Listen: Journalist and podcaster Nicole Curby speaks about the impacts of Australia's border and immigration policies
Between the COVID-19 crisis and US Presidential Election, this year’s headlines have had little wiggle room for stories that previously received vast media coverage – in this case, the plight of refugees.
For a time, the issues of asylum seekers and refugees were top of mind, especially in 2015 when then Prime Minister Tony Abbott was promoting his ‘boat turn back’ scheme and receiving backlash for his Government’s immigration policy.
Although the headlines have died down – and, in 2020, aren’t about a conversation that’s top of mind for the majority – journalist and podcaster Nicole Curby told Hope 103.2 the impacts of our border and immigration policies raise issues that need to be brought back into the spotlight.
“People who are fleeing persecution, are still fleeing persecution regardless of COVID-19 or not,” Nicole said.
“We haven’t really heard much about asylum seekers and refugees lately because [of the pandemic]… even though what’s happening to them in Indonesia is directly connected to Australia’s border policy.”
Having covered Australia’s relationship to Indonesia during earlier refugee debates, Nicole got a unique insight into the plights of people seeking refuge and has continued to highlight their stories in her new podcast series, The Wait.
The five-part narrative series follows the seven-year ordeal of Mozhgan Moarefizadeh, a refugee who’s been stuck in Indonesia since 2013.
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Nicole said Mozghan, “fled Iran in 2013 with her family for political reasons, and was trying to get to Australia; she flew to Indonesia and attempted to get on a boat four times to get to Australia and never made it because of the boat turn back policy at the time… and she’s been stuck in Indonesia ever since”.
Around 14,000 other refugees are living in that same limbo in Indonesia, both in settlement camps and among the community – but with very limited rights.
“Around two thirds of them live in shelters where there’s a lot of restrictions; they have curfews at night and in the morning, they can’t leave the shelters during night-time hours, they can’t leave the city that they’re in, they can’t drive a car or a motorbike – there are a lot of restrictions on their lives,” Nicole said.
“The other third – around 4000 asylum seekers – live in the community and they rely on their savings or money sent from family or friends back home. The longer that they’re there – a lot of them have been there for six, seven, eight, nine years – the harder that gets.
“[In The Wait] we look at how you survive when your money’s run out; you don’t have the right to work, you can’t leave the country, you’re not going anywhere and very, very few are being resettled. You’re in the space where you’re not really allowed to have a proper life in Indonesia, so what do you do with that?”
In the making of the podcast, a process that’s unfolded over two years and involved a lot of audio diaries and interviews, Nicole said one of her biggest takeaways has been how Mozghan altered her perception of who a refugees is, and the personal cost of their journeys.
“Mozghan flips on my head the idea of who a refugee was,” Nicole said.
“She lives in a house with an Indonesia partner, that she’s met since being there, she’s extremely articulate, very sassy, very well-informed and she’s a powerful advocate for her community and lives a fairly middle-class life.
“She’s really passionate about sharing that refugees come from a whole range of backgrounds.
“She’s incredibly resilient and strong, but there are moments where we talk about her faith, and we talk about the role of faith in people surviving this incredibly grueling experience – for some people faith is what gets them through every single day. And, for Mozghan, it’s really challenged her faith.
“We deep-dive into the everyday experience, and the psychological experience of what it’s like to be caught in limbo,” Nicole said.
The Wait is available now on your favourite podcast platforms. This project is supported by The Walkley Foundation, The Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and The Guardian, along with global podcasting company Acast.