise how little I knew about the SIEVX. I'd conflated it with the children overboard - actually SIEV 4. And I wasn't aware of the navy boats that arrived, shone lights on the survivors and left. Left.

I do recall the horrible politicisation of the issue during our federal election in 2001. Both sides acted appallingly - the coalition for vilifying asylum seekers and the opposition for going along with it.

As I stood watching the poles, I couldn't believe our government knew anything about it and only took advantage of the situation after the fact - bad enough in itself. Analysing this further, it's because I don't want to believe that's possible. My God, I hope winning an election isn't worth the alternative. And I hope they weren't Australian ships.