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2020: Historic ‘fighting place,' Woolloongabba has become a modern day battleground.

Concerned Australians gather daily at Kangaroo Point to protest human rights abuses on their doorstep. 

Beverly Holmes-Brown 

Kangaroo Point, situated in the Woolloongabba electorate, is a sleepy, picturesque Brisbane suburb, scenically positioned along the Brisbane River.  Woolloongabba, meaning ‘fight talk place’ was a famous fighting ground for warring indigenous tribes.  It seems fitting, therefore, that the battle between outraged Australians and doggedly determined politicians finds itself on this land. 

Formerly named, Oodlawurra, Kangaroo Point was a rough bushland hill before colonial  settlers admired her unique volcanic rock and stone cliffs and industrialised the area. Convicts, bound by a trial and sentenced to labour for the duration of their sentence, were the first to quarry these rocks.   

Up to one hundred and twenty men are imprisoned in the Kangaroo Point Central hotel, positioned on the corner of Walmsley and Main Streets. Unlike the convicts that trod this ground before them, the end of their incarceration has not been decided by a trial. They have never been accused or convicted of a crime however uninformed onlookers maybe forgiven for thinking they had as shabby makeshift walls have been erected on site to obscure the men from view.  

The battle to free these men has raged for over seven years.  They travelled to Australia by boat in 2013, a time when the number of people asking for refuge had increased. Their arrival triggered fierce debate with both sides of politics focussed on out-manoeuvring each other, sadly indifferent to pressure-reducing regional solutions . 

“Illegals” became the derogatory term used to describe them, though they did not warrant that moniker.  Indeed our Australian Parliament website stated, before they left home, boarded and disembarked from boats, that they had a right to seek asylum and to flee danger by any available mode of transport. This is also true today.  Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that ‘seeking asylum in Australia is legal.’ Only the ‘boat’ was illegal, never the people,’ he said.   Senate Estimates confirmed this in November 2013. 

One of the greatest tragedies of our time is that the refugees from 2013 boat arrivals wandered haplessly on to a land where warring political tribes had weaponised them.  Their incarceration recently entered its eighth year. An increasing number of Australians hope decency will prevail and they will be freed and able to rebuild their lives again soon. 

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