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Tennis star, writer call for “open minds” on asylum seekers

20 February 20240 comments

Former tennis star Jelena Dokic and award winning writer Geraldine Brooks have urged Australians to keep an open mind about the recent arrival of asylum seekers by boat in Western Australia.

Speaking on the ABC TV show Q&A, the pair said the arrivals were merely “seeking a better life”. 

The comments came after 39 asylum seekers were discovered near the small Indigenous community of Beagle Bay, in WA, before they were flown to offshore detention on Nauru.

The arrival of the men, reportedly from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, has reignited political debate on whether Australia has lost control of its borders.

Ms Dokic, a refugee herself who escaped war-torn Yugoslavia as a child in the 1990s, said that she might not be alive today if it wasn’t for Australia providing her family with an opportunity to resettle.

“For me, I’m a refugee. I was a refugee twice. I came to this country when I was 11 years old and this country gave me and my family an opportunity,” she said.

“An opportunity that I wouldn’t be here today and be able to accomplish anything in life and who knows, maybe not be alive, if I did not get that opportunity.”

Ms Dokic said conversations surrounding asylum seekers who arrive on Australia’s shores should be about finding a solution rather ramping up political rhetoric.

“It is about protecting the borders but it is also about not turning it into a negative; and straight away having this negative conversation about people actually trying to come in and trying to look for a better life,” she said.

“It’s how do we solve this problem and give people an opportunity to come to Australia?

“We need an open mind because I’d like to see more people have the opportunity that I got as well.”

Ms Dokic star said that Australia was capable of maintain a human perspective while finding a solution.

“I’m coming from a bit of a more maybe a human perspective. I think we can kind of have both. I don’t think it has to be one or the other.”

Journalist and Author Geraldine Brooks, who was also on the Q&A panel, said she welcomed the broadcast of the footage of the latest asylum seekers.

“At least this time we got to see them instead of having them taken out of public view where we can dehumanise them and demonise them,” Ms Brooks said.

“We saw who they were, just people looking for a better life. They’ve been exploited by both traffickers and people smugglers.

“Where’s the humanity?” she said.

The exchange came after an audience question on the show, querying why the media has not contests Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s claim that the Labor Government is weak on borders.