This Was Never Supposed to Be About Us
For a suburb where many residents’ main concern is the surf conditions, Bondi’s seen a lot of drama recently. Thanks to one mural, this normally chilled area has become the focus of a savage national debate.
In case you’re miraculously oblivious to this chaos, a mural painted by artist Luke Cornish on the Bondi sea wall recently made headlines. Intending to provoke action against the poor treatment of Asylum Seekers, Mr Cornish painted 24 armed Australian Border Force officers under the words ‘Not Welcome To Bondi’ to symbolise the 24 suicides in Australia’s onshore and offshore detention centres since 2010. And then all hell broke loose…
Intentionally confronting, the mural split the entire country into two camps: those in support and those who were deeply insulted and concerned.
With two opposing online petitions gathering thousands of signatures between them, an urgent motion was introduced at Waverley’s council meeting by Liberal councillor Leon Goltsman. After hearing from some locals who raised concerns about the mural’s impact on children, families and veterans with PTSD, councillors began to debate whether or not it should be removed.
The debate quickly devolved into party politics and the he-said-she-said finger pointing of schoolyard squabbles. After two excruciating hours of petty jabs and a heap of bureaucratic nonsense, a decision was made to begin a curatorial process to replace the mural, which would take a few weeks. Mayor Wakefield, who suggested this sensible solution, said it was intended as a fair and balanced compromise.
“The decision of Council gained cross-party support for a reasoned and considered approach which took into account – and paid respect to – the artist, as well as the views of those calling for the temporary mural to be removed, and those who wanted it to remain,” he said.
But mere hours after this compromise was reached, some colossal wombat decided to take matters into their own hands and cover most of the mural with white paint. There’s little doubt that by the time this edition of The Beast rolls off the printing press and into your mailbox more drama will have ensued, but we can pretty much guarantee that the point is still being missed.
Thanks to extensive media coverage, followed by the inevitable social media onslaught, this has somehow morphed into a debate about freedom of expression. It should, however, be about helping asylum seekers and tackling our huge detention centre problem which, despite the media coverage, remains the giant pink elephant in the room that refuses to budge.
Apart from a few who bury their heads in the sand, many of those who opposed the mural didn’t necessarily oppose its message. Though they’d rather shield their children from the “horror” of an image of men with guns in the safe haven of Bondi, they agree that something needs to be done to change our appalling treatment of asylum seekers.
Rather than pouring more fuel on the already raging fire that is this ridiculous debate over a temporary piece of art, why not do something productive to help asylum seekers in Australia instead?
“This really presents an amazing opportunity to raise awareness to create a positive change that sees the world’s most desperate people treated with love and compassion,” Mr Cornish told The Beast.
So, if you want to see this torrid little chapter end on a positive note, you can donate some time or money to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre because, really, this was never supposed to be about us.
For information on how you can get involved, check out the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre website at www.asrc.org.au.